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microphone position to reduce sss

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by comet1440, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. comet1440

    comet1440 Active Member

    Hello I am recording using an mxl 909 condenser mic connected to a samson c-valve preamp. I think my vocal tracks sound good overall but I am getting terrible and annoying "sss" sounds everytime I say a word that begins with the letter S. I'm recording rap vocals. I've believe i've read somewhere that I can tilt the microphone a certain angle to reduce this can someone explain it in detail and give me good tips. Also I want to know if I do tilt the microphone how will that effect the quality of my vocal takes overall example will I need to use some eq to compensate for a loss in other frequency ranges? I'm including a sample of one of my takes that has the "shh" sounds so you can hear click the link below to download it.


    Thanks in advance.
  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Are you using anything like


    to tame the air produced by the S sounds? - or any other windscreen?
  3. comet1440

    comet1440 Active Member

    yeah im using a pop filter.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Your cut sounds great. The gate on your vocal, is a little disconcerting sounding. Hearing those cutoffs is not normal I tell you, not normal. So what you want is just 15 DB of downward expansion as opposed to gatting. Don't have that capability? Then just insert a small amount of room sound from that microphone. It'll be more consistent that way. Nice acoustics on the vocal. Not so dead as to be boring sounding.

    The one thing that you are complaining about is sibelance. You've used compression & limiting with fast release times. This accentuates that even more and so, at the end of your processing, you insert a "De-Esser" which is a dynamic limiter, expressly affecting those frequencies. If you add too much of that, it'll make you sound like you have a speech impediment. And somehow, I don't think you're that way? Certainly not by your vocals? And such expressive lyrics. You don't mince words do you? Come on now. Tell us how you really feel?

    You're doing it right. I guess that's up to interpretation?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    I didn't think it was a gate, it sounded like editing to me. Since you don't hear it at the beginning of every phrase, and when you hear it it sounds like the words overlap or speed up slightly, as if he just started singing that line as another take then edited it there later...But Remy you are much more experienced than I.
  6. comet1440

    comet1440 Active Member

    thanks for your praise, the cutoff sounds are because I silenced my breaths in between each line. i'm still learning about release times and all that fancy stuff but im glad to know that my vox don't sound that bad. I'm gonna try to make a special eq preset for the sibelance what specific frequency range do the "shh" sounds sit in? and what about tilting the mic off axis does that work or..
  7. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member


    EQ will fix sibilance but isn't ideal.
    What you really want is a multi-band compressor, or perhaps a compressor with a filter set to about 5-7KHz.
  8. comet1440

    comet1440 Active Member

    so now one knows about how to tilt the mic?
  9. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    There is only so much you can do with off axis micing. I doubt that it will fix your sibilance problem. How does the vocal sound in the mix? That has to be considered as well. Not everything is cut and dry. Sometimes that sibilance is what brings your vocals out of the mix. Sometimes that's what keeps the lyrics intelligible.

    Otherwise all you can do is use a de-esser or make shift de-esser as it has been pointed out.
  10. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member


    I've listened to the vocal track through my computer speakers and don't find the Ss annoying. It sounds reasonably natural to me. Closer examination with reference monitors and/or headphones might show otherwise, but it doesn't sound that bad to me. You're using a pop filter, which is good - it doesn't sound like the air is coming straight into (and overloading) the mic capsule. A tiny amount of De Essing wouldn't hurt, but I wouldn't overdo it. I agree with hueseph, in that you don't want to go too far off the mic's center axis - it can cause more tonal problems than it cures. Maybe just back off the mic an inch or two. Move the pop filter a little further away from the mic and do what you been doing. What you've got sounds pretty good, so don't do anything drastic. And backing off the mic might lose some of that in-your-face presence you're getting now. I can almost guarantee that going off-axis will lose some that presence. Feel free to experiment, but I don't think there is any magic angle.

    You say the most noticeable problems are words that start with the letter S.

    As an experiment try holding your hand in front of your face and saying the word "Sibilance". For me, the S at the beginning comes pretty straight out the front. But the s sound made by the c at the end of the word, comes out much lower. They're 2 different "S" sounds. Knowing how the air exits your mouth might help you with your angle(s).

    That's another reason nobody can give you a specific angle for the mic is this; How a person makes the S sound is very unique to them and it depends on the shape of their mouth and teeth. Some people (like myself) make most of that hard S sound with a soft bit of air coming straight out the front. Others (depending on overbite / underbite and other tooth related issues) will blow the air up or down to make that sound. Hockey players, Daffy Ducks, and 7 year olds who don't have any front teeth have to use their tongues to try to make the S sound - but it usually comes out more like a 'th'.

    Any professional Speech Pathologists, feel free to correct me.

    Good luck comet.
  11. robcranmer

    robcranmer Guest

    These guys have pretty much nailed it down...one thing I would suggest is doubling your pop filters. For some wack-a** reason my studio was in the forefront of gangsta rap a few years ago(for reasons of self- preservation we opted to quit recording that genre of music)...we/I came up with a cheap fix for the sibilance/plotives issues that you're dealing with. I now use a fabric mesh pop filter in front of a steadman metal mesh filter rotated 25 dergrees(roughly...there is no exact formula...play with it until it works for you) it reduced my problem, which was the same as you described, into non-existence! Rotating mics introduces more phasing issues an opens a whole new "can-of-worms"!
  12. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    No it doesn't! If you turn the mic around within the bounds of the mic clip then it's fine. Upside down is the same as rightside up (for a SM58-esque mic anyway).
  13. woodstockt67

    woodstockt67 Guest

    I'm sure someone said this allready but you need a pop filter or a de esser. believe it or not you can make a pop filter, out of a panty hose and a wire coat hanger. Just wrap the panty hose around the end of the coat hanger, and wrap the hanger around your mic stand. Now you have a pop filter it dosen't look great, but it works.
  14. robcranmer

    robcranmer Guest

    C'mon bro'(Codemonkey)...even with my limited # of posts...you should know me better than that by now! Of course I didn't mean "turn the mic around within the bounds of the mic clip" I meant rotating the mic off axis introduces all kinds of new "ISSUES"!!! And dude...no...pantyhose do "NOT" make a good pop filter. It will help keep spit/food/beer...etc off of your mics...but they just don't have the necessary materials to do much as far as de'essing/plotives removal. A solid material pop filter such as a Steadman or any of the type one often receives free with their boutique mics will get the job done by redirecting the airflow exiting the mouth downwards away from the mic diaphragm. "In conjunction"with using the filter try rotating it at diff angles until you get the results you want. Dudes, this isn't science it's art...don't be afraid to experiment. My way is my way, not "THE WRITTEN IN STONE" method...it may or may not work as well for you! However, it may work even better for you! Wanna here some experimentation with a pop filter checkout my girl Heidi Bethune's tunes at her my space site.myspace.com/heidibethune We were really just learning the "ART" part of pop filter placement as she recorded her demo. Yeah she got a lot of free hours from us as we "learned"!
  15. BDM

    BDM Active Member

    some singers of old were also microphone artists, waving their hands to block the plosives and moving on the mic to do their own 'compression'. i think it might be a lost art...
    anyway, i would leave in the breaths, but lower their volume. i think breaths give life, and not just for survival. and they add rhythm. and romance, though perhaps not in a rap with the word 'penis' in it...
  16. robcranmer

    robcranmer Guest

    BDM you are certainly correct in that. I've found that the more studio experience the person singing has, the more they know the subtle things like slightly backing off the mic during louder vocal passages, or turning their heads slightly if singing a harmony(makes the voice fit tighter into the harmony)...there are certainly a great many things that(used to be taught by good producers) have been lost in the modern era of"buy a cheap daw"and "record it yourself"/"then call your creation a studio"/"call yourself a producer"!
  17. Feverdream

    Feverdream Guest

    Yeah, it was known as "Flashing" the esses. John Lennon was very good at it.
  18. comet1440

    comet1440 Active Member


    whats up guys, I read all your suggestions thanks for the help. Today I recorded new vocals for a new song and I tried your suggestions plus my own newly developed recording techniques/engineering tricks. Sadly I STILL think the "shh" in my new vocals is bad/annoying even though I worked hard to fix it, I've concluded its probably because im using a cheap condenser (Mxl 909). But anyways I don't have money for new equipment yet so it will have to do. The reason why I care so much is because I want my tracks to sound as good as possible and im taking every step to make sure that happens so im posting the link to the new cut I did today let me know what you think about it overall and if the "shh" sounds would be too annoying to the average listener because if so im gonna just have to record in a pro studio or something.


    oh yeah and the cutoff sounds are cuz i silenced my breaths. But listen when I say "n*ggas know im the sh*t over here" I think the shh sounds TERRIBLE =(
  19. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    I hear it, but it's not horrible. Maybe whatever you are using to monitor is accentuating it. When you put this to a beat it should be less noticeable.
  20. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    That sounds fine to me.

    If it's really bad to you, you should get some studio monitors.

    If it's still awful, I think adding some multiband compression around 2 to 3KHz should fix it.

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