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Newbie to recording...help!

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by johnkunpark, Dec 9, 2014.

  1. johnkunpark

    johnkunpark Active Member

    I am an operatic tenor with a slightly darker sound, and my smart thinking before was to buy a decent priced portable recorder to do all my work for me, which was the Zoom H4N. Even at that, I don't know how to use it to its fullest capacity.
    Recently, I recorded some demos for auditions in an apartment building, and there's just so much noise that came from the room. My voice is on the larger side, and the reverberations coming from the room is just annoying on the recordings. SO...I decided to pull out all stops in an opera singer's budget and buy an NT1a and a vocal reflector.
    I have not yet tried to record yet, nor am I planning on recording in a tiny apartment again. My next recording session is on Friday in a MUCH larger rehearsal room.
    I use my Zoom as the Phantom power source, and just export the files onto my computer via SD card.
    Any recommendations of what I can do gear wise or in general? If I purchased the right equipment in general? What tips and tricks ya'll might have when it comes down to editing on software (Adobe Audition CS6)? Thank you so much!!!!
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Welcome to RO !

    The bigger hall is the ticket. Small rooms are terrible but proper acoustic treatment can help. What kind of editing do you think you will be doing? Not much editing I suspect? What is your intent for recording? Just to hear yourself, personal critiques ? demo's?
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Your room is your main culprit right now in regard to your less than pleasing sound, and a reflection filter will likely do very little to improve that.

    The unpleasant reverb you are hearing is the natural acoustic thumbprint of the room - so you are likely dealing with flutter echo and ringing, which can result in a "hollow" sound..

    Being in an apartment, obviously you can't do any serious acoustic treatment. Your best bet is to use treatment which can be easily taken down - heavy packing blankets hung in a 3 sided box around your singing position will help some. Try to get your recording to sound as dead as possible, using cheap materials, and then add your reverberation artificially, using a dedicated reverb unit or a reverb plug-in (vst) in a DAW program like Reason, Audacity, Pro Tools, Samplitude, etc.

    It won't be ideal, but it will be better than what you have now.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The H4N is fine for this sort of thing if you use an external microphone, but have you actually bought the NT1-A and the vocal reflector? The reason I ask is that the NT1-A does not best suit some voices. I've done very many vocal recordings for demonstration and/or promotion purposes, and with each artist I always took the time to go through a range of different microphone types and models in order to select a microphone with the right tonal characteristics for the voice I was recording.

    I have to say that, in more than half the cases, the singer and I did not come to the same conclusion about which microphone best represented the voice to lay down on a demonstration CD. It seems that a lot of singers have an idea of what qualities of their voice they want to promote that is slightly different from those of a simple recording engineer who has heard hundreds of voices and has his own view of what will make a CD that causes concert arrangers to say "that's the one". Sigh. For peace and a quiet life, I usually go with the singer's opinion.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Agreed. Although at this point, given his acoustic environment, I'm not sure that any mic is going to give him the results he's after.

    If anything, I'd be looking at a dynamic mic to lessen the sensitivity to the sound of the room...

    Too many people are under the mistaken notion that a condenser mic is a better mic than a dynamic, just because it's a condenser, and that's simply not true.

    There are wonderful sounding dynamic mics, and lousy sounding condensers. If the room's reverberation is a problem - and it sounds like it is - then using a nice dynamic - perhaps an EV RE20, SM7, or even a 58, could lessen the amount of "room sound" on the track, because they're generally not quite as sensitive to the surrounding environment as a typical condenser usually is.

    Although, a dynamic will require more gain than a condenser will, so if you do end up with a dynamic, you need to make sure you also have a preamp/(I/O) with enough power to have the mic operate at its optimum, and to keep equipment noise to a minimum. ( Especially if you choose a Shure SM7 - this is a great sounding dynamic, but has a very low output, so a "beefy" preamp is pretty much a must for that mic)

    A pre that offers +65db of gain should suffice nicely. At this level, you could even gain-up Ribbon mics to a satisfactory level.

    Look to Focusrite or Presonus pre's/I-O's for clean but sufficiently powerful preamps. Either one will serve you just fine at this stage, and for what you are doing.

    IMHO of course.

    edit: keep in mind that the closer you are to the mic, the more of your direct voice the mic will pick up in ratio to the sound of your voice reverberating in the room. Although, you don't want to get too close, because you'll end up with what is known as "proximity effect", which will sound "boomy" and unnatural in the lower frequencies. Look to positioning yourself around 6" or so from the mic. It's a good place to start.
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Good points, Donny, but I'm not at all sure that a 6" distance is right for this genre. Recital/operatic vocal work generally needs greater mouth-microphone distances, and is, of course, therefore much more sensitive to the acoustic environment. Similarly, dynamic mics are the ones I would probably start with for relatively close-miked studio recording, but not usually for operatic work, where a sense of space should come from what is actually being recorded rather than being added later.

    The suggestion of a separate pre-amp is a good one, but I think we ought to mention that one of the reasons for considering these is that the H4N does not have very high clean gain range - noise can be quite a problem with the H4N and low-output microphones.

    The other thing that has not been mentioned is whether these are solo (a capella) recordings or whether there is a piano or even other instrumentalists to be fitted in with the recording style of the voice.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    All nice suggetions
    Also, didn't that H4N have a auto level fonction ? I'd deactive that :)
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I totally agree with you. Except that in this case, his space is far less than optimum, and those early reflections are probably going to wipe out definition and clarity, as well as add a lot of "hollow" sounding reverberation, which is why I suggested that he try to deaden his space as much as possible, and then add artificial reverb, where he would have much more control; in type of reflection, diffusion, amount of, etc.

    Or... LOL - he could always record somewhere like this :

  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    That looks a good place to record - it may be that you could negotiate special rates for one or two days later this month...

    Donny was right that I didn't specify the full picture and instead relied on implied surroundings. My experience of these promotional/demo CDs is that you need not only the right microphone to show off the voice, but also the right acoustic for whatever type of engagement you are gunning for. It's no good going in with a lovely voice but close-miked in a dry living-room acoustic if you are shooting for a Wagerian role in the sort of cramped closet that Donny's picture showed.

    In some of the promo work I have done, we trekked around two or three different venues, recording much the same pieces in each. These went on to different CDs, the idea being to select a CD to send off that had an acoustic that was most appropriate for the role being applied for. Maybe in this instance multiple CDs would be over-the-top, but taking as much account of where the recording is done as how the voice itself is captured is very much a matter of concern.
  10. johnkunpark

    johnkunpark Active Member

    You're right. I'm not planning on doing any editing really. If I wanted to do half a song and record the other half after a short break, then putting those two together would be the only work I'd be doing on the softwares. My intent for the recording is for demo and audition/competition pre-screening purposes.
  11. johnkunpark

    johnkunpark Active Member

    Yes I have purchased the NT1-A and a vocal reflector. I'm sure most mics don't suit voices, and I only purchased it because I read a lot of opera singers saying that the NT1-A is their affordable choice of mic.
  12. johnkunpark

    johnkunpark Active Member

    Just to clarify, I purchased the vocal reflector in case of emergencies where I might have to record something really quick in an apartment building again. There's no way I'm going to record in an apartment again for a professional demo.

    Like I mentioned, I hired a pianist and a much larger rehearsal room to record on Friday. I was planning on using the NT1-A for myself, and set up the mics on the H4n for the piano. Thoughts?
  13. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    You should be able to get quite good results from that setup. You will need a camera tripod for mounting the H4N facing down into the piano with raised lid (assuming it's a grand) and then a standard microphone stand for the NT1-A. If you as the singer face the piano and position the cardioid NT1-A in front of you, that should give you maximum rejection of the direct sound from the piano, although there will be a lot of refected sound from the floor, walls, ceiling and anything else in the room.

    Give it a go and see how you get on. Post a clip on Soundcloud and a link here so we could listen and comment.
  14. johnkunpark

    johnkunpark Active Member

    I will do that thank you!
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Severance Hall, Cleveland. It's the home of The Cleveland Orchestra. The picture doesn't do it justice. You have to be there to really appreciate the beauty and sound of this hall. It really is quite something. ;)
  16. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I did some live sound yesterday night for a chrismas show.
    A Church is one of the worst place for live sound but when I put the headphones on it was sounding amazingly good. Man I wish I had a recorder and the permission to record ;)

    Attached Files:

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