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Recording harmonies

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Keala, Jul 10, 2014.

  1. Keala

    Keala Active Member

    Hi gang,

    When recording 2,3, or 4 point harmonies, do you use the same mic for each singer? Or do you go with different mics for each person to get a different tone?
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    It all depends on the song, the artist, the room that the tracks are being recorded in, the mic, the pre, and whether or not you might be looking for a certain contrast between parts, etc.

    There are just far too many variables involved to lock down to just one "be-all" method.

    When talking about really nice mics like U87's, 414's, U89's, even nice dynamics like SM7's, you can get some variety between them of course, but they will all sound good sonically.

    The important thing is to match up the right mic - with the right pre - with the right singer - and in the right room. "What, where and how" that might sound great on one vocalist won't necessarily mean that it will sound quite as good on another.

    You can hedge your bets, and up your game, by using as high quality gear as you can - as much as possible.

    Very few home recordists can afford a mic inventory with that many nice mics... not too mention a high quality pre to run them through. It can get very pricey when you're trying to fill a mic cabinet with the above, and to have a wide range of high quality options.

    If you are working in a real studio, however, there should be a decent variety of these to choose and work with. Studio standards include various Neumann models (U87, U89i, TLM's, etc) AKG (414's, C-12's,) Shure (SM57/58's, SM7's, KSM 44's) and even a decent selection of Ribbon mics (Royer 121's, 122's, Coles 4030's, 4040's, 4050's series)... I haven't listed all the great mics available, this was just a quick overview of very nice, high quality studio mics you may find if you record in a true studio.

    Preamps will also make a huge difference in the sound. Tube models will generally have a coloration to them, a warm type of "smear" that is sought after as such. Hi-voltage models will add extended range, and can offer the "classic" analog sound, with warm lows, rich mids and silky hi's. The prices of these vary from the very basic and "just getting buy" range of $100 or so, up to the boutique models than can cost upward of 7,8, even 10 thousand dollars... per channel.

    It really does matter which combination you choose. It all starts with the vocalist of course. Individual nuances and timbre will vary quite a bit. Some people may have more natural low end resonance to their voice, as opposed to another singer who may be "bright" on the top end.

    And some people... well, some people shouldn't even be within a city block of any microphone. LOL

    You just have to experiment and listen for what works.

    Can you give us your choices? Perhaps that would help us help you a bit more - if you could narrow down the list of available mics and preamps that you have...

    FWIW

    d/
     
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    If you want to go the direction of different sounds but have one mic you can change polar patterns, and distances. But really it's a creative choice over a technical one. In general if different singers are involved I would tend to find the best fit for each singer, mic pre, eq ect. If I'm in a hurry, a workhorse like a 414, or 441, will usually get the job done reasonably well.
     
  4. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    One of the problems arising from using the same mic on numerous tracks is the build up of the mic's self-noise. In some instances it can become problematic.

    ~Jeff
     
  5. Keala

    Keala Active Member


    Hi DonnyThompson,

    Thanks for your response. Here's a list of equipment I'm using.
    Mic's:
    Neumann 49
    Electro Voice RE20
    AKG Perception 200
    Studio Project C1
    Shure SM81
    Shure SM57
    Miktek C5MP

    Pre Amp's:
    Avalon 737
    RNP 8380
    True Systems P-Solo

    Interface:
    RME Fireface UFX

    I'm recording at home and the room is acoustically treated.
    I'll be doing all the vocals harmonies myself and won't be using other singers.
     
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    In that case I'd probably pick the best match for the lead vox, then something different for the harmonies. Maybe the lead voc is thick full and upfront, and you want something that's a little less sonically dense for the harmonies. Looks like you have some great options.
    If it were me doing this id aim simply for a lead sound, and a backup sound.
     
  7. Keala

    Keala Active Member

    Thanks for the advice everyone!:)
     
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    personally i prefer to track harmonies by having all the singers gather around one mic and getting an "air mix". have them move in or out to get the levels between the different parts right and then record it all to one track. double or triple to taste.
    if you want you can record what is called "stacks" by having everyone sing the first thirds and fifths on separate tracks so you have three voices doing root, thirds and fifths on 3 tracks. this is how Mama's & The Papa's , CSN&Y, Neil Young, and many others all did/ do it.
     
  9. Keala

    Keala Active Member

    Thanks Kurt.
     
  10. pcrecord

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

    For most songs, if you want the lead vocal to stand out, I'd use a darker Mic/preamp combination for the harmonies. But in some songs, you'd want to have all the voices upfront and in that case, you need to deal with the signers as if they were the lead vocal (with the best mic and pre for them)
     

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