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recording solid vocals

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Maxwell, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. Maxwell

    Maxwell Guest

    Hi this is my first post but i'm anxious to hear whta other think on this topic. I have put together a small (very small) studio in my home. I record the vocals through an SM58, the best mic i have, and this runs through a mackie mixer into an m-audio preamp/interface. I am having a problem recording good vocals. I think, at least from waht people tell me, taht my voice soundns a lot more dynamic, powerful and all together fuller live. The recordings i get sound somewhat empty and hollow as if it is only representing part of my voice. I think the room that i record in may be partly responsible but i need to know what are some economically sound(free) things i can do to get punchier fuller vocals.

  2. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    You could start by doubling your vocals, that is, recording two identical takes and mixing them together. that will give you a fuller sound right away without further expenses.
    eventually though, you should consider a quality vocal mic and pre. There are many viable economical alternatives nowdays that werent available just a few years ago. we are indeed living in great times for recordists.
  3. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Oh and by the way, welcome to RO and to the vocal booth!
  4. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Some of the "hollow" sound may come from the room itself? For a "very small"(Spare bedroom-type) studio, you might investigate some room treatment. "Free" might be difficult, but low cost is possible to at least some degree(And I am NOT talking about the 99 dollar box of foam pieces from the music store!). I put up a double-row of 4x8 Armstrong ceiling panels, from the home center(Above and below "mouth height"), like a "belt" all around the room - for about 20 bucks for a 10 panel box. 1 screw through each, with a big washer under it, to the studs under the drywall(Easy to remove and "fix" the holes.). If you have some left, angle them accross the corners and screw some pieces to the door. I used some strip wood and a couple more screws to hold them in place in the corners. Try to put something over the window - more panels, extremely heavy drapes, whatever. Do what you can with any "dense" material you can get, as every little bit does help. Best we can do in a tiny space is to eliminate the sound of the room as much as possible, period.

    I did put in a "drop" ceiling, with the Armstrong panels and associated hardware(Very cheap.). It helped, too. Look at the store for the "sound deadening" ratings on each type(Pretty simple). Some of the lesser priced was actually the better.

    As far as free goes, you might try experimenting with room placement of the mic(And you), or, if the mic cord is long enough try using different rooms - hallways, etc., for different, maybe "better" sounds. Position the mic so you sing directly into a closet full of hanging clothes! Then try the same thing with your back to the closet and your mic aiming at the clothes(It'll sound diferent). Put up cheap bookshelves and move ALL of your books into your room. Heavy furniture helps - ANYTHING to suck-up some unwanted reflections.

    Now, when I walk into my "studio" from the hallway, it sounds quite "dead", by comparison(It isn't really very dead, especially for bass, but, by comparison, particularly for vocals, it is MUCH better). Everything I've done so far couldn't have cost more than a couple hundred bucks, and that was done over several months.

    Some advocate fiberglas panels. But, the ones I've seen don't compare to the density of the Armstrong ceiling panels(NOT the 12"x12" ceiling "tiles" - the 2 foot by 4 foot panels, that are about 5/8" thick.).

    More, more more? More panels! Cover more of the room or put panel over panel - 2 or 3 layers would help. Putting more panels "under" your original corner panels would do the most - say 3 layers(Or more) with an inch or so of air space between each(Or not, as you can.).

    Really though, when you want to get serious(And pricey) someday, there are better ways.
    Look in the phone book under "accoustical contractors" - there's even a great big one here in Lancaster County, PA! They could help you "tame" your room, but may be better left for your next, larger room...... On the other hand, a personal visit to a BIG accoustical products supply house may find a "mother-lode" of plenty usable "remnants" scratch and dents, etc., that they'd love to see you take home - maybe for free?

    One of the easiest ways to try to eliminate some of the "room sound" is to turn down the mic input and get closer to the mic(Yes, there is a limit to how close - Or is there?).

    Mics? I wonder if an SM-57(With a good "stocking" pop filter) would sound "better", in studio, than the 58? Should find one cheap somewhere. Maybe even borrow one to try? Matter of fact, try to borrow ANY mic you are thinking about! Then, you'll "know it" before you buy it...

    You do say "the best mic I have"(Implying you have others?). TRY THEM!!! You never know - really!

  5. Maxwell

    Maxwell Guest

    thanks for all the great suggestions. I will try those and see how they work. I have one question regarding one suggestion though, will doubling my voice make it sound like a cheesy chorus or make it distort?
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    All of the above. IF you set your initial levels correctly, and don't fluctuate your pitch too wildly, and can do that TIGHTLY with your previous track, great. If you push the envelope, dynamically speaking, you will sound like mud. Start with a great room and a good mic. Maintiger and Teddy told you how to get it going....trust them. Double-tracking is also a great way to practice your phrasing, timing, and expression.
  7. eddies880

    eddies880 Guest

    Try recording youre vocals using two tracks (simotainiously)---------then in play back----pan them hard left and right--------eq each track differently-----------then-------use another track and sing the same thing over again and set the pan center--------real pain in the ass!!!!!!!!!!!------------------or----------you could buy a 500$ mic-----1000$class "A" preamp----------etc....etc..... :roll:
  8. Something I like to do to fill out a vocal track is to double the original to a second track and compress/EQ the hell out of the second track while leaving the original just that, original. I also apply my reverbs to the second track only. It creates a really BIG sound. Its also a great way to create a big full sound that isn't out in front but is still very crisp and clear.
  9. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    great suggestions, Brian. also take note that merely copying the original and playing the copy alongside the original with no effects whatsoever will thicken the vocal sound considerably and make it 'louder' in the mix. I do it all the time when the vocals are not 'present' enough
  10. eddies880

    eddies880 Guest

    I used to copy the vocal tracks just as you have mentioned :cool: but I see myself----you may say,"cheating" by sending a mono vocal track into a TC Electronics VoiceWorks and letting it do all the work.
    It may be cheating---------but I guess alls fair in the recording zone :cool:
  11. Recording is like NASCAR, its never cheating as long as it gets the job done. Its just how the inspectors view it.

    Okay, bad analogy.

    Anyway, another thing you can do is time-delay the other tracks by a couple of milliseconds to bring it out front. If I remember right, its at 50ms that the human ear detects it as two different sounds, but I would probably try to keep it down to less than 5ms. That will make vocals sound like they are closer to you, and therefore out-front. You can also add a regenerating delay (much like reverb, but only 1 or a few echos) like that to the vocal track to thicken it. That's a VERY common way to thicken up guitars too.
  12. eddies880

    eddies880 Guest

    AS far as the Cheesy part-----------it shouldnt sound cheesy as long as you take the time to listen----and adj the pans correctly :cool:
  13. eddies880

    eddies880 Guest

    I take it youre a Nascar Fan?------Ive spent hrs on end trying different effects on vocals with a so-so outcome.
    Its an economical method,which works great-----but theres nothing like a "true" Class A tube preamps tone to get the job done :cool:
  14. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    [quote="eddies880I guess alls fair in the recording zone :cool:[/quote]

    yep, that's the game... :D
  15. RickShepherd

    RickShepherd Guest

    Hi Maxwell,

    I am by no means an expert on recording, but in my experience, I ran into a very similar problem. I use a SM58 and the Beta 87(which is superior to the SM58) for live performance. Either of these mics will sound very nice for LIVE singing, and will sound full with plenty of depth. However, for recording, although you can get by on them, I would definitely recommend investing in a large condenser microphone. I am not plugging any particular brand, because my experience is limited, but I recently bought a Audio Technica 4033, and it seems to achieve a much better recorded sound than my live mics. I hope this isn't too redundant for one day, but here is a song I recorded without much warmup on a Mackie mixer to my Santa Cruz sound card on my PC. There is no EQing on this, just a little reverb. The guitar was plugged directly in through its own pickup, so you can hear what the vocals sound like.

    Song Recorded with AT4033
  16. Yes, I am a NASCAR fan (and more specifically, Hendrick Motorsports, and even more specifically, Jeff Gordon).

    Anyway, with live music you are trying to get maximum gain before feedback (not necessarily total clarity). In the studio, you are trying to get maximum clarity (and don't have to give a hoot about feedback). Condensor mics like the AT4033 are a LOT more sensitive than dynamic mics like the Beta87 and SM58 but cannot necessarily stand the SPL's or the rigors of touring. The studio is the tell-all place. Dynamic mics will usually not work well on vocals. However, that said, I find my cheap dynamic mics (under $15) actually work well for screams on harder music. Every mic has its place and 99% of the time the place for a condensor mic is the studio and the place for a dynamic mic is the stage.

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