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Recording vocals with speakers instead of headphones.

Discussion in 'Monitoring & Headphones' started by Lyle Kristeen, Dec 1, 2003.

  1. Hi there. I recently heard that many singers record their parts listening to playback through speakers rather than headphones, James Hetfield on the Black Album and Kurt Cobain on Nevermind were used in reference.

    However I'm curious as how this could be set up so the vocal track isn't ruined by bleeding. Taking the example of Metallica and Nirvana, both singers have very loud styles so the backing track would surely have to be extremely loud so they felt comfortable singing.

    Are special speakers used, or is it a very clever setup?

    Thanks for your time and patience!

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I can't speak to as how those particular vocals were recorded but I can give you a little "trick" developed by Jack Clement for using speakers during the recording of vocals... first set up a mono mix for playback from the speakers.. small bookshelf type monitors are best for this technique. Flip the phase of one of the monitors, that is, run the red wire + to the black pole - on the speaker and the black or - wire to the red or positive + pole. Set the speakers four feet apart from each other and at exactly the same height as the mic will be. Place the mic, (in cardioid pattern) exactly four feet from both speakers forming a perfect equilateral triangle. Record..
  3. teleharmonic

    teleharmonic Guest

    Any way for us folks using powered reference monitors to reverse the phase?

    If i crack open an XLR cable and reverse the hot and cold pins would that do the trick? or would that do something that might blow my monitors?

  4. Tungstengruvsten

    Tungstengruvsten Active Member

    Sep 10, 2001
    Guelph, Ontario
    That would work fine - but an easier solution that would also result in a handy studio tool would be to build a short cable or two XLRM to XLRF that has the hot/cold reversed on one end - this could come in handy in many places...
  5. teleharmonic

    teleharmonic Guest

    excellent... diy polarity adapters. thanks!
  6. by

    by Guest

    For most people the polarity can be switched in their software.
  7. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    I've never tried it myself, but I was told by a real "old school" live engineer that you can use two mics stacked on top of each other and that the natural phase cancellation will cut down on the bleed. Look at some old concert films from the 60's and early 70's and you can see the two mics stacked and only the bottom one used for singing.

    Uncle Bob

  8. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    The polarity trick has been used on many albums over the years but is not necessary.
    Example: Paul Rogers stands directly behind the engineer facing the monitors using a Shure SM57. Make sure you have an ample amount of absorbent material behind the singer to eliminate reflections from behind and a killer mic pre. Condenser mics pick up much more bleed.

    As for the Metalica reference, I have a video at home of James recording for the Black Album. He is singing into an old Neumann condenser with the cans on his head.
  9. Well, fair enough, but on the 'Year and a half' video of the making of the black album, he's using speakers to record the vocals for 'Enter Sandman'.
  10. garysjo

    garysjo Active Member

    Jun 15, 2001
    Pembroke, MA
    I do it often. I usually do not operate at blistering levels, however. Cardiod pattern even with a condensor works fine, with the null towards the speakers. HPF takes care of the low end bleed which is really the only problematic areas. Another option that I've found works quite well is to use a condensor in figure eight, position the singer sideways to the speakers and the rejection is excellant. Singer needs to be pretty close to the sweet spot using this method. Absorbtion on the back wall, I agree is pretty critical to both of these methods. Managable bleed I find is not usually a problem in a vocal track as long as you are sure your arrangement edits, etc are complete.

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