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Singers, cant live with'em - uh, whats with the rubber

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by vinniesrs, May 28, 2003.

  1. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    So I JUST did a demo for a band. Just a quick two song thing, couple hours out the door, bye. Two nights ago I led the singer into the iso booth to do his vox. He could not grasp the concept of staying within 5 feet of the mic. He literally would whisper at two feet and shout at two inches, and insisted he was not conscious of his actions. I pointed out the flaw in the tracks( volume AND tone) and they decided to leave it, based on budget. I almost suggested a hand held mic!(eeeek!)
    No amount of compression or fader flying could save this track. No time for automation.
    After the fact, of course the band says the music is awesome but the vocals are off. I provide two mixes, one, vocals up front, one, mixed more evenly, but the vox got lost in a couple spots. Overall they are quite happy with the product. I am not.
    My question is: in the future, can I prevent this without the use of a hand held?
    Multi mic setup? Tape a mic to his forehead? Piezo on the larnyx?(hee hee)
    I usually can coach most people into good technique with ease, I feel like I should have thought of a quick solution.
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I think it was RecorderMan who suggested duct taping a singers head to the wall. Either the singer was a complete moron or was trying to sabotage your session. I feel your pain... Kurt
  3. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    In a way, this sort of thing frustrates me. However the singer looks like the scmuck here cuz the music sounds like it was tracked at metalworks.
    After doing this demo the band wants to do their next album here, which is cool, considering that their last two records were recorded by a very experienced engineer(25 years) at a nicer facility. Our pricing is about the same, but my sound is better.
    I just hate it when less than perfect sounds eminate from my speakers. It makes me feel dirty. :d:
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I just took an Internet psych test that said I was paranoid :D ( But I'm not! Everyone is out to get me!) but judging from your last statement, it sounds to me like this singer is messing with you. I bet if you investigate deeper, you will discover that this singer was unhappy with the decision to go to a different studio.. Kurt
  5. Bobby Loux

    Bobby Loux Active Member

  6. wwittman

    wwittman Active Member

    I have a few thoughts:

    on the one side, it's supposed to be about making the artiste (and/or record company) happy...
    "perfect sound" is just as subjective an assessment as the band's (happy) opinion.

    but i DO think that there are lots of times when we have to find a way to get a good sound on tape (or, ugh, disk)... NOT to 'teach' the band how to record to suit our techniques.

    LOTS of great vocals have been recorded with mics that singers wanted to use (and engineers didn't) and certainly with handhelds as well.
    if that is what it takes to get the great PERFORMANCE on tape, then that performance is ultimately what makes a great record..not my "perfect" EQ.
    John Lennon used to like to sing into an SM58 a lot of the time, sometimes handheld, because it reminded him of the sound and feel of performing live. (he's certainly not the only one, or the only GREAT one, who felt that way).
    now do you REALLY think someone should have re-educated John?
    Or is it possible that, like the EMI brass who thought they knew what "right" EQ was "permissable", that John was educating us?
    okay.. so your singer wasn't John and he wasn't breaking new ground in mic technique, only singing with no discipline.
    But that STILL behooves you to find a way to make him comfortable AND get a good, usable performance on tape.
    If that means breaking out of YOUR predetermined methods and prejudices that's your job as a professional (in my opinion).

    some solutions include TRYING that handheld (it's not the end of the world...i've done albums with a few songs done that way that now, after many years, i can go back and listen to and not even remember which were done that way)
    or how about putting him somewhere (maybe NOT in a booth) where he has a mic to sing at but another mic, back and up above, that's picking him up in a wider area?
    With a good big mic up above pointing down at him he'd really have to virtually turn his back to be "off mic" and he can't scream into it if he can't reach it, and he's got another mic he THINKS he's screaming into.
    I've done this with some very big name singers who had the close (or held) mic in their phones so they could "work it" but i also recorded that distant U-47 or whatever so that i could choose later.
    and sometimes they "work it" in a way that surprises you.
    if the result with the more distant mic is a bit more ambient than typical, perhaps that's a GOOD thing as well. perhaps THAT is breaking new ground.
    by insisting on a method that resulted in a track that by your own description was only harder in the end for YOU to deal with... sounds a bit like you shot yourself in the foot on ceremony.
    I don't mean to be critical... but again, we have to find a way to record... not make musicians find a way to be recorded.
    the same thing happened to me once with a big name drummer when i was first starting out.
    I asked if he could perhaps raise this cymbal so i could get a mic in on the floor tom.
    He let me know in NO uncertain terms that he played his %^&*ing drums the way he did and it was up to me to %^&*ing record them.
    I did. and it sounded great. because he played and tuned and sounded like HIM.
    I think it's great that you want it to sound great. But HOW you get there sometimes requires some adaptive thinking.
    There's just no POINT in a great recording of a mediocre performance... so musician comfort, and an atmosphere that fosters creativity, ALWAYS comes first.
    No one wants an antagonistic relationship in the studio... even for a good sounding result.
  7. golli

    golli Active Member

    I think I read somewhere that Bono records with a handhelt Sm-58.
  8. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    duct tape, aaaahahahahhHHHAAAAA
  9. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    Thanks, wwitman. The idea of micing the room as well, is what I was looking for. The thought crossed my mind, but I didn't want to try it at the time given the time we had.

    I would like to mention that there was no real conflict between myself and the singer. He did not mention a handheld, and if he had he would have got one since it's his dime.
    My studio is only a couple months old, and I only have a couple years experience as an engineer. I have earned a quick reputation for outstanding quality, esp with vocals.
    With my business at such an early stage of development, I am willing to put a little bit more effort than is required of me to ensure that every product is the best it can be.
    You are right though, people come first.
    Thanks. :cool:
  10. what sorta music is it? a 57 or 58 can work sometimes if the music warrents it. maybe try and get him to use a 57 as a "dummy" mic with the LD condensor (or whatever ur using) behind...
    did u try and put a mark (duct tape perhaps?) on the floor... like X marks the spot... sounds silly but it might work.

    i dunno? sorry, i dont record vocals...
  11. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    I was using an akg c-414 on the vox. My booth is small so it's hard to move around. I think that kurt might be right that he is trying to sabotage the recording. It takes talent to F#@K things up like this guy did. At the last minute I cam up with a solution. I threw the bypass to one of my fx units that travels out an aux and bac to a channel. I took the track channel off the main assignment, and fed it through the aux.
    On the return channel I inserted another compressor, and a bbe enhancer and brought that channel through to the mains. I succesively slowed the attack times to make room for constanants some detail. Little bastard aint gonna mess up this one.

    As for the style of music? They are a heavier, progressive rock band and the singer is one of those emphatic types that likes to pant and whisper a lot. Next time I will try the hand held.
  12. heres another crazy idea:
    if u know the parts well when he will be out of balance, ride the headphone mix to compensate for his naivity... musos react to good 'phone mix.
    also are u compressing to tape? or at least riding the level to tape (ive found i prefer that in some situations).
  13. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    I like to save processing for after the fact if possible. I do use compression when going to tape, but I set it up as a limiter and I do not amplify the signal. It might of helped me in this situation, but I think it's a bad habit to get into.

    As for riding the fader, that would be impossible. I had a 7 hour budget here, and that included mixing. These guys called me on my cell on a sunday, asked to record monday night, and needed the finished product by tuesday.(noon)
  14. golli

    golli Active Member

    Why on earth would anyone sabotage a session :confused: :confused: :confused:
    I mean it's time and money, right??
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I agree but believe it or not I have seen it happen. Just like I've seen bands get drunk or high in the studio. Why would they want to do that?

    Originally posted by Steve:
    The singer likes the other "nicer" studio.. so he is messing with Steve trying to make him look bad..
    he probably got out voted by the other band members and so now he is trying to make a point. I've seen this kind of stuff happen more times than I care to recall.. Band politics can be weird.. Kurt
  16. golli

    golli Active Member

    This brings back memories. A incredable singer who was in a band with me few years back had a tendency to get bored with doing gig after gig, so one time we were recording a demo and he was giving his 50% as usual. In walk two background singers (two blondes) WOW did his voice open up, what a pair of lungs, goosebumps for the rest of us. Same thing later recording a CD, in walks a singer, who our singer considered a rival. We allways had to throw him a surprise to get 100%.
    But to sabotage a session on purpose :( :mad: :mad:
  17. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    At this point I have let go of these issues. I am more grateful to him than anything, because the next time this happens, it wont happen. I'm gonna record two tracks at once, send one through an aux, compressing the hell out of it, and another with only a limiter, to stop peaks. I may also experiment with a room mic as well. Who knows! I have learned from the experience! I am content
  18. Pez

    Pez Active Member

    I would put him in a good room with a large dia. condensor mic with a pop filter. The pop filter will prevent him from getting too close to the mic and the mic will pick up everything from a shout to a whisper. You'll get a lot of the room sound so if the acoustics ain't right this won't be much of an option.
  19. Pez

    Pez Active Member

    Oh, another alternative is to use two mics. Randy Newman used to have the habit of swaying back and forth as he sang. Two mics cured that problem.
  20. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Member

    I think that Kurt is really on the right track here. What is required here is not your (as it sounds) pretty good skills as a recording engineer. This requires the other 50% of what makes a great guy: Psychology and the capability to get the musicians to perform at their best!
    Figure out what makes him tick and work with it. Does he need to be told what to do or does he need to be "rewarded" for proper behavior? Does social pressure work (good looking women watching while he apparently doesn't get it right)? Or get him by his pride ("Would be a pity if I had to use those "studio crutches" that I need with all the amateur singers"). Encouragement ("Yeah, Baby, you're getting closer. Now stay close to the mic and we have a killer track !"). Anyway, I think you know what I am talking about. But it is true - this is the HARD part !!!

    Plus, on the note that he might be trying to sabotage the project, it is not unheard of that kids ruin a perfectly good family trip to Disneyland because they wanted to go to Universal Studios (no pun intended) and didn't get their way. I know I would ;) .


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