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Vocal Recording Problems

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by tyCobb, Jan 27, 2008.

  1. tyCobb

    tyCobb Guest

    Hey everyone,

    I'm having some problems regarding recording vocals, they are:

    -Vocals sound on-pitch/in tune with music heard through headphones (Sennheiser HD280 Pro Closed-Backs), but when played back through speakers, they are noticably (in my opinion) out of tune during some parts.

    -The mic I use is an Oktava MK 319, which is a very sensitive mic, so much that if I don't position my head/mouth at a consistent location, I am able to hear the difference from take to take. In other words, doing over-dubs is a tedious process. Also, when raising my voice during a take, I actually need to back up from the mic to avoid it being sonically LOUDER than the rest of the parts.

    I've heard decent things about this mic, but frankly am having a hard time learning to use it (properly, maybe). Any suggestions would be greatly apprieciated.

    I'm also open to learning which vocal microphones have stood the test of time and are as reliable as they are affordable that I may look into purchasing.

  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I'm sorry and I don't mean to sound rude (though it may come across that way) but I honestly chuckled pretty hard when I read the first part of your post.

    Mics don't alter the intonation of a part. If, for some magical reason they do, there's something SERIOUSLY wrong with your mic. Unplug it and throw it away soon.

    As for the head movements causing an issue - a little bit of compression should help that a bit. Every studio in the world has to deal with vocalists and I've heard that some of them do, on occassion, move a little bit. The Oktava isn't that sensitive to put it in a class by itself in this regards.

    A little compression can go a long way.

    Seriously, try a different mic though. If you're still hearing intonation issues - I'm afraid to say that the fault lies with the singer, not the microphone.
  3. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    I don't mean this to sound the way it's gonna, but... it's a mic, that's how they work.


    Learning this is part of the process.
  4. tyCobb

    tyCobb Guest

    I don't want to come across as rude, either, however, I think you only got a chuckle out of my post because you misunderstood my problem. Or maybe I didn't explain it clearly, if so, I apologize and will give it a second try.

    The problems I'm having with the Oktava mic are regarding the volume level of the vocal, not the intonation, which bent bluntly put can be chalked up to my inexperience. I'm cool with that. Live and learn, right?

    As for the vocals sounding out of tune, I believe it could have something to do with the headphones I'm using--Sennheiser HD280 Pro Closed-Backs, to be exact--which have high levels of noise attenuation. I was just curious as to what a solution may be which allows me to hear when I'm off-key or what have you, so when I listen to it during playback, the "spot-on" take I thought I had wasn't just an aural illusion. It's just demoralizing when you think you nailed a take only to find out you actually sounded like the audio equivilence of the Hindenburg (I don't have a producer in a control room to save me the step of that discovery).

    Thanks again,
  5. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    To put it bluntly yet again, kinda.
    When vocalists sing with phones on they tend to sing a little off.
    Try doing vox with only one side of your HP's on (for timing), and with the uncovered ear listen to what your throat's doing.

    As far as the Oktava goes, that's a good mic. I have two of 'em, but no two are exactly alike.
    Sing into it up close (within an inch or two with a spit screen separating you), have the mic pointed at your mouth, and angled 30 or more degrees toward the floor.

    And of course, crank it to unity!

    Let me know how that works for you.
  6. tyCobb

    tyCobb Guest

    Thanks for the suggestions, bent, I'll give them a whirl!

    One more thing:

    I've always been singing into the mic having it pointed perfectly straight (upwards, not towards me) so singing only into the side and not through the top. I'm wondering if that may produced adverse effects as well. I got the pop-filter thing going on, though, and I'll be sure give that tip a try. Thanks again.

  7. moisiss

    moisiss Active Member

    So does this difference happen only when you are recording a take (Like as you are singing it sounds good but doesn't when you play it back regardless of if you listen through headphones or monitors).... or does it happen only when you switch from headphones to monitors (you are not recording, only mixing tracks, and it sounds good in the headphones but not monitors)

    If it just sounds different when you listen to it as opposed to when you are performing it, I think that is natural... It always sucks to hear yourself on a recording (IMO).

    If the only difference happens when you switch from the headphones to monitors (during playback/mixing), I would guess that it could have to do with the acoustics of the room you are listening in. I don't know all that much about room acoustics, but maybe you have too much or too little of certain frequencies that make you perceive the tone a little differently?

    Again, I think this is perfectly natural. As a singer, you have to learn to use your instrument. When you get into recording and performing live (amplified), that means the mic becomes part of your instrument.

    So you have to practice your vocal "mic technique".... like learning when you have to move closer or further away from the mic so the sound level will be fairly consistent. But after that, you might still have parts that jump out or are too quite so I use a combination of volume level automation on the track and a little compression. That usually gets it to an acceptably consistent level throughout the song.
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    This is correct, the 319 is a side address mic. What Bent means is to angle the capsule downwards, which means the flat gold disc you can see through the screen should be pointed downwards.

    You can also try pointing it up to 30 degrees upwards as well, but you'll get a deeper/chestier/nasallier sound. It suits some.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Part of what you are experiencing my dear newbie with the intonation problem is that the human hearing apparatus and brain combination is sensitive to both pitch and level. As level increases pitch is perceived to be different, frequently it bends downward in our perception of it, as level increases. This corresponds to a reciprocal flat vocal being recorded, from headphones that are too loud. This is the precise reason why so many folks only wear a single ear of the stereo headphones. Resting the other one against their head, not their ear. We even have single muff headphones for just that reason. That way, you can audibly perceive your voice through your own natural hearing device called your brain and ear. And this is all a good indication that headphones are being played too loud. So again. Remy says: LESS IS MORE & KISS.

    Learning where the diaphragm is on your microphone is as important as learning where your wife's vagina is. It's just no fun if you miss the mark. STOP LAUGHING!

    Ms. Remy Ann David

    It's too loud!
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    And another thing!
    (Now that I'm done laughing at Remy's last few sentences...)

    Tycobb, you also mentioned differences in gain causing you problems.
    When I record vox I prefer to put screams, loud passages, and soft ones on their own discreet tracks.
    I have more control over the gain this way, not to mention less reaching for a comp, and the singer doesn't have to move around too much during the session - just step in close, or move back a bit, set gain and hit the red button.
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    This is the reason I like the 'popperstoppers'...I use really good ones made by Shure. I've never been able to 'hear' any difference with them or without them as far as coloring or muting anything. BUT when that thing is up, its set at the correct distance the singer needs to be from the mic for the intended track.

    They aint on it....they do it again.....Ohshittheclockisrunning.......

  12. HansAm

    HansAm Active Member

    Not read all the posts troughly, but what RemyRAD said.

    And from personal experiense: I use to add reverb to vocals feed back to the headphones. This allows the singer to hear his/her own voice after he/she ended her "voice-output". This lets the singer tune em self all trough the track.

    All a matter of taste i recon.
  13. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    A little bit of singing (not recording) advice coming from 17 years on the front line with high school students.

    Most pitch issues are a result of not truly knowing the difference between a half step and a whole step. Most inexperienced singers (and by inexperienced singers I mean almost all singers) have little knowledge of keys and where half and whole steps lie (even in the major scale they warm up on every frickin' day)

    First step, learn and know your intervals. Music theory is your friend.
    Second step, make descending intervals even smaller than you imagine.
    A descending half step needs more energy than a held note. Most people relax on the way down.
    Be careful not to push the upper range sharp or carry too much weight into the upper range resulting in flat pitch and/or color.
    Learn to sing without accompaniment. If you can hold pitch (check before, during and after) in all phrases and a full song you're on your way.
    Finally, keep one headphone off so that you can hear what you're doing or keep the mix very balanced. Too much "me" in the headphones usually equals flat singing, too little "me" NO JOKES REMY - usually causes a person to sing sharp in order to hear themselves over the mix.

    Finally, practice this until its automatic. I never walk away from a live performance or a recording and say WOW was that accurate! Once its truly learned then you need to make music.

  14. Are you singing Major or Minor?
    A chord consists of a I III V interval for Major,
    A B C C# D E F G A...
    or I bIII V for Minor,
    A B C C# D E F G A

    Roger Daltry, when on Howard Stern, had problems singing to a full A major chord that Fred Norris was playing in the studio. Roger explained that Fred was playing the 3rd, something Pete does not do.
    This means that Roger matches his voice to the A (I) and the E (V) within a chord.
    The C# (3rd) in the A major chord was throwing Roger off.

    Solution, Flatten your Thirds.
  15. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member


    First lets say this. When CHOOSING a particular KEY sinature to analyze, lets be CERTAIN you know what you're talking about.

    In the KEY of <<< A maj>>> , for example....a 'C' note is IN FACT the "flatted third"...and while it seems convienient to simply put letters in order to make a scale, there are sharps and flats to be considered in every key.

    So as a correction and as a service to those amoung us who DO NOT read music lets establish the fact that the key of AMAJ consists of the notes, A B C# D E F# G# A.<--------See? THREE (3) sharps.

    This was kinda what Phil was talking about.

    Now to the crux....Flatting your thirds when singing in a major key doesnt mean youre going to magically be intune....it means you're going to be singing a different note (possibly) and creating a different feel with this 'flatted note'....If its an original song then saying its wrong wouldnt be correct either cause when you write em, they do whatever you want em to do. It would bode well if the chordal structure over the melody supported a 'flatted third'....it doesnt always....but simply stating that this is going to bring the vocal track in tune isnt even close to reality.

    So. As a Moderator on this site...I gotta say that posting this kind of basically untrue statements is bunk.

    There are youngsters and oldsters and folks who dont read music at all and maybe cant even name the notes on the fretboard who might take this as some kind of gospel.

    As far as what Roger did on some program....who cares. Hes one of the best rock singers thats ever lived and if he doesnt know a third from a augmented thirteenth or a mark-of-the-beast chord, he still doesnt need to know those things to do what he does best.

    Using him to illustrate a totally incorrect thesis is pathetic.
  16. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    At this point in time I don't think that Roger and Pete can hear any better than Kieth and John. Probably bad examples.

    I agree with Dave that the specific advice of flattening thirds is wrong, but the basic observation that a more open (fewer notes in a small interval) simpler chords can make it easier for a singer to pick up the pitch is very much like the previous advice - simpler, quieter, fewer ears in headphones. Major thirds are particularly "bad" (meaning far from a perfect third) in even tempered tuning, but if you are going to play with keyboards and guitars, you have to learn to deal with it - as you do with all imperfect intervals.
  17. Forgive me, but for some reason I thought the poster may want to sing jazz or blues instead of pop.

    Great jazz singers like Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday sang compressed melodies in which they reduced the meldoy to one or two tonal zones. Of course someone like Ella Fitzgerald did not need to do that. Some can benefit from just singing the Tonic and the Flat third to express the tune. Blues literally means Flat third.
    Some singers can chant a tone and be genius," Waiting For My Ruca" by Bradley Nowell of Sublime is one of the most popular songs of the 90's.

    The point of Minor chords, instead of Major chords, whether it is Am or any other key, is that some singers' voices naturally go from the Tonic to the Flat Third in all the keys easier than going from the Tonic to the Third..

    Time has proven, beyond any doubt, that the most popular Single of 1971 is "Riders On The Storm" by The Doors. The song is a 12 bar blues in a Minor mode. That there my friends, is the melody.
    The Tonic - Flat Third Interval is the entire song in a I IV V 12 bar blues format...
    Intervals can be a melody.
  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    And all this drivel is meant to help the original poster who is having trouble telling whether hes flat or sharp when tracking on his phones???

    Did you even read the posts??

    Thanks again for breaking down music to a more JP22-like explanation.

    Yeah those flatted thirds are sure the blues.....
  19. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    So, because he's out of tune, he should change the modality of his piece?

    I took 6 semesters of advanced music theory including 2 semesters of jazz and 20th century theory and improv. I'm PRETTY certain that this is not what I learned. A blues scale is NOT just a flat 3rd.

    I WAS going to jump in and state that there was some merit to your statement about flatting thirds in that when compared to a tonic, the major third (if tuned without respect to the tonic) is by nature a few cents sharp and thus must be adjusted downwards to be in tune with the tonic. But now, I'll leave you out there to dry with that one.

    Last time I checked, the flat 3rd in a Major scale is called an ascending melodic minor.

    BTW, notation would dictate that any scale that is Major be written with a capital letter (thus 'A' = A major) and any minor scale be written with a lower case letter (thuse 'a' = a minor.)

    Also, any augmenting or diminishing using standard accidental signs should occur AFTER the indicated note. In other words, C sharp is written C#, not #C.
  20. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    On any other note, I think this whole, half, third, diminished fifth, thread is becoming quite ill tempered. What you need to have is a properly tempered thread.

    It's time to temper my beer
    Ms. Remy Ann David

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