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Help me fix piercing notes! Examples posted

I don't have the mix online right now and it's late so I will put a link up later. But incase anyone knows what I'm talking about...where on certain speakers a held note just resonates to the point where your ears hurt from hearing it. I've tried going through the overtones and using a parametric eq, multiband, and graphic to no avail. I'm sure there's some trick that I haven't tried but rerecording shouldn't be an option because the takes are impeccable.
Thanks in advance and I'll post the song tommorow around 3 or 4pm EST.
-Ashton 8-)
P.S. I am also having this problem on a few guitar solos that are in the "theoretical center" or slightly off center. Once again tried the above methods to no avail!


JoeH Thu, 02/15/2007 - 20:55

is it possible your speakers - or your listening environment - has a resonance point? Does this happen on your headphones as well, on other speakers in other rooms? Is it always just one pitch in particular?

If not, perhaps you need to apply some freq-specific limiting, maybe even a multiband set to work on one particular bandwidth. With most sopranos, your overtones will be pretty close together; the root, the octave, fifth, second octave, etc.... so it's easy to have a piercing note "Bunch-up" on you quite easily.

I rarely use any limiting at all when tracking a female soloist (unless it's a talent/eveness issue), but this sounds like perhaps you may have to, in this case? At least enough to gently even out the peaks, if that's indeed the case.

RemyRAD Thu, 02/15/2007 - 23:30

Your problem is condenser microphones on female vocalists. Try using a ribbon microphone or large diaphragm dynamic next time.

I would try using a high-frequency limiter. If you have a limiter that offers a side chain patch, merely patch in an equalizer and boost it around the offending frequencies. I don't think multiband is the answer? Most software dynamics have the ability to change the detector frequency response so that you can tailor the limiter's action. Otherwise, you have to do what we all use to do and that is, RIDE LEVEL. See? Wasn't that easy?

Shrieking sopranos! My favorite!
Ms. Remy Ann David

Cucco Fri, 02/16/2007 - 06:21

I definitely think it's a matter of the wrong microphone (or wrong placement) for the job.

I know the EXACT sound you're referring to (it happens a lot on horn too).

The problem is pretty much as described above. Most condensers are ruthlessly clean in the upper register however, their rise and damping times aren't always the greatest. This can lead to frequencies which bunch up and you get that ringing.

What kind of vocal is this? Pop, rock, classical, jazz??

For classical (opera), I almost always use ribbons or SDC's with some distance.

For pop, ribbons are a good choice but a good LDC can work as usually there's not a lot of virtuosity and "moving around" in the staff so there's not usually a lot of frequencies bunching up.

For rock I like ribbons again or, depending upon the style a LDC but NOT swallowed. A little distance can't hurt. For rock, there's usually a lot of energy. You can get away with more distance (even as much as 10-12 inches or more sometimes). I also like to put the mic a little lower - perhaps at the natural height of the singer's lower lip to chin. This keeps the vocalist from feeling as though she has to stretch to get to the mic (thinning out her sound immensly).

For jazz, I dig a good warm condenser (M149 or even an AT 4047) with not much distance for a very intimate sound.

Of course, Remy's got a point too - a good LD dynamic mic will work too. I like the 421 when all else fails.

I personally would avoid the use of external or internal processors unless other parts would dictate this. For example, if she can't seem to keep her dynamics in check, a good compressor set mildly can tame it. However, don't expect it (or an EQ) to work miracles. If the sound drastically changes due to an effect being applied, think what that effect is doing to other parts of the same source. No effect works in a vacuum - for every change you make, other changes occur elsewhere within the same source...

Good luck - post a clip if you can as well as a detailed description of the setup.

Cheers -


multoc Fri, 02/16/2007 - 07:21

I don't have a clip yet (I'm in class for Computer application's in music working with Reason) anyway...I can tell you the microphone I used was an LDC Audio Technica AT3035. She was a good 10 inches away from the microphone with a pop filter about 2 inches from the diaphragm. Behind her was a LARGE bed foam that has the "studio" I can't think of the word, but they have the pyramid points coming out from the surface. Once in the computer I used a preset known as "Rock Vocal" only with a smaller ratio, i believe around 2.35:1. Then inserted a bus of sexy reverb (minimal nothing insane). I also de-ess using WAVE Renaisance De-ess. I'm not sure if this is just a microphone issue because I also have this occasionally happen with guitar solos when only an SM57 is used.

multoc Fri, 02/16/2007 - 10:16

Okay here is just the chorus vocal (the main problem:320kps/48khzmp3)

And here is the full song, the problem I'm having tends to occur when she sings louder, though its not a problem during the big BELT(somehowwwww) at the end of the bridge (this song is structured like a typical pop song):

JoeH Sat, 02/17/2007 - 22:25

Hey Multoc, I really like this singer, and I like the tune. Still not sure what it is you're talking about, unless you mean the high note at "Somehowwwwwww" near the end of the full track. It's not too bad, esp when compared to the rest of what's going on here, and even with headphones on, I can't really hear exactly what it is you're talking about with the full-band version.

If you don't mind a little criticism (and none of it's meant personally), i'd just make a few comments.

First of all, it's completely over-compressed and squashed, to the point of being unlistenable. (ANd that's a shame, it's really got a chance to be a good tune/singer.) I also really dig the spinet piano sound. (Reminds me a little of early Todd Rundgren stuff, and many others). That little out of tune & intonation stuff sounds great in this case.

OTOH, the bass player (and the piano's LH bass) are clashing. The biggest problem I hear is the bass player, who's simply doing some wrong notes and needless noodling. Get him to stop this, right now. He's ruining otherwise great takes. And fix the low-end conflicts between the too. The piano could lay off some of the heavier LH stuff when the band comes in. (Typical overplaying by a pianist who isn't used to working with a complete band...?)

The drums are great; it's too bad they're being squashed to death. THe pumping and crunching going on are really noticable, and I can't help but feel if you backed a few things off, everyone and everything would have a chance to breath, and REALLY have some punch.

I think the overall vocal sound is pretty good (proof of how good those 3050s can sound in the right situation.) I can hear some room slap in the solo-voice version, though, and some possible resonances. There's also some serious gating going on, too...."live my life" actually is: "Live my Li"....the FE sound at the end of that last phrase is chopped off by the gate you're using.

And again, I just wish you didn't squash everything so much. Perhaps hearing it without all the processing, I can be more helpful regarding that noise you're talking about.


RemyRAD Sun, 02/18/2007 - 20:55

I listened to both and find your engineering expertise of a very high caliber. Although I do side with Joe regarding the amount of dynamics processing. While it is very carefully executed on your part, it is almost too aggressive for this particular song but I thought done very well. I did find the piano too electric and not organic enough.

Ouch! I understand what you are hearing in her voice. However, it is her style, her delivery. That push at her "presence peak" which makes you feel like a frog being "pithed" (placing a long straight pin through its brain in order to paralyze it and not necessarily kill it quite yet) for biology class. It does have its own style of brutality. At least she doesn't sound like she's trying to cough up her vocal cords? This is the part, where you as the engineer, can no longer rely on "automatix" to make an subjective emotional change, which would normally translate to your finger pulling the fader down a little. I'm not sure where your finger is at the moment?? Hopefully not in any of your personal orifices? So if you can't use your finger for a fader, might I suggest tweaking your software automation manually, kind of like a fader even if it doesn't give you the same emotional satisfaction.

Back in 1978 this Methodist Minister Father brought his 14-year-old daughter into our studio to cut a demo. She sounded a little bit like this person does and accompanied herself on piano. She had very nice melodic songs with wonderful melodies! We were quite taken by her talent. She had a similar vocal delivery. We only did that demo for Ellen Amos and one other with a band we put together for her. In 1995 I told my stepdaughter about this wonderful kid years earlier and she went crazy! She tell's me "that's what Tori Amos's real name and background is"!! Who knew? Me and my friend Philip cut her first demo on our new Ampex MM1200-16 and my custom-built console. Although that quality in her voice was pretty well kept in check with a U87 and a little equalization into the UREI 1176LN, through the Op-Amp Lab's microphone preamps and equalizer's onto analog tape. DAMMIT! It must have been the analog tape?? Automation? We had 20 digit automation.

Back to one
Ms. Remy Ann David

multoc Mon, 02/19/2007 - 07:21

Ha! Thanks for the comments guys. As far as the compression goes I was trying to keep things more even than necessary I suppose. I was playing all the instruments on here so you can yell at me about the overplaying.

The bass was just direct from cord to input #1 on the Firepod. It was a terrible Cort bass with old strings but it worked, I'm still trying to get a decent blend between just enough low end and tone (this song is always a work in progress).

The drum compression is probably my fault due to the fact I have them all under one compressor, I'll take the bassdrum mic's out of that and put them under their own bus (because I know whenever the bassdrum is hit the overhead mics give that "quashy" sound). I'm still working towards getting that sub sound that a kick can give (I do a "car test" where I compare my kick sounds to a pro record based on how my side view mirror vibrates! lol - I have no sub in my car, just a kick ass radio with variable 3-band eq: my settings: 80hz @ 2 wide Q, 1kHz @ 1 wide Q, and 10kHz @ 2 wide Q)


As far as the piano goes, it's a Yamaha Full Grand that was at my old highschool's choir room so I mic'd inside using two Sm57's (advice from Greg Wells, I liked his piano sound on the Lindsay Lohan song he produced "Daughter to Father" so I asked him and thats what he used apprently). A MXL pencil condensor mic underneath the piano (yes with phase flip), and two of those cheapy MXL LD condensors as room mic's faced away from the piano. The slight out of tuneness was unintentional and really pissed me off (damn choir teachers) but it was slight so I didn't worry too much. I don't have much of an idea on how to get that organic sound via EQ, so I just tried to get a vast ROOMY/Churchish sounding piano, and I think I got close.

The slapback you hear is the large room she was in, my basement where I record the drums. It's a LARGE finished room with dropped section of ceiling on the sides, and a little side room off the edge, so if you look down you would think of a tetris piece! But the dropped sections help manage the echo a bit, but I put her in a corner with a wall height peice of bed foam with the acoustic pyramids all over it so that helps massively. The resanance is the wood paneling in the room, I'm going to be buying a couple of plastic trashcans and stuffing them with insulation to help with the 250Hz-100Hz range of overtonage!

Also there is no gate on her voice, I cut between some phrases because of a cough here and there. She said "lie" by mistake but the take was great so I didn't worry about it.

What I'm thinking I'm going to do is take a Deesser and bring down it's target frequency to the offending frequencies and see if that helps, if not I'll throw in a little bit more automation. if I fix it i'll post a less dynamically stagnet version!

Thanks for all the kind words, especially remy ha I was waiting for a massive kick in the ass from you. But I'm pleasantly surprised!=)