Recording opera vocals in tiny home studio - mic & placement suggestions

BluMaterial

Member
Joined
May 5, 2011
This is all good pertinent advice you've received from many of my colleagues. My approach is somewhat different since I'm used to working with coloratura's & Wagnerian sopranos mostly. Mom is a former Metropolitan Opera star, Marilyn Cotlow and is best known for her role as Lucy in Minotti's, The Telephone. I've recorded lots of demos in this manner in the center townhouse living room at mom's place. While I recorded plenty of Sopranos on mics similar to yours. All large diaphragms which has nothing to do with birth control but rather screech control. Not all soprano sound good on condenser microphones and that's why you heard these other instances of utilizing ribbons & dynamics, Such as the Electro-Voice RE 20. But when you want that brighter texture you need a condenser microphone. You absolutely do not want to record what you are doing with ANY XY nor MS stereo micing, in your freaking living room. Not unless you're in a lovely sounding hall to begin with which you are not.

I take issue about everybody's microphone preamp suggestions. This is where Transformers can make a huge difference and no inexpensive microphone preamp's use any decent ones. Sopranos already sound too thin already and you need something to fatten you up a bit. Transformers are the old-fashioned analogy to petticoats. Yes, I prefer ribbons mostly on coloratura's but your microphone is perfectly fine. My Grammy nomination was for recording Alessandra Marc on a AKG 414BULS which doesn't have the hyped presence nor top end of its fraternal twins And others similar textured condenser microphones like you are using. A lot of your problem may be right there with that tailored response of a microphone. And I like to work the Sopranos approximately 1 m or 3 feet directly in front Of the microphone. I generally wouldn't raise the height in your situation as you want as much of your chest voice/tone the microphone can pick up. And it's quite alright if you're on the carpet as you probably don't have any carpeting on your walls or ceiling. A live small room will sound like a small room so we don't want to hear the room at all. So dead is not to dread. It will work well for you that way.

Cool. I've lowered the mic to mouth height in this latest take, which is Wally's aria. Pamina didn't suit my voice very well (plus it's hella difficult), and I probably should have started out with Catalani in the first place. Still shrieky on top, which usually means I'm forcing because my support is not properly lined up.

[="http://soundcloud.com/blumaterial/ebben-ne-andro-lontana-001"]Ebben 001[/]

In a simple test of ridiculousness, with your Apogee, you might only want to purchase a 10:1 winding, shielded microphone transformer (Such as a Jensen, St. Ives, Rickenbacker, Beyer, etc., to run into your Apogee. This will also give you 10 DB more input level to your Apogee which will require you to run its gain lower or to utilize an input pad. This is where the Cascades cheap ribbon might be the solution.

How will the transformer help out the Cascade ribbon?

You have a beautiful instrument, one that you should be very proud of but technique could be your limiting factor?

I just got back into singing this year after taking a few years off, and I have a ton of back & neck tension issues to work out. I'm in Los Angeles, btw.

With unidirectional microphones even at 3 feet (1 m) there is still a touch of proximity effect which will warm your voice. The closer, the warmer, more intimate sound you'll achieve and that limiter will put you more in the ballpark so to speak.

Ooo, that's a good idea! I will play around with limiter settings when I get a chance. Also ordered two more OC 703 gobos on stands to place on either side and deaden my "vocal booth" area even more.
 

BobRogers

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2006
Location
Blacksburg, VA
Cascade offers the option of getting, say the Fat Head with a Landahl or Cinemag transformer. The better transformers move the mic from $175 to $300. I have the Fat head pair w/o the transformers. They are OK, but I like my Beyers and AEA a lot better. (I should, at four times the price.) I think Remy has tried the Cascades with the Landahl, but I haven't seen a full review. (I'd be interested, Remy!)
 

Davedog

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2001
Location
Pacific NW
I still think you'll like the Avantone better than the Cascade and I couldnt agree more about an upgrade to the front-end of the signal chain. The Apogee makes a great converter/interface but the pres are kinda 'cold'.
 

RemyRAD

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2005
The Cascades Fat Heads stock transformer is a Chinese type. I believe this gives the microphone a less flattering boxy tonality. But if you drop the extra $100 for the higher quality transformers, I believe you realize that these bargain microphones are a bigger bargain than their cost reflects. No, I don't have a pair of the Cascades and I haven't heard their versions with their optional transformer options. But when I first heard that microphone approximately 4 years ago, I was rather impressed with the original stock version in spite of its Chinese transformer deficits. While other ribbons have been suggested here, it appears there is a huge price differential putting those devices into more financially esoteric territory.

It may be interesting to note that most of the new ribbons hitting the market are a long geometry ribbon as in the RCA BK 44, Royer, Cascades, et al. This is somewhat fundamentally different from the RCA 77 series & Beyer M 130/160 which are both short geometry & short duel ribbon designs. Wes Dooley of AEA not only made his clone BK 44's but he also offered a 77 style as well. However, he indicated to me that his 77 really have the same element as his cloned 44. I inquired of him the reason he had no short geometry ribbons? He indicated that he couldn't get the sound he wanted from his own short geometry ribbons and so has stuck to the longer geometry types. His 77 was also offered in two different ways. A working version with the long geometry ribbon of the 44 or, something more akin to a movie/television prop. This was a nonoperational version so that one could stick inside of that any condenser element they wanted. So there are quite a few AEA 77's out there that are more like Neumann ' 87's than RCA 77's.

While you need a certain amount of proper support, the tension you mentioned indicates an improper direction of your idea and technique of support. Singing is extremely physical. Many teachers erroneously, fraudulently indicate that one needs to support from the diaphragm. This is bad physical advice since the diaphragm is not a muscle. Support starts from your butt and works its way upward. So you need to tighten your "toushy" for proper support. Interestingly enough, not enough folks are also taught to breathe through your nose. This is necessary since the nasal passages help to warm and humidify the air you are pulling into your lungs passing your vocal cords. Breathing through your mouth will help to ensure that you Dry up & rag out your voice. Of course sometimes I was also asked by announcers how to get that incredible brass balls sounding announcer voices. That's simple also, guys, as all you need is to drink a fifth of Jack Daniels and smoke a pack of Chesterfield's and you're there man.

Another interesting though about Apogee, we all know that they make some of the finest sounding audio interface/converters on the planet. Bob Clearmountain, whom I worked with at Media Sound in NYC indicated to me that his wife owns Apogee. He also loves the sound of the SSL 4000 E. series. He told me he did not personally like some of the newer Apogee releases in comparison to one of their earlier 2 channel units. But of course, he indicated, that it was only his personal taste. He also told me he really wasn't fond of the SSL 4000 G. series. He told me he works on plenty of G. series SSL's book really prefers the E. series and felt that the earlier Apogee units, not in current production, sound a lot like E. series SSL's. He also told me he liked the VCA-based versions as opposed to the less audibly mangled versions of moving fader-based consoles. He likes the detrimental qualities of VCA's and it helps him to create his personal signature sound. This is another reason why I also believe that things that are newer are not necessarily better. This is why I can still endorse utilizing older crap technologies for their coloring effects. Because it's new and extra crispy does not make it better it only makes it different.

The aria you were singing is geared more toward a Dramatic/Wagnerian Voice I believe and mom indicated that you are most likely a light lyric when I played for her a little bit of your posted example. She indicated you did not have the heft for dramatic soprano work. Personally, I'm not so sure she's right but I'm certainly not sure she's wrong.

I love the original version of 11 secret herbs and spices (No it's not a vocal cantata). There is no reason to improve upon the classic KFC. I find it pretty amazing that the 11 secret herbs and spices has (Have?) been able to remain a secret since its conception. Few corporate secrets ever last this long. Either way, it was a lot of fun meeting the Colonel when I was six, nearly 50 years ago. And so 11 secret herbs and spices is why I still love ribbon microphones. It also proves there is no reason to continually reinvent the wheel unless it's something you specifically seek.

I think we should be driving our cars on octagonal tires? No?
Mx. Remy Ann David
 
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billharz

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2021
Location
Geneva
I know, you're supposed to record opera singers in acoustically perfect concert halls, but I'm on a budget and all I have is my 8 x 10 home studio which doubles as both a control room and a live room. My goal is to record live vocals over pre-recorded orchestra karaoke tracks to famous soprano arias.

Here's a recording I just made a few minutes ago of Ach Ich Fuhls from Magic Flute. I'm using a Blue Baby Bottle with a pop screen through a MAudio FastTrack Pro (I normally use an Apogee Duet but I have no idea where it is right now). Using Garageband on a Mac Pro quadcore, and added a hint of reverb & echo. Please excuse my bad German and wonky voice, I didn't really warm up. :smile:

[=" https://soundcloud.com/blumaterial%2Fach-ich-fuhls "]Ach Ich Fuhl's - Baby Bottle & FastTrack Pro[/]

I *really* don't like the high notes, they sound really shrieky, and I know from other recordings that I'm not shrieky in real life. :biggrin: Also, the resonance is just not there in the lower register. The middle register sounds pretty decent IMHO.

I've done a lot of reading on forums and such, and I see a lot of recommendations for dynamic and ribbon mics with opera singers. I've also seen a lot of posts on using stereo pairs, preferably matched pairs, and a lot of votes for M/S or similar arrangements in close quarters.

So, I'm thinking of getting an additional mic to use with the Blue Baby Bottle, something that will capture a warmer sound, and then hopefully the final mix can be a nice blend of the two.

Suggestions on mics? So far I've seen a lot of good things about the Cascade Fatheads, and also EV RE20s. My budget is around $300 max, so a matched pair is unfortunately not in my near future. (Also I'm thinking keeping the Baby Bottle in the mix is a good way to capture sibilance that may be lost with a warmer mic.)

Also suggestions on mic arrangement and placement in my tiny room? For reference, here's a sketch of my "vocal booth" setup: the X is where I stand, back to the wall, and the big pole thing is my mic stand & boom hanging over the gobos. The mic itself is at the tip of the boom, which is about 3 ft away from where I stand. Mic head is pointing downward, tilted slightly away from me. I can probably move things back to make it 4 ft away, but that's the max distance I can arrange.

I just registered on the site and read your message. I am a lyrical singer and I am looking to be able to sing on orchestral versions. Where did you find orchestral versions? karaoke? is it wav? Is there a website that sells orchestral tracks?
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
Wow - ten years ago! Probably always best on here to start a new topic for things like this, and I guess the mods might decide to split this - but to answer the question, there are very few commercial tracks out there for this kind of thing. Usually they are produced as individual commissions - they're perfectly possible and I've done a few, but they are time consuming and in my case - I sell them the rights too, so they can have a unique product. They're very time consuming to do, so not cheap.
 

billharz

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2021
Location
Geneva
I am looking for the following puccini's songs I would like to sing on. The goal is to make an album (apple music, spotifiy etc.). So I need the arranger's permission ...

Nessun dorma
E lucerna le stelle
Recondita armonia
Ch’ella mi creda
Che gelida manina
la donna e mobile
Donna non vidi mai
Dovunque al mondo
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
Well, er, it's a bit more complicated than that if you wish to sell the recordings. If I explain how it would be done in the UK, your country will be similar - this is the correct, official way - if you mess up, nothing may happen, but if your recording gets say airplay on your National Radio - things unravel quickly.

You pay an arranger to do a version using quality and quite suitable orchestral sounds from the Puccini original manuscripts - Puccini died in 1924 so his copyright in the manuscript has gone, but if you look at your sheet music for the pieces, I bet they mention copyright - and the usual no public performances. This means that if your arranger uses your music it must be different enough to be 'unique' Clearly, following the original is important, and each arranger changes things, so you need to make sure you are covered. The arranger/engineer will then register this recording, with the names of anyone else involved in the recording with an agency like PPL - these cover the recording rights - so when you get air play, it triggers a payment to this person. You could request a buy out - as in he charges you extra never to see you again, and relinquishes his claim on ownership of anything - you pay him to do all the work, arrange and record it, and then in exchange for money, or other consideration, he hands it over and it is yours. You can if you wish register this with PPL with you as a musician if you contributed in that process. If you were not involved, you can't.

If you can find instrumental versions of these - and there are some, these will be covered by rights - but if you use them, you can pay a fee and licence them. When they generate money, your aggregator/distributer pays you, and handles paying them.

The only snag really is the cost - Those Puccini pieces with full orchestration might take a week each to do - so you can imagine the costings for a musician working for a solid week on a short piece. Perfectly possible to do, but not a cheap thing. The other beauty of course is that you can, within reason, tweak the keys to more show off your voice, and things like tempo can be tweaked to your preference.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
That's a strange site - a good collection, but some of those recordings are quite old, and many seem to be studio tracks from what I think are the 60s and 70s possibly? 48 euros for something you can use live is in itself not too bad - and as you can audition each piece, it's economic, but I wonder where they get them from? I assume they have access to commercial recordings back catalogues, probably recorded for other purposes. Still - wherever the source, they're pretty decent.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
Will do - I'm really mystified by their pricing - it seems a small amount for what is on offer, so I wonder how they got to own the rights to these recordings. Listening to more - it's a very random collection too.
 
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