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I'm new to this forum, and fairly new to recording and mixing in general.

I'm trying to create a vocal sound that matches most of the Broadway recordings I've heard, but have been banging my head on the wall for about two weeks. I've used every reverb plugin I can find (Valhalla, RC48, RC24, Reverberate, Quantum Leap Spaces, etc.), but haven't been able to re-create it. All the reverbs I've used end up sounding tinny or metallic.

I've heard demos of Spaces and know that it's capable of the sound I'm looking for, so I'm sure it's user error on my part. I'm assuming that I'm using the reverb incorrectly and/or missing another effect or effects. Can anyone provide any advice on creating the vocal sound found in these songs? You'd make this amateur's year!

What I'm trying to re-create:

One of the recordings I'm trying to use the reverb on:

Thanks so much!


Garretticus Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:53

Hi! Thanks so much for responding! I tried adding the reverb to the Master Track (GarageBand's watered-down version of using a bus) and it did help the cohesiveness of the overall sound, but the vocals didn't sound any different. The last YouTube video in my previous post is the song I'm currently working on. It's just a crappy karaoke track that I'm adding the vocals to. If it would be better to put it on SoundCloud, I can do that, too. Thanks again!

Garretticus Fri, 08/22/2014 - 15:28

Here's the track on SoundCloud and with a slightly tweaked reverb added to the master bus. [MEDIA=soundcloud]garrett-biesinger/i-know-the-truth
[[url=http://[/URL]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

Also, I misread the Briscati link you posted earlier. I thought it was your username so I didn't click on it at first and just realized it was a link. :) I'm actually not set up to be able to use a hardware reverb, unfortunately, so I'm stuck using plugins at the moment. I am WIDE open to suggestions on that front, though, as I haven't had any luck so far. Once again, though, most likely due to user error.

audiokid Fri, 08/22/2014 - 19:33

Actually your reverb sounds okay, but, your mic chain and/or ability to process the vocal size in comparison to the same song lacks, but the verb on the comparison track also has a cheap sounding reverb compared to Pippin's Song. Your singer is there, just not your vocal chain and verb. The Bricasti is what you need if you are seriously looking for a similar silk verb to the Pippin's Song. Bricasti's sound is just like that. Maybe they are using this, hard to say. I've owed a few Bricasti's, just sold them a few weeks ago but will be getting a few more some day. They are incredible.

What mic, preamp and conversion are you using? This also makes a huge improvement.

Garretticus Fri, 08/22/2014 - 20:57

So, you'll probably laugh at just how amateur I am when you read this, but this is my setup. I do have a nice vocal booth and get to work with some really talented singers, so there is that. :)

Mic: MXL 890 ($300 "critical vocal" condenser mic)
Audio Interface / Preamp: Tascam US-1800
GarageBand on a MacBook Pro (although I'll probably upgrade to Logic soon)
Toontrack EZMix 2 presets (I bought this to use on song demos I write, but am using a little bit on the vocals in this song)

Here's another stab with a bit more vocal processing and a better reverb (Quantum Leap Spaces). I've heard demos on their site that have a reverb sound that matches that really silky sound on Pippin's Song, so I think it's possible to get what I'm looking for with it, even if it doesn't end up sounding as good as something the Bricasti. Like you say, it very likely could be my lack of skill in other areas of the mic chain.

Could you explain what you mean by processing the vocal size in comparison to the song? How would I go about improving that?

Thanks again for all your help! If you're ever in the Salt Lake area, I definitely owe you a beer.

[[url=http://[/URL]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

audiokid Fri, 08/22/2014 - 21:25

She sings beautiful, I want her in my studio ;)
The verb sounds fine, nice job.

In the "Pro Audio world, you can spend a bit or a lot $. High end gear give you sweeter sound and more size (fuller). I was comparing your chain to the per recorded music. The size of your chain is smaller sounding than the prerecorded. To get that size on par with the music, you would need a sweeter mic, heftier preamp, and HD converter. This would turn her voice from beautiful to stellar. She deserves the best. I can hear your conversion struggling but it still sounds great for what you have. Maybe if you are wanting to improve this "with what you have", try again, but this time turn her input gain down a bit more from where you had this during recording so you have a bit more headroom. More headroom will help improve the top end and size a bit more. Then, just turn her up on the mix to where you have her now. The balance is great.

Does everything I've said make sense?

RemyRAD Fri, 08/22/2014 - 22:59

Look, the reverbs you heard, were the good old-fashioned EMT plate reverbs. They weren't plug-ins. They weren't digital. They weren't [=""]Bricasti[/]="http://www.bricasti…"]Bricasti[/]'s. And you don't need those. Though those are very nice sounding. And you are talking about the same kind of money which ain't cheap. One fits in a rack. One fits in a room. One doesn't need a quiet place. The other, it needs a quiet place. And there's only one thing that sounds like a plate. And that's a plate. It ain't a plug-in. It ain't a UA UAD-2. Or anything else. It's a plate. Of course the EMT 250 and 255 digital reverbs, came close to their plates. Yeah, for around $15,000 each. When the plate only cost about $5500, in 1978, dollars.

Software reverbs do not have the computing power, speed or algorithms to produce the kind of nearly infinite density of a plate. And the plates also had a substantial high frequency boost, preemphasis that made the sibilance, sizzle. Sometimes we even added more high-end boost for yet more sizzle. Some folks hated that sizzle. Others embraced it. I loved it. It's what made a plate sound like a plate. The plate, also had a built-in high pass filter that could be engaged. And it also had a 2:1 compressor, on the send side, that could also be engaged. No one thinks to do that to the input of their software or digital reverbs. I do. You don't find any of this in software or even other digital hardware devices. So you can't possibly expect to reproduce something like that with software and expect the same sound. You can get close. But that's all you can get, close.

Then there is the other subject of what microphone was used? What console was used? Most of which was generally a Neumann microphone. Most consoles were API, Neve, Harrison, SSL and other premium consoles. And then there was the compressors and limiters. Most of which were Universal Audio, 1176's, LA-2's, LA-3's. Some of which was even used during the tracking and not just on the mix down. This is what almost all NYC studios had. And these Broadway musical production recordings, were done in the studio and rarely at the Broadway Theatre in which they were performed at. So, does your studio sound like RCA, CBS, A & R? Will it hold an entire Symphony Orchestra, choir and soloists? Likely not?

So when you think it's just one thing? It's rarely just one thing. No doubt that the [[url=http://="http://www.bricasti…"]Bricasti[/]="http://www.bricasti…"]Bricasti[/]'s are fabulous sounding digital reverbs. But they're still not a plate. Though they do great room simulations. But that's not a plate. And plates are still in use in the premium studios. Sometimes those premium studios actually had real acoustic echo chambers. Most of which were stairwells. Which many premium studios had. Along with their plates. But then again, each plate, sounded different from each other. Some were super sweet. Others were underwhelming. And in the manufacturing of the EMT, cold rolled steel plates, EMT had a rejection ratio of 60% of those plates. So only 40% passed their own specifications but no two, sounded, alike.

What you've done sounds very nice and you should be happy with what you have. You can't get anything precise, without reproducing everything, precisely.
Mx. Remy Ann David

Josh Conley Sat, 08/23/2014 - 07:32

if this is "broadway", doesnt that imply a live play?
then are we not hearing that specific hall they are performing in and not a plate?

what are your thoughts on convolution reverb? im sure altiverb has sampled an actual broadway hall for use, but i never hear you guys talk about convolution, so im very curious...

audiokid Sat, 08/23/2014 - 07:48

If you are trying to emulate it, like the OP is,

if the prerecorded music doesn't have verb already, an ideal process is to put one hall (or whatever you like ;) ) reverb on the master bus. If the prerecorded music has verb in it, then you have no choice but to try and match your reverb to the prerecorded. To help glue everything, you may still add a "common" reverb to the master bus.
Remy's post is all over the map (complete nonsense with dated misinformation.). A Bricasti is the purest way to emulate spacial content like a "pro's" today. An real EM plate is utter nonsense compared to a Bricasti and other high quality reverbs. Toss those dated crappers in a museum :rolleyes:

Garretticus Sat, 08/23/2014 - 10:18

Wow. Thank you all for taking the time to listen and write such thoughtful and detailed responses! I sincerely appreciate it. I realize that I'll never be able to get as high-quality a sound as the pro recordings with my limited funds and equipment (not to mention my limited experience), but I think I've received enough direction here to improve my next recording. It'll be a few weeks, but I'll post it when I have something new recorded with some more headroom.

audiokid - Yes, everything you suggested makes sense. I'm excited to give it a shot on my next recording. The singer is actually my sister. She's amazing, right? She does a lot of musical theatre in the area, but has been told by numerous musical directors that she belongs on Broadway.

RemyRAD - Thanks for your detailed response! I didn't realize that was a plate sound. I've mostly been playing with hall and chamber sounds in the reverbs I've been using. I'll have to try some plate sounds and see if that gets me closer to what I'm looking for.

Josh - I believe most of the Broadway recordings I'm trying to emulate are actually done in the studio and not the theatre itself. At least according to YouTube. :) The reverb I used on the second SoundCloud recording I posted here is actually from Quantum Leap Spaces, which is a convolution reverb. FWIW, I think it sounds more natural than the other plugins I've tried so far. I have yet to try the Lexicon plugins, though, and I hear they're great. I've wanted to try Altiverb, but I haven't been able to locate a demo and thy $600 price tag is more than I'm willing to gamble on without trying it first. It does look amazing, though.

Thanks again for all the help!

anonymous Thu, 08/28/2014 - 08:32

"Josh - I believe most of the Broadway recordings I'm trying to emulate are actually done in the studio and not the theatre itself..."

Most modern Broadway Soundtracks (or if you're in Toronto it's Yonge St) are recorded in the studio.

Many years ago, while gigging in Toronto, I was given a tour of a very nice recording studio - Sounds Interchange - an incredible facility. While there, I had a chance to talk to one of the engineers there who had worked on the Canadian Phantom Of The Opera soundtrack (with Colm Wilkinson in the lead role (an amazing Welsh voice) and Rebecca Caine, who's voice is stunning... and he talked a little about those sessions.

This was a couple years after that soundtrack was recorded... I noticed several popular verbs (of that time) in their racks (this was 1990 or so, so VST's/RTAS processing as a studio standard go-to were still a ways off yet) but I do remember seeing several specific models and committing them to memory; Yamaha Rev 7's, Rev 5's, various Eventide's, Lexicon 224's and 480's, and a couple TC Electronics 2290's. They were all state of the art, at least for that time. I don't recall any part of that conversation that included the use of EMT's.

(FWIW, that was the first time that I saw a studio that had a rack organization that was so very well thought-out ... all the reverbs and delays were in one rack, all the EQ's were in their own rack, and all the various GR was in its own rack. I'd never seen that before up til then, all the other studios I'd been in had a very "random" type of rack layout.)

He mentioned that they had used a variety of reverbs, delays and settings on the solo voices BUT, he also made it clear that they were trying their best to capture the magic of the live show and whenever possible, were keeping that "live" energy with the performers - they still realized that an exact emulation of the awesome acoustics of The Pantages Theater (where the play had its very long run) was nearly impossible, so artificial reverbs were necessary.

If you listen to that soundtrack, it's obvious that it was incredibly well tracked and mixed, great attention was paid to detail and to even the most subtle nuances. It certainly doesn't come across as your "basic album project", that's for sure.

(LOL... he talked about the budget being in excess of a quarter million dollars for the project, so I imagine that the studio probably pulled out all the stops ... there was somthing like 12 different engineers involved, and each of those engineers had their own assistants, along with full orchestras, choirs, etc. It was certainly the biggest project I'd ever heard of up to that time, and maybe even still. ) ;)

To my knowledge, no actual EMT plates were used, or at least he didn't mention that they were, although that doesn't mean that they didn't use a plate preset here and there on any of the rack mount digital verbs they had.. Most of the reverb that I hear on that soundtrack sound of the Hall type to me, in various sizes, types and densities.


anonymous Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:08

"can you believe it never occurred to me those soundtracks get recorded?"

There have been many, many, million-plus-selling show soundtrack albums - Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom, Man of LaMancha, Fiddler On The Roof, Camelot, Hair, Grease, and more currently Lion King, Rent, Wicked, Mama Mia, etc., all of which - to the best of my knowledge - are studio recordings.

It's a huge part of the record industry... big money.

And unlike "normal" artist/band label releases, these soundtrack albums have longer shelf lives...., because a show like A Chorus Line can run for maybe as long as 15 years, and each time someone who has never seen that show goes to see it, there's another new potential customer for the soundtrack album of that show.
(As far as I know, Phantom Of The Opera is still running, at 26 years).

Put it this way... as of 2012, around 26 million copies of Nirvana's 1991 Nevermind had been sold worldwide. As of 2012, the 1986 Phantom soundtrack had sold around 24 million worldwide.

Those are very healthy - and very competitive - sales figures.

(And I didn't include movie soundtracks, which is an entirely different category/source of high-selling albums... and huge revenue). ;)



paulears Sat, 08/30/2014 - 09:53

The piano in the Aida number, which I'm quite familiar with, is too in your face, so needs backing away, and although plates are obviously something to aspire to, many of the freestanding and plug in varieties do have the sound. Without something a bit more sophisticated you also cannot eq your reverb return - something that gives you more control. You need to be able to listen to just the reverb return, this lets you really hear what it contains, so you can tweak it. You can add top, if it's a bit dull, or if the plug in is a bit less, er good, you can try to disguise some of the problems. My key areas to look at would be the reverb type and parameters, then look at eq on it.

For musical theatre, the sound, even if studio recorded, is designed to sound live - as if the performers are in a specific location. So you have decay but also the delay in the first reflection which kind of sets the space size. So with your eyes closed, a musical theatre performance, as a genre (which it is nowadays) let's you know it is not a pop recording. There may well be less compression, and a lack of fill in instruments, leaving space for the performer. The distance (as in the distance you perceive from listening) needs to match. How far away from you is the performer. The Aida recording vocal sounded about the right distance, but the piano was closer to me, perspective wise - and it's supposed to be the accompaniment.

Josh Conley Sun, 08/31/2014 - 19:09

its been my experience a plate can get boomy and out of control really fast, so i would suggest a hpf before it if there isnt one in place.
the emt140 emulation has a nice filter coming in, and a neat little 2 band eq too.

keen advice from paul up there too. monitoring a send is a good way to hear exactly what youre adding back into your mix.

im curious about your methods for moving around in space. left and right, welll theres a knob for that... but forward and back. ive been waiting for a good opportunity to ask about how you go about manipulating this, not only at the tracking level, but afterward, at the mixing desk?