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My voice is too big. (Won't sit in the mix)

Hi! Been reading, working, recording, and greatly increasing my skills as a recordist.

But I'm having a problem. I'm doing a cover of Stairway to Heaven, and I can't get my lead vox to sit in the mix. It's either too loud or too soft.

When I listen to Robert Plant's vocals in that song, they sound quite small. Still powerful, but small. That way he can do all that ad-lib stuff softly and still be heard. Because of compression and fader riding, I can hear the soft stuff really well while the loud doesn't get blown out.

But my voice recording sounds huge in comparison. I usually low-cut the mics anyway, this time I've tried cutting even more but just get a low quality thin sound. I've changed the compression around, reverb., etc. but to no avail.

Here is a clip of it:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hmkd5hooh1uewqy/Stairway-test1.mp3

or try this:

https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Stairway/Stairway-test1.mp3?w=AAD4mj52I045HVx_DlY7bIO5F5oODjmFl1JAyCOlvm3Gww

The recording isn't finished; I'm still learning the vocal part. Please accept my apologies for singing flat and stuff. It's a work in progress. Go easy!

Mic is an SM57. Tried a ribbon, too. Didn't help. FX = low-cut, gate, Waves vocal rider, Waves API-2500 compressor on the bus, little bit of reverb.

Thanks so much for your help!
-Johntodd

Comments

Blue Bear Sound Sun, 02/17/2013 - 07:50
Your issue has less to do with "big" (ie, frequencies/tone) than it does ambiance. In a mix, the tracks have to sit in some sort of cohesive sonic space, even if the separate tracks were recorded in different spaces..... your individual tracks (including vocals) in that clip sound disconnected from each other, because you haven't created any cohesive soundstage for them to exist in....

This doesn't mean wetting them all up with tons of reverb, but at the very least, it does mean creating ambiance using very short delays and/or room ambiance verbs.

Sound doesn't exist in a vacuum, and that's kind of what you have happening in that test clip!

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audiokid Sun, 02/17/2013 - 09:00
I agree 100% with Bruce, its all about creating a marriage with the whole song. ITB, using a few reverbs in steps ( early reflection with a room, small church or hall) and a delay with the right BPM would help. I would personally use more HPF on your vox. Some vocals fit better with less bottom end and yours is one of them. This is only based on what I'm hearing as the end result. Could be your, room, tools and proximity.

I hear a wooly low mid all the time.

An observation, there is a certain mud in the low mids that happens with your process. I've noticed this on your other tracks we've had so much fun with! Your vox should have a better sound on its own. Maybe singing further back might be a great benefit. Everyone is different. I think the 57/58 is a good move for your room but with that mic, doesn't a fast loss in proximity happen too so you can have a really inconsistent level? Hence, why we choose the right mic for the room, person and technique. Its been like 30 years since I sang through one.

How close are you singing to the mic, John?

JohnTodd Sun, 02/17/2013 - 10:04
I have two verbs on it. I am using the CSR Classic Room with a .54 sec. decay, and the CSR Classic Plate with a 3.195 sec. decay.

I thought of using the room for everything and the plate for the vocals, since Remy loves plate so much. I like it too, now.

As for singing close to the mic, I'm right on it with a double pop filter. I back off on the loud notes even with the Vocal Rider doing it's thing. I can tell a difference in the tonality of the voice when I do that. Perhaps I should pick a distance and not work the mic? I heard the "air" can be a subtle compressor. Do you think the proximity effect on the SM57 is causing the "hugeness"?

I can experiment. This vocal is very challenging for me so I am rehearsing it many, many times before doing the final tracking. I can try many suggestions since I like to record the practice takes anyway.

audiokid Sun, 02/17/2013 - 10:25
JohnTodd, post: 400769 wrote: I just tried putting a "Linear Phase Multi Band" compressor on the vocal bus. The "wooly" seems to be from 200 to 500hz. I'm compressing that region and it seems to be less wooly.

Hey, you are here right now. Cool.. You hear that low mid yes?

multibands, I wouldn't touch that on this track. You need raw vibe and a blend. Not suppression IMHO.

audiokid Sun, 02/17/2013 - 10:30
JohnTodd, post: 400766 wrote: I have two verbs on it. I am using the CSR Classic Room with a .54 sec. decay, and the CSR Classic Plate with a 3.195 sec. decay.

I thought of using the room for everything and the plate for the vocals, since Remy loves plate so much. I like it too, now.

As for singing close to the mic, I'm right on it with a double pop filter. I back off on the loud notes even with the Vocal Rider doing it's thing. I can tell a difference in the tonality of the voice when I do that. Perhaps I should pick a distance and not work the mic? I heard the "air" can be a subtle compressor. Do you think the proximity effect on the SM57 is causing the "hugeness"?

I can experiment. This vocal is very challenging for me so I am rehearsing it many, many times before doing the final tracking. I can try many suggestions since I like to record the practice takes anyway.

Thats it! You can't eat the mic like that. Go back like 8in or more and crank the gain. You are going to be used to all that bottom in you ear so its not going to be easy. You'll need to turn your monitoring down so you can hear your softer passages better without eating the mic. This this will make a HUGE improvement! Do you need that vocal rider?

JohnTodd Sun, 02/17/2013 - 10:43
OK, I'll skip the multiband. I'm going to retrack the vox anyway because I need to practice first.

Yes, I am in session right now; I will keep checking this thread when I take (frequent) breaks. Thanks so much for being here!

I just got a great sound on my nylon-string classical guitar! Cheap guitar, but I used an SM57 at the 12th fret and an MXL990 for the body and did the opening soft stuff with it. Killer!

As for the Vocal Rider, I've found it to be essential. I think it is compensating for my lack of skill, or perhaps lack of a good room to record/mix in. Without it I get varied levels, with it the levels are smooth. This works better regardless of any compressor. My fave vocal compressor is the API-2500, but even it needs the Vocal Rider.

I'm going to try and track some vocals now. Stay tuned, and thanks again!

audiokid Sun, 02/17/2013 - 13:12
 

YOU!


100%% smoke

Now..NOW Oh Ya Baby! you are going to really tune into "your sound". Can you hear the space it added? I would even go back a bit more but this is it, John. Now you find the sweet spot between you, your pre, and the song. Make sure you never hit the red now. Happy mixing, I can see the smiles now!

And reverb is next!
Attached files

audiokid Sun, 02/17/2013 - 13:27
Thats it ! ALSO, why the 57/8 is the right choice for most studio's with average to good acoustics. All these high end condensers can be so problematic. Everyone is spending big money on condensers only to pick up their crapping sounding room(s). Yup, one can do better than most lol. What Remy has been saying all along. Yes, no? maybe so... A comment like that aught to tighten up the panties around here hehe..

Anyway, The dynamic mic isn't picking up all that room reflection. Its getting a better picture between you and the mic. Thats why 57/58's are so awesome for live. They aren't picking the entire bar and band all around you. Make sense?

Add a kick ass mic pre and converters in that and MAN, what a simple solution to great sound.

So, before you were getting too much your face volume. Now you are getting the stuff in the air. This is the same idea around (gain staging, headroom, below the red on meters and ANALOG verses DIGITAL. All the stuff we don't see but is there and all the stuff digital is clamping onto that we don't want.

I'm looking forward to more of your music!

Cheers!

audiokid Sun, 02/17/2013 - 13:42
The Shure SM57 helped take the room out of your mix while capturing you better. You then used the space between you and the mic like an eq. Further away, also helps you blend or wash away like room mics do with a kit. Up close like that puts you sonically out of balance with the music to ever glue well.

Davedog Mon, 02/18/2013 - 10:22
I'm listening to this progessively. This is a perfect example of the genius of Jimmy Pages' productions. Taken singularly and isolated, NONE of his tracks sound very good at all (Pages and all of Zep for that matter) But as a whole they coalesce into the sound we all know. He did that by subtractive EQ and nothing else. Listen closely to the Zep tracks. The guitars are thin with no bottom. The 12 string is a guitar plugged directly into the board! The Mellotron is a small mid-rangy thing, the bass early on is pedals and has no high-end reference. Plant is in a small iso room and hes singing away from the mic and the mic is a very very high-end condenser.....You might be able to google around and find out exactly what they put up but Eddie Kramer was fond of U48's and such. Also note the way that Plant sang it....where he put his voice in timbre especially. You cannot duplicate this track without considering this part of it. Plant had several differing timbres he used throughout all the Zep stuff. Much like Sir Paul had all those voices for the Beatles. Also remember that the guitar lead is done on a Tele and a Supro amp. Its a fun experiment to try and dup something that most of the world can hum all the melodies including the instrumental parts in their heads. But if you are going for an exacting copy then pay attention to the small details. However, doing your own version would have a lot of merit and would certainly cut down on the frustration factor of not being able to replicate what is and what should never be..........

JohnTodd Mon, 02/18/2013 - 15:10
Subtractive EQ is the win! I've just thrown some temporary Amplitube patches on what you've heard though. I'll tweak it later.

I've been working on the guitar solo. I'm using my Tele through a Fender Brown Pro. Got some bite while still keeping some chunk in it.

BTW, I got a new Tele. The beat-up white one is temporarily retired.

For the electric piano I'm using a Prophet 5 patch called "Whirly Electric". And for bass pedals I'm using that same patch I used in "I'll Be There".

And fresh nylon strings stretch for days ... literally days. Still have to retune after every take, and it's been 3 days!

All I'm worried about now is the lead vocals and the drums. I use Addictive Drums; is there a better option? No real drummers, please, except for John Bonham. I would make an exception if I could get John Bonham in the studio. :cool:

audiokid Mon, 02/18/2013 - 16:28
Maybe,, well I think so. I like the mixer it has, and why I bought it. I've heard nothing better but I've not used them all , however , this stuff isn't new to me either as I've been doing this all for decades per-say. Replacement therapy isn't something people talk about around here so its hard to know. No one is sharing examples much here. Its a combination of the samples and how you create space. So there is a bit a personal gear factor too.
When you get your drums lined up and in the session to where you are happy, if you like, give me the drum track and I'll use it and see what you think.

kmetal Mon, 02/18/2013 - 21:16
i've only used the demo version of AD, and thought it sounded quite good. i like BFD better only because it's mixer setup is better suited to my workflow to what i'm used to. BFD's sounds also sound a bit more 'natural or real' than drummagog 4 (steven slate samples) which i use regularly.

have fun w/ the room boom, it's a really fun type of sound. if your using a verb instead of the room mics you'll probably want to mess w/ the pre delay, bonhams drums had the punch and the verb. otherwise just blend your close mics/ohs w/ the room. For fun, you may want to try re-amping the kit. an almost guaranteed 'huge' sound that i know of is to play the instrument/speakers in one room. leave the door about halfway open to start, and put a mic/pair out in whatever room is outside where the speakers are. Face the mics Towards the wall/ or hard, reflective boundry, about 6" away from it. you can control the verb time by how open/closed the door is, the more closed the more verb. and how far away into the other room the mics are. further away, more verb. w/ the mics facing the wall (or watever boundry) you are basically recording the refleection, hence the verb. concrete floors, plaster walls, ceilings, work killer for big sound in a small room. the ole' bathroom is a great candidate too.

in no way am i trying to discredit the awesome room sound in BFD, just thought i'd offer an alternative to get a huge sound outa almost any size room.

i don't wanna go on sounding like some sort of purist, cuz i'm not, but when you were posting your vocals it was mentioned about how reverb and eq/mic proximity helps create continuitay, or glue, or a soundstage. one other thing that helped this partcularly on the zep recordings was the tape. maybe you could try a tape sim, or something like sound toys decapitator, to help bring a little bit more continuity to the overall. if ya really wanna get wild, izotope makes a free pluggin called vinyl, which simulates the sound of a record, w/ adjustable parameters. it may just be RTAS format tho.

i'd try a foot away or more on your final passes of vox. keep up the good work man.

audiokid Wed, 02/20/2013 - 12:36
Not sure if this is exactly what you are getting at but, I (consolidate, glue, append) parts of tracks and make certain no double notes or unnecessary duplicates ( crossfades) aren't being triggered or fixed and eliminated before I do this. One solid track flows way better than hundreds of pieces in a time line. . Everything must flow seamlessly with a feel. Its paramount to make certain all midi parts are tight to the bar start and end of a loop that ends up being duplicated too. Drums and especially HH can throw a song into total kaos if you don't make sure everything is tight bar by bar. Remember, you only have so many notes to play before the CPU starts freaking out. Make each note count and get rid of others that don't belong there. Watch for "overlap" that drag over to the next bar. Duration is a magical thing.
Think like a drummer too.

Less is more.
Follow these rules and the weakest computer will fly along no problem.

Freezing tracks force things to take priority. Remember too, if you find that helps, its also a sign that too many things are going on and your CPU is asking for help.

Every DAW or sequencer reacts different. Cool you are gaining leaps here!

Davedog Wed, 02/20/2013 - 18:43
A lot of Bonzo drums where run through the incredible chambers they had at those famous old studios. Particularly Olympic. To really understand how to control ambience in a chamber you need to realize how they worked in the first place. Its a good study. Of course, this particular track was recorded at Island Studios. I think he wrote the lyrics at Headley Grange where they recorded a lot of the record.

JohnTodd Fri, 02/22/2013 - 05:18
Its getting there. Retuned the cymbals, worked on the drum mix. Hated that kick drum, re-did it.

I read up on those chambers. The Beatles' fame at Abbey Road provided us with a wealth of info on the subject. Seems the chambers were made of everything: from empty concrete rooms, to rooms with baffles, to rooms with plates that may or may nor be immersed in drums of oil.

I'm trying to duplicate that sound in my mix. Hard to do, but worth it.

audiokid Fri, 02/22/2013 - 08:45
Everything you are doing right now is going to be incredibly beneficial. You are hooked now :)

I always use more than one kick in combination and verbs to create natural space. Some mixing engineers even add a low freq sine wave triggered by a gate for kick subs. You also get great results tweaking between the two level (beater and outside mic) adjustments on BFD2 kicks helps. Don't forget you can tune everything too.

DrGonz Sat, 02/23/2013 - 01:58
I remember reading that Plant had the mic distanced and positioned up high, he had to tilt his head upwards to sing. This causes strain on the vocalist and makes them have to really tighten up each phrase. It's like power singer attenuated by the laws of physics on the human body. After about 3 takes you will need take a rest and wait for your balls to drop. LOL

Would you let Jason Bonham in your studio to have a whack at his Dad's craft? I would...

Another thing is that you could take a mix of the drums that is mixed in a way that is tight polished and completely clear(lots or mid/highs). Then take a mix of the drums that is bass filled and with a bit of over powering boominess. Try combining those two mixes into one mix file. What you might end up with is a "fatter" sounding drum mix that still captures all the clarity and the boominess. Boominess is not a word but do you know what I mean? The masking of offending frequencies will most assuredly cancel out and the end result might be this really heavy clear booming drum sound that you would never get originally on either drum mixes. You could even shift one of the takes to be 32 milliseconds delayed and increase depth of the drum sound utilizing the Haas effect. All of this defies the standards for professional recording, but to me that is exactly what happened in the studios when they started recording rock n roll. It's like going in through the out door and back out through the in door.
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