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Vocal Forward, Compression for Effect

Here's a song I've always liked; I think it's a well-written song to begin with, but I'm also intrigued by the mix.
The vocal is very forward in the mix, and with audible compression, and normally, I don't care for "that" sound, but on this track, it really works.

I searched a bit but couldn't find any info regarding what studio this artist recorded at, or where it was mixed, or who it was mixed by.

The song was recorded and released in '98 - there were still plenty of tape-based studios then, although Pro Tools had been out a few years by then, too.

I won't pretend that I can hear if this is analog compression or digital ITB - but I really like the presentation of the vocal in this mix. I also love songs like this that tell a story, have a strong melodic hook, and are under 4:00.
Not an "easy" thing to do. ;)

Shawn Mullins, Lullabye:

Comments

John S Dyson Wed, 10/18/2017 - 03:35

DonnyThompson, post: 449097, member: 46114 wrote: Here's a song I've always liked; I think it's a well-written song to begin with, but I'm also intrigued by the mix.
The vocal is very forward in the mix, and with audible compression, and normally, I don't care for "that" sound, but on this track, it really works.

I searched a bit but couldn't find any info regarding what studio this artist recorded at, or where it was mixed, or who it was mixed by.

The song was recorded and released in '98 - there were still plenty of tape-based studios then, although Pro Tools had been out a few years by then, too.

I won't pretend that I can hear if this is analog compression or digital ITB - but I really like the presentation of the vocal in this mix. I also love songs like this that tell a story, have a strong melodic hook, and are under 4:00.
Not an "easy" thing to do. ;)

Shawn Mullins, Lullabye:

I listened to the piece and did some tests with some expanders/etc. The eventual result after running a few passes of a fairly fast, well controlled 4band expander (the DolbyA compressor/expander used to be used in commerical recording for noise reduction), I still found several dB of approx 1 second release time compression. After one DolbyA expansion, it sounds close to optimum -- with that 1second release time still noticeable. Someone did way, way too much compression on the piece. IT IS A VERY GOOD SONG, HOWEVER. So -- the voice appears to have been fast compressed -- added to the piece -- fast compressed again and then in there somewhere, there is another medium speed (1second) release compressor. It might not really be DolbyA, but whatever they did -- it comes close with a relatively fast attack time and quick release time (and again, a slower one somewhere in the chain.)

John S Dyson Wed, 10/18/2017 - 06:37

DonnyThompson, post: 449097, member: 46114 wrote: Here's a song I've always liked; I think it's a well-written song to begin with, but I'm also intrigued by the mix.
The vocal is very forward in the mix, and with audible compression, and normally, I don't care for "that" sound, but on this track, it really works.

I searched a bit but couldn't find any info regarding what studio this artist recorded at, or where it was mixed, or who it was mixed by.

The song was recorded and released in '98 - there were still plenty of tape-based studios then, although Pro Tools had been out a few years by then, too.

I won't pretend that I can hear if this is analog compression or digital ITB - but I really like the presentation of the vocal in this mix. I also love songs like this that tell a story, have a strong melodic hook, and are under 4:00.
Not an "easy" thing to do. ;)

Shawn Mullins, Lullabye:

If you like the song -- the results of my processor (actually, 1 pass DolbyA, a very nice expander, and then my finalizer which is only peak limiting once in a long while), I have processed it into a file residing on my examples site:

https://spaces.hightail.com/space/bOPBXTkeeT

The name of the file is 'shawn-decoded-proc.mp3'

I didn't tune the results, so this is pretty much vanilla behavior for my expander running in a moderately aggressive mode.

John Dyson

DonnyThompson Wed, 10/18/2017 - 07:57

John S Dyson, post: 453567, member: 50354 wrote: Someone did way, way too much compression on the piece.

I think that was intentional for this track. Yes, it sounds heavily compressed to me as well, but for this particular song, I think it works perfectly.
In the end, it's not always about the "numbers", it's about the way it sounds to us, and in context to the song. I wouldn't normally use this much compression for a vocal as a general rule.
But I think it's a texture that works great for this one.
IMO.
-d.

John S Dyson Wed, 10/18/2017 - 08:07

DonnyThompson, post: 453574, member: 46114 wrote: I think that was intentional for this track. Yes, it sounds heavily compressed to me as well, but for this particular song, I think it works perfectly.
In the end, it's not always about the "numbers", it's about the way it sounds to us, and in context to the song. I wouldn't normally use this much compression for a vocal as a general rule.
But I think it's a texture that works great for this one.
IMO.
-d.

Do listen to the expanded/processed version on my site. I think that my processed version is slightly over-expanded -- maybe needing some slight additional peak limiting to push down some of the percussion -- but it might surprise you about how good it sounds.
(My expander is NOT normal -- it doesn't have a true release time, but 'learns' the music for the release time -- so whatever the compression release time is between perhaps 100msec and 2-3secs, it will tend to remove it.) The expander is a combo of linear and squared in its release behavior (kind of like a combo of peak and RMS -- it tends to guess at the best combo.) In this case, I might have had it turned up too high (there are really only two knobs -- input level and expansion ratio.) Unlike other expanders, it will also avoid surging or 'lurching' -- it avoids that by trying to maintain spatial consistency. In the expander, it is also relatively separate in the long term expansion and the transient expansion -- so normal dB/dB expansion isn't adequate to describe the general characteristic -- the base expansion ratio on this example is 1:1.40, with transients might increase it to 1:1.80. That is a h*ll of a lot of expansion without it being an encode/decode type scheme. The only real limitation as to the expansion is the desirable dynamic range. In the transient side of things it can pretty much add 6dB more gain instantaneously with attack/release incredibly quick almost based upon the waveform -- and little associated distortion. THIS IS A DIFFERENT ANIMAL.

John Dyson

kmetal Wed, 10/18/2017 - 20:52

That song brings back a definite “feel of the time” personally. Brings me right back to Jr. High and the bubbling enthusiasm I had. That song was everywhere man!!! I was listening primarily to punk rock in those days, but I’ve always listened eclectically.

My guess is it was a Nashville production based on the style. Possibly LA, but my money is on Nashville to a nice clean tape machine.

The 90’s had sooo many one hit wonders and alot of great full lengths as well.

John S Dyson Wed, 10/18/2017 - 22:02

kmetal, post: 453601, member: 37533 wrote: That song brings back a definite “feel of the time” personally. Brings me right back to Jr. High and the bubbling enthusiasm I had. That song was everywhere man!!! I was listening primarily to punk rock in those days, but I’ve always listened eclectically.

My guess is it was a Nashville production based on the style. Possibly LA, but my money is on Nashville to a nice clean tape machine.

The 90’s had sooo many one hit wonders and alot of great full lengths as well.

After all of my techie talk -- I really want to make sure that it is clear that I also enjoyed the song. It is both 'catchy' and creative. Perhaps the most accurate feeling invoked by the song in my little brain was: "REFRESHING".

John Dyson

Davedog Thu, 10/19/2017 - 21:40

What I 'hear' before anything else is a vocal mic chain that is ....how do I say it....LOUD AS HELL.......so he is close and intimate to begin with and the compression is there for the whole take to control the peaks and valleys. Notice the compression kinda goes away when there's the introduction of the 480 delay towards the end

Davedog Thu, 10/19/2017 - 22:02

So. This album was produced by an English guy named Peter Collins who had moved to Canada and produced a couple of records by some unknown band called Rush. Then there was the Queensryche stuff.....I think this record was probably made in LA but also had some NW influences with the personnel.

Personally. I love the 80's and 90's approach to vocal presentation.

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