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Hi All,

Was recording a female artist last week and seem to have had some issues. She was nice enough to do the vocals over again, but I'd like to figure out why this happened. First of all she's a very breathy singer, meaning you can hear her breathing quite a bit through the mic. The vocals are very phasey and sibilant, they are eq'd a fair amount, but even before the eq the phasey part of it was prominent especially when taking breaths. She moves around a fair amount when singing, but nothing crazy. I've used the mic and pre amp many times before with no issues in the same room with no issues, although we were in a bit of a different spot of the room

- is it the different spot in the room
- mic placement
- something wrong with the gear
- all or some of the above

Any opinions on the mix are also appreciated


bigtree Tue, 06/10/2014 - 14:06

I listened to the track and don't hear a proximity issue (well, it does sound a bit thin to me so what does that say?) but I do hear a bit heavy compression for my tastes which makes me wonder (only a guess) could you have something on an effect that is shifting something just enough that its effecting the vox? I'm really shooting blanks here. I hear the ss more than the phasing you describe. Was the headphone, with a touch of latency bleeding? What does the track sound like when she's taking a break? What do you hear then?
If the track was in my system, I suppose we could help more.

smooth track. :)

steppingonmars Tue, 06/10/2014 - 19:44

Thanks guys

- little bleed on the headphones so I don't think that's it
- still phasey if all the effects are off including compression
- it was a rode ntk with a blue Robbie which I've used many times before w/o issues
- I'm leaning towards being too close to the mic, she sings with a wavering motion. I noticed the sibilance and had the mic pointed more to her chest, but I wasn't watching her and I think she may have crouched down and sang into the mic anyways. She's a loud singer so she may have been overloading the mic. Also I had her a little closer to the wall than usual and wonder if I'm getting comb filtering off the wall
- fortunately she's agreed to sing them again. I have a 414 and an sm7. I'm actually tempted to try the sm7 with a UA 710 to reduce heavy breathing and smooth her out a bit, that or use the 414 , it's an xls so I'm not sure if it would work well or not

Profile picture for user kmetal

kmetal Tue, 06/10/2014 - 20:22

It's the wrong mic for her IMHO (assuming the blue Robbie, is reasonably transparent). I find that all the rode mics I've used have a tendency towards bright upper mids/nasally, which can be good on some things (perhaps hand drums,, acoustic gtrs, ride cymbals, ect). Shes a bit chirpy and sssy, which the mic aint helping. but that phasey stuff i can hear clearly, and thats what i mean by nasally.

as far as breathy, i love it, and dont find her overly breathy at all, (listening on ipad), this style of song loves breaths, if anything i would just edit them down via automation, or just reducing the gain of the region on the offending breaths.

i think the sm-7/414 would be a better match, and anythiinng the pre-amp can do to add some fullness on the bottom, would be a welcome addition. Don't be afraid to get her close to the pop filter. If she's moving around too much do what Kurt said and use omni mode, but keep in mind that this will reduce any bass boost from proximity effect, to the point of eliminating it just about.

Also, it's quite possible that the eq is messing this up. What eq and general settings are you using?

bigtree Tue, 06/10/2014 - 22:46

Strickly from a learning POV, thats the first for me :) I usually hear phase. I'm trying to define what you are calling phasy? I hear her moving or what also sounds like a poor compression with a really slow release, which also sounds like her moving. I also don't think she sounds too close, do others?

Nice guitar playing.

DonnyAir Wed, 06/11/2014 - 05:27

I think I'd probably opt for the SM7 on this track. Don't get me wrong, I love 414's - my EB's are my main go-to's for... well... for almost everything - but I think the SM might help to rein in the "fizzy" and the sssibilance.

And yeah, I'd get her away from the wall, and then... glue her down to one spot. LOL

OTOH, if I had one available, or had access to one, personally, I wouldn't rule out a ribbon for this style and for her voice... but, that's just me.

This is a very smooth sounding track on the whole - once you get her voice tracked and tucked in, you will have a very nice jazzy piece. Very listenable.

IMHO of course

steppingonmars Wed, 06/11/2014 - 08:12

-I've had great vocals done with the Rode, but it was usually with singers of a lower timbre.
- I've doubled tracked vox in the past with one on the sm7 and one with the ntk and blend in so it's not even noticeable with good results. - The 710 preamp has some nice low end to it so I might try it with the ntk.
- I'm really thinking it was kinda a perfect storm of singer, mic placement, distance from wall. This is because I've used this gear and placement a hundred times before without issue.
- One other thing I noticed that was different was I accidentally recorded the song in 16bit instead of 24, but I don't think that should matter.
- As for eq and compression, like I said all of the issues are there with no compression or eq so I don't think it's an issue

Thanks for all the input guys, always good to learn something

RemyRAD Thu, 06/12/2014 - 01:44

I like the track. I don't know what y'all are talkin' bout?

You're trying to avoid what she actually sounds like! She's breathy. She's got a very high register sibilance. And all this needs is some better processing. Not that I'm a big fan of the microphone you used. Because I'm not. Yeah... she would've sounded nice on the SM-7. But I actually think the 414 if you must track this again.

Not understanding how to properly process a vocal like hers... Will just keep you chasing your tail and you'll never get what you think you want. Because what you want isn't what you should do. This vocal track requires an actual recording engineer, to process it. And this is a vocal that can be heavily processed to make it come alive. Right now it feels more like slimy pablum. I'd rather drink some olives. That are drunk from Gin.

Plenty of EQ. Plenty of compression. Slow attack times. Not too fast release times. Maybe 8:1? And if you want to reduce her gasping between words? Downward expansion with a very carefully set threshold, expanding down by about 10 db and voilĂ . S-E-X-Y BREATHY HOT DESIRABLE DYNAMIC... yeah baby.

The important thing is don't try to make it sound like you want it to sound. Make her sound like who she is. That's how you get the best sounding performance. Which I feel she has already given you. And you're nuts to ask her to cut it again. I'm not wild about the microphone but ya did a good job recording her. Now it's up to you how you're going to mix. And you're not there yet. You've got all that you need already. Except your chops. What? Did they slip during your circumcision?

Ya can't make this vocal sound natural. It needs to sound surreal. Natural ain't where it's at on this vocal. Processing is. And you don't do that in solo. Push up the entire mix and start playing with the vocal again. You got a good take. She gave you a good performance. You don't blame your stupid equipment choice. Live with it. This will be what you make it.

I just love beginners that blame their equipment choice, acoustic surroundings, interference from other instruments. Balderdash! It's all in the mix technique. Of which you have none. But you can learn. And you're learning now.

In fact I think you have a lot of nerve to ask her to sing it again. Sorry to say you should be embarrassed over that. There's nothing wrong with what you recorded of her already. Ya know if that didn't take some talent to be a recording engineer, then everyone would be doing it. Excuse me... like you.

Phasing sounds... that's your description. That's not what it is. Ya know the saying a little knowledge is dangerous? You didn't realize that sound that you were describing was due to that lousy microphone. And you had the SM-7 and a 414 just sitting around? So make what you've recorded sound right. And then know you've learned your lesson. Microphones with crispy wispy high ends, don't work well on women. But if you know how to mix? Then there should be no problem, whatever ya use. And here's why.

I do live recordings for albums, FM, TV. And I don't get a choice what microphone gets used on what. Sure, I have my preferences. But they don't always get your preferences. What's a girl to do? You're just left no choice but to do a fine job and make that person sound great! It's that simple.

So you're going to have to experiment with her EQ, before and/or after, compression. Compression with a not too fast an attack time. And plenty of compression. And none of the " look ahead ", nonsense on your dynamic processing. God I hate that! Nonsensical nonsense. Does a great job of killing everything.

Now after that, you might live with the gasps? Or duck them down, with some expansion. Approximately equal to the compression gain reduction amount. Average 10 db. Then no more gasping. Just normal sounding breaths. That's what grown-up engineers do.

The vocal actually reeks from proximity effect. Which of course can be compensated for, during the mix. And she could use a good punch of presence to make those consonants come panting through. And maybe a De-Esser if you must at the tail end of all of that smear.

In fact I'm rather surprised that you have not figured this out for yourself yet? Have you stuck on some nice contemporary sounding focus on contemporary sounding recordings, with these types of female jazz vocalists? I don't hear anything natural. I hear lots of processing. It makes them sound cool. Which is what you're there to do. Not to get some phasey Sound out of your head because you don't know what you're listening to.

Remember equipment and software does not make the recording. The engineer does. Now when you really have the nice equipment, like you have, of course there is no excuse. Nearly excuse I can think of is that you didn't make any recordings like this with cheap crappy equipment? Equipment so awful only your engineering skills could get you through. Or equipment you dislike so much that it changes your entire way of recording and mixing upon it. Yet you still end up with a very similar product, every bit as professional as your last.

So take what you think is wrong and enhance what you think is wrong. Because you're not going to get rid of it. So make it work for you. You can do it. You recorded it very well. You just need to take it home the other way. Remember when ya see the fork in the road? Take it.

You did good. Just fix it.
Mx. Remy Ann David