Consistently singing flat

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by JohnTodd, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

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    Well, its only happened since I started turning the cans down to lessen the bleed. Isn't there some sort of law regarding volume vs pitch perception?

    I'll try stripping down the mix in today's session. Might be I'll just have to turn the cans back up and live with the bleed.
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Well, as mentioned, you might be flat because your monitoring is off, or you might be flat because you just sing flat.. and if that's the case then you need to conquer that particular facet first.

    I'm a session drummer and vocalist. It makes up about half my income, so yeah, you could call me a "pro".

    I always insist on the driest possible cue mix. Don't give me tons of reverb and delay, and let me hear the dominant mid range tonics, like piano and guitars.

    There are times I've needed to pull one ear off the cans to hear myself "outside the mix".

    Singing while monitoring through headphones is a very isolative environment and it can be very difficult, as we aren't really meant to monitor or hear ourselves that way. It takes some getting used to to be able to do it, to train our ears and our brain to acclimate to that perception.

    Try this... run a track of a song you know well... it can be anything...a current hit, a classic rock song, whatever....

    Now, play that back through speakers, and sing along to it thru a mic, in the room, without headphones... just monitor what the speakers are playing in the room, sing along to it, and record it.

    If it sounds good to you and you are on-pitch, then it's likely a monitoring problem and you need to adjust your cue mix accordingly or you need more time getting used to using cans.

    But, if you are flat simply singing along to a well known track and something you are familiar with, then you have a pitch problem and it might not hurt to take a few vocal lessons with a pro to isolate that problem and fix it.

    Because in the end, if you are inherently flat, then you need to fix that problem first, because no cue mix, no matter how perfect, will solve that problem for you.

    fwiw
    -d.
     
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    85 dB is where we hear things flattest. look up Fletcher Munson Effect. did you already tell us what kind of cans are you using?

    if they are open backed you might try something like Sony's that have an enclosed ear cup. those are what i use and don't have issues with bleed, no matter how loud they get.
     
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    I tracked a singer once who insisted in having the cans far too loud - painful to hear, and they were bleeding badly into the vocal track. I tried all sorts of gating and downward expansion and managed to reduce the bleedthough when there were no vocals, but the bleed was very evident during vocalization.

    I thought about it, and did a take asking the singer to pretend that he was singing while actually wearing the cans and going through all the motions as though for real but not issuing any vocal sound. It resulted in a track with just bleed, and subtracting that from the real take solved the problem without causing any other deleterious effects.
     
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    I was about to propose that! Thanks Boswell.

    I also wonder why the bleeding is so bad to you. Is the vocal track over compress ? Are you too far from the mic? Are you singing very softly? Is the mic chosen picking up too much? (Some mics pickup to much in omnidirectional for vocal and are more suited for room, stage or choirs recording) Is your room threated (natural reverb could amplify bleeding)

    Personnaly, I never had a customer's signer that generated too much bleeding. Once, a drummer asked for a click so loud I could here it in the breaks.. It was a problem because we needed the cymbals fades so I could'nt use a gate.. I asked him to play some punchs without a click and I manually replaced the ones with the click bleeding..

    I guess It would be bad if you wanted to do a part of a song without any instrument but needed a guitar as a guide and to keep singing on pitch. Then bleeding is a major concern. Other than that, if the bleeding is a tinny part of what will be there anyway on the final mix, I don't mind it, it'll be masked anyway.
    And sometime, bleeding is needed ! Yes !! Needed !! hihihi . I had another customer who brought tracks from another studio and they were not synchronised properly. I used the bleeding of the drum to align everything thumb

    Just a thinking : You can try to sing about 45 to 90 degrees from the mic and try a unidirectional mic. The mic will record what is in front of it (your voice beeing projected) and it will miss a bit of the cans that does'nt project that much. I honestly don't know if it'll make a big difference, but worth a try :)
     
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    i saw a video of Kieth Moon where he had gaffers tape wrapped around the phones like a headband. can't say if it was to control the spill or to just hold the phones on his head. it had to hurt when he pulled the phones off though ... that's dedication. i miss him.
     
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I still think that a good way to nail down the source is to try what I proposed earlier in this thread:

    The good news is that you can hear when you are flat, and knowing when you are pitchy is a thousand percent better than not recognizing it, at which point, it's game over. ;)

    fwiw
    -d.
     
  8. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

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    Ahhh, Fletcher Munson effect. As a side question: Is this the reason many professionally done recordings in the hard rock/heavy metal genre sound thin (less bass) and dull (less treble) when listened to at sane levels? Then when you crank them, the drive and character emerges. Were they engineered to be played back really loud?

    OK, I'll try these experiments. I tried a stripped out mix in this morning's session and my takes were darn near perfect. I believed it was a technical problem and not me. For those of you not familiar with me here, I do music full time. Sometimes in my own tiny studio, and mostly paying live gigs and "real" studio stuff. I'm a musician first and engineer second. I totally LOVE studio work on both sides of the glass. Decades of experience tell me it's not me singing flat naturally, it's a tech problem.

    As for why bleed? I use closed-back Senheisers, usually one ear off. I put the mix only in the other ear. When I'm tracking with a dynamic (ie SM58) I don't get bleed too much. But lately I've done a couple of songs that require a ribbon and soft vocals. Then the bleed gets in. So I turned down the cans. Then I started singing flat. Then I got frustrated... and so on.

    But nobody told me how to tune to harmonics. Is this a guitar thing? Or is it something in the cans?
     
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    yes exactly! good connection. not really loud though ... 85 dB.

    a lot of enegineers use a loudness or decible meter to get their monitors to that level to check a mix. it is also why we often mix at low levels ... it's easy to get something to sound good loud ... getting it to sound good a softer levels that's the trick! this is also why stereos have a "loudness" switch .. it boosts the bass and treble for playback at lower levels.

    do a google search on Fletcher Munson effect .. there's more stuff available than just that link i posted.
     
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Absolutely agreed.

    Good Gawd. Let the pigeons loose. Kurt and I actually agree on something. (y)
     
  11. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

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    Small point but an important one about harmonics/overtones (yes I know they're not exactly the same but for our purposes here....). Physics time...when any pitch is produced there are naturally occurring notes that occur above the main pitch (fundamental). My advice was to listen to the bass and try to line up with the naturally occurring overtones that the bass creates. The better it is played/tuned and recorded will all play a factor as will your monitoring system and ears as to whether or not you can actually hear them. A lifetime of rock-n-roll tends to create a bit of havoc on many people's ears.

    If you want to hear what it should sound like, find a well tuned acoustic piano. Hold down the far right pedal and play a low G (octave and 1/2 below middle C) After a few seconds the G will disappear(the fundamental) and you should hear a very strong D above middle C.
    Try to listen for that 5th on your bass lines. If you can tune to that overtone you will definitely be in tune with the fundamental and (for many, myself included) it is easier to hear the overtone than the fundamental on very low pitches.(e.g bass lines)

    The real challenge with singing is that your singing overtones change with every vowel AND every pitch - like changing instruments every note! If our brains weren't capable of making incredibly quick changes it would be impossible. There is a reason we've had drum machines for almost 40 years and no one still has a sampler that can create or recreate the human voice. Yes auto tune can fix problems but nothing yet exists to make a singer obsolete.

    Phil
     
  12. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

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    OK, makes sense. I studied the overtone series in music theory in college. We did the piano thing a few times. A little time passes and a whole galaxy of overtones will emerge plain as day from that one note.

    I'll try an additional experiment. All my bass lines are MIDI, so I'll throw in an extra track xposed up a 5th, just for tracking vox.
     
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Try and get those mid range instruments prevalent in the mix, John.

    Guitar, pianos, and other stuff that occupies the same basic range as your vocals can help quite a bit when locking to pitch.

    fwiw
    -d.
     
  14. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    I rarely have this much trouble with headphones and vocals. What make/model headphones are they?
     
  15. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

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    Senheiser HD215. But I hasten to add that I didn't have this problem until I turned the volume down.
     
  16. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    Did you take one side off before or after turning down? That is, did taking an ear cup off make you have to turn down or did turning down make you have to take an ear cup off?

    Is the unused side firmly sealed against your head? Can you cut signal to the unused side of the headphones?

    Maybe you need to try another approach. Put both ear cups on, crank the backing tracks to rock levels (within reason), sing louder/stronger, keep your vocal just loud enough in the cans to hear clearly but not so loud that you back off too much on your projection. Perhaps put some slapback delay (say 30ms, minimal repeats) on your voice just at the threshold of audibility. Be sure the ear cups are firmly sealed against your head.

    I've been tracking with HD280s for years without this much trouble so it has to be possible.
     
  17. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

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    What I am doing now is:

    One cup off.

    Cue to on-side only.

    Drums, Bass, and one synth-organ sound. Got darn near perfect takes today with that.

    I can't sing stronger - have a light voice. I'm a lyric baritone, so if I get up to "rock" levels, I loose control. Me no opera - need microphone.
     
  18. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

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    The trick is to have one side of the headphones (monitors) on, and listen to yourself on the other side with just your ear. What happens often after a while when you have headphones on, you either sing in lower or higher scales.

    Also, sometimes someone just does not have what it takes to record vocals, or be a singer. I'm not saying that that is the case, but think about it.
     
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    drummers who crush the cymbals, usually get them turned up loud enough, that they hit them more softly, during tracking. One thing i learned for tentative sounding vocals is to push your hand against your belly button, which should help associate the singing muscles. i suck at singing, but i love hearing about the techniques that help singers. there's a video called 'the zen of screaming' which offers some great warmup techniques, it's geared toward heavy screamers 'not' blowing out their chords. flat from my experience, is usually tentative, shy, not from the belly, or strained, sounding. i give props to anyone who sings. just keep at it, don't forget your punch in button either. if you can sing along to your best snippets all at once, you've markedly improved.
     
  20. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

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    Tell you what...I've been working out and the crunches are helping my diaphragm!
     

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