Dressing up the vocal

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by billy baroo, Mar 26, 2003.

  1. billy baroo

    billy baroo Guest

    I know that each particular song should determine what the vocal should sound like and where in the mix it should sit. But for the life of me i can't get the sound i want for my rock songs.

    I'll explain the scenario.

    I record in my studio but it is not acoustically treated. I record using a Rode NTK into a Joe Meek MQ3 pre then into an audiophile 2496. Vocals sound pretty good but a bit boxy because of the room but this isn't a major concern. I basically write rock songs that i wish to "sound" along the lines of Foo Fighters, ie. Top/mid range guitars letting the bass and kick fill the bottom end. My problem is when i come to mixing in the vocal even after compression i can't for the life of me get them to sit clear, concise & upfront. what i need to know is how to get that vocal sound along the lines of Dave Grohl or even Avril Lavigne. It sounds to me that little reverb is used if any at all, so i'm wondering if Eq'ing is the answer. I generally roll off around 100Hz and maybe boost 5 db around 10k. Is it effects, i don't know.

    What is the secret. Please save me!
  2. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Active Member

    Mar 15, 2003
    The boxy room sound is not going to help, even if you think that by itself it is not too bad. You have to start with a really dry vocal - everything else will just mess with the mix. Also try recording with very short distance to the mic. Some 2-3 inches will help you get a nice and in-your-face sound (provided you have a mic that doesn't give you proximity effect).

    In a lot of those "angry young men" rock songs they tend to massively compress the vocals so I would experiment with those settings.

    EQ settings seem to be in the right ball park although you should be able to roll up the low-end a little further and move the high end boost closer to 5-7k. Also work to EQ the guitars, they probably interfere with your vocals as the heavily distorted stuff has an extremely wide frequency spectrum (close to white noise ;) ).

    Just my 2 cents (and I certainly don't claim to be the resident guru here ...).

  3. Axeman32

    Axeman32 Guest

    I have had some very good results using a regular SM58 through a good pre-amp. I know it is not a condenser but its got rock in its blood.

    I've used a Rode NT1 and depending how close you are from bouncing off a wall in front of the vocalist it can sound quite nasally.

    Try to place yourself in front of heavy draped window or position yourself as faraway from an apposing wall as possible. Or suspend a sleeping bag and use that to dry up the room.

    Unfortunatly I had to re-track that vocal because I could not get rid of the offending freqs. A bad sounding room is a bad sounding room which produces a track of a vocalist in a bad sounding room.

    Note this will also make mixing a pain. Use near field monitor and low to moderate volume.

    What I learned from this thread was that although my fix worked I was actually geting the bounce from the front wall off of the back wall into the mic. I could have achived the same or better results by placing a sound deadener behind the vocalist. See Kurt's post below. . . Place them behind the singer where the mic is "pointing".
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Well-Known Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Go to Home Depot and purchase a couple of moving blankets. No recordist should be without a few of these. Place them behind the singer where the mic is "pointing". Place a small thick piece of carpet on the floor. This will help dry up the "roominess". Instead of cutting the bass at 100 Hz. try a high pass at 70 Hz. and cut 3 or 4 dB at 180 to 220Hz. Boost a few dB @ 5 or 6k with a shelf eq. That should help things out ... Kurt
  5. worthwords

    worthwords Guest

    You know i've been having the same issue with vocals. when comparing to commercial rock recordings - there's just a presence, the vocals sound big and wide...but not at all too loud...there's a depth and a detail about them...
    i've been having trouble with my vocals- which sound just small- seemingly it has nothing to do with the level. I've eq'd the heck out of it..and still nothing- reverb just makes it sound further away. I'm about to try carving the guitars- (eqing some of the mid's out to make room for the vocals...but we'll see).

    I have heard a couple suggestions, but haven't been able to try each of them. So i'll share them and maybe someone who is much more experienced than i can add some more input-

    first, i have heard the right amount of compression adds upfrontness...but there seems to be a fine line because too much will give graininess...in my experience i haven't had great results with this- just graininess or nothing at all-i'm not sure exactly why this would work???? anyone?

    -instead of using reverb- try a super short delay- like 50 ms and under- this supposedly adds a sublte "bigness."

    -Next boosting some 200-300 hz- can add thickness...but you must be subtle...

    now- some questions- what's this i hear about layering the lead vocal in rock??? that doesn't seem to make much sense to me...i would think it would be blatanly noticeable. i.e. chrous-ee..
    i've also heard of some folks multi miking vocals so having 3 tracks of the same performance kinda like multi miking a guitar cab- and then panning them out to create width and space for the vocals.
    lastly what about enhancers/exciters are they used in commercial modern rock albums? anyone who can add a few cents, please- it would be greatly appreciated.
  6. worthwords

    worthwords Guest

    oh btw- unlike billy i'm in a pretty ideal setting- a well isolated booth- with a Neumann TLM 103, to a decent tube pre- dbx compressor-etc...and still no luck.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Well-Known Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Enhancers and exciters have pretty much fallen out of favor with the advent of digital recording. These things were used a lot with analog to help overcome the associated dullness of the medium, especially with narrow gauge formats. They really fall more into the area of frequency manipulation and not in the spatial domain.

    The idea of adding short delays or better yet a very small / short room reverb is a good approach for what you are trying to achieve. Keep in mind that many times in big budget recordings multiple mics are used to track vocals. This practice extends way back to some of the earliest Elvis recordings for RCA where 2 RCA ribbon’s were used to mic "The King". I recall an article I saw in the December 2002 issue (#12) of EQ where this was done also on a recent Telearc release, "Something Cool" by Tierney Sutton. Engineer Michael Bishop used 2 Neumann Solution D mics in an XY position set to subcardioid.

    As far as EQ goes, this is all subjective and dependent on what the song calls for. I myself prefer to leave the 200 Hz. regions for the bass instruments and go more for accentuating the 1K to 6 K area on vocals. But that of course is not set in stone. As I said it all depends on the song. Kurt
  8. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Active Member

    Mar 15, 2003
    Exciters are in my opinion bandaids that can to a limited degree make up for lack of high quality recorded material. I'd say it's much better to fight the problem at the source, though. Get the best recording possible to begin with and limit the "fixing it afterwards". This does not necessarily mean that you have to invest millions in recording equipment. An NTK and a decent mic pre for vocals are not a bad start. I like the NTV/NTK together with eiter a Sytek or Event EMP-1 preamp that goes through an RNC compressor. I usually apply only limited EQ and tend to have very little problems with the sound in the mix.

    I like doubling, tripling etc. and panning of backup vocals, but rarely if ever with the main vocals. It does nothing for the delivery of emotional content - it just smoothens it out, thus taking away from the intensity.

    As always, just my opinion - it's up for discussion ;) .

  9. mardyk

    mardyk Guest

    I've discovered that the thing to do to get vocals really fat and in your face is to add a bit of nice tube distortion. I discovered this when I found my granddads old Tandberg tube taperecorder that had been sitting in a drawer for 30 years. I took it to the studio and ran my recorded vocals though it. After adjusting the gain and distortion level it sounded fantastic. All the things I'd been trying to achieve with eq and compression, this thing did automatically!
    Now eq out a bit of mud (200-500 wide q a few db) and a good comp like 1176 or renvox. If you can't get a hold of some vintage tube equipment, try Antares Tube. You can download a fully functional demo at http://www.antarestech.com
    It's a great little plugin. Also if you want to get rid of room in a recording you can try using an enveloper or transient designer.
  10. darling

    darling Guest

    I do a lot of recording in the heavy guitar genre, and for that " man - that guy sounds like he's up my ass " sound - try to find the freq that sounds like it's centered in the mouth or nose - 2 or 3 k - turn it up - compress the $*^t out of it - and there you have it - ANGRY YOUNG MAN !
    this is where a distressor on 6:1 with distortion 3 in is a good thing.
    have fun - dave
  11. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    the secret (not forgetting a good sound to begin with/and regardless of which direction one takes in effects, ect) is:


    that's it. Vocal rides. Very detailed changes in level to keep the vocal perfectly balanced in the mix, at all times(not to mention the obvoius eq/compression stuff relative to the rest of the track).
  12. Smooth

    Smooth Guest

    I am no mixing pro

    but I'm no hack either--and I must agree--rides are so important and very careful vocal technique and precise compression--not presets.

    To be honest with the mic and pre you have the vocal should sit right there in the mix--so its probably your mix. Try complimentry eq.

    Look, the vocal is the song--get everything else out the way first and build the song around it from the ground up and you'll hear the difference

    ps..I always put my huge fat wife behind me to absorb sound hahahahaha(actually she's 130 pounds)
  13. billy baroo

    billy baroo Guest

    Thanks to you all for your informative responses. Believe me i will be using all the said techniques to find what's gonna work best for my little set up. I absolutely agree with Smooth that the equipment i've got, while not exactly perfect or what i crave for (see Avalon gear), should give me a reasonable recording of my voice.

    Practice & experimentation are the key for us "home recording junkies!!!

  14. droog

    droog Active Member

    Nov 3, 2001
    also, as well as what the others have said, make sure the mic is hearing the best side of your voice, yes, left versus right makes a huge difference, as well as up versus down

    hint (this tip is courtesy of mike stavrou):
    screw your face up and do a pirate's voice, your mouth will go either to the left or the right, this will give you an indication

    hope it helps,
  15. 3dchris

    3dchris Active Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    I do not think your vocal track has a problem (unless you eq it heavily). I think other tracks get in the your vocal track "way". I also use TLM103 with an Avalon 737sp preamp going straight to the ADI-8DS converters and the vocal track is crisp and clean and you can hear it clearly even if the music is much louder than a vocal is. That tells me that there is something wrong with your instrument mix. Another thing is you panning. Are your instruments panned correctly? In other words, you have to make sure that not all the instruments are panned dead center.

    Hope this helps


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