good vocal mixing? i need a start.

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by imloggedin, May 19, 2005.

  1. imloggedin

    imloggedin Guest

    ive been listening to some albums and im so jealous of how they get mixed. i hear these vocals that are just soooo clear and sound like they are in the room with you. to be specific, im stuck on chevelles newest cd. at any rate, not long ago i started mixing and ive been playing with different effects to bring the vocals out and make them clearer. im not talking about compression, i just need some help on making them clearer. maybe just gimme a few examples like "apply x amount of reverb, double the vocals or not, do this do that". i need a little guidance in this area. the vocals i recorded dont sound bad, they just dont have the presence that professional mixing gives. maybe you could give me some examples of how you all usually mix your vocals. i know that theres not just a single way to do it, and that all songs are gonna be different, but i need a start. any help would be appreciated.
  2. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Assuming you have a clear voice to record.

    First, you get an experienced producer, engineer and musicians and a nice room to record in, using nice gear. Then you record and mix. Then, send the stuff to a competent mastering engineer. What you get back should be as good as any album you've ever heard. The people, places and things used by those whose albums you like would be a start.

    It is a fallacy that those of us with a few grand worth of gear(Most of that the 'off the shelf' computer) will ever sound like the albums we buy.

    Not only is there no single way to do it, there is no way to do it - not the way you want to hear it, at the price you want to pay - not at your home(Nor mine.).

    Doubling the vocal or a little different reverb is not the answer. Do the best you can, enjoy the experience, be a little happier with "don't sound bad" and slowly work toward "sounds pretty good",

  3. imloggedin

    imloggedin Guest

    thats a terrrrrible answer. your answer was "you cant, you have to be chevelle to record like them". YA THINK? i want basic vocal techiques for mixing vocals to sound clear and upfront, ie. eqing at certain frequencies MAY make it sound more clear if its a muddy recording, doubling the track might give it more presence. so teddyg please dont post in my thread. to all of you others who arent sarcastic and actually have vision, got any tips for me? thanks
  4. dynomike

    dynomike Guest

    You said NOT to talk about compression, but thats what comes to mind. Delay/verb? No. That'll make the vocal sound BIGGER and further away, certainly not clearer or more "in the room".

    In order of importance:
    good voice.
    good microphone (what are you using? for an "up front" sound, try a shure sm7 if you're on the cheap)
    acoustic treatment - try to deaden out the low frequencies. they may be cancelling at certain notes at the mic, which'll throw everything off.
    good preamp (if its behringer... its hashing up the high-end something awful. i've been there)
    proper use of compression. waves rcl or digitalfishphones blockfish will do with some tweaking.

    I wouldn't say you CAN'T do it without pros all around, but it'll certainly take some good gear, and some skills. Its not just the solo'd vocal sound that makes the vocal sound good though.. its the whole mix. You need to leave room for the vocal when you're panning guitars. Another good example of a clear vocal in a super dense mix is the new mars volta album. Course, that guy's voice cuts like a knife, but its compressed to all hell, and does have some nice delays/strategically placed verbs to give the vocal some space and some robert plant feel too (esp. on the first track).

    I do agree with Teddy though, that effects are not the answer. It has to sound big and close BEFORE you start adding delays and stuff.. otherwise it'll be a washy mess!
  5. dynomike

    dynomike Guest

    Just read your reply. 90% of the time, EQ'ing is not the answer. Most lead vocals aren't that eq'd, unless they're recorded with a ribbon mic and need a bit more sizzle (ie. coles 4038 can take a huge 10khz boost and still sound great)

    Definately try different compressors. If its a kinda thin voice, you could try adding a bit of distortion at some point - overdrive your preamp a bit (not gonna sound too good with SS pres), use a plug like quadrafuzz and blend in a lower fuzz with the original vocal, stuff like that. Its very situation dependent.. but you're gonna wanna start with a good sounding, unprocessed vocal - which you'll get from a nice vocalist/mic/room/pre combination.

    If you want, post a sample and maybe there IS a quick fix, for this specific situation.
  6. imloggedin

    imloggedin Guest

    although the question isnt really pointed at a specific song i will post a sample in a little bit mike, thanks for the help. thats the kinda answers im looking for!
  7. imloggedin

    imloggedin Guest

    heres one i just did not long ago:

    alls i did was double the vocal track.. add eq and compression to both and pan 1 30% left and 1 30% right. listen to it before you critique what i did please. thanks guys.
  8. imloggedin

    imloggedin Guest

    oh yea.. its 11 megs so be patient :)
  9. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    The vocal sound really wasn't that bad. I'm listening on computer speakers, but it sounded ok. They were probably a tad bit dry and could use some delays/verb. But you will have to play with it to see what kind and how much. One thing I like to do is two do a stereo delay with a slightly different delay on each side. Like having 1/16 and 1/8 or 1/8 and 1/4. I mix them up a lot of times by using one kind on the chorus and another timing on the verse.

    You should experiment with things like eq'ing the delays, etc. I employ the use of a high pass filter a lot of times so that the delays are less noticeable. Delays can really help to get the vocal sounding open without making it too wet. You can definitely overdo it also.

    With the verbs there are just a ton of parameters. I think a goal on a song like the one you posted would be to give the song 'atmosphere' without being real noticeable. A good rule of thumb for the delays and verb is too turn the level up until you think it is just right, and then bring it down a notch. Nothing like turning some cheesey effects up too loud.

    A lot of the sound will depend on having good gear. You don't have to be Chevelle, and be in some huge pro studio, but it would help! Start with the basics and use a good mic and a good pre. This will go a long way in improving your sound. I'd probably find a compressor and then an EQ somewhere down the line, but it's not really needed up front. And like it was mentioned before, you'll get a better sound by changing the mic and the placement than you would by EQ'ing. Use of EQ is kind of a last resort. Compression tends to be something I rely on a lot more with vox.

    I havent' heard the album you were referring too, but one thing that is happening a lot is background vox that you don't notice unless you really notice. They will record a ton of really tight backs and align them with vocalign, and then really murder them with EQ and slide them in right where they want them.

    The perfect vocal track is something that is very elusive, but experimenting and learning along the way can really help you to improve your sounds.
  10. First of all, what is it with people saying 1/16, 1/8, 1/4 and things about delays? Use your ears. They'll tell you your timings that you need. (Yes. I understand those are note values in relation to the tempo. I am a musician.)

    Anyway... I love plate reverbs on vocals. I can definitely here something like that needing to be used on that. For that type of vocal and tempo, I use a plate with a pre-delay of 25-30ms with a time of 2.2-2.8 seconds. That sounds like a long reverb, but it really isn't. I also run my reverbs all 100% wet and then mix them in either by an aux return or another channel if I want to use some eq adjustments.

    By the way, this song would sound awesome on electric guitars in the chorus and bridge.
  11. imloggedin

    imloggedin Guest

    its just an acoustic song i recorded cause my friend wanted to get it recorded real quick. its not a full song. thanks for the tips though. keep em comin! :) good stuff.
  12. J-MADD

    J-MADD Active Member

    Aug 19, 2004
    Home Page:
    Hey Mike (dynomike) what vocal mic do you use? I just love the way your voice sounds on that song Autumn you have a link to. Awesome!

  13. J-MADD

    J-MADD Active Member

    Aug 19, 2004
    Home Page:
    Oh yeah I also listened to imloggedin's song. Also very good. Man you guys are good! Anyways, only thing I can think is to try some light verb or delay to fill it out a little. But, pretty cool :)

  14. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    It was not a terrible answer. The only way you can sound like someone else is to do what someone else does. Completely un-realistic to expect to be able to come up with this stuff at home. Period. Forget it!

    Frankly, the best sound is live - no mics or plug-ins involved. All of our equipment is meant solely to try to get a clean, clear, live feel to it(As if the vocalist was in the room with us, singing to us - right?). Since the vocalist can't be in everyone's living room, we try to make it "sound" as much as possible, like they are, by recording, mixing, editing, effecting, etc., then distributing the CD's. It's really not possible, but we try.

    To try to do better, all you needed, answer-wise, was there!

    Better room - better accoustics - better equipment - more experience - and talent. Unless you are or can afford a competent accoustics designer/builder, really, all we little folk can do is try to deaden/quiet our rooms to keep the "sound" of our inferior rooms from interfering with what we're recording. Then, we record - maybe completely dry(No effects), and add, with our software and plug-ins and any outboard boxes we have, any "effects" that we think might help. Problem is, NO...... there is no single problem. Our problems are many and IMMENSE! The "big guys" have rooms that ALREADY sound good, by design, or at least are more properly deadened. Next, "they" have superb microphones, running into superb quality preamps, with superb quality following everywhere along the chain AND an engineer or 12 who know's how to get the most out of this stuff. WE DON"T!!! Most of us have a computer from Sears and mics from the local music store, plug-ins that are included with our cheap recording software(Or cost $49.95 over the internet) and speakers that - well - even if they are really nice speakers, our "control rooms" are not set-up to make even "good" use of their capabilities - which is not surprising as most of our control rooms are also our tracking studios and also our poorly treated garages or spare bedrooms or basements.

    Can "good" things come from these situations? Yes! Can someone tell you how to get "the sound" by telling you how much reverb to add, or which 300 dollar mic to buy? No. Can "great things" come from your home studio? Maybe, if they are "your" sounds, not "theirs". Still, if you must follow-along behind, you'll get there alot faster renting time at an already "great studio", after you've done the polishing/preperation at home, doing the best you can.

    Here's the only way I know to get "the same great sound" as the most professional of pro's can get:

    Buy one of the new, small, Marantz "flash card" recorders. Take it, along with your best microphone to somewhere/anywhere that "sounds good" to you. Try your back yard, a local quiet park, a theater, a neighbors attic, an interesting sounding hallway in a building you've been in. Record some vocal in these places, accapella. Learn to hear what "good spaces" sound like. Then, either arrange to record your vocals there - do very little to no further "processing". Even the albums-folk you speak of will then, not have "your" sound! Or take home your samples and try to "duplicate" it with the equipment/space you have - might work, to some degree? Takes time, patience, listening, tweeking - likely all by yourself.

    Be a leader, not a follower. Make "them" jealous of "your" sound. Or continue trying to duplicate "them". But, be advised, that will be a long, expensive road and by the time you get there, "they" will have moved on to another, higher, level.

  15. imloggedin

    imloggedin Guest

    ok mr obvious. i dont remember asking howto be chevelle. it was a thought about how i like how clear the vocals are. you can use a cheap mic and still get things clearer than whats coming out of that mic, especially if its in a mix. im asking to get a start on bringing the vocals out of a mix putting them in the room with the listener. i didnt ask for someone to tell me that obviously those bands have better equipment i cant match, and it looks like everyone but you got the point of my question.
  16. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:

    PBFBI, but from the FWIW dept...

    Here's the key to Vox as I see it.

    Contrary to what you will ever read on most boards and in most magazines, the vocals are THE most important part of ANY song that has vocals.

    They should be out front if they are to be heard most. As rather simple point, but actually all of this mixing stuff is simple points/principleas added together to created a greater sum.

    Stick those vox out front. The faders are there for a reason. Use em'!

    The way I build a mix is not the same for any two songs, but my process generally is. I build the mix with all instruments w/o vocals. Then I drop everything down like 6-12 db and add vocals.

    I then build the db of the subordinate instrumentation up just til' the vox go away/loose the front-n-center position and back it all out to the point where the vocals are back on top. How much on top, compression, eq, effects are the last things to consider/add. Even then, thses considerations are all dictated by the song itself.

    You may not end up with "world-class" recordings, as has been alluded to... albeit a little brash in presentation, but with some work you should see a positive direction that your mixes take.

    Again, you may not get a world-class sound, but one of the realities is that with the advent of mp3's and the general public not knowing squat about sound quality and their willingness to accept a lower quality of sound for convenience purposes, you may just find yourself making more than acceptable... even salable mixes.

    There is a caveat though... you will only get better at mixing by mixing. Keep striving to do a mix better and better. Never be completely satified with what you do... because you can always do it better.

    Keep at at it!

  17. dynomike

    dynomike Guest

    Audio Technica 4047 about 4" away. I really like the mic too.. I use it on a lot of the tracks, just varying how far away I am depending on the sound I'm going for. Great on acoustic too! Not clean, but certainly cool. I used it on overheads on that song too, but I'm not as big a fan of that. The highs got boosted a fair bit in mastering so you might be hearing that too.


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