How to deal with the piercing notes that a high male tenor can produce

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Shannon Adkins, Jun 17, 2011.

  1. Shannon Adkins

    Shannon Adkins Active Member

    Feb 21, 2011
    Hey everyone,
    I have a particular song I've been working on for quite sometime, and it's actually getting to the point where this one song is holding me up from finishing an EP. The problem is that the chorus contains a few really high notes that are irritatingly piercing when I hear them through earbuds or small laptop speakers.
    Let me emphasize that part again.... on my monitors it sounds fine...on my good headphones (HD 280's) and decent headphones (k-55's) it sounds fine. It's when I listen through tiny bass-deficient systems that this piercing sound is exposed.
    I'm tracking in a basement room that I believe is fairly acoustically treated. I say that with a grain of salt because I'm no acoustics expert. I have home-made bass traps in every corner, made out of blue denim insulation called "Ultratouch" (it was all I could afford at the time). I also have that same stuff in between every joist in the cieling (covered in by screen only). I have a couple 2x4 OC703 traps (one directly in front of the mic, along with some heavy bankets, to help keep reflections from getting back into the mic). And I also have quite a bit of furniture in the much as I could fit.
    I'm tracking with a 4047 and an SM7b, strait into the preamps in my MR 816. I'm about 4-6 inches off the 4047, and right up on the SM7.
    Has anyone ever dealt with this problem before? And if yes, how'd ya fix it?
  2. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    Oct 23, 2005
    You might be able to avoid this problem in future by moving the mic off-axis slightly. Try above the mouth and pointing down, below and pointing up, or off to the side slightly: they will all sound different.

    As far as fixing this problem goes, if it really is only a couple of notes your best bet might be to automate an equalizer: sweep a boost around to identify which frequency (or frequencies) are sounding harsh (tip: it will be somewhere in the upper mid region. Start looking around 2-3KHz). Then automate the gain for those bands so they cut those frequencies for just those specific problem notes.

    If there are many problem notes however you may need more drastic treatment, like a multi-band compressor set to compress just the harsh upper mid frequencies.

    Personally I prefer using dynamic EQ for this type of thing however. I just released a plug-in that might help (assuming you're not a mac user?): 5ORCERY is a dynamic EQ that is designed to operate like a multi-band compressor. Pick the "De-Harsh" preset as a starting point, then adjust the threshold for the "Hi-Mid" band to control the harsh frequencies.

    Alternatively you could set up more surgical ducking of specific narrow frequency bands using my older IQ4 plug-in. But again, only if you're on windows, sorry.
  3. Shannon Adkins

    Shannon Adkins Active Member

    Feb 21, 2011
    Hey thanks a lot, IIRs!
    I actually was leaning more towards retracking to begin with, but before I go that route I will definitely try your plugins.
    Yes, it is just a few notes. The chorus goes up to a high D in a couple spots and that's when it happens. I know it's something about the timbre of those notes and the way the mic reacts to them, and I've went through 4 mics already (the 4047 being the most expensive). I came to the 4047 and SM7 because I heard those two have a reputation for handling these types of situations. I'd love to try out a U87 but just don't have the resourses to obtain or even demo one right now.
    Also ,the preamps in the MR have been very well reviewed, but I wonder if there is an outboard preamp that might be a lot better for there something that's well known for handling loud male tenors in the rock genre?
    Again, I want to thank you very much for your response. I'm going to try those plugins today, and I'll let you know how they work:)

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