How to truly record/mix vocals into music properly?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Xpred, Dec 31, 2005.

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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

  1. Xpred

    Xpred Guest

    I have so many questions, I don't know where to start. But I mainly want to know how should I properly "mix" or blend in the vocals with the music. I usually just record karaoke/instrumental tracks where I have the music as one track and the vocals as another. Currently, I'm using Adobe Audition. I have the music file on the first track and the vocals on the second track. My question is what are the necessary presets and things I need to do to make my vocals sound "correct" or right like an actual professional studio-esque song?

    What I do usually is just record the vocals in mono 24-bit 44.1khz. Then I just mess around with a BUNCH of settings because I never know what I'm doing. I just try to listen until it "sounds" right. For example, I just use a bunch of compression, graphic EQ settings, add some reverb, and some other stuff if it sounds "right." However, when doing this, my vocals doesn't sound like it should. I doesn't sound as sharp enough or as clear enough. It also doesn't sound like it should be as it is. Y'know, professional songs' vocal is very clear and it seems like as though it's placed directly INTO the center of the music or something. Or the vocals sound like they're behind the music. My vocals sound like they're just poorly mixed and recorded over the music.. or such.. Well, I don't really know how to explain it. But, I'm pretty sure my mic is able to produce much better results. Maybe I'm just doing something wrong in the "mixing" or I like to call it... messing around process, heh.

    Anyways, I was wondering are there a set of instructions or list of things I must always accompany with when recording vocals? Like I should always add "this" type of preset or "that?" Or is it just all about experimentation with presets and everything. How do you guys do it? Like step by step so I can learn.

    Also, is this the "CORRECT" way of putting vocals with music? Like multitrack wise. I have music on 1st track, vocals on 2nd track (recording mono-wise). Then I just export audio when done, and I can save it via mp3/wav. Hmm...
  2. timtu

    timtu Guest

    I am not that experienced in vocals at all......but,
    I think you may, instead of messing with the vocals, mess with the rest of the music. I have had what could be the same problem and I helped fix it by compressing the music and not the vocals and make it so the vocals peak much higher than the music- but not too much.

    Either way happy new years y'all.

  3. Pre Amp

    Pre Amp Guest

    There were really too many questions to answer at once. I'd say if you are using a cheap "microphone preamp" or no mic pre-amp then this is why your mix is sounding sub-par. Now it could also be a so-so reverb effect that is "bubble gum" sounding. And makes the vocals sound fake.
    Or, you could try putting a little bit of reverb on the music tracks, as well as the same reverb on the vocals to make them sound like they are in the same room.
    A good microphone preamp is what really brings a vocals sound out and UPFRONT.
    Try this, if you have like 3 or 4 tracks you can record the vocals "one line" at a time. That really helps because, the singer never has to catch his/her breath. And that's how major labels record CD's.
    For instance...
    The 1st vocal line (track #1)
    The 2nd vocal line (track #2)
    I like to use 3 or 4 tracks for multi tracking vocals (you can use 2 at first to get the idea)
    And later on...
    3rd vocal line (track #3)
    4th vocal line (track #4)
    Multi tracking is the best way to record vocals. Now, I've never done karaoke, so take what I say for what's worth.
    I may be wrong, but I think your problems might be the quality of the signal, somewhere in your gain stage.
    Sometimes a different microphone will help. Not everybody sounds good on the same microphone.
    Hope you get sounding better soon!
  4. fstfwd74

    fstfwd74 Guest

    A good microphone can make a world of difference, but there are some other things that can be done depending on what the sound is you're looking for.

    Using some compression can give it a more "steady" kind of sound, so that it doesn't sound like one line was recorded at the mic and the next line was recorded six feet from the mic. However, you can go overboard with that sometimes where it sounds like the vocalist can only sing in one volume (no dynamics).

    If I want it to have a sound like another artist I've heard before, sometimes I'll record that artists' music on the multi-track (in my case, the computer program) so I can do an A/B easier. Once I've got the music I'm working on tweaked sufficiently, then I move on to the next part that needs tweaking. You can mute the other artists' track at that point, or just delete it.

    I have not done a lot of recording, so doing that helps me determine the balance between the different music and vocal tracks, as well as EQ'ing occassionally. It's not uncommon that I'll know it doesn't sound right, but I'm not quite sure why... and that process helps me pinpoint the problem areas.

    The other posts on this thread have already covered some other things you can do.
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    This is my experienced judgment and suggestions.

    As mentioned above, most SoundBlaster like, soundcard microphone inputs are more than just substandard. They're awful! As far as your microphone goes, for you, I recommend a Shure SM58, they're affordable and sound great! You don't necessarily need a mixer for what you are doing but I would recommend an inexpensive single channel microphone preamplifier, to plug into your sound card " line input". Most likely available at your music store or by mail order from companies such these will be available through retail establishments such as Sweetwater, Guitar Center Pro, Sam Ash, etc.. You don't need an esoteric microphone preamplifier that costs a bundle, just something better than the average Sound Blaster card input. You did not indicate what kind of microphone you are currently using or your method of how you get it into your sound card?

    I find for most vocals, less is more. Perhaps kick only a couple of DB at 10kHz and perhaps roll-off a couple of DB, between 6 to 10DB at 100 hertz. Or if your microphone has a " bass cut" role off switch, use that. If your microphone does not have a little built-in presence rise to it, add a couple of DB at, between, 3kHz to 5kHz for some extra " presence". That may not actually be necessary with a condenser microphone or with a Shure SM58, which already has that " presence" built into its sound.

    I also recommend that if you do have an external microphone preamplifier, also purchase an affordable compressor/limiter to use on the vocal while cutting to track. Inexpensive units are available from DBX, Alesis and others. Start off suggestions include, compression ratios from 4:1 up to 10:1. Adjust the threshold control so that a loud vocal passage indicates a " gain reduction" of between 10 to 15 DB's. Avoid any kind of clipping indications and any use of limit clipping.

    Yes, you could be adding lousy sounding reverb and too many other effects? Adobe Audition does have some nice resident reverb programs built in. I recommend the " full reverb" plug-in. Now this may not run in real-time and may require rendering. Also, what many engineers do is add a little extra high frequency equalization to their reverb sends. To be able to do this through Adobe Audition, you may need to create a copy of the vocal. Equalize that vocal with some extra high frequency boost. Do not add the direct sound and take only the reverb. Make sure this is done with a pair of channels for stereo and then selectively makes the stereo reverb into a center panned main vocal track. This means you will then have 3 tracks for a single vocal. One track is the Mono centered vocal while the reverb (and keep the reverb time under 1 1/2 seconds) is a stereo pair. Even if you use a compressor/limiter to cut your vocal track with, you may also find it desirable to add some additional compression or limiting within the software for your final mix?

    I hope this helps you have a great New Year's?!

    Remy Ann David
  6. Xpred

    Xpred Guest

    Remy, that sounds like a good idea about the reverb/creating 3 tracks. I'm sorta confused though. How would I go about this? In Adobe Audition, I have just two tracks. One music & one vocal. So I should create 2 more copies of the vocal tracks? One WITH stereo reverb? And the other one with boosted high frequencies (?) I'm not sure how to do this or what you mean exactly...

    I'm using a MXL 990 mic with the PreSonus Firebox as preamp. I know they aren't much, but I'm just going into entry-level budget trying to get as close to a professional sound efficiently. The first track is actually a commercial quality full-stereo instrumental/karaoke track (so only 2 tracks, the karaoke/inst already has all the drums/guitars/etc) and the second is just vocals.

    I don't know what EQ to use ever on my vocals.. do you guys have like a step-by-step which-to-use type of thing so I know what to add to my vocals or is it usually different for every song/case?

    I guess the vocals sound like they're on top of the track too much.. is there anyway to do it like the true professionals themselves do it perhaps like center it or change it around, so it doesn't so so awkward? I'm trying to see if I can make it blend the vocals with the music much better and make it sound perfectly in, instead of behind the music or too in front of the music. How do you center it or make it sound working?

    Also, last but not last (So many questions hehe)... is there an order in which is preferred in terms of applying EQ/presets? Like I tend to apply graphic EQ first with the DB boost in the Hz/Khz range, then compression, then last reverb. Only 3 real things I do.. is there an order of what to do first and last?
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Xpred! Dude!

    The Adobe Audition program you are using is an awesome program! You have not realized its features yet! It is a wonderful multitrack program. It does not matter whether you are running version 1.0 or 1.5, you are working in and looking at only the 2 track window! If you go up to the top where you see the file drop-down menu, you'll see directly below it either 2 or 3 small icon's. The first icon looks like a picture of a Mono track display. The icon to the right of that is the multitrack feature. If you click on that second icon, it will take you to a new window. Once you get to that new window, you will probably see a display of a 4 track window. The window can be zoomed out, to between 32 to 128 tracks!

    That multitrack window allows you to add many of the resident, built in and DirectX effects that will function in real-time. To " plug-in" an effect, you click on the "FX" button. It will then give you a list of all of the effects and you can add as many as your processor and RAM will accommodate. Once you create your multitrack project, with as many tracks as you want and everything is sounding as you like to, you can then go up to the edit drop-down menu and choose " mixed down all tracks". At which time the program will render your mix and once finished, will automatically switchback to the original 2 track window you have been working in currently. As soon as you get there, you must first save that mix before you do anything else otherwise, it will disappear and you will have to repeat that process again. So generally to do what I suggested you have to " build" the effects and then within the 2 track window, if you drop down the edit window, you will see a selection for " insert to multitrack". You can export and insert both mono and stereo tracks to the multitrack window this way. So with this somewhat quasi, bizarre way of bouncing back and forth between the 2 track window and the multitrack window you can do wild stuff! In this way, my previous postings, describe this process which may know may make more coherent sense to you??

    I'm not sure that I'm actually being terribly clear here but you'll probably find most of this information within the help drop-down menu in Adobe Audition. If you're having further problems, feel free to e-mail me if you like at in this way we could also swap telephone numbers if you would like to talk?

    Hope you're having a great new year?

    Remy Ann David

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