Looking For Some Tips On Recording Vocals

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by the_japanarian, Apr 6, 2006.

  1. I've just recently managed to ramp up my level of gearship. I won't be able to afford any new gear for a while so...while getting to know it all, I was hoping to get some tips from the more experienced(than myself) for improving my recordings. As for my experience level, I'm about as green as Peter Pan's little leaf bootie's are.

    I have a session coming up with a singer friend and I'm trying to bone up on as much of this stuff as possible before we get together. I want to make the most of the session. I'm currently reading through the threads, but if anyone has any suggestions I might not find here, please enlighten me. I think my next project might be some sort of home-made vocal booth or something. But in the meantime, here is what I'm working with...

    - Neumann TLM 103 with shockmount(has natural bass roll-off from about 75Hz with -10dB cut @ 20Hz)
    - Stedman Proscreen 101 mesh pop screen
    Presonus Eureka mic pre(has compressor, EQ which I'll probably hold off on for now, 80Hz roll-off, impedance selection, and saturation control among other things I'm getting to know)
    - Focusrite Saffire firewire audio interface
    - Logic Pro 7
    - carpeted room. 12' wall a little bare but has double doors with curtains. opposite wall has an opening to a stair well. the two 14' walls and one 12' are covered a bit by couches and shelves and such. the ceiling was 12' high as far as I can remember. it's been almost a year, so things may have been rearranged.

    My style is very electronic, but I'm hoping to eventually have more acoustic takes in my mixes.

    Some questions I'm searching answers for:
    Is there any difference in using a preamp's TRS output as opposed to it's XLR output into the audio interface?
    Would you think it overkill to use the preamp's 80Hz roll-off considering my mic's frequency response?
    Can anyone suggest any methods to finding the optimum gain and master level settings on the preamp B4 running them into the audio interface?
    Any tips on mic placement?(within room AND relative to vocal source)
    Any tips on how to prepare my singer?(She has a great voice but hasn't had much studio experience, like myself)
    Can anyone direct me to any other sources where I can learn on my own?
    Anything I haven't considered?
    ...I'm still readin'!..;)

    Thanks for any advice,
    The J.
  2. ...by the way, I plan to record her ad-libbing to my entire track as a warm-up for her while I set the volumes and check the meters. Then I'll pretend to twiddle knobs for a while to get a few clean takes :D

    The J.
  3. gilligan204

    gilligan204 Guest

    I find one of the best ways to get a singer warmed up, esspecially a bit of a noobie, is to slap on a karoke track of something they are very familiar with, that way you can get a good level on the vocal (as the singer is used to the song and will perform at optimum level,) also some singers have issues with headphones when they first start out.

    the rolloff thing, some are more steep than others so, it may take more bass out if you use the mics, and the preamps one.

    depending on the song, the saturation thing is a form of Tube Compression, so it will be a less clean tone on the vocal. Of course depending on what you are looking for

  4. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2005
    First off, the frequency response of the mic has little to do with the roll-off switch on the preamp. You may need the roll-off if this amateur starts tapping her foot near the base of the mic stand, or if the A/C kicks in during a take, or any other rumble-makers are around, OK?
    As far as the TRS/XLR question is concerned, you'll have to consult your manual. The TRS output is "usually" a "line level" signal and the XLR would be "mic level", but that is certainly not written in stone. If that IS the case, you would want to use the TRS into the LINE input on the card. You definitely want to avoid the mic pre input on the card at all costs, and you won't be able to do that if you are using a mic level out of the preamp.
    As far as the level is concerned, you need to watch the meters and listen to the signal hitting the recorder. No way around that, dude! For what it's worth, I would apply a bit of 4:1 compression, only letting about a 6-10dB of gain reduction, fairly fast attack and release, and then watch the peaks hitting the card. Amateurs are much harder to get consistent levels on-very challenging! Good luck!
    Oh, and have some apple juice or tea for her to sip between takes, and no gum-chewing!
  5. Great idea gilligan. I think I'll try the karaoke thing. I guess it's just a matter of trial and error with the roll-off. I'm just trying to make sure I have the best signal for post-processing, although I'm not sure my inexperienced ears will know when I have it just yet :p Same goes for the saturation, but I'll probably leave it off for now.

    Good tip for the roll-off moonbaby. I'll keep it in mind. The documentation for my pre states that all I/O connectors are servo-balanced. Not sure what that means. In the specs section, all it says is, "Output Connectors.....XLR Balanced and 1/4" TRS Balanced/Unbalanced". Unfortunately, I can't find anything about their output levels. Also, you wrote:

    "You definitely want to avoid the mic pre input on the card at all costs..."

    Is this because using a mic level out on the pre is no different than plugging the mic straight into the card(and bypassing the benefit of the outboard pre)? If not, I'm still a little fuzzy on it. As far as the recording level from the pre to the card, I've noticed that either GAIN or MASTER knobs on the pre can boost the recording levels to peak. I guess the big question for me is, which one is preferable if any. Should I keep the gain as low as possible and use the master to boost to final recording level(after a touch of compression of course), or vice versa? Does one give a cleaner signal, or a better SNR? I'm inclined to think there's a reason why they are two separate controls. Haven't figured out why just yet.

    I noticed another post somewhere about the apple juice. I'm guessing the probability of an acid soaked drop of spit to get past my mesh pop-screen as well as the mic grill is low. But does anyone know how the capsule would be affected if it did? I guess I can always use a nylon pop-filter, but I was told that the mesh affects the sound less than the nylon. Anyone have any thoughts?

    Anyway, thanks to both of you. Still reading the threads :)

    The J.
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2005
    OK, here we go...
    First off, you don't plug the output of a mic preamp into the input of another mic preamp, unless you want to add a bunch of noise and grunge to the signal. That mic pre on the sound card is probably pretty lame and will just cause deterioration of the sound. It is an added unecessary gain stage. Avoid using it all costs.
    Secondly, as to the "Gain" and "Master" controls, here's the deal. The Gain control functions as a "sensitivity" control for the front end of the preamp. You adjust this to get the maximum from the mic without overloading the preamp; there should be a meter or LED array of some kind to indicate when you've hit the "max"point. Then the Master control sets the overall output of the unit after compression, EQ, etc. have been adjusted, so that the signal coming out of the box won't overload whatver you're running it to (in your case, the soundcard, right?). And, yes, you could turn the Gain down and the Master up, but that will usually yield a poorer signal-to-noise ratio....
    And finally, the juice thing. No, apple juice is recommended because it has a preservative called pectin added to it (particular to apples) and pectin will help cut the enzymes in human saliva. This results in less "mouth noises" from the corners of the lips...that slight smacking noise that nobody notices during the take until the mixdown and the vocalist has gone home! It is always a good idea to use a "popper-stopper" screen in front of a mic.
  7. Awesome stuff. Thanks moonbaby. Getting less fuzzy day by day.

    The J.

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