Main Vocals... Stereo or Mono? URGENT HELP NEEDED! THANKS :)

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by SpiritualRobot, May 15, 2006.

  1. Hey guys, noobie here...and noobie question for you.

    Should main vocals be stereo or mono in a mix? My voice sounds so much better when it is in stereo...especially with headphones. but when I play the song on speakers, my voice sounds a little hollow. What do you guys suggest?

    Is it a problem with my reverb or do I have to make it mono?

    Oh, and what about chorus vocals?
  2. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    Glad to see yer' sense of humor's intact dude!

    At any rate... I hope this doesn't cornfuse, but helps.

    GENERALLY, the way that lead vox, and to a lesser degree - chorus vox, get mixed is straight down the middle. Verb/delay/FX are wrapped into the stereo field around the vox one of two ways.

    1st way... FX are spaced wide outside the soundfield of most of the instrumentation... but too far and it sounds too fake. To do this take two spare channels and fold the FX return back into the two channels. Pan em' out just beyond the other instruments... or right at the width of the widest pan.

    2nd way... same as above in principle, but you put the FX just slightly wider than the vox track itself.

    If you are doubling the vox to thicken em' up then a trick is to pan the dry Vox1 slightly left. Fold back a MONO effect back into 1 channel only. Pan that just slightly right. Bring Vox2 in just panned slightly right. Bring it's effect back in mono and panned just slightly left.

    Hope my ASCII art's still up to the test...

    L----------C----------R (Soundfield)
    L-------V1---x1------R (Vox1)
    L------x2--V2--------R (Vox2)

    (hopefully) you'll see that the FX returns are just ever so slightly wider than the main Vox signal... but don't push the main Vox signals more than a "notch or two" wider than the middle. You're just seperating them enough to destinguish the subtle differences in the track.

    There are no real rules when it comes to this stuff. These are just a couple of the bare bones starting points to consider... other than one golden rule... (and even that has exceptions) and that is that lead vox should be about 3db above everything else.

    The type of music, the chord and note structure, voice timbre... the actual song itself, the effects, the number of effects and the way you want the song to sound are going to make each song just ever so slightly different, that it really is impossible to tell you how something SHOULD be done... but just ideas to pass on as opinion.

    As for your hollow sound, it could be any number of things... the EQ on the channel strip, acoustic environment you're listening in, your monitors or a combination of all of em. (most likely)

    HTH's a bit.

  3. wow...I think I understand everything there....It really helps get me started. Thanks.

    But should I do the same things you said to background vocals (mono with panning and doubling)?
  4. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:

    Rule number 1... THERE AIN'T NO RULES!
    Rule number 2... THERE AIN'T NO RULES!
    Rule number 3... When in doubt, refer to Rule No 1!!

    Think about the song. Where do you hear the bg vox? What do they sound like?

    Are they wide and lush?
    Are they thck and focused?
    Do they need to be waaaaaaay back in the background?
    Do they need to be waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the soundfield?
    Is it some combination of the above?
    Do the bg vox need different treatments throughout the song?

    These are the decisions that YOU as the engineer need to work out with the folks you are tracking and/or mixing. (If it's just you, then ask the individuals who appropriately matter.)

    A lot depends upon the style of music you are mixing.

    If you are mixing chainsaw rock, then it's probably more appropriate to mix the bg vox at a level fairly up in the mix and not too wet... maybe stereo with stereo fx...

    If you are mixing say gospel, then there should probably be several takes of the bg vox (choir) that are "stacked" in stereo, maybe even 8-12 tracks deep. Each stereo pair spread ever so slightly wider... with the whole of the choir tracks being out front almost as much as the lead vox... remembering the 3db "rule".

    If it's old school R&B, the bg vox are possibly going to be strong fx on one side opposite the vox channel and doubled similar to what I described with the lead vox.

    Again, these are just possible STARTING points. As I've mentioned before, go listen to other similar styles of songs. Listen to what the other engineer did. Do you like what you hear? Do you want it to sound like that? ...or something else?

    Listen to the song in your head. Listen with your intuition. The song will tell you what it needs.

    The way I mix and what I think is appropriate for a song, is NOT going to be what another engineer thinks... while we both might agree on a number of points... maybe even 99%, each engineer will have their "thing" that they want to push out front, or pull back.

    It seems like you are trying to mix to the old "formula" style of radio format of the 50's and 60's. Maybe even applying the formula theory from the Nashville days of era's gone by.

    While your "style" might end up in a type of "formula" that becomes your own, you should first experiment and try to push yourself. Maybe your gear setup gives to a kick sound you dial in 99% of the time, maybe your lead vox chain is what you get noted for... it could be anything along those lines. Just push the boundaries of your abilities.

    Often, (if not always) it's not from doing things right that we learn, but from doing wrong. Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on your philosophy) that isn't an exact truth in this industry.

    Some of the greatest "sounds" of styles of music, genre's, etc were things gone wrong from the intended plan.

    Do what you think is approptiate. Burn a copy. Mix it again and try something else... either subtle of radical and burn another copy. Do that maybe a dozen times. Be sure you take detailed note on what you did! Let the thing sit a few days. Come back to it and listen. Letting a mix sit for a few days can do wonders for your perspective and judgement. When you do get back to listening, take notes on each mix... what's good, what's bad, what's hot and what's not.

    Eventually, you'll build a diary of sounds and treatments that you can refer to that allows you to paint sonic pictures that you need to convey within different songs/styles.

    So, what SHOULD you do?

    Listen, mix, listen and MIX some more!

  5. wow...thank you so much

    Amazing advice. Thank you so much X. I can't say how much I appreciate your help. I am getting started in this and people like you are a great help for people like me.

    And yes, it is my own music and my own voice and I just mixed it fairly nice according to some of your advice. Thanks again.
  6. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    Re: wow...thank you so much

    :oops: You make me blush... I can't say that I was of much help at all.
    I'm happy that you did a mix you seem pleased with. That's definitely a good thing.

    It ain't amazing advice. It's just some of what I found along the way... and I still get to learn about this stuff every day... for the rest of my life!! (Now THAT's the cool part!)

    What really IS amazing is that you've only just scratched the surface. If you're happy with your results now, just wait!

    In a few weeks or months, you won't be able to stand a single thing you do, or have done in the past.

    Don't panic! This is about normal.

    What will be happening is that your ears and brain will hopefully start to get a bit better trained at hearing and you'll truely start LISTENING to what is coming out of them speakers.

    You'll all of a sudden hear noise, punches and such subtle things as faders, cross talk, phasing and all kinds of stuff that will sound like crap. Now is when you'll actually start to mix. The questions will really start to pour out of your head... we'll still be here to answer em' as best we can.

    Just remember... there ain't no rules, and unless you get time on the board/at the mouse to mix, you won't get any "better"... so keep listenin'-n-mixin!


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