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Thread: Recording and mixing vocal - Help!

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    Recording and mixing vocal - Help!

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    Hey all, I use FL Studio as my main DAW. I have issues getting full sounding vocals and wonder what you pro's do to get them. Should I use a compressor while recording or apply it after the recording process? Should I limit the crap out of them until the signal is crunched together? Needless to say my vocals have no body or push.. they sound dead and struggled. I use an Audio Technica AT2020 studio condensor mic.

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    I think there are several reasons why vocals sound lifeless.. placing the mic the wrong way around is obviously the worst case scenario. I'm by no means a pro but I have some experience recording and mixing vocals.

    Compression is nearly a must. If your desk has a built-in compressor then you could apply that in the recording process but I personally wouldn't.. HPF is a good idea to eliminate any rumble. Some pop filters can also be destructive to vocals (in certain frequency ranges) although they prevent the vocalist from singing too close to the mic and block those nasty plosives.

    On the cheap you could try to place something soft like a piece of mattress behind the mic unless you have a mic screen. If your mic is picking up too much low-mid range you could place the mic so that the singer sings a bit off-axis of it's polar pattern, not straight to it (like one would mic a guitar amp, say 45 degree angle)

    Some advanced techniques include careful EQing, using a noise gate and doubling the vocal track and transposing it down an octave. There are some stereo/mono considerations too, I'd high-pass the delays and reverbs to prevent excessive phasing.

    There are some psychological factors too, such as putting up an expensive mic but not actually recording it and using an SM58 for example instead. (edit : this is when you have a singer to work with, unless you're able to fool yourself.. although sometimes stuff like this can happen by accident; I've recorded material dry because I've forgotten to record arm the fx channel.. it sounded awesome in the headphones though)

    OT: I read somewhere that Phil Collins' famous drum sound was a result of some foldback/feedback system bleeding through the mixing console which was picked up by the microphones in the monitoring room or something... I've never worked on a big desk or mic'ed drums as for that matter.
    Last edited by efinque; 6 Days Ago at 08:50 AM. Reason: fixed

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    Yeah, vocals are a process that definitely require patience, when starting out.

    To begin, I'll start with the compression question... Personally I would add next to no compression in the recording stage of your vocal chain. That doesn't mean that kissing the compressor ever so slightly may not actually help... The point is, keep any and all effects processing to a bare minimum in the recording stage of your vocals. The drier, the better... The key is to get the most natural sounding vocal recording possible... Then you can eq it, compress it, add delay or verb, etc.

    Since you're using a USB Mic, I'm assuming that you're also not using a Mic pre amp. A pre amp can do just what its name states; amplify the vocal signal, BEFORE, it hits your daw (FL). Nonetheless, we all start somewhere, especially due to budget. Here are a couple steps to help you ensure a better vocal signal.

    Right off the bat... Where is your input level hitting on your channel when recording your vocals? Imo, I would do my best to keep your vocal signal input peaking at around -6db on your vocal channel (when recording). Here's why... Higher quality mics coupled with higher quality Mic pre amps help ensure far less ground noise when recording vocals, among other types of tracking. In your case, using a USB direct to DAW microphone will require you to be a bit more attentive in the recording process, to ensure less ground and floor noise are present. That type of noise includes having your air conditioner on, the washer or dryer running upstairs, a faint buzz from a lamp in the room, etc. It's imperative for you to do some serious critical listening right now.

    When you fire your Mic up for a sound check and get the levels hitting/peaking at around -6db; that's when you need do some critical listening in your head phones. What else are you hearing in your headphones coming from the microphone. Remember, the microphone is going to pick up everything when the Mic channel is on record... So make sure you do your best to get rid of every other sound in the room, and the entire house for that matter, when record is on... Again ground and floor noise. Everything to the fan of your laptop/desk top, to your AC being left on. The thing we have to remember is that when you turn your vocal up after recording it, you'll also be turning up everything else you recorded inadvertently as well... It's important to cut as much outside noise as possible.

    If you've ensured that you don't have to compete with other noise sources while recording your vocals, now it's time to place your Mic in your room. I'm not sure of your setup, but do your best to keep your Mic away from the walls when recording... That equals less reflection in the recording process.

    Do you have a wind screen / pop screen for your microphone? If not, I would most definitely invest in one... Even creating a poor man's version ( I've been there ) by using a wire hanger and some nylons can still do the trick. This will help ensure you receive a more natural recording when performing certain consonants such as T's, P's, or S's... It's a small adjustment, but again, very helpful.

    I could've put this next step earlier... Mic placement from your face. Obviously you don't want to get too close nor too far away from the Mic when recording your vocals. This is going to take some experimenting on your part. Record some vocal takes and listen to the difference the recording sounds like when being 6 inches away from the Mic VS 3 inches away from the Mic. What Mic placement sounds better to you, will be up to you... Remember, no matter where you end up placing yourself in front of the microphone, try to keep healthy recording levels and low ground and floor noise like stated earlier.

    The biggest misconception about recording vocals is that people think you can simply fix it after it's been recorded. Not true most of the time... Do your best to get the fattest, cleanest, and strongest signal on the way into your DAW... This mindset should be approached when recording any signal to your DAW.

    After you've reached a vocal recording that's on par... Now you can add some processing in your DAW. Eq and compression are usually helpful, as well as verbs or delays... That's all to taste of course, and what the song itself is asking for... Limiting isn't a bad thing either... Just remember that less is more with vocal effect processing. Do your best to fix your vocal signal at the recording stage, not the post processing stage. Just my .02

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    Why don't you just watch tutorials on YouTube?

    There are bunch of professional audio engineers explaining the process of mixing the vocals perfectly, I've learned from them as well, and I can assure you that you can learn a lot from those videos.

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    In recording & mixing vocals, less is more.

    First of all, don't apply anything on your vocals when you record. You can add reverb or comp on the send bus for your confort while you record. Not directly on the record sound.

    You feel me ?

    After that the best way to act is like that :

    EQ your vocals first. Remove the low frequencies of your vocals. Between 100 - 120 Hz, depending of your voice.

    Then add a lil compression, something really smooth and subtil.

    After that, link your vocal bus to another bus. To mix with a bus haha.

    In this bus you will add 2 things : 1)some delay, what I love to do is to setup it with 2 or 3 step (echos) and mix it around 20%.

    2) Reverb. Depending of your track and of your beat it's could a large one or a small one. I usually love use a concert hall type of reverb. mix it 100%

    Now, it's time to set up the vol. Choose your bus with the delay and reverb and low the vol. If you do it right you should hear the effect when you play your vocals without the beat. And you should hear it only a lil bit when you play your track with the beat.

    Boom ! You got your vocals mixed !
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    Quote Originally Posted by efinque View Post
    OT: I read somewhere that Phil Collins' famous drum sound was a result of some foldback/feedback system bleeding through the mixing console which was picked up by the microphones in the monitoring room or something... I've never worked on a big desk or mic'ed drums as for that matter.
    OT continued: there was a heavy compressor on that talkback system, and there's actually a plugin from SSL that models this: Solid State Logic Japan | Music
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    @StarseedBeats, man if you are that good...why didny you suggest him a deeser for vocal? it should be before comp and after/before lowcut eq
    Last edited by jocasrb; 5 Days Ago at 06:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jocasrb View Post
    @StarseedBeats, man if you are that good...why didny you suggest him a deeser for vocal? it should be before comp and after/before lowcut eq
    You're right, and like I said in mixing less is more. So a deesser is not always needed. And I never tell I'm the best for this, I just share what I do. Nothing less nothing more
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    yep..also the main thing about the vocal is volume automation...i think without it you just cant get enougly good vocal overal

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    Quote Originally Posted by jocasrb View Post
    yep..also the main thing about the vocal is volume automation...i think without it you just cant get enougly good vocal overal
    Important. It's a kind of "inconvenient truth", but unless you use Vocal Rider or something, there's most likely going to be some manual work involved, not just putting a bunch of plugins on it and call it a day.
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