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Thread: Vocal Lesson

  1. #1

    Default Vocal Lesson

    Part I: The Recording Process

    The most common mistake is recording vocals too loud or too soft. The main goal to recording a solid vocal is to get all of the performance.
    It's not easy to set levels with a good, dynamic vocalist. As soon as you think you have the level pegged, they do something like move a
    few inches and you find out they are louder than you thought and meters are in the red. So you lower the level and find out that the meters
    are barely moving at all. If the vocalist is nervous and moving around, you might spend hours and never find an optimum level. The human voice is extremely dynamic, from soft whispers to piercing screams. If the level is too low, you will be bringing in noise and hum if you amplify it later. However, if you record too loud, there will be times when the file goes "over" which will likely result in damage that cannot be corrected later. The solution to this madness is to use a compressor in the chain after the preamp. The compressor, essentially, automatically lowers the volume when the input exceeds a certain threshold. It's like an invisible hand on a volume control. This allows a vocalist to get louder without going into the red. One of my favorite settings is to have the input to the compressor boosted so that all the "soft" words come through with a strong level. As soon as the vocalist gets louder, the clamping down begins and if they scream, it clamps down hard. The ideal is to have more
    consistent loudness no matter what they are doing.

    Tweak smiles. "Ok, now you must understand.." [suddenly Mr. Noob in the back row, shouts out] "Tweekie Deekie, just tell me the best
    settings for my gear so I can just set it up that way and get the perfect vocal". Tweak scowls ay Newb, Now look, dudes. There's no
    absolute anything recording everything. But there are a few things to keep in mind in your quest for the ideal settings. The ideal settings
    depends on a few things: the mic's sensitivity, the vocalists dynamics and use of proper mic techniques, the trim level on your pre-amp
    and finally your compression settings. We will go over each one of these in enough detail to get you going.

    Microphone sensitivity

    The more dynamic (louder) the vocalist, the less sensitive the mic needs to be. Some condenser mics will distort like madness if the
    vocalist is too close when they scream and it is an awful sound, especially if you are wearing cans (headphones). There is nothing you
    can do to fix that audio either. Because the distortion happened before the signal hits the compressor, all the compression in the world
    cannot help. If there is a -10 or -20 pad on the mic, use it with untrained wild vocalists. Otherwise, use a dynamic mic which is less
    susceptible to break up under high sound pressure levels (SPL). Or you can have them take a step back before they commit their bellow
    from their personal living hell. But oops, that's in the next section.

    Proper Mic technique.

    This depends on the volume of the vocalist. A soft sensitive voice requires that the vocalist nearly devour the mic. Tweak smiles. Newb?
    I was kidding. Don't really eat the mic. I meant 4-6 inches away. Otherwise, the rule of thumb is about 1 foot away.
    The vocalist should back away a few inches when they get loud and come in a few inches closer for quiet intimate parts.
    The vocalist should not sing directly into the mic, or bassy wind noise will get in the way. Just a few degrees to the side is better.
    A pop filter should always be used. This is not only a good device for getting rid of plosives and spitty sounds, but can be used to
    keep the vocalist from getting too close and out of the range where a proximity effect might engage excessively. It also keeps the sensitive
    diaphragm in your mic smelling better. Uh, class, that was a joke.

    Time out: Mr Newb, who has been fidgeting all this time with his small plastic mic, shouts out: So What is a proximity effect, U
    TweekHead? The class murmurs "ooooooo". Tweak sticks his hand into the big box of manuals and come up with a vintage SM57
    leaflet and approaches Newb like he's going to slap him silly with it.

    OK, Mr. Newb, the proximity effect is the tendency of some microphones to exaggerate the bass frequencies of a vocal when the
    vocalist "eats", err, gets within 1 inch the mic. Comedians, radio announcers and performers often use this to great effect, but in a
    song, you typically don't want this sudden bass enhancement. And it's "Tweak", not TWEEK!"

    1. Define your tracks:

    In your audio sequencer, create several audio tracks for the vocal. You can work with different settings on each. Try different
    combinations of effects and enhancers till you find one you like. This is as easy as moving the vocal track from audio channel to
    audio channel. When you settle on the channel you like best, rename that as "Main Vocal". By the way, I like to use mono tracks
    for the main vocals. No, don't protest, I know they are harder to set up. Just do it. You will find vocals more consistently stay in
    the center of the mix where they need to be.

    Now you can make alternate vocal channels--perhaps one for choruses, a few for effects, one for doubling and perhaps one for sampling.
    You can cut up the vocal in the sequencer and put different parts on different tracks with different effects. The most obvious here is to put
    the choruses on a track with more processing to make them stand out a little more. I also develop a set of tracks for doubling as well where
    the vocals are hard panned left and right and playback two different takes of the same chorus for that classic thick sound.

    2. Time correction:

    It happens all the time, the vocalist gives a stellar performance on a chorus but came in late. With any vocal track in a sequencer you can
    slice it up by words, even syllables to make it fit in time if you need to. It's a good idea not to trash bad vocal takes as later on you may
    find all you need is one word to replace a botched word in the choice track. The joys of processing vocals in a sequencer is that you can
    mix and match segments from many takes down to one. This is called a composite vocal track. Yep, it's true, some of the stuff you hear
    on the radio might actually be a composite of 3-30 takes. The performance may have never existed in reality. Ever wonder why some
    unnamed Divas can't sing their song live very well? Of course a truly great vocalist will nail the track in one take. If one of these happen
    to be in your studio, send them to me. "We'll make you a star!" [no--don't really use that overused line]

    3. Pitch Correction:

    You might not think your vocalist needs it. If they are rock on pitch, they might not. However, if you listen to most popular songs you
    will find that most vocal tracks are pitched perfectly, dead on. How many slightly off key notes do you hear on the radio? None! How
    many slightly off pitch notes are in your vocal track? C'mon, dude, be honest. 10? 30? 50? Uh huh, Case in Point! Even the best singers
    will have days when certain notes are consistently a little sharp or flat. Even the best vocalists benefit from some pitch correction, and a
    bad vocalist (like me) might actually get by with correction. A good pitch correction processor will gently (or abruptly, if you want) bend
    the note to the exact perfect center of the pitch, and you can also add vibrato and even wilder yodel like effects if you want. After building
    the composite track, correcting timing and pitch errors, you should mixdown the vocal track to a new file. This way you can remove any
    plugin processors used so far and clear automation to start fresh as you go into the next round. You also can go back to your source tracks
    at any time if you screw something up.

    4. Destructive enhancements:

    Here's some things to do in an audio editor which may enhance the track before you add plugins. Track cleaning. Open your newly
    mixed main vocal in an audio editor. We are going to clean the track. Here you zero out (silence) all the dead space between phrasings.
    Breath control. A long debated question is: Do you keep the vocalist's breaths in the recording or zero them out? If you take out all the
    breaths, the vocal will sound strange. Certain breaths are very musical, like the ones leading up to a loud part. However, there are usually
    some that are excessive or out of sync, or just get in the way. Those are the ones to remove. Remember you still have your source files in
    case you botch this. Gain Optimization. Look for words that do not ring out as clearly or may get buried in the music. If you built a composite track you might have different takes at different levels. You want them all to sit up in the audio editor in the same way if possible. Here you can use normalization to good use. But don't normalize the whole track, normalize whole phrases. This brings the soft ones up to the same level as the loud ones.

    4. Setting up Insert Effects:

    In the main vocal track, start with compression to smooth out the levels a little more. Since you compressed going in, you may not need
    much. However, I find it to be real important to keep the vocal consistently above the music. If you are hearing too many "SSS" sounds in
    the vocal, it is time to apply a de-esser. After compression, it gets exciting. No not like that, but with an exciter. An exciter essentially
    gives you "sheen" on the high frequencies by adding harmonics to the source signal. This is more than the boost that EQ gives. An exciter
    actually adds harmonics that were not present in the original signal while an eq just raises the volume of those that were buried. With a
    combination of eq and excitement, you can get the vocal as bright and crispy as you want it. Most popular records have vocals processed
    with great brightness. It increases intelligibility and makes the vocal sound "clear" even on inferior car and boom box speakers.

    5. Setting Up Send and return Effects

    Now that we have our main vocal channel set, we move to the sends and returns. Here we put the "common" effects that may be used
    for all the vocal tracks and even for some instrument tracks as well. Of course I am talking about reverb here. On our software or hardware
    mixer, route a send to an effect. In the software mixer, you create a bus and put a reverb on it and send the signal to this destination from
    the send knob on the vocal track. On a hardware mixer the "aux send" goes out the back and goes to an effects box. the output of the effects
    box comes back to the mixer via the returns. Its a common mistake to use too much reverb so don't overdo it. Other excellent effects that
    can be applied here are delays. Just a little bit goes a long way, especially when you also have reverb running.

    6. Spot Effects:

    If you listen to my stuff, you know I am a big fan of "spot effects" which is done simply by putting part of the main vocal track on a
    different track with strong effects. Some effects that can be used on different tracks are harmony processors, radical EQs for lo fi effects,
    vocoders, extreme delays and reverbs, distortion, and whatever else you feel helps make the artistic statement.

    Because your main vocal tracks are centered, for effects you may want to move them off center. This adds a little more dimension.
    Remember a good effect is one that defines it's difference relative to a norm. So your main tracks should be dead center, loud and clear,
    full and rich. Your effects tracks can be of great contrast, i.e., all the lows removed, all the high's removed, totally gnarled, nothing but
    reversed echoes, whatever.

    7. Sampler Effects:

    Don't forget, you can use your soft or hard sampler for vocal effects too. Toss the whole vocal file in recycle, slice it, then port it over to
    the EXS, Kontakt, your E-mu for some dangerous keyboard controlled effects, like stutters, filter swept voices, LFO Mods.

    8. Volume Automation.

    Your sequencer has automation, use it. As the Mix plays, not any sections where the vocal needs a boost or a cut. Draw them in.
    Grouping If you have a multi output audio interface and enough busses on your mixing board you can consider making a "group" for
    just the vocals. This can also be called a vocal "submix". Rather than having each vocal track set to different mixer channels, route them
    all, post insert effects, to a single group channel. This gives you one fader that raises lowers all the vocal tracks. It is important when
    getting the overall level of the vocal set against the context of the music. You may use automation on this bus too.

    9. The all important Final Level

    So we are almost done. We worked hard to get here, but all of the work is in vain if the final level is not set correctly. The whole point
    of all this compression, excitement, eq, and post processing was to get a vocal that sits up in the mix properly, where every word is
    intelligible, where the track never gets drowned out by instrumental tracks but does not drown them out either. Be real careful with the
    final fader tweaks. Try to get the vocal where it "floats" on top of the mix in a nice way. Pan other instruments to the sides that might
    compete with the vocalist's sweet spot and avoid putting so much reverb on the voice so it sound like it is behind the instruments. You
    might try doing 3 or 4 mixes at different setting for the overall vocal just so you can listen elsewhere to critically evaluate the level.

    10. Mastering Considerations

    After you mix your final wave file, you still have one more chance to touch up the vocal during the final mastering process, which
    will be burned to CD. A good quality parametric EQ can touch up the frequency response of the vocal's sheen (as well as the entire mix's
    overall frequency balance.) You shouldn't have to do much here, since you were so careful during the recording and processing of your
    mix. But a little bit of eq or multi band compression can raise or lower the "temperature" of the mix quite dramatically.


    "Problems are the price you pay for progress."

  2. #2
    LOOK THERE ===> chrome's Avatar
    Join Date
    14 Dec 2005

    Default Re: Vocal Lesson

    u should post the source!!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Vocal Lesson

    hey i think this is awesome but its hard to understand it without me actually doin it.

  4. #4
    Registered User al_capone's Avatar
    Join Date
    07 Aug 2006
    London, United Kingdom, United Kingdom

    Default Re: Vocal Lesson

    i saw this somewhere else.....

  5. #5
    Banned monique.bliss10's Avatar
    Join Date
    13 Jul 2012
    United States

    Default Re: Vocal Lesson

    I believe that vocal lessons and a proper teacher/coach can help you strengthen your vocal chords and maybe improve your voice range. It improve the quality of their voices by using certain singing techniques are usually attracted to vocal lessons.Vocal training can help you master the critical mouth and throat muscles that affect the vocal tones. By understanding the impact of these muscles, you can improve the quality of your voice much faster.


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