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  •  » VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

#1 2013-07-12 08:03:44

DavidLyon
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From: Seattle, WA, USA
Registered: 2013-07-11
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VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

When it comes to recording any instrument, people always get way too caught up in gadgets.  This is especially true of recording vocals, especially for do-it-yourself recording studios.  People tend to think that a better gadget will always translate into a better recording, which occasionally is true, but rarely.  Yes, the better tools and equipment do have certain advantages, but you shouldn't bother proceeding to buy (and potentially wasting your money on) the more expensive recording stuff until *AFTER* you have first mastered the basics of recording, because otherwise it won't really make much (if any) improvement in your recordings.


My current vocal recording & mixing setup:
-- Dell Latitude E6420 laptop (almost 3 years old, Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5 GHz CPU, 4 GB RAM - In other words, nothing fancy or special)
-- M-Audio FastTrack USB 2  (the cheapest DI that I could find at the time, less than $99)
-- AKG Perception 120 condenser mic  (a good quality mic, but also inexpensive at $99)
-- Livewire Advantage 5' XLR microphone cable  ($15)
-- A cheap pop screen  ($10?)
-- A cheap tripod microphone boom stand  ($20?)
-- Reaper 32-bit DAW  (Free if you want, I chose to support them, cost $60.  I stuck with 32-bit Reaper even though I have 64 bit Windows, because more plugins are available for 32 than 64 bit)
-- Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones (About $150. Don't buy the curly cord, get the straight cord!)
-- A folding card table to set my laptop and M-Audio interface on.
-- My basement family room (completely untreated - basic carpet, some couches, a TV on the wall, a cat weaving between my feet, etc.)
That's it!


What DOESN'T really matter:
1) Mac vs PC is mostly irrelevant.  Digital is digital, so mixing and recording on a Mac vs PC is merely a matter of user interface preference, not results.  I've personally found that Mac is the most "popular" platform recommended by musicians, but that Windows is the most "functional" platform that has the most plugins and recording/mixing software available for it.  So I use Windows because I get more software options (plus it's much cheaper than Mac).

2) Condenser vs. Dynamic / Cardoid vs. Super-Cardoid / etc... is also mostly irrelevant.  Actually these do matter a little bit, but not really for a beginner recording engineer.  Different microphones will definitely have different "warmth" and "character", and also different sweet spots, but usually the difference is quite minor and very subjective.  Just start out with a good quality mic and use it A LOT until you really know its quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  Getting to know a mic is like making a good friend - it takes a lot of time together to really know it.  Over time, you can begin to work your way into other mics as you begin to learn the subtle nuances of each different mic.


What DOES matter when studio recording:
1) Nothing replaces a good performance. Bad vocals recorded in a world-class professional studio are still bad vocals.  Relax, have fun, and let your experience and training take the lead.

2) NO CLIPPING!  If your microphone is clipping, you either have the gain turned up too high, or you are using the microphone incorrectly, or it's a sh*t/broken microphone that needs to be replaced.  Every microphone has a "sweet spot", which will differ depending on the microphone and how loud you sing.  Do some experimentation to find your microphone's sweet spot.  Keep experimenting until you can record your vocals cleanly at about 60-70% max.  In a modern digital recording and mixing environment, there is ABSOLUTELY NO advantage to recording at or near clip!  That's an old paradigm from the analog recording days when the tape imparted some "hiss" moving over the heads, which no longer applies when recording and mixing digitally.  So, record your tracks normalized to about 60-70% (leave lots of head room), and then adjust volumes to blend properly during the mixing phase, and worry about normalizing only for your master track after it's all said and done with mixing.

3) Use a microphone stand.  Using a mic stand helps you keep your mouth in the microphone's sweet spot, and also creates a more consistent recording volume floor.  It also eliminates extra noise created by bumping or holding the microphone, plus you can't really use a pop screen without a mic stand.  When recording, to control volume for vocal dynamics (like when you're going to shift from a quieter to a significantly louder vocal projection, or vice versa), move your mouth, not the microphone (you can see me doing this on many of my videos, like SOAD - Toxicity).

4) Use a pop screen.  This will help reduce the harshness and wind-blow noise from "plosives" - like "B", "F", "P", "T", etc.  It can also serve as a convenient visual cue for where to place your mouth to stay in the microphone's sweet spot.  Pop screens don't help much as a de-esser, but that's pretty easy to fix in mixing with some fairly simple EQ-ing or plugins.

5) Shut down any unnecessary applications or services on your laptop/workstation when recording.  Maybe also temporarily disable Anti-Virus scanners if yours is processor heavy (many are).  Definitely shut off email and browsers - you don't want those distractions anyway while recording.

6) Do multiple takes.  I'm typically better on my 3-6th take than I am on the earlier takes (warmer, more relaxed, more familiar with what I'm going to do vocally, etc.).  Tracks are free in your DAW, so don't be cheap!  Make a new track for each new take, and save your work often.

7) Take your time.  You are recording at home.  It's not like you have to pay per hour for the studio or a recording engineer.  If your voice just isn't cooperating with you today, come back and try again later today or tomorrow.

8) Avoid wireless microphones for recording.  The conversion and transmission of a wireless signal, even on a really expensive high-quality wireless system, still results in lost fidelity.  Use a good quality microphone cable (shorter is better) plugged directly into the mic and the DI.

9) Record tracks DRY with no effects!  You can add all the crazy effects your heart could ever desire after the fact during the mixing process.  By recording dry, raw tracks, you have unlimited flexibility to mix and add effects to it any way you want in the future.

10) Really, REALLY study and learn how to mix!  This is a lifetime achievement goal, one you will definitely not master overnight, if ever...  But the more you study, the more tutorials you watch on YouTube, the more real mixing you do, the better you will get at it.  Learn what kinds (and what settings) of reverb or compression plugins sound best for your voice in different scenarios.  Learn when and how to use a delay or a chorus plugin.  Learn how to do doubling and layering of multiple takes.  It all takes time, but the more you do it, the better you'll get at it.


Those are the basics!  Good luck!

Check out my videos on YouTube and Facebook, especially the more recent ones.  I hope you'll see that a good quality recording can be made using very basic equipment.  In fact, maybe check out some of my older recordings too, because the difference of recording and mixing experience becomes very clear when compared to my newer ones (my recording setup has stayed exactly the same, but my mixing experience continues to develop).

I hope this is helpful!
-- Dave

Last edited by DavidLyon (2013-07-14 06:55:38)


David A. Lyon
Melodic Metal/Rock Vocalist from Seattle, WA, USA!
www.facebook.com/DavidLyonOfficial/
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2013-07-12 08:03:44

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#2 2013-07-12 16:13:52

Owen Korzec
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Registered: 2011-09-18
Posts: 3109
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

I totally agree. The skill of the recording engineer has far more impact on the quality of the end product than the quality of the gear they are using. Of course, to have both is optimal, but the skill in recording technique has a bigger impact and IMO should be mastered first with lower end gear before upgrading. That's what I have done and it has really challenged me to become the best recording engineer I can be. I now run a home studio and record many bands and artists, at an affordable price and great quality, because I saved on gear and focused on my technique. I've never gotten anything remotely close to an insult to my recording ability because of this, I'll get minor critiques here and there but I even played some of my recordings for a local pro engineer, same thing, thought it was great overall and just gave some minor critique. The point is, I could have the greatest recording gear and if didn't know what I was doing, people wouldn't be coming back to my studio.

Here's my sample reel of what my recordings sound like...and my most expensive piece of recording equipment is only 500 bucks. Total of all my recording gear is probably around $2000. It's all about how you use it. The one thing I did get lucky on is a big live room to record in. I'm able to do live recording because of it, the first clip for instance is totally live, included that damn vocal clipping the PA because I couldn't figure out how to fix it at the time :mad: See, perfect example of how bad recording technique can really ruin stuff...luckily it worked artistically, anyways, have a listen
http://app.box.com/s/qp0g01qh2g6d0qf3mf68

Professional, no, but just about as close as you can get considering the gear I'm working with. But I know I could still do better, as an engineer. Like David said, like anything else, the skill of recording is something you can never stop improving in, you will never hit a point in your life where you can't get any better.

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#3 2013-07-13 13:11:12

ronws
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Registered: 2010-05-23
Posts: 11731
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

I am king of the crappy recording, Owen. Do not challenge me to a "crappy take" - off. I will whip your butt. As can be witnessed with my recording of "Everybody talks," with a piece of equipment that you recommended.

I love these threads on recording basics, I always pick up something new. Even just an idea. Such as digitally, tracks are "free." You are not spending a mile of tape.

Something else I learned from another book. Save the working files as wav's. Sure, they are bigger that way but are more responsive to further editing. That is, a wav is larger because it is all the data, and a mp3 is a compression file format, which means there will be data loss.

Memory is cheap, to. 20 dollars, I think, for an 8G microSD card. Right now, I have a 4G thumb drive in the USB port hub.

And when I say my computer is old and slow, I mean the chip speed is like 150 MHz. I think this may contribute to latency problems, that and buss availability, of course. Even though I use a multi-tap for the usb port, it is still going through that one port, resulting in a "3 stooges through the same door" effect (multi-plexing.)

I also like the point about you are recording at home. You are not having to pay a studio $800 for a 3 hour block. My brother has pointed this out, although, he does have his own self-built studio. Because of the meds he takes, there are days when his voice is just gone.

And taking time to mix? Sheesh. His album, "Book of Shadows," took a long time. Almost a year in final mix and duplication. And plenty of time before that, pre-mix, all kinds of edits and re-tracks. One errant chair-squeak could ruin an awesome take.

Another side effect of the modern age that requires a thread like this is while the tech and software are within most anyone's reach (I literally saved change for 6 months and got the Zoom H1), is that the recording is now just as much a part of the performance as the performance, itself.

For the longest time, I just played and sang, not really recording. Didn't have the money for equipment. I've been homeless, twice. Some days, you are just trying to get food on the table. The longest for me was 5 days without food (not my choice.)

So, learning how to record is my next big mountain.

Last edited by ronws (2013-07-13 16:20:03)


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#4 2013-07-13 16:48:22

Owen Korzec
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Registered: 2011-09-18
Posts: 3109
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

DavidLyon wrote:

When it comes to recording any instrument, people always get way too caught up in gadgets.  This is especially true of recording vocals, especially for do-it-yourself recording studios.  People tend to think that a better gadget will always translate into a better recording, which occasionally is true, but rarely.  Yes, the better tools and equipment do have certain advantages, but you shouldn't bother proceeding to buy (and potentially wasting your money on) the more expensive recording stuff until *AFTER* you have first mastered the basics of recording, because otherwise it won't really make much (if any) improvement in your recordings.


My current vocal recording & mixing setup:
-- Dell Latitude E6420 laptop (almost 3 years old, Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5 GHz CPU, 4 GB RAM - In other words, nothing fancy or special)
-- M-Audio FastTrack USB 2  (the cheapest DI that I could find at the time, less than $99)
-- AKG Perception 120 condenser mic  (a good quality mic, but also inexpensive at $99)
-- Livewire Advantage 5' XLR microphone cable  ($15)
-- A cheap pop screen  ($10?)
-- A cheap tripod microphone boom stand  ($20?)
-- Reaper 32-bit DAW  (Free if you want, I chose to support them, cost $60.  I stuck with 32-bit Reaper even though I have 64 bit Windows, because more plugins are available for 32 than 64 bit)
-- Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones (About $150. Don't buy the curly cord, get the straight cord!)
-- A folding card table to set my laptop and M-Audio interface on.
-- My basement family room (completely untreated - basic carpet, some couches, a TV on the wall, a cat weaving between my feet, etc.)
That's it!


What DOESN'T really matter:
1) Mac vs PC is mostly irrelevant.  Digital is digital, so mixing and recording on a Mac vs PC is merely a matter of user interface preference, not results.  I've personally found that Mac is the most "popular" platform recommended by musicians, but that Windows is the most "functional" platform that has the most plugins and recording/mixing software available for it.  So I use Windows because I get more software options (plus it's much cheaper than Mac).

2) Condenser vs. Dynamic / Cardoid vs. Super-Cardoid / etc... is also mostly irrelevant.  Actually these do matter a little bit, but not really for a beginner recording engineer.  Different microphones will definitely have different "warmth" and "character", and also different sweet spots, but usually the difference is quite minor and very subjective.  Just start out with a good quality mic and use it A LOT until you really know its quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  Getting to know a mic is like making a good friend - it takes a lot of time together to really know it.  Over time, you can begin to work your way into other mics as you begin to learn the subtle nuances of each different mic.


What DOES matter when studio recording:
1) Nothing replaces a good performance. Bad vocals recorded in a world-class professional studio are still bad vocals.  Relax, have fun, and let your experience and training take the lead.

2) NO CLIPPING!  If your microphone is clipping, you either have the gain turned up too high, or you are using the microphone incorrectly, or it's a shit/broken microphone that needs to be replaced.  Every microphone has a "sweet spot", which will differ depending on the microphone and how loud you sing.  Do some experimentation to find your microphone's sweet spot.  Keep experimenting until you can record your vocals cleanly at about 60-70% max.  In a modern digital recording and mixing environment, there is ABSOLUTELY NO advantage to recording at or near clip!  That's an old paradigm from the analog recording days when the tape imparted some "hiss" moving over the heads, which no longer applies when recording and mixing digitally.  So, record your tracks normalized to about 60-70% (leave lots of head room), and then adjust volumes to blend properly during the mixing phase, and worry about normalizing only for your master track after it's all said and done with mixing.

3) Use a microphone stand.  Using a mic stand helps you keep your mouth in the microphone's sweet spot, and also creates a more consistent recording volume floor.  It also eliminates extra noise created by bumping or holding the microphone, plus you can't really use a pop screen without a mic stand.  When recording, to control volume for vocal dynamics (like when you're going to shift from a quieter to a significantly louder vocal projection, or vice versa), move your mouth, not the microphone (you can see me doing this on many of my videos, like SOAD - Toxicity).

4) Use a pop screen.  This will help reduce the harshness and wind-blow noise from "plosives" - like "B", "F", "P", "T", etc.  It can also serve as a convenient visual cue for where to place your mouth to stay in the microphone's sweet spot.  Pop screens don't help much as a de-esser, but that's pretty easy to fix in mixing with some fairly simple EQ-ing or plugins.

5) Shut down any unnecessary applications or services on your laptop/workstation when recording.  Maybe also temporarily disable Anti-Virus scanners if yours is processor heavy (many are).  Definitely shut off email and browsers - you don't want those distractions anyway while recording.

6) Do multiple takes.  I'm typically better on my 3-6th take than I am on the earlier takes (warmer, more relaxed, more familiar with what I'm going to do vocally, etc.).  Tracks are free in your DAW, so don't be cheap!  Make a new track for each new take, and save your work often.

7) Take your time.  You are recording at home.  It's not like you have to pay per hour for the studio or a recording engineer.  If your voice just isn't cooperating with you today, come back and try again later today or tomorrow.

8) Avoid wireless microphones for recording.  The conversion and transmission of a wireless signal, even on a really expensive high-quality wireless system, still results in lost fidelity.  Use a good quality microphone cable (shorter is better) plugged directly into the mic and the DI.

9) Record tracks DRY with no effects!  You can add all the crazy effects your heart could ever desire during the mixing process.  By recording dry, raw tracks, you have unlimited flexibility to mix and add effects to it any way you want in the future.

10) Really, REALLY study and learn how to mix!  This is a lifetime achievement goal, one you will definitely not master overnight, if ever...  But the more you study, the more tutorials you watch on YouTube, the more real mixing you do, the better you will get at it.  Learn what kinds (and what settings) of reverb or compression plugins sound best for your voice in different scenarios.  Learn when and how to use a delay or a chorus plugin.  Learn how to do doubling and layering of multiple takes.  It all takes time, but the more you do it, the better you'll get at it.


Those are the basics!  Good luck!

Check out my videos on YouTube and Facebook, especially the more recent ones.  I hope you'll see that a good quality recording can be made using very basic equipment.  In fact, maybe check out some of my older recordings too, because the difference of recording and mixing experience becomes very clear when compared to my newer ones (my recording setup has stayed exactly the same, but my mixing experience continues to develop).

I hope this is helpful!
-- Dave

Okay, finally read this all through, I'll add my 2 cents on some points:

If you can afford to get two pairs of head phones, one for tracking one for mixing, get the extreme isolation EX25's for tracking, they are excellent quality at an excellent price, just $99.

A behringer headphone amp also may be a helpful addition. Very cheap, $20. You don't need any kind of fancy headphone amp just something to boost volume. It can be hard to get a good loud mix of the input level and playback level without putting a limiter on the mix and raising its volume, raising the gain of your mic too much, or resorting to monitoring the vocals which has a slight delay that can really mess with singers. So, in order to get a loud but balanced mix of the input signal and the playback, the way it should be when you need to sing at a high intensity, you will probably need a headphone amp. Well, if you want the optimal headphone mix. The only disadvantage is, I think the behringer only plays back in mono. So you don't get a stereo mix of the music. But at least you get the right levels, and I like to record with one headphone off anyways, to hear my voice in the room too. Maybe there is a similar headphone amp that plays back in stereo and doesn't cost too much more, I wouldn't know which one though.

I personally think condenser/dynamic etc does matter, maybe even to beginners. It wouldn't exactly call it a subtle difference, most people would hear it. Particularly with cheaper mics, the condensers tend to sound more professional than the dynamics, on vocals. This has to do with condensers going up to a higher frequency (most dynamics only go up to 16k, condensers pick up to 20k) and generally having more of a flat frequency response, and are probably also generally more sensitive. However you are right that the polar pattern really doesn't matter much, not for a studio vocalist.

One thing I'd add to the does not matter list is, even the pros are arguing about whether there's actually an audible advantage to recording at higher sample rates like 96k. They may even be disadvantages. So just stick to 44.1k to keep your files small because there is little to no difference, if even for your benefit, all you're doing is just wasting file space. So, I'd add that to the does not matter list. Sample rate does not matter. Bitrate does a little bit, go 24 bit, you get less noise.

Totally right about shutting down applications, I shut down EVERYTHING except my recording software, just to be safe. The more you have open the less smoothly your recording software will run. Not a sound quality issue, it's an efficiency / avoiding crashes / smoother playback and recording issue. Go ahead and turn it all off and avoid the risk.

Speaking of that, a word about saving. Make ctrl+s a habit after every important action you take, AND turn on autosave at a small time interval if you have it. And for any big projects, make damn sure to back it up on another hard drive, both the project files and all the audio files.

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#5 2013-07-13 17:35:15

ronws
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Registered: 2010-05-23
Posts: 11731
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Something else I have read relates to Owen's words about sampling rate. Yes, the higher sampling rates might lead to smoother quality while you are in the software. And take up huge memory, too. And then you export to mp3, usually. Which is a data loss process. So, all that hard work is likely eaten up. Because mp3 encoding, from what I understand, is a value-rated algorithm. What is prominent gets saved. Some of the smaller and finer tones, resulting in less repeated 1's and 0's in the data stream just get lost.

And the problem becomes worse in the player. For the player uses an mp3 decoder alogrithm that may or may not match what the encoder was doing. So, the mp3 decoder in whatever player is making its best guess, so to speak, of what that data should now be. I am probably stating this incorrectly but that is what my understanding is. The nearest model I can think of is in math.

The difference between differential and integral calculus.

Encoding would be analogous to differential calculus. f' = n*(x^n-1)

A numerical constant becomes zero.

Encoding would be analagous to integral calculus.  S(a => b)f = (coefficient/(n+1))*(x^n+1) + C, where C is a numerical constant that cannot be determined until the integral has been graphed through the interval of a to b.

A decoder is trying to calculate what C should be. The more points it can "graph" and the greater the interval of a to b, the smoother the curve, the more accurate the approximation of C will be.

(Don't blame me, blame Sir Isaac Newton.)

So, you can see where finer details get lost in calculating C.

Again, I could be wrong but that is the model that helps me understand it.

This has been redneck math with ron "hold my beer, watch this" ws.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#6 2013-07-13 18:28:13

DavidLyon
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From: Seattle, WA, USA
Registered: 2013-07-11
Posts: 15
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Some extra info:

HOW TO AVOID CLIPPING:
1) Use a DAW to do your recording and monitoring.  Reaper is a perfect one to start with because it's free, and it's probably perfect to stick with forever because it is as good (or maybe better) than almost any other DAW on the market (including ProTools, Studio One, Audacity, etc.).

2) Basically all decent USB Direct Interface ("DI") boxes have at least a Gain knob for the microphone, a master (headphone) volume knob, a Direct Monitoring switch, and a Phantom Power switch.  Don't buy a DI for vocals that doesn't have at least these minimum requirements.

3) Plug your microphone and earphones into the DI. Turn ON the Direct Monitoring switch (this way the DI will send your microphone back to the earphones, so you can hear what you're singing, with zero delay).  If you have a Dynamic mic, leave the phantom power OFF.  If you have a Condenser mic, turn phantom power ON.

4) Launch your DAW, and create a test track to set your volume levels.  Set the vocal recording test track to MUTE - you are already monitoring your voice via the DI's direct monitoring, so turn off feedback from the DAW because it will be slightly delayed.  Sing into the microphone and watch the recording level indicator in the DAW.  Adjust the gain knob on the DI until the recording level tops out at about 60-70% in the DAW (just barely above the "green" and into the "yellow", absolutely NO "red"!).  IMPORTANT!! ONCE YOU HAVE BEGUN RECORDING, DON'T TOUCH THE GAIN KNOB AGAIN FOR THE REST OF YOUR RECORDING SESSION, EXCEPT IF YOU FIND YOU ARE CLIPPING!!!

5) Import your instrumental music track (the song that you'll be singing/recording along with) into the DAW.  It is critical to import the track into the recording session.  Don't try to play it in one program while you record in a different program, or you will end up with lots of sync problems when you try to mix.

Now, here's the magic, how you hear yourself while recording, without the microphone clipping.  Remember, DO NOT TOUCH THE MICROPHONE GAIN KNOB!!
6) Start playing back the song from the DAW, and start singing along to it.  Listen to your earphones.  If your voice is too quiet, turn UP the master (headphone) volume knob (but *NOT* the microphone gain knob!!) on the DI box.  If that makes the music too loud, turn DOWN either the master volume or the instrument track's volume in the DAW!  Keep tweaking these two settings until you are able to hear yourself and the music at the same time at a reasonable volume.

If you have done all of this correctly, you should now be able to hear both your own voice, and the music track in the earphones at adequate levels; and you should be able to sing as loud (or quiet) as you need to for the song, with the maximum volume in your vocal recording track maxing out at about 70% (nowhere near clip, just barely into the "yellow" area of the level meter, a little bit above "green").


There is (of course) more to it than just that, but that is the basic starting point from which to begin.

Last edited by DavidLyon (2013-07-14 06:47:12)


David A. Lyon
Melodic Metal/Rock Vocalist from Seattle, WA, USA!
www.facebook.com/DavidLyonOfficial/
www.youtube.com/zimfar/

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#7 2013-07-14 13:21:13

ronws
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Registered: 2010-05-23
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

^ this right here.

I think my next pennies from heaven purchase needs to be an interface such as described here. I could really use the zero delay monitoring. And I will try to find Reaper. As I have issues with Audacity, which has a nasty latency. Even with latency adjustment, one often has to do tempo adjust. It's not just the lag from the true beat, the whole track is spaced out. That is, you can't fix a timing problem in audacity by just shifting the track to line up with the music track.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#8 2013-07-14 19:02:37

Owen Korzec
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Registered: 2011-09-18
Posts: 3109
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

DavidLyon wrote:

Some extra info:

HOW TO AVOID CLIPPING:
1) Use a DAW to do your recording and monitoring.  Reaper is a perfect one to start with because it's free, and it's probably perfect to stick with forever because it is as good (or maybe better) than almost any other DAW on the market (including ProTools, Studio One, Audacity, etc.).

2) Basically all decent USB Direct Interface ("DI") boxes have at least a Gain knob for the microphone, a master (headphone) volume knob, a Direct Monitoring switch, and a Phantom Power switch.  Don't buy a DI for vocals that doesn't have at least these minimum requirements.

3) Plug your microphone and earphones into the DI. Turn ON the Direct Monitoring switch (this way the DI will send your microphone back to the earphones, so you can hear what you're singing, with zero delay).  If you have a Dynamic mic, leave the phantom power OFF.  If you have a Condenser mic, turn phantom power ON.

4) Launch your DAW, and create a test track to set your volume levels.  Set the vocal recording test track to MUTE - you are already monitoring your voice via the DI's direct monitoring, so turn off feedback from the DAW because it will be slightly delayed.  Sing into the microphone and watch the recording level indicator in the DAW.  Adjust the gain knob on the DI until the recording level tops out at about 60-70% in the DAW (just barely above the "green" and into the "yellow", absolutely NO "red"!).  IMPORTANT!! ONCE YOU HAVE BEGUN RECORDING, DON'T TOUCH THE GAIN KNOB AGAIN FOR THE REST OF YOUR RECORDING SESSION, EXCEPT IF YOU FIND YOU ARE CLIPPING!!!

5) Import your instrumental music track (the song that you'll be singing/recording along with) into the DAW.  It is critical to import the track into the recording session.  Don't try to play it in one program while you record in a different program, or you will end up with lots of sync problems when you try to mix.

Now, here's the magic, how you hear yourself while recording, without the microphone clipping.  Remember, DO NOT TOUCH THE MICROPHONE GAIN KNOB!!
6) Start playing back the song from the DAW, and start singing along to it.  Listen to your earphones.  If your voice is too quiet, turn UP the master (headphone) volume knob (but *NOT* the microphone gain knob!!) on the DI box.  If that makes the music too loud, turn DOWN either the master volume or the instrument track's volume in the DAW!  Keep tweaking these two settings until you are able to hear yourself and the music at the same time at a reasonable volume.

If you have done all of this correctly, you should now be able to hear both your own voice, and the music track in the earphones at adequate levels; and you should be able to sing as loud (or quiet) as you need to for the song, with the maximum volume in your vocal recording track maxing out at about 70% (nowhere near clip, just barely into the "yellow" area of the level meter, a little bit above "green").


There is (of course) more to it than just that, but that is the basic starting point from which to begin.

Wow, very well said David. I don't know if I'd have the patience to teach that through text. I'd forget something.

And this is pretty much exactly what I do as well. There's kind of only one correct way to do this, with the equipment you mentioned, and it's exactly what you are doing.

I could add that on the interfaces I've used, they have a mix knob between direct signal and playback, and there's a bit of a different workflow for that. Turn up the bed track as much as it can go without clipping (often I have to put on a limiter on the master bus and boost it even more, if I'm not singing over an already mastered production), and then turn the mix knob toward the direct side until there is a good balance between vocals and music and then adjust the overall volume with the headphone level knob on the interface.

I also have a bit of a different approach to level setting, but I give up trying to explain it in text. Way too technical for singers, and unnecessarily precise. I need it precise since I record full bands and such, but for singers, David's approach should work perfectly, nice and simple.

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#9 2013-07-15 00:16:54

slstone
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

I can definitely vouch for all that has been said. But I wish to add a few things that will help.
Another reason for setting gain less than full is tracks end up sounding distorted with too much gain.
With plugins, you can always raise the amplification of each tracks, and other effects also add volume.
In addition, when mixing, you want your overall decibel level to be about 3 decibel less than full. This also
helps to avoid clipping and unwanted noise and distortion.
As I have mentioned before, if you can possibly afford it, buy a firewire unit so that you can record directly to the computer via a serial port. Like Ron mentioned on .wav vs. .mp3, most sound cards record at a very low bit rate causing a loss in audio quality. That also makes it difficult when enhancing and adding effects.

Also, on recording louder higher parts vs. lower, quieter parts. Use a separate track for the higher notes.
If you record it all on the same track, then you have issues when adjusting volume. You can lower gain on higher parts for a better balance between the two on the same track, but that takes some skill. Its easier when they are on separate tracks. Then you can adjust volumes between the two so you don't sound like a tv. i.e. show is quiet, commercials are cranked.
I have learned everything I know about mixing by trial and error.
Agreed on the mic stand, and you can make a pop filter for about $3.
I did. Buy a needlepoint hoop from craft section at walmart. Then go to the ladies section and buy a little thing of hose.  Drill holes in side of hoop and pull through. Then put hoop inside 2nd hoop and you have homemade pop filter. Unless your wealthy enough to own an Electrovoice RE-20. Those are sweet. My old drummer buddy had one. They have built in pop/hiss eliminator. A bit pricey though, even used.
He's also right about closing unwanted programs. Recording software and .wav files eat up memory in no time.
Definitely take your time. Don't succumb to recording syndrome. Where you've practiced that song a million times and knocked it out of the park a million times. You record once and all goes wrong. Leave the nerves behind. A track can always be re-recorded.

I also like the point about you are recording at home. You are not having to pay a studio $800 for a 3 hour block. My brother has pointed this out, although, he does have his own self-built studio. Because of the meds he takes, there are days when his voice is just gone.

To make things worse, I've had a recent bout with pneumonia. That sucked.


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#10 2013-07-16 02:05:54

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

slstone wrote:

As I have mentioned before, if you can possibly afford it, buy a firewire unit so that you can record directly to the computer via a serial port. Like Ron mentioned on .wav vs. .mp3, most sound cards record at a very low bit rate causing a loss in audio quality. That also makes it difficult when enhancing and adding effects.

Also, on recording louder higher parts vs. lower, quieter parts. Use a separate track for the higher notes.
If you record it all on the same track, then you have issues when adjusting volume. You can lower gain on higher parts for a better balance between the two on the same track, but that takes some skill. Its easier when they are on separate tracks. Then you can adjust volumes between the two so you don't sound like a tv. i.e. show is quiet, commercials are cranked.

Amen, brother from the same mother.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#11 2013-08-17 15:41:43

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

I had re-read this thread and found it to be very helpful, as I found nuances I had missed before.

So, I broke down and bit the bullet and d/l'd Reaper.

Oh my goodness, there is no comparison to Audacity.

For Reaper has the thing I want most. FX mod in real time, by doing it in the master and mix window. I firmly believe in recording dry, rather printed effects pre-interface, unless I am doing my electric guitar through my Roland GS-6 effects unit. Better to record everything, especially vocals, dry.

With Audacity, I am singing blind, mixing blind, because, in audacity, you have to choose an effect and its settings and then play back to see what you have ruined.

But this feature of real time editing alone makes Reaper light-years ahead, in addition to the other neato things.

Now, I cannot wait to abuse some songs with Reaper.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#12 2013-08-26 03:11:32

jaydub380
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Hello everyone,
A good friend of mine uses a Ipad to do all of his recording and wat he was able to lay down was pretty good but it was not quality in the least bit, so is there a much more cheaper way to get good sound recording? Cheaper than wat y u all r describing?

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#13 2013-08-27 00:44:47

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Well,"pretty good" is a relative term, don't you think?

What is expected here is to be as close to studio quality as possible. And so these threads are filled with mic recommendations, software recommendations, computer requirements, such as memory capacity, even which type, mac or pc.

I have a Zoom H1 portable digital recorder and did a song with it, mainly to see what others thought of the sound quality. And my singing and performance got ripped to shreds. I was even told that I should aim for studio perfection and quality.

So, just recording on an ipad that is "good enough" will probably not fly too well, here.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#14 2013-09-02 05:02:46

Jes Johnson
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Thanks guys.  I'm brand new to recording, and this is very helpful.

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#15 2013-12-07 03:06:00

FelipeCarvalho
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Odd problem had to solve today.

I use a windows 7 station, the video card is a geforce 210 (cheap as it can be, yeah).

Up to today, everything was working fine, with small audio glitches once in a while, but nothing troublesome...

Today, I could not record a song, too many pops and clicks.

After disabling everything and using latency tool to find the culprit, I was surprised to discover that the problem was the nvidia drivers. The solution was to remove all the drivers and use the windows generic video driver.

Latency went all the way down, its better than it ever was... Probably the driver is so optimized for graphics it places everything else on hold...

Hope it helps someone else.

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#16 2013-12-07 13:42:06

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Thanks, Felipe. I had never thought of it, though it seems kind of obvious, now.

If we are going to make pro studio quality recordings, as is expected here and as I have been instructed others that I must do, then it tasks us to find computers and associated object programs, such as drivers, that are dedicated to the task. Though, as you said, the window drivers worked better than the drivers you had. Just like, one of these days, I need to follow my brother's advice and get an outboard that bypasses my computer's sound board for both recording and playback. Essentially, to produce recordings of as high a quality as his, I need to build what he has built.  And that means building a computer and software and outboard pieces dedicated to that. Actually, sometimes, two computers. One for recording, one for editing.

Last edited by ronws (2013-12-07 13:42:36)


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#17 2013-12-07 13:44:18

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Furthermore, I re-read the post about the guy using his i-pad, which is like a step up from a tablet. But, in either case, these are devices that are more for wireless internet browsing and reading, than they are for recording. So, recording with them would be "okay," indeed, similar to recording with a cell phone. just not top of the line pro.

Then, again, I have seen people here give a pointed critique based on a cell phone recording and I wondered how all the attributes of the voice could be heard through that type of device. Then, again, I know a little too much about some levels of electronic devices.

Last edited by ronws (2013-12-07 13:46:29)


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#18 2014-05-18 11:20:16

Singingnewbie
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

DavidLyon wrote:

2) Condenser vs. Dynamic / Cardoid vs. Super-Cardoid / etc... is also mostly irrelevant.  Actually these do matter a little bit, but not really for a beginner recording engineer.  Different microphones will definitely have different "warmth" and "character", and also different sweet spots, but usually the difference is quite minor and very subjective.  Just start out with a good quality mic and use it A LOT until you really know its quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  Getting to know a mic is like making a good friend - it takes a lot of time together to really know it.  Over time, you can begin to work your way into other mics as you begin to learn the subtle nuances of each different mic.

I was thinking of buying a sound card and a condenser to start recording songs a bit more seriously. Already own a Sennheiser E845 (dynamic) and was about to order a high quality condenser Studio Projects TB1 for about 250$ until i thought to search for the differences in sound. First i found a clip at youtube that showed me the audible difference is minimum and then i read that.

Could you share opinions/experiences on condenser vs dynamic? Is it worth to buy?

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#19 2014-05-18 15:42:24

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Singingnewbie wrote:

DavidLyon wrote:

2) Condenser vs. Dynamic / Cardoid vs. Super-Cardoid / etc... is also mostly irrelevant.  Actually these do matter a little bit, but not really for a beginner recording engineer.  Different microphones will definitely have different "warmth" and "character", and also different sweet spots, but usually the difference is quite minor and very subjective.  Just start out with a good quality mic and use it A LOT until you really know its quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  Getting to know a mic is like making a good friend - it takes a lot of time together to really know it.  Over time, you can begin to work your way into other mics as you begin to learn the subtle nuances of each different mic.

I was thinking of buying a sound card and a condenser to start recording songs a bit more seriously. Already own a Sennheiser E845 (dynamic) and was about to order a high quality condenser Studio Projects TB1 for about 250$ until i thought to search for the differences in sound. First i found a clip at youtube that showed me the audible difference is minimum and then i read that.

Could you share opinions/experiences on condenser vs dynamic? Is it worth to buy?

David is right. And he is really good at recording, with his home-built rig of plug and play parts. His recordings are pro quality.

I have been revisiting my audacity recording handbook. I simply had too many problems trying to figure out how to use cubase. So, I went back to Audacity, which actually does what I need, I just didn't know how to use it well enough. The author has recorded for bands, in studio and live, using audacity.

Anyway, regardless of DAW, most advice about equipment is more about personal preference than actual technical performance.

For example, cables with gold-tipped connectors are a great way to spend a lot of money. But they don't improve performance. The short lengths of cables that we use in our home rigs will not experience any usable increase of "conductivity" by having gold, instead of regular tips.

People such as Bruce Dickinson literally made a career with the Shure sm58. You could do the same. For dynamic. For condenser, there are several types and I have done some decent recordings with my Fame CM-1 Studio Condenser, which was, like 25 dollars. You shouldn't have to spend more than 150 for a condenser mic, if you want to spend that much. More likely, you would average about 100 to 150 for a Rode mic, which is comparable to Shure mics. You might get a discount, if ordering from Rode, if you mention the Modern Vocalist. I don't know that for sure but it is worth a shot and it gives Robert Lunte a good ref.

So, to echo David, and others, while equipment is not always paramount, a certain minimum of equipment versatility does help. My m-audio interface leaves the old guitarface II interface in the dust. M-audio has live monitor, which got rid of latency problems for me. But I would not go less than that and others suggest spending a little more for the Scarlett 2in2.

If you could afford nothing else, get a shure sm58. As for what mic helps for what:

Dynamic mics, like the shure sm58, even my sennheiser e835, are good for high volume sounds, such a loud singer, such as myself, amplified guitar, drums. And also for the stage. It has a tight pick-up pattern, which helps exclude unwanted noise and bleed-through.

Condenser mics, which require phantom power ( usually +48 V) are more suitable for studio work, especially quieter sounds, such as human voice, acoustic instruments. For example, when I want to record my acoustic guitar, I always use the condenser mic. I just like the sound of the guitar through that mic. Even if I were to get another or third mic, I would keep that one for the acoustic guitar.

Condenser mics are sensitive and work great for soft singing. So, I have used it for vocals, as well.

Anyway, like David said, often the "differences" between mics is more about price than actual response characteristics that you could discern.

So, I would think twice about spending that much. Unless it just makes you happy.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#20 2014-05-18 15:45:54

Owen Korzec
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Singingnewbie wrote:

DavidLyon wrote:

2) Condenser vs. Dynamic / Cardoid vs. Super-Cardoid / etc... is also mostly irrelevant.  Actually these do matter a little bit, but not really for a beginner recording engineer.  Different microphones will definitely have different "warmth" and "character", and also different sweet spots, but usually the difference is quite minor and very subjective.  Just start out with a good quality mic and use it A LOT until you really know its quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  Getting to know a mic is like making a good friend - it takes a lot of time together to really know it.  Over time, you can begin to work your way into other mics as you begin to learn the subtle nuances of each different mic.

I was thinking of buying a sound card and a condenser to start recording songs a bit more seriously. Already own a Sennheiser E845 (dynamic) and was about to order a high quality condenser Studio Projects TB1 for about 250$ until i thought to search for the differences in sound. First i found a clip at youtube that showed me the audible difference is minimum and then i read that.

Could you share opinions/experiences on condenser vs dynamic? Is it worth to buy?

To my ears there is a very noticeable difference. Condensers are better for recording vocals in most cases. There are a few popular dynamic mics for recording vocals, like the Shure SM7B and Electro-voice RE20 but that's honestly about it and they're not nearly as versatile as large diaphragm condensers. Pair a dynamic mic with the wrong voice or wrong style and you're screwed, but a condenser will work on pretty much anything.

Also, regarding the patterns, just like condenser vs. dynamic they are important too but their difference is much less extreme, still, as a beginner, definitely start with cardioid. Cardioid large diaphragm condensers - it's what maybe 90% of pro vocal recording mics are and also happens to be the most versatile and most bang-for-the-buck for a beginner - really shoot for that, i think it will help you narrow down your research tremendously.

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#21 2014-05-19 13:17:51

Singingnewbie
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

I will probably buy 2i4 after a lot of searching, its 200$ but i dont want to buy an extra midi controller to connect keyboards if i need them or a preamplifier with a pad to attenuate the signal that goes through the, sometimes very, sensitive 2i4.

I wont buy another dynamic, i will go for the detail and crispness, something different. The SM58 would be my last choice... could never like its sound, searched reviews, comparisons, too muddy/muffled and the plosives make it ever worse, not for me. I will go for TB1 (or maybe another high quality one) if i decide to buy one. Its expensive, yes, but i will keep it for years - i dont see me quit singing anytime soon but who knows :/ - i dont want to buy one and after a year search for another. I will experiment with the E845 and see how it goes, where we rehearsh theres a TB1 so i will ask the guy to sing a few phrases to make a comparison. He told me the best for this mic last time i asked him, he preferred it over other much more expensive mics.

Thanks for inputs.

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#22 2014-07-06 13:48:15

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Sounds like you have a good plan, Singingnewbie. Kind of a side-trip but it will explain what I want to say. There was a show on cable called "It Might Get Loud." It was a meeting of the minds and guitars of Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2), and Jack White (White Stripes and also, his solo career.)

Jack White will find the oddest things to record with. He will purposely take an old tube practice amp and overdrive it . And record that through an old mic on to reel-to-reel. Later, of course, it will eventually be converted to digital for hard copy release, though I believe he has been able to get vinyl release but I think even those come from a digital master before driving a vinyl press or even a 3-D printer.

From what I have read of David's words and those of recording books I have read, most of the talk in recording circles about the response curves of the equipment at extreme ends is just that, theoretical talk. There really is a physical limit to the hearing response in humans, as well as the reproduction response in any player you could hope to use when playing back a recording.

As well as the modern practice, especially in pop music, of mastering everything to volume "11" in a playing bandwidth of 5 kHz. While that takes away from dynamics, I sometimes get critique for too much dynamics in my recordings. For example, when I use the portable recorder in a room, and my voice has changing dynamics where  I can sing low and soft and high and loud and the complaint might be that the low and soft parts don't sound "beefy" enough though they were well enough, live.

So, then, I if I process through about 2 to 2.5:1 compressor function, then the complaint will be too much compression, can't get a sense of emotional dynamics. It's a balancing act and everyone has a different perspective of what they like in a song or the song values that they like.

But I think the basic rule of thumb by Dave still applies. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a mic that works for you for 95 percent of your work.

In another thread about the vocalist gig bag, Robert Lunte mentions that he carries no less than 3 mics, though he is an avowed mic junkie. Point being that mics sound different in different venues and pa systems.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#23 2014-07-06 14:54:52

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

And I still find value in this thread. So many simple things that have made the difference. Including, of course, advice from my brother, Slstone.

First off, getting a usb interface that offers live monitor. The m-audio m-track does just that, for about $100 from Best Buy. I also splurged, like I said before, and spent about 12 or 15 dollars on xlr - to - xlr cable to reduce all errant line noise.

That was huge. That got rid of most latency problems. I also had too much trouble trying to figure cubase and never could get reaper to launch. So, I watch tutorials on youtube for Audacity done by a guy from Newfoundland. He made it so easy, even I could understand it.

Another big step. Adusting levels. The m-audio has a bar meter for input levels. Spend one goof-off track adjust that to green, maybe a smidge of yellow on the highest and loudest. And, in Audacity, lower the mic input icon to about 65 percent. The rest is mic proximity.

A few other quick tricks. Audacity can do a mastering function, of sorts. Select all tracks and normalize. And you can still adjust track levels afterward, as you see fit.

I find that the cheapie Fame CM-1 condenser mic I have as a gift from a fellow member is actually quite a good mic, I was simply misusing it and the recording levels. The two biggest improvements for me have been a more versatile interface and adjusting DAW input levels. Rule number one of recording, record a good quality file. It is that simple and subtle.

And patience. I am one of the worst for the rush to record and post. Especially on a song I have done forever. I am always saying there is a difference between live and recording. And it took a while to take my own advice. If I have sang a song for more than two decades, what's wrong if I take a whole week to record it, rather than just once?

And to have the wisdom to really listen. Sometimes, I get the track right the first time. Voice is fresh, instincts are sharp. Other times, it has taken twenty recording attempts to produce a full third or fourth recording that was acceptable in even my crude standards.

I know it seems at times like I am being snotty by saying that recording perfection is expected around here but I do not mean to sound snotty. It's just a fact. And while I might say, "well, you need to hear me, live," that is not achievable in a logistical sense of me being in your living room or you in mine, it behooves me to at least present a recording that represents as nearly as possible how "awesome" I may be live. Warning: I will not always succeed but that is my goal.

As my brother, Scott points out, all we have is recordings of each other. Sure, he heard me sing live. Thirty-something years ago when we were teenagers. And unless one or the other of us is able to literally drive across a continent (Scott lives in the New England area and I live in the lower Great Plains, two towns away from the Red River, the natural border between Texas and Oklahoma), we are not likely to sing live for each other anytime soon.

And yes, even for an amateur recording for the amusement of myself and others, let alone recording for professional release, it is upon me to improve my recording and editing skills, even as I have upgraded equipment and increased my understanding my preferred DAW. I like Audacity. It is intuitive for me as a singer. I don't have to assign busses, etcetera. I can simply dupe a track and put effects on that and the end result is the same as having the dry track split between a clean channel and effects channel. It can make a caveman like me capable of actually editing.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#24 2014-07-06 18:21:08

Adolph Namlik
Executive Director, The Modern Vocalist World
From: "No Name", New York
Registered: 2008-11-15
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

ronws wrote:

Sounds like you have a good plan, Singingnewbie. Kind of a side-trip but it will explain what I want to say. There was a show on cable called "It Might Get Loud." It was a meeting of the minds and guitars of Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2), and Jack White (White Stripes and also, his solo career.)

Jack White will find the oddest things to record with. He will purposely take an old tube practice amp and overdrive it . And record that through an old mic on to reel-to-reel. Later, of course, it will eventually be converted to digital for hard copy release, though I believe he has been able to get vinyl release but I think even those come from a digital master before driving a vinyl press or even a 3-D printer.

From what I have read of David's words and those of recording books I have read, most of the talk in recording circles about the response curves of the equipment at extreme ends is just that, theoretical talk. There really is a physical limit to the hearing response in humans, as well as the reproduction response in any player you could hope to use when playing back a recording.

As well as the modern practice, especially in pop music, of mastering everything to volume "11" in a playing bandwidth of 5 kHz. While that takes away from dynamics, I sometimes get critique for too much dynamics in my recordings. For example, when I use the portable recorder in a room, and my voice has changing dynamics where  I can sing low and soft and high and loud and the complaint might be that the low and soft parts don't sound "beefy" enough though they were well enough, live.

So, then, I if I process through about 2 to 2.5:1 compressor function, then the complaint will be too much compression, can't get a sense of emotional dynamics. It's a balancing act and everyone has a different perspective of what they like in a song or the song values that they like.

But I think the basic rule of thumb by Dave still applies. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a mic that works for you for 95 percent of your work.

In another thread about the vocalist gig bag, Robert Lunte mentions that he carries no less than 3 mics, though he is an avowed mic junkie. Point being that mics sound different in different venues and pa systems.

You bet ! Which is why I am also a "mic junkie" !!!

I'm often asked WHY I need so many mics and this is the reason as indicated in bold print !!!

A portion of my "collection" >>>

* Rode M-1
* E-V 767a
E-V PL80c
Shure SM58
* Shure Beta 58A
* Sennheiser e945
* Shure Beta 57A
* MXL 9090 Dual capsule cardioid condenser
Samson Q7

* My favorites


Adolph C. Namlik
Executive Director ~ The Modern Vocalist World
Western N.Y.
adolph@themodernvocalist.com
http://www.themodernvocalist.com/profile/AdolphNamlik
Email : chief188@hughes.net
716~257~9606
"My Life's A Stage"

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#25 2014-07-07 00:21:29

ronws
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Exactly, Adolph. And a pro recording studio will have several mic's. Some that have worked out well for drums and those get used every time and it can take an engineer a few hours to mic drums in just the way that wants, so, for example, to gate the kick drum by what the high hat is doing.

Same with vocal mics. Different singers sound different on different mics. And he may not use the same mic all the way through an album, either. Because is not about how good the singer is, it is about how to get the sound that is desired for the recording. Ever since I have learned recently how to use a decent interface and knock the audacity mic input down to about 65 percent, I am developing a new appreciation for my inexpensive Fame CM-1 studio condenser mic. It makes my voice sound brighter and rounder. As opposed to the Sennheiser e835, which gives me a darker sound. Which is okay if the darker sound is what I am going for. I used the Sennheiser on "This Life," the theme song from "Sons of Anarchy," because I wanted a dark and tough sound, and I got it. Regardless of the tough critique I got for the song,  I am pleased with the results. So, mic's can make a difference.


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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#26 2014-07-07 18:51:30

Adolph Namlik
Executive Director, The Modern Vocalist World
From: "No Name", New York
Registered: 2008-11-15
Posts: 748
Reputation :   17 

Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

I totally agree, ronws.

Not only do vocalists change mics during the course of recording an album as you mentioned, I have also noticed that some swap mics during live venues as well. One in particular that comes to mind is Steve Hogarth (Marillion), who uses a Shure (wireless) 58 and the infamous Neumann KMS 105 condenser (wired of course). Others I've noticed are C.J. Snare, Lawrence Gowan, Joey Tempest, and other too numerous to mention. Note : Would LOVE to have the Neumann, but at $700.00, that's far beyond MY budget !!! :mad:

As for recording, personally I don't get involved in that myself. Rather, it's much easier and less time consuming for me to just go to the studio and let the professional sound engineers do all the "work". Over the years, I only recorded one song myself and it took so, so long !!! Compliments of a friend in the computer business, I was "hooked up" with several recording programs, but they were too time consuming for me....

On another note, I can't understand WHY MXL discontinued the 9090 ??? It's a Sweet mic ! With the simple flip of a switch, you can switch from a bright sound to a warm sound.

And that brings me to the Shure Beta 57A. What a difference between the "straight" 57 ! You have to "eat the mic", but it's still a nice addition to my "arsenal".

You keep mentioning the Sennheiser e835.... I think that's going to be my next investment as soon as I get a chance to check it out !!! :cool: And that brings me to a topic that is often discussed here. Beginners take note >> You must find a mic that suits "YOUR" voice. What works well for one singer may not work well for YOU !!!

While I don't coach a lot of singers, I often assist a lot of local (beginner, and some more advanced) singers. After they try several of my mics, I often hear : "Which one worked the best for me again ? I can't remember since we tried SO MANY" !!! :D

Edit : I simply have to add that if it were not for MY coach, my TMV World partner, and my FRIEND, Maestro Robert Lunte, I would not be able to help the local singers. Some of which I would like to add are members of The Modern Vocalist World !!! Thank you Robert for all you have done for me personally, and enabling me to assist others !!!


Adolph C. Namlik
Executive Director ~ The Modern Vocalist World
Western N.Y.
adolph@themodernvocalist.com
http://www.themodernvocalist.com/profile/AdolphNamlik
Email : chief188@hughes.net
716~257~9606
"My Life's A Stage"

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#27 2014-07-07 23:54:27

slstone
TMV Forum Member
From: Maine
Registered: 2011-11-18
Posts: 298
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

Would it shock you guys if I told you I recorded my entire CD, instruments and voice all on my Shure SM57?


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#28 2014-07-08 01:07:16

ronws
TMV Forum Member
Registered: 2010-05-23
Posts: 11731
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Re: VOCAL RECORDING BASICS - A foundation from which to start

slstone wrote:

Would it shock you guys if I told you I recorded my entire CD, instruments and voice all on my Shure SM57?

No, because you are a cheap old fart, just like me.

No, really, you are a genius.

And certainly, theoretically, if you know how to use one mic, you can do so much with it, as I have been learning. However, in the other books I have read from recording engineeers, they have lots of mics. Which doesn't make them better or you wrong. It's just a thing.

Like I have said before, with the condenser mic I have, I really like the round and warm tone it brings for my acoustic guitar. And, since I have learned to dial the interface and the input mic level in my DAW down from 11, I am getting a better sound out of it for my voice. So, there is that, it is not always the most expensive or prestigous mic.

And, as I have pointed out numerous times, Bruce Dickinson literally made a career with the shure 58, especially on the stage. As in a career spanning several decades. And even though he later talked about using headset mic's, I notice that he stuck the the 58 on the nostalgia tour "Flight 666."


"When the daylight is rising up in my eyes ..." - Klaus Meine

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