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Vocal Recording

 
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IroniaSudby
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:55 pm    Post subject: Vocal Recording Reply with quote

I have a question that bothering me.

I bought myself a cheap XM5800. I feel like my vocals sound like they are
boxed and shit. They dont sound too good.

Is this mic just not good for vocals or i just cant sing? It does record
guitar well.
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IroniaSudby
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if it helps, im recording to a Portastudio 424 MKII. Maybe that has something
to do with it.
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James
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Vocal Recording Reply with quote

IroniaSudby wrote:
Is this mic just not good for vocals or i just cant sing? It does record guitar well.


My money is on neither. It's almost certainly that your recording technique for vocals is a bit off. How exactly are you doing it? What style of music is it and what sort of vocal sound do you want?

As a rough start, stretch your hand out to this sort of shape (hotlinked so may not show up)



Touch your thumb to your nose and little finger to the microphone. Don't go any closer than that distance. If it's boxy you're probably too close to the mic. That handspan distance is close enough to give a good signal to background noise ratio without sounding like it's in your ear. There's probably also an element of you singing differently because of the recording. Not having the mic very close to your face should help you relax a little, and you could even try having it further back and almost ignoring it and seeing how it goes.

Another thing to try are singing facing a solid surface (something relatively reflective like a wall or window, rather than a curtain for example) and having the mic behind your head. That way the reflections will be relatively loud and it will sound a bit far away but in a different way to literally having the mic far away. You'll keep more of the low end content. You could try doing a take normally and a take that way and balancing the two like you would a normal double tracked vocal. It will add a bit of space to the vocal and won't be on top of the other.

Also consider the David Bowie 'Heroes' thing of having several mics at various distances. If you can do two or more mics at once have one at the handspan distance and one maybe two metres back, and you can blend the distant mic to add space.

And of course, some reverb and a bit of EQ will do wonders. You'd probably be surprised how much processing goes on vocals in most recordings.

A short sample of the recording will make it easier to give advice because everything I've said has been a shot in the dark based on you not being that familiar with recording.
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IroniaSudby
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, this is honestly the first time im doing this. Today. Ill try to get
a line in going from it to here so i can get it on the computer. Ill deff
try the hand thing and different locations.

What i tried for vocals was going into my bathroom, setting up and doing it there.
I tried to get some reverb but nothing came out of it. Don't have anything but the
4 track and Mic. But ill get back to you after ive tried the handspan.
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IroniaSudby
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, i think i came to the conclusion that its me. I dont really
like my voice, so ill just stick to guitar.

Thanks for the help anyways.
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Will
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

IroniaSudby wrote:
Actually, i think i came to the conclusion that its me. I dont really
like my voice, so ill just stick to guitar.


Finding your singing voice is probably the single hardest thing to do in music. There are an almost inconceivable number of variables. I can tell you what's worked for me, though:

Listen to your speaking voice. Maybe record yourself just talking or reading from a book. Often, we subconsciously try to do an impression of our idols instead of focusing on our own sound. Your singing voice should have the same general qualities as your speaking voice: tone quality, accent, phrasing, cadence, etc. If you compare the singing and speaking voices of most great vocalists, you'll hear what I mean.

Know your genre. Kurtdz wouldn't sing Sinatra, and Sinatra wouldn't sing Dethklok. I can make folk music and ballads happen, but my voice falls apart if I try to sing even relatively soft rock or punk. Everyone has limitations.

Let technique take a back seat. The voice isn't perfect like a keyboard; it's more like a violin. It slides in and out of pitch, which is part of the reason it sounds so pleasant and expressive. Listen to Billie Holiday, or Michael Hurley for that matter. Both are great singers, and both are somewhat laid back about intonation. If anything, concentrate more on physical technique: breath from the diaphragm, relax your jaw, and keep your throat relaxed.

Find a mic that matches you. I sound like shit with a condenser, but much better with an SM57. Right now my favorite is a 1953 Electro-Voice dynamic mic. It's very lo-fi and tends to pinch the vocals like you hear on old country records form the 40s and early 50s. You might sound good with a ribbon mic. The point is, you've gotta try a bunch of options and let your ears judge. If your voice is bassy (like mine), you can angle the mic up and away from your chest to clear up the sound. If your voice is thinner, you can point it down at your chest to gain some richness.

Learning to sing is like learning any instrument. Almost nobody sounds good at first. It's especially difficult because you won't have frets or keys keeping you in tune. The advantage is that you've been using your voice nearly your whole life; it just has to be trained to work for music. And remember: if you're a good songwriter, people are less inclined to find fault with your voice.

Good luck!
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IroniaSudby
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks. Ill try to record something tomorrow defiantly and get it on
my computer. That way it be easier to get pointers and such.
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Simon
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Will wrote:
IroniaSudby wrote:
Actually, i think i came to the conclusion that its me. I dont really
like my voice, so ill just stick to guitar.


Finding your singing voice is probably the single hardest thing to do in music. There are an almost inconceivable number of variables. I can tell you what's worked for me, though:

Listen to your speaking voice. Maybe record yourself just talking or reading from a book. Often, we subconsciously try to do an impression of our idols instead of focusing on our own sound. Your singing voice should have the same general qualities as your speaking voice: tone quality, accent, phrasing, cadence, etc. If you compare the singing and speaking voices of most great vocalists, you'll hear what I mean.

Know your genre. Kurtdz wouldn't sing Sinatra, and Sinatra wouldn't sing Dethklok. I can make folk music and ballads happen, but my voice falls apart if I try to sing even relatively soft rock or punk. Everyone has limitations.

Let technique take a back seat. The voice isn't perfect like a keyboard; it's more like a violin. It slides in and out of pitch, which is part of the reason it sounds so pleasant and expressive. Listen to Billie Holiday, or Michael Hurley for that matter. Both are great singers, and both are somewhat laid back about intonation. If anything, concentrate more on physical technique: breath from the diaphragm, relax your jaw, and keep your throat relaxed.

Find a mic that matches you. I sound like shit with a condenser, but much better with an SM57. Right now my favorite is a 1953 Electro-Voice dynamic mic. It's very lo-fi and tends to pinch the vocals like you hear on old country records form the 40s and early 50s. You might sound good with a ribbon mic. The point is, you've gotta try a bunch of options and let your ears judge. If your voice is bassy (like mine), you can angle the mic up and away from your chest to clear up the sound. If your voice is thinner, you can point it down at your chest to gain some richness.

Learning to sing is like learning any instrument. Almost nobody sounds good at first. It's especially difficult because you won't have frets or keys keeping you in tune. The advantage is that you've been using your voice nearly your whole life; it just has to be trained to work for music. And remember: if you're a good songwriter, people are less inclined to find fault with your voice.

Good luck!


Some really really good advice in that post. I've lost a bit of confidence when it comes to singing nowadays. I used to be more of an acoustic singer-songwriter type of person and so I'd busk fair bit. This, for me, was the best practice I ever gave myself. I could go and sing for a couple of hours in this old arched Arcade where the reverb and acoustics were brilliant and so it gave me a really good indication of how my voice sounded. I've never liked listening to myself sing but I don't tend to do it as much now as I've started to focus more on playing the guitar and just add in the odd backing vocal/harmony here and there in my band.

I guess you've just got to become comftable in hearing your own voice(something which I've never really been able to do). Once you've done that then I think you're halfway there. Then it's just a matter of learning what kind of style your voice suits and then practicing. Maybe learn some songs by singers who you think you have a similar voice to? challenge yourself, it's all good practice. It just so happens that for me, I don't listen to singer-songwriter stuff anymore and I haven't got a strong enough voice to be a frontman so I've gave up trying to fit my voice into that mold as it doesn't suit me.

If I ever pull my finger out and try and write some more songs in a similar vein to the stuff I was writing in my teens, then I may gain some more confidence but until then... the guitar gets the attention and my voice carries on being neglected, sadly.
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aen
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Will wrote:
IroniaSudby wrote:
Actually, i think i came to the conclusion that its me. I dont really
like my voice, so ill just stick to guitar.


Finding your singing voice is probably the single hardest thing to do in music.


Agreed! And it's ten times harder when youre recording. Ive done a lot of recording, and a fair bit of performing, and my live vocals are always a trillion times better, IMO.
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izodiak
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

really good advice here.

thanks for the mic placement ideas.
really interesting read.

now I can try it all out..
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Doog
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

aen wrote:
Ive done a lot of recording, and a fair bit of performing, and my live vocals are always a trillion times better, IMO.


Same here, it's dead annoying.
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kim
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

my vocals sound pretty annoying to, to myself defo, for that cover i did for nancy sinatra they sound very boxed in too, really amateur, but sometimes panning multiple vocal tracks and adding a bit of reverb and chorus on certain tracks while keeping a 'basic' vocal track too can do wonders.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in the same boat as you Sudby. I hate the sound of my own voice. one thing that always makes it sound more like the vocals you're used to hearing in recorded music is compression. when you hear vocals without it (especially your own voice) it can sound a bit bare and revealing. it sounds like a kid recording in his bathroom. everything you hear on records is fairly compressed, all the dynamics in the vocals are ironed out. so don't be afraid to mash it down. if you just have like a compressor pedal or something, use that. it will sound WAY better. trust me.


I still don't like my voice though. Laughing
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blacktaxi
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

some great info in this thread, thanks Will, and other pals.

on topic of the hand rule, how come you often see great singers sing really close, as close as it gets, to the mic?
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ohyeahfuzzbear
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

blacktaxi wrote:
some great info in this thread, thanks Will, and other pals.

on topic of the hand rule, how come you often see great singers sing really close, as close as it gets, to the mic?


As in when you see them live?
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kim
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it makes you feel better as a singer, molesting a mic, making it smell of bad breath and cover in spit so the next band won't molest the mic.

seriously, i don't really know, but helps to push a mic a bit ?i like sending a mic into and amp and then micing the amp, lots of sound people thing it's bs but i really prefer that, you can push the speakers on the amp getting close to the mic and being loud. a dynamic mic has 'hotspots' too where you're better fosusing on the 'good parts' of the mic, i know it sounds silly but it does make a small difference. but that's just being really anal, usually at live gigs you're not sober enough to take notice of those details anyway?
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Doog
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

blacktaxi wrote:
on topic of the hand rule, how come you often see great singers sing really close, as close as it gets, to the mic?


Either because they're struggling to hear themselves through the monitors, or it's just how they like to perform. Fuck knows I wouldn't get within a foot of the mic of most venues if I could actually hear myself properly; mics generally smell (and taste) disgusting. I'd imagine the pros are supplying their own mics though, for that reason.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you want a more intimate sound you need to get closer to the mic. there's a proximity effect with microphones, when you get closer they pick up more bass. you'll run into problems with plosives though, so you'll need a pop filter.
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blacktaxi
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

molesting a mic (orally) sounds much more fun than that. Laughing
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