Recording vocals

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Nymphomation
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Post 21 Jan 2015

Hi all. I'm about to record some vocals in my project studio (small un acoustically treated room) for the first time.

I'm recording my mate, who is an awesome, and very powerful singer. I have a Rode M3 going straight into my Tascam 1641... and that's it.

So, a few questions regarding kit and technique:

- I'm guessing I really do need a pop-shield to stop plosives; are they much of a muchness? Fabric, metal, double ones? 

-  Reflection filter; would this make sense to use one considering the room is un treated?

- Shockmount - I've currently just got a little desk mount/stand. Is a shockmount really necessary? He'll just be singing with headphones on, listening to the mix.

I have a little money to spend if I need (around £200) - but what would be the best use of those funds? Pop shield, better mic, a preamp, reflection filter? 

Any ideas and help appreciated :)



 

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QVprod
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Post 21 Jan 2015

From the sound of it you don't have a mic stand. Many singers tend to do better singing while standing so the desktop stand may not be the best option. For recording vocals, a shockmount (if there is one for the M3 considering it's unusual shape) can be useful but not an absolute need unless you anticipate your singer kicking the mic stand. 

I would say your needs are:

- A mic stand, just unscrew the mic clip from the desktop stand and use it on this one.

- A pop filter, for not only plosives but for blocking blowing sounds from hitting your mic. Fabric is fine just don't buy the cheapest one you can find. You can arguably make a decent one out of a close hanger and pantyhose but if your going to buy one whatever the equivalent of ~$30 USD is in Euros is a good price for one. I have a cheap one i paid $10 for and while it works, it's not as flexible as I would like and it's not built extremely well. I personally recommend buying though for ease of setup.

- A reflection filter would be nice is you afford a good one, but you can arguably just find or setup a place in your room that doesn't have flutter echo. Myself personally, I took an old 88 key keyboard bag I had and put it in a corner (open) just to deaden sound in that area a bit. The result is fairly decent and accomplishes a similar task that a reflection would.

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Gaja
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Post 21 Jan 2015

I agree with QVprod.
I have a micscreen and while it does work a little bit, I think it's more fun and also acoustically better to use matrasses and blankets to make a small booth. Or the keyboard bag trick sounds nice as well.
Cheers!
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Julibee
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Post 21 Jan 2015

Agreed.

Pop screen is a must-- a singer with any mic technique will want to move around the mic a bit, adjusting for personal volume a little, or for effect (I sing less than two inches from the mic sometimes, depending). My pop screen is a relatively cheap metal screen, but I've also covered it with the foot from a pair of pantyhose (new, clean... Dollar store, I think).

I have a reflexion filter, too, but before that, I had an old, three panel folding screen that I would throw a few blankets over. It wasn't the best solution, but it worked. I was given a Kaotica Eyeball for Christmas, and it is amazing, my new favorite thing. It's just a hollow ball of acoustic foam that slides over the top of a mic (looks like.... An eyeball). Has a built in, removable pop filter as well. It's like a teeny tiny vocal booth, built just around the mic. It shouldn't cost as much as it does, though, and it's only available via Kaotica afaik. It's relatively new to the market.

Singers need to stand. Period. Your diaphragm is one of the most important pieces of physiology in singing, and sitting down, one can't get enough control and use out of it. Stand.

I think shockmounts are important-- especially with a ribbon or condenser mic. Mine would pick up any appliance hum near the room or cars driving by without one.

I don't have much experience with either Rhode or Tascam, but if you are getting a good signal and it sounds pretty natural without brittle or tinny highs or crazy rumbling lows, and if your mids sound fine... you should be ok with the mic and Interface.

Put your money into the pop filter (can be done for $25 USD or less) and mic stand ($40-60 USD). Secondary would be a reflexion filter, but even the off brand (which I have) runs about $100 USD. IIRC, the true, Reflexon brand (sp?) runs twice that. Otherwise, whatever you can do to create an area out of blankets or mattresses or sure, even keys cases, would be an improvement.

Cheers!
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selig
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Post 21 Jan 2015

Excellent advice all around.

One place to start is to do a test recording and see how it comes out. You can tell a lot from listening back to just the voice - how much room sound do you hear (and is it good room sound, or bad room sound), do you hear plosives (popped P's), etc.

It will also give you a chance to get levels set, try different positions in the room for the singer (if necessary), etc.

Finally, many great singers I've worked with sit on a bar stool when singing (Emmylou Harris has done this all her life!), especially for long sessions. More of them stand, but I'm just saying there are alternatives. Some who sing and play guitar at the same time prefer to sit, and still manage to sing their asses off somehow (Emmylou and especially Patty Griffin comes to mind here). 

But I do agree that technically speaking, one should probably try to stand when singing if at all possible. :)
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Julibee
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Post 21 Jan 2015

Alright, fine, Emmylou and Patty Griffin can stand. ;)

Sorry.... I'm coming from a classically trained, opera style background.... I suppose not all styles are like that. :D

My vocal coaches were a hugely barrel-chested (but thin) married couple that met while they were both singing at the Met Opera. They were both insane, but in completely different ways. I used to have to stand in front of the wife and sing scales, while the she put her hands all over my mid section, checking for breath control and diaphragm compression, etc... And pulling my hair upward "like a puppet on a string!" So that I'd stand properly. Oh, those were the days. She would have keeeeeeled me if I sat down. ;)

Edit: autocorrect.
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eusti
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Post 21 Jan 2015

Regarding sitting / vs. standing: In my few years of classical training my teacher had me sit... Although of course in a performance you'd rather stand...
I think if you wanted to sit, it would be best to sit in a way where your diaphragm can move best... So rather at the front of the chair, etc...

And great tip regarding the eyeball thingie... Will look into that! :)

D.


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Some Desperate Glory
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Post 21 Jan 2015

Once you've got a decent vocal take, the best advice I can give is to high-pass filter the vocal using the SSL channel strip.  That was probably the #1 improvement to my vocals once someone told me about that.  It removes a lot of microphone or room rumble and makes the vocal a lot clearer and easier to mix.  I typically put the high-pass cutoff at about 250 Hz but of course it depends on the song and my performance.  Experiment with this and you will much improve the vocals!
Still nostalgic about the old days, writing songs with my Amiga 500, Korg M1, and Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler.

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gullum
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Post 21 Jan 2015

That eyeball looks interesting and I might get one. Thanks

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JNeffLind
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Post 21 Jan 2015

Sorry about the attempted hijacking to follow. My contribution before doing so: I stack milk crates to set my desk mic on and my pop filter is made from a coat hanger and a panty-hoe. Trailer park FTW!

Anyone with vocal training experience, I'd love to get your help in this thread here:

http://www.reasontalk.com/post/vocal-ex ... 1285909132



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Nymphomation
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Post 22 Jan 2015

Thanks for all the info & suggestions. I remembered I do have a mic stand, bought one years ago in anticipation. My room is too small to get funky with mattresses and duvets and the like... Maybe could fit in a heavy blanket hung on a clothes horse!

I'll try without a reflection filter and see how that goes. Just read a very scientific test of a bunch reflection filters (Sound on Sound, Oct 2014.) Interesting read, the Kaotica eye was on test, it came out pretty well.

I didn't realise a shock mount could stop appliance hum - how does that work? Something to do with grounding? I've seen shock mount pop shield combos, might invest in one of those. Guess I should check it will fit the M3 - is it really that much of an unusual shape?!

Thanks again for all your help :)

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QVprod
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Post 22 Jan 2015

Nymphomation wrote:Thanks for all the info & suggestions. I remembered I do have a mic stand, bought one years ago in anticipation. My room is too small to get funky with mattresses and duvets and the like... Maybe could fit in a heavy blanket hung on a clothes horse!

I'll try without a reflection filter and see how that goes. Just read a very scientific test of a bunch reflection filters (Sound on Sound, Oct 2014.) Interesting read, the Kaotica eye was on test, it came out pretty well.

I didn't realise a shock mount could stop appliance hum - how does that work? Something to do with grounding? I've seen shock mount pop shield combos, might invest in one of those. Guess I should check it will fit the M3 - is it really that much of an unusual shape?!

Thanks again for all your help :)
I've never heard of the appliance hum issue, but I guess anything that sends vibrations through the floor could affect the mic if it's in a close enough proximity. Still not a common thing I've heard of shock mounts being used for. Good to keep in mind for home recoding nonetheless.

As far as the shape of the M3, yes it is a bit odd. Very few condenser microphones are shaped like that. Most small condensers are more like cylinders (like Rode M5). Also afaik shock mounts are generally made for large diaphragm condensers though I believe there are some that are made for the smaller condensers. Rode doesn't seem to have made one themselves for the M3 but the M3 might fit on something else. If not, as long as you don't have the appliance hum issue you should be fine without it.

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selig
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Post 22 Jan 2015

Julibee wrote:Alright, fine, Emmylou and Patty Griffin can stand. ;) Sorry.... I'm coming from a classically trained, opera style background.... I suppose not all styles are like that. :D My vocal coaches were a hugely barrel-chested (but thin) married couple that met while they were both singing at the Met Opera. They were both insane, but in completely different ways. I used to have to stand in front of the wife and sing scales, while the she put her hands all over my mid section, checking for breath control and diaphragm compression, etc... And pulling my hair upward "like a puppet on a string!" So that I'd stand properly. Oh, those were the days. She would have keeeeeeled me if I sat down. ;) Edit: autocorrect.
I wasn't intending to contradict what you said, just pointing out that there are a few singers in the world that seem to sound good whether they sit in a chair, on a bar stool (common in studios IMO), or stand. For the REST of use, probably best to stand. ;)
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selig
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Post 22 Jan 2015

Some Desperate Glory wrote:Once you've got a decent vocal take, the best advice I can give is to high-pass filter the vocal using the SSL channel strip.  That was probably the #1 improvement to my vocals once someone told me about that.  It removes a lot of microphone or room rumble and makes the vocal a lot clearer and easier to mix.  I typically put the high-pass cutoff at about 250 Hz but of course it depends on the song and my performance.  Experiment with this and you will much improve the vocals!
I've watched some very well respected engineers use MUCH less HP filtering, even less than I was used to using. Made me re-think whether I was over-filtering my vocals. Remove too much and you remove the 'body' of the voice, which can easily descend down below in almost all cases 250 Hz (around middle C).

The easiest way to set this control is to listen to the voice as you raise the frequency of the low cut (High Pass) filter. As SOON as you hear a change, back the filter down a bit. The idea with the filter is to NOT change the way the voice sounds, at least that's my view.

If I need less low end on the voice I find it much easier to control with a low shelf EQ than a filter. Filters "remove", EQs "raise" and "lower". Certainly not a "rule", but one thing to consider. :)
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Yorick
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Post 22 Jan 2015

Nymphomation wrote: So, a few questions regarding kit and technique:

- I'm guessing I really do need a pop-shield to stop plosives; are they much of a muchness? Fabric, metal, double ones?
Yes. Any will do, but the metal ones are fantastic. You can make one with a coathanger and pantyhose if you need to though.

-  Reflection filter; would this make sense to use one considering the room is un treated?
Yes, they're helpful if the room is very live.
Try hanging up some rugs or doonas or cushions or curtains and stuff too though. You just want to minimise reflection, especially if he's singing loudly.
- Shockmount - I've currently just got a little desk mount/stand. Is a shockmount really necessary? He'll just be singing with headphones on, listening to the mix.
I've held a condenser and just used a high pass filter, but yes, a shockmount is advisable or you get low rumbles whenever there's movement. But if everyone's still that's not an issue.

I have a little money to spend if I need (around £200) - but what would be the best use of those funds? Pop shield, better mic, a preamp, reflection filter? 

Any ideas and help appreciated :)



 
You want a good mic, a good preamp, a pop filter, a shockmount, and baffles to reduce reflection.
If worse comes to worse, just a good mic will do, and then improvise the other components.

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Some Desperate Glory
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Post 22 Jan 2015

selig wrote:
I've watched some very well respected engineers use MUCH less HP filtering, even less than I was used to using. Made me re-think whether I was over-filtering my vocals. Remove too much and you remove the 'body' of the voice, which can easily descend down below in almost all cases 250 Hz (around middle C).

The easiest way to set this control is to listen to the voice as you raise the frequency of the low cut (High Pass) filter. As SOON as you hear a change, back the filter down a bit. The idea with the filter is to NOT change the way the voice sounds, at least that's my view.

If I need less low end on the voice I find it much easier to control with a low shelf EQ than a filter. Filters "remove", EQs "raise" and "lower". Certainly not a "rule", but one thing to consider. :)
That's very interesting.  I'll revisit this in my own music.  My vocals improved immensely when I started using the HPF on them.  I'll look into being a bit more mindful of what I'm doing and see if I can get them better.

One thing I've noticed is that (for my vocals, anyway) they sound the best in a mix when they sound kinda thin solo'ed.  If they sound full and powerful alone then tend to turn into a muddy mess in a mix.  

I still have a lot to learn.   :)
Still nostalgic about the old days, writing songs with my Amiga 500, Korg M1, and Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler.

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eusti
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Post 22 Jan 2015

Some Desperate Glory wrote:
One thing I've noticed is that (for my vocals, anyway) they sound the best in a mix when they sound kinda thin solo'ed.  If they sound full and powerful alone then tend to turn into a muddy mess in a mix. 
The issue could be the other stuff going on then, no? (as in the rest of the instruments covering up too much of the territory used by the vocals...)

D.

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selig
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Post 22 Jan 2015

selig wrote:
I've watched some very well respected engineers use MUCH less HP filtering, even less than I was used to using. Made me re-think whether I was over-filtering my vocals. Remove too much and you remove the 'body' of the voice, which can easily descend down below in almost all cases 250 Hz (around middle C).

The easiest way to set this control is to listen to the voice as you raise the frequency of the low cut (High Pass) filter. As SOON as you hear a change, back the filter down a bit. The idea with the filter is to NOT change the way the voice sounds, at least that's my view.

If I need less low end on the voice I find it much easier to control with a low shelf EQ than a filter. Filters "remove", EQs "raise" and "lower". Certainly not a "rule", but one thing to consider. :)
Some Desperate Glory wrote:
That's very interesting.  I'll revisit this in my own music.  My vocals improved immensely when I started using the HPF on them.  I'll look into being a bit more mindful of what I'm doing and see if I can get them better.

One thing I've noticed is that (for my vocals, anyway) they sound the best in a mix when they sound kinda thin solo'ed.  If they sound full and powerful alone then tend to turn into a muddy mess in a mix.  

I still have a lot to learn.   :)
Even too much HP filter may be better than none in many cases, which may explain what you're hearing. And to be clear, I'm not saying "you're doing it wrong" since I can't hear the results (which are all that's important, right?). But DO check each time you add an HP filter to be sure you're not thinning it out if that's not your intention.

Like I previously said, I prefer a low shelf EQ for "thinning" out a vocal that is too thick because you apply the same level reduction across the affected area. Filters are much more "brute force", cutting more and more the lower the frequency (for a HP filter). That's why it's often suggested to use the filter only to remove non-vocal garbage, and an EQ to "equalize" the vocal.

So basically: you are on the right track - sorry if I've confused you or raised any doubts in your mind (not my intention!). :)
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Secondary Protocol
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Post 22 Jan 2015

One trick used by Polar studios and M tretow, the producer of ABBA is to use a round bar (aka a pen or so) in front of the mic, to take out the pressure pops :)  


I have achieved pretty good recording quality with damping on the walls made from rock wool or glass wool. Cheap, and often better than foam. PLace then according to mirror method to kill first bounces.

The eyeball is most likely one of the easiest fixes. A cheaper version could be to make the same shape from rock wool, put some spray-glue on it, and coat with fabric.

I'll test this in the recording room and compare som impulses if/when i ever fix the cabling to the control room LOL

:)

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popp
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Post 22 Jan 2015

Secondary Protocol wrote:One trick used by Polar studios and M tretow, the producer of ABBA is to use a round bar (aka a pen or so) in front of the mic, to take out the pressure pops :)  


:)

Never heard of that... pretty cool.
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