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Tracking vocals with wide dynamic range
Old 27th June 2005
  #1
Gear Nut
 
jakerbean7's Avatar
 

Tracking vocals with wide dynamic range

I'm looking for some ideas for recording a post-punk/emo style vocal performance. It ranges from whispery verses to all out screamfest in the chorus. Would I be better suited to just track the verse and chorus seperately? I'm confident in tracking the verses but not yet familiar with how to go about the chorus section. I'd love to hear some techniques/chains that you use to track this type of vocal. I'll be tracking to 2" through a Neve VR. I should be able to access most of the usual suspects for outboard so a wide range of ideas would be great. I'm just looking for a starting point. Thanks in advance.

Jake
Old 27th June 2005
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
echo unit's Avatar
 

Solution to your problem Jake

Jake,

Here is what you do in this situation and it will make you smile really big.

1. Get a distressor

2. Set up a condensor mic that is not too harsh in the mids. U87, U89 or Rode NT1000 will all work fine.

4. Plug your mic into a Neve or Neve type of preamp - Great River NV, Wunder etc.

3. Set distressor as follows:

Ratio: 10:1
Attack: 5
Release: 3.5
Detector: HP and mid band emphasis turned on
Audio: Dist 2


set input of distressor until your loudest peaks are compressing by 12 to 14 dB

The detector mid band emphasis (6kH) and HP filter are sidechain eq's - when vocals get harsh on higher and more powerful phrases like in choruses, it compresses those areas more to make the vocal smoother and not jump out in level. The HP filter makes it so the vocal doesn't pump and compress more when there is more bass frequencies coming in. This makes the vocal very even sounding and makes it sit in place in your mix if you squash it enough, wou won't have to ride the fader much at all, maybe just in choruses lower the vocal fader a dB or two.

Anything other than this method will involve at least three times the work and you will most likely need to compress while recording and at mix time but with different ratios and attack and release times as to not make the voice sound too un-natural.

Old 27th June 2005
  #3
Lives for gear
 
clip6's Avatar
 

If you want the singer to blow thru the tune in one go, set a dynamic and condenser very close together each with own setting optimizing each sound (soft verse condenser) loud dynamic chorus and record each mike to it's own track. Have them sing it 4 or 5 times and composite the tracks together later. You can have as many mics and sounds as you want, setup the sounds with your assistant before the singer comes in so he can be fresh. After you work with this singer enough you'll see what works for him.
Old 27th June 2005
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jakerbean7
I'm looking for some ideas for recording a post-punk/emo style vocal performance. It ranges from whispery verses to all out screamfest in the chorus. Would I be better suited to just track the verse and chorus seperately? I'm confident in tracking the verses but not yet familiar with how to go about the chorus section. I'd love to hear some techniques/chains that you use to track this type of vocal. I'll be tracking to 2" through a Neve VR. I should be able to access most of the usual suspects for outboard so a wide range of ideas would be great. I'm just looking for a starting point. Thanks in advance.

Jake

I use 6:1 ratio on a distressor compressing 17-20dbs on the loudest peaks.
it seems to work well.
Old 27th June 2005
  #5
Lives for gear
 
kevinc's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by clip6
If you want the singer to blow thru the tune in one go, set a dynamic and condenser very close together each with own setting optimizing each sound (soft verse condenser) loud dynamic chorus and record each mike to it's own track. Have them sing it 4 or 5 times and composite the tracks together later. You can have as many mics and sounds as you want, setup the sounds with your assistant before the singer comes in so he can be fresh. After you work with this singer enough you'll see what works for him.

That`s a great idea ! thumbsup


I was going to say you could basically record the whole thing at once, chop up the parts in a DAW and than compress or even EQ the verse and chorus parts seperately.

If you want to track with compression set it up so it just reacts to the loud parts while tracking so you still have control over the 2 parts during mixdown.


I`ve done this type of thing a bit in the past but I think I probably stole the idea from Thrillfactor (I saw him write about this recently) so sorry for the blatent plagarism Thrill.
Old 27th June 2005
  #6
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

A handheld mike is often the best for this. The singer can simply use distance to control their volume and it'll sound better than any box or knob-twiddler can.
Old 27th June 2005
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
echo unit's Avatar
 

Follow this path, it leads to good things

Hey Buddy,

My suggestion offers the fastest and least time consuming method. Other ones will ask you to pay more attention later to the vocal track and spend more time fixing it's levels and EQ. Once set up properly, my method allows you to sit back, focus on the vocalists performance and not the gear.

This method works everytime and is how most of the Pop Punk vocals were recorded on albums by groups like Green Day, Blink182 and so on. Jerry Finn is the guy who works with most of the bands in this genre. I have seen the following set up on several of his sessions:

Rode NT mic > Neve 10 series mic preamp > distressor > BASF 900 > Apogee A/D convertor > PT or whatever floats your boat.

I have assisted on some of these sessions (Sum 41) and I know this is a favorite set up. It is also the favored set up for guitar tracking on these sessions but distressor set to 6:1
Old 27th June 2005
  #8
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by echo unit
Hey Buddy,

Try my suggestion first. It offers the fastest and least time consuming method. The other ones will ask you to pay more attention later to the vocal track and spend more time fixing it's levels and EQ. Once set up properly, my method allows you to sit back, focus on the vocalists performance and not the gear.

This method works everytime and is how most of the Pop Punk vocals were recorded on albums by groups like Green Day, Blink182 and so on. Jerry Finn is the guy who works with most of the bands in this genre. I have seen the following set up on several of his sessions:

Rode NT mic > Neve 10 series mic preamp > distressor > BASF 900 > Apogee A/D convertor > PT or whatever floats your boat.

I have assisted on some of these sessions (Sum 41) and I know this is a favorite set up. It is also the favored set up for guitar tracking on these sessions but distressor set to 6:1
Did you just try to imply that Bob Ohlsson doen't know what he's talking about?
Old 27th June 2005
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
echo unit's Avatar
 

Another tidbit of useful POP PUNK EMO stuff

Oh, while I'm at it, a really big part of the vocal sound on these pop punk/emo albums when it comes time to mix is the preset in the Eventide Harmonizer H3000, 4000 or Eclipse called:

MICROPITCHSHIFT

This effect is almost always used in this music on the lead vocal track.

Its a stereo delay where the left side is delay 5 ms and pitch shifted up just a hair 9 cents and the right delay is 25 ms and pitch shifted down 9 cents.

It makes the voice sound larger than life and gives it that big stereo sound. Very Radio friendly.
Old 27th June 2005
  #10
Lives for gear
 
norman_nomad's Avatar
I've posted this before, but when tracking a dynamic singer there's a plug-in combo that I've found to work very well:

Elemental Audio Neodynium (Preset: "Vocal 2") -> Sonalksis Comp (Fastest attack, auto release, set ratio, thresh, and knee to taste).

This set provides a unique combination of both upwards and downwards compression; you can grab a hefty amount of db reduction and things still sound natural.
Old 27th June 2005
  #11
Lives for gear
 
kevinc's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by echo unit
Hey Buddy,

My suggestion offers the fastest and least time consuming method. Other ones will ask you to pay more attention later to the vocal track and spend more time fixing it's levels and EQ. Once set up properly, my method allows you to sit back, focus on the vocalists performance and not the gear.

This method works everytime and is how most of the Pop Punk vocals were recorded on albums by groups like Green Day, Blink182 and so on. Jerry Finn is the guy who works with most of the bands in this genre. I have seen the following set up on several of his sessions:

Rode NT mic > Neve 10 series mic preamp > distressor > BASF 900 > Apogee A/D convertor > PT or whatever floats your boat.

I have assisted on some of these sessions (Sum 41) and I know this is a favorite set up. It is also the favored set up for guitar tracking on these sessions but distressor set to 6:1
\


No offense Echo but tracking with up to 14 db of compression with some rather harsh settings can hardly be considered the best way to go "everytime". I personally would NEVER track a vocal with those type of settings in ANY kind of music. Your not giving yourself any room to work at mixdown with that kind of squashing and your stuck with whatever you got as far as unwanted compression artifacts are concerned. For that matter I`d never use a distressor in the first place because I don`t really dig it on vocals that much.

You gave your opinion like every one else did and they`re all good answers so cool out on the "my ways the bestest way because my AE friend told me so" **** .
Old 27th June 2005
  #12
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinc
\


No offense Echo but tracking with up to 14 db of compression with some rather harsh settings can hardly be considered the best way to go "everytime". I personally would NEVER track a vocal with those type of settings in ANY kind of music. Your not giving yourself any room to work at mixdown with that kind of squashing and your stuck with whatever you got as far as unwanted compression artifacts are concerned. For that matter I`d never use a distressor in the first place because I don`t really dig it on vocals that much.

You gave your opinion like every one else did and they`re all good answers so cool out on the "my ways the bestest way because my AE friend told me so" **** .
I agree oh great don't compress it to death guy. Some of the best engineers around will most of the time Ride the fader to prevent those massive compresion problems, like you say Kevinc your stuck with those ultra compressed tracks, you can not UN compress something...
Old 27th June 2005
  #13
Just to make sure it was not missed the first time (it looks like it was)....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson
A handheld mike is often the best for this. The singer can simply use distance to control their volume and it'll sound better than any box or knob-twiddler can.
Bob's answer is not as sexy as some would hope based on the name of this site (it is gearslutz after all) but it is accurate and 9 out of 10 times it will get better results. In our rush to use the best gear it is easy to overlook the simple truths to recording that have been around for some time.
Old 27th June 2005
  #14
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by not_so_new
Just to make sure it was not missed the first time (it looks like it was)....



Bob's answer is not as sexy as some would hope based on the name of this site (it is gearslutz after all) but it is accurate and 9 out of 10 times it will get better results. In our rush to use the best gear it is easy to overlook the simple truths to recording that have been around for some time.
I was not disagreeing with Bob at all, my point is for the other method, when the mic is stationary..
Old 27th June 2005
  #15
Gear Guru
Another approach is to learn the song and ride gain on the mic pre.

It also helps if the singer can work the mic, handheld or or on a stand, and back off a bit when he gets loud.
Old 27th June 2005
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PRobb
Another approach is to learn the song and ride gain on the mic pre.

It also helps if the singer can work the mic, handheld or or on a stand, and back off a bit when he gets loud.
This is my favorite method. No artifacts here, and you've got room later on to do pretty much anything with the track. It helps you "feel" the performance, too. Why do we always want to chain big setups of gear together to do simple things automagically with worse results than a finger on a fader?
Old 27th June 2005
  #17
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
It can also be good to send an un-compressed source to the singers headphones. They'll start working the mic better without tewlling them to.
Old 27th June 2005
  #18
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Telecastr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound
It can also be good to send an un-compressed source to the singers headphones. They'll start working the mic better without tewlling them to.
Bob's idea and this one are the two best options. Both force the singer to be more aware of their technique. While these are the best options, it may be hard for some inexperienced singers to learn in a matter of minutes. If you're dealing with a young singer who can't work a mic, compress to the singer's headphones, but not to tape. Compress later during mixdown. It's worked very well for me in the past.
Old 27th June 2005
  #19
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norman_nomad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Telecastr
Bob's idea and this one are the two best options. Both force the singer to be more aware of their technique. While these are the best options, it may be hard for some inexperienced singers to learn in a matter of minutes. If you're dealing with a young singer who can't work a mic, compress to the singer's headphones, but not to tape. Compress later during mixdown. It's worked very well for me in the past.
I guess it depends on what you're going for. I’m reluctant to make a singer control his volume dynamics through mic technique or vocal projection (or both) b/c it can often times hurt the performance, rather than help. Things like feeling and timbre are locked in pretty closely to volume and vocal projection... especially for "non-singing" parts like "whispering" which the original poster referred to.

I like the idea of compressing just the headphones feed.
Old 27th June 2005
  #20
Gear Nut
 
jakerbean7's Avatar
 

Nice discussion, guys. You've given me some good ideas. Much appreciated.

Jake
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