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Let's talk pop vocals! Tracking, Mixing, Gear, Technique.
Old 31st January 2014
  #1
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

Let's talk pop vocals! Tracking, Mixing, Gear, Technique.

So I'm doing lots of pop these days and digging the Kelly Clarkson kind of in your face, larger then life, intense vocal sound. What are you doing to get that? Recording technique? Gear? Mixing techniques? What compressors and what type of settings? Hardware and/or software?
Old 31st January 2014
  #2
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stevelindsay's Avatar
 

Will follow with interest. I did a cover of Clarkson's The Sun Will Rise for a female vocalist (mostly ITB) that turned out great. My memory's not great, so when I get back into the studio I'll call up the session and see how the vocal was treated. I remember the mic/pre combo was an 87ai into an Avedis MA5 with the air cranked...
Old 31st January 2014
  #3
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nickelironsteel's Avatar
 

ask Serban Ghenea to upload his kelly clarkson .ptf
Old 9th February 2014
  #4
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HermanV's Avatar
 

Kelly

James, you might want to give Ryan Williams (Louderock) a call. He is Josh Abraham's engineer and they are all part of Pulse Publishing
Old 10th February 2014
  #5
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I hope this thread gets some traction.. it's interesting and different for high end forum..

Good on ya James..

Gonna subscribe!

Oh, guess I should contribute something.. crank that air band! The air is the space that contains the emotion (temporarily, of course, but long enough to record it).
Old 10th February 2014
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lugo View Post
So I'm doing lots of pop these days and digging the Kelly Clarkson kind of in your face, larger then life, intense vocal sound. What are you doing to get that? Recording technique? Gear? Mixing techniques? What compressors and what type of settings? Hardware and/or software?
I do quite a lot of tracking for our X-factor artists out here, plus the occasional visiting international star. I have great condition U67s and an 87, but I find our 149 works best for pop - it captures the "sizzle" a bit better. I'd like a 251 or C800G though...

Tend to track through our Schoeps VSR-5 (very clean, flattering tube pre). Then distressor or 1176 Blue Stripe.

Mixing - I mix hybrid with hardware mixbuss chain and inserts. I'll often keep the vocals ITB though, because when you've got stacks of lead vocals, it's a bit of a nightmare printing them all through the same hardware compressor! I tend to compress and EQ a little at a time - so I might go EQ (cuts) -> compressor - character EQ (boosts) -> compressor. Then often a limiter, followed by de-esser and vocal rides.

I have a Waves doubler preset I use for adding width to solo vocals, and a few reverb presets (loving exponential audio at the moment). Delay from Echoboy.

But I'm not mixing kelly clarkson...it's a similar sort of vibe though.
Old 10th February 2014
  #7
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Aaron Miller's Avatar
How much compression gets used on the way in? Are you hitting the 1176 very hard? 4:1 often?
Old 10th February 2014
  #8
For me almost always 4:1 and 6:1 on 1176 and distressor respectively.

Amount varies - the more I've worked with someone, the more I tend to compress when tracking and the less I do in the mix. So maybe up to 10dB in the loudest parts on the tracking compressor, then in the mix each compressor/limiter is only taking off a few dB more.

But like I said - I'm not mixing KC, you might hear what I do and not think it's right/any good!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Miller View Post
How much compression gets used on the way in? Are you hitting the 1176 very hard? 4:1 often?
Old 10th February 2014
  #9
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Aaron Rash's Avatar
The most important thing about pop vocals is how bright you can get them without being harsh. I think the attention to high end detail is most important with pop vocals.

Something the C-800G or 251 just does effortlessly when paired with a 1073/1084 pre. Most of the low end gets cut out anyway to make room for big huge drums and snare's So that high end is most important. It's gotta sparkle.

Just from my experience, some may disagree.
Old 10th February 2014
  #10
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I like running one channel of a Manley Elop into the other...
Old 10th February 2014
  #11
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Hi James. Here is a link to a video I did with a pop singer who has a voice similar to Kelly Clarkson. Here is what I used:

"Do what u want" - Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly (Donika Zejneli Cover) - YouTube

Tracking:

Sony C800g
Neve 1073lb
Tubetech CL1B - ratio about 3:1, attack at 10, release at 12, with 5-7db of compression during loudest peaks

Mixing:

Slate VTM
Slate VCC
FF Pro Q HI pass
UAD LA2A
UAD 1176
FF Pro Q Further EQ (probably should have used a deeser somewhere though)
Waves Doubler (split harmonizer) on chorus sections only
Old 10th February 2014
  #12
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And here is another singer I produced with a similar setup:

XO - Beyonce (Cover by Samia) - YouTube
Old 10th February 2014
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
I do quite a lot of tracking for our X-factor artists out here, plus the occasional visiting international star. I have great condition U67s and an 87, but I find our 149 works best for pop - it captures the "sizzle" a bit better. I'd like a 251 or C800G though...

Tend to track through our Schoeps VSR-5 (very clean, flattering tube pre). Then distressor or 1176 Blue Stripe.

Mixing - I mix hybrid with hardware mixbuss chain and inserts. I'll often keep the vocals ITB though, because when you've got stacks of lead vocals, it's a bit of a nightmare printing them all through the same hardware compressor! I tend to compress and EQ a little at a time - so I might go EQ (cuts) -> compressor - character EQ (boosts) -> compressor. Then often a limiter, followed by de-esser and vocal rides.

I have a Waves doubler preset I use for adding width to solo vocals, and a few reverb presets (loving exponential audio at the moment). Delay from Echoboy.

But I'm not mixing kelly clarkson...it's a similar sort of vibe though.
I'm curious, do you know Autumn Rowe?
Old 10th February 2014
  #14
regardless of style for tracking it tends to be the ADL 600 into a CL1b, the mic changes depending on the singer. If I want a bit more aggression, I'll use either an API 3124mb or a Daking 52270b for the pre. In the mix there's a few chains I like for lead vocal, one is the CL1b into a Lil Freq, the other being a Dane De-esser into an Oram Al Schmitt box, the compressor and eq on this box are really nice.
Old 10th February 2014
  #15
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The Beatsmith's Avatar
 

Loads of Rvox
Old 10th February 2014
  #16
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Miles Flint's Avatar
 

Another vote for the Sony C800G... my preferred setting for "in your face" vocals is a classic C800G --> 1073 --> 1176 (ratio 4:1 or 6:1, GR about 3-7dB depending on vocalist). One thing I really love the Sony for, is that the signal tracked with this mic cuts through so easily on a mix. innerTUBE u87 and Great River pre is another favourite for straight in your face vocals.
Old 10th February 2014
  #17
There are a couple of other microphone options besides the (out of reach for some) C800G and ELAM 251.

The lowly B.L.U.E. Kiwi has the tonality of the U87 family but the extended high end of pop vocal go-to microphones, for example. The AKG 414EB or even the new XL2 both have a lot of high end air and presence and can be had for considerably less.

As far as the rest of the chain is concerned, a 1073 definitely adds weight and alignment to the signal of all these microphones but sometimes you want a really clean weighted signal and for that, I 'm more inclined to plug into a Grace Designs Pre.

Tracking comps: An 1176 (even a bluestripe) isn't enough in my opinion. I find it beneficial to have a CL1b (or an LA2a) in the chain also just to smooth things a bit before hitting an 1176 that might pump otherwise.

Getting everything very clean, bright, in your face is the key to getting that sound that was definitely made popular by the Michael Hutchence/INXS vocal sound on many of their pop hits.

Several pop vocalists I routinely work with always point to the Hutchence vocal sound as being their ultimate goal with any recording.

JMHO!!
Old 10th February 2014
  #18
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Another alternative to the c800g is the manley ref C used by britney spears, kesha, katy perry, etc..
Old 10th February 2014
  #19
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clark_savant's Avatar
 

Great thread, keep the responses coming.
Old 10th February 2014
  #20
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Aaron Rash's Avatar
I've also found lately that pairing the 1073 with the Blueberry is a super pop vocal sound. Really nice as well.
Old 10th February 2014
  #21
Gear Nut
 

Don't forget about comping vocals.
Old 11th February 2014
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
I'm curious, do you know Autumn Rowe?
Ha! Randomly yes....but not from Sydney, did a few sessions with her in London...why do you ask?!
Old 11th February 2014
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Ha! Randomly yes....but not from Sydney, did a few sessions with her in London...why do you ask?!
she's a friend of mine, we used to do some gigs together, and I know she works on the X factor and for Simon Cowell, she does a lot of writing with Leona Lewis
Old 11th February 2014
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
she's a friend of mine, we used to do some gigs together, and I know she works on the X factor and for Simon Cowell, she does a lot of writing with Leona Lewis
Yeah - Cher Lloyd, Little Mix etc...she's not been out to Aus as far as I'm aware, at least in the time I've been here. Wish her well from me! I was at Miloco with Autumn and Artwork from Magnetic Man...ask her about Artwork's "boiler suit"... I'll show you a funny pic sometime....!
Old 11th February 2014
  #25
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My starting point is usually u67-1073-1176. I like to have a few chains set up so if the initial chain doesn't work they can just pop over to the next mic and we don't have to wait. General compressors used are CL1B, 1176, LA2A, almost never a distressor, they sound too harsh to me. Pre's either 1073 or Martech if I want it squeaky clean. Mics are usually u67, m49, c800, u47, c12. On a part where they are really pushing air maybe 6-8 db of compression. I really like having a GML 8200 and pultec in there as well.

Mixing, GML 8900 to bring up low notes and tame hard hitting words and an LA2A for gentle compression. Generally an 8200 in there to shape midrange and I really like the Lang PEQ2 for warming up bottom end and sweetening top.
Old 11th February 2014
  #26
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Sound Mine's Avatar
Kelly Clarkson recorded her vocals for People Like Us here while on tour, with her producer Greg Kurstin. The chain was Old U87 - Vintech X81 - Urei 1176 - Benchmark ADC-1. A little Hi Freq boost and HPF on the Vintech. It wasn't mixed here (Perth, Australia). She's a powerhouse singer, would sound good thru anything.

Justin Bieber recorded here in December 2013 (Slow Up), the chain was the same except LA-2A instead of 1176, the most interesting thing about that recording is that he sang live through Auto-Tune in order to hear immediately what the software did to his inflections.
Old 11th February 2014
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sound Mine View Post
Justin Bieber recorded here in December 2013 (Slow Up), the chain was the same except LA-2A instead of 1176, the most interesting thing about that recording is that he sang live through Auto-Tune in order to hear immediately what the software did to his inflections.
That's quite usual with pop stuff - I do that with guys doing the "RnB" thing all the time (Timomatic etc). Not so much with the stuff that's meant to sound more "natural" even if it ends up quite tuned - although on occasion we'll do it with people who can sing well even without tuning (eg Sammi Jade - sorry for those to whom these names mean nothing, they're the Aussie X-factor set) for preceisely that reason - so they can hit the "bend" in the AT and get the vocal tone right.

Which is where either having a TDM rig or using the AT Live plugin (ie low latency) is absolutely necessary IMO.

That said - I've seen at least one supposedly "pro" engineer a) print the autotune to disk, which is bad practice IMO and b) set the artist's monitor chain from the record track - with all the latency that occurs, even on a TDM rig. Yuk - poor practice!
Old 11th February 2014
  #28
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I am also interested in what the top mixers are doing in britney spears type songs to get that vocal so big, and in your face and yet still glued to the track. I found the soundtoys decapitator helps a bit with that.
Old 11th February 2014
  #29
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Aaron Miller's Avatar
For those using an 1176 with another comp, are you using the 1176 first? When do you use another comp first?
Old 11th February 2014
  #30
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cinealta's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lugo View Post
So I'm doing lots of pop these days and digging the Kelly Clarkson kind of in your face, larger then life, intense vocal sound. What are you doing to get that? Recording technique? Gear? Mixing techniques? What compressors and what type of settings? Hardware and/or software?
Look into Serban Ghenea's mixing techniques.
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