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Vocal recording methods.
Old 14th January 2004
  #1
Moderator emeritus
 

Vocal recording methods.

How do you record lead vocals? This subject came up the other nght when the Nashville Gearslutz got together, and it made me curious.

When I'm doing lead voc, I tend to go with one of two methods - I either let the singer do the whole song a few times, so they can get used to the headphones, the headphone mix and everything else, until they get a performance that is at least 50% good and then fix the weak areas. Another way that I work (especialy when doing songwriter demos with experienced session singers) is to start at the top and punch my way to success - that is, we'll do a section at a time, making sure that each one is good and then do the next section. I don't comp vocals; when we leave a song, the vocals are as done as they're gonna get.

How do you handle lead vox?
Old 14th January 2004
  #2
Gear Nut
 

Can I maybe add one question?

What is your favourite microphone pattern for lead vocals?

/A
Old 14th January 2004
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Tim L's Avatar
 

I like to have the singer run through the entire song until we get something that feels really good most of the way through ("best take" if you will). Once there's a decent foundation to work from then I'll go back and start punching the rough spots out 'till it's done.

Of course if the singer nails it all the way through, then I'm a happy little button pusher!

As far as pattern goes... I usualy go for cardiod as a starting point and go from there.
Old 14th January 2004
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
scotty-o's Avatar
 

I generally do vocals the same as the others here so far.
I do a couple passes to get the singer comfy and then we go for it. Of course I record EVERYTHING. Sometimes the "warm up" tracks are the keepers, you know, when they don't think that the tape is rollong
Once everyone feels we have a pretty good take, we'll go back and punch a few spots.
I've also done the "one verse at a time, one chorus at a time" thing as well.
It depends on what seems to be the most productive. I'll try it both ways on a session.
As for the pattern, I use cardioid almost always.

-Scotty
Old 14th January 2004
  #5
We usually comp from three complete tracks. I'll let the singer go through generally three times, stopping him or her if I hear anything obvious. Even if I'm not the producer (or there is not producer) then I'll encourage the singer to get the best out of their performance. Once all three are done we'll pick the best overall single take, and then put in a few possibly better parts from the other two takes.
Old 14th January 2004
  #6
Lives for gear
 
doug_hti's Avatar
 

I like to punch it home

I hate comping vocals, hate it, just hate it. I find that singers may have some of the same problem areas, that a handful of takes won't neccessarily fix. I also find that I run into problems with cadence/timing at times, and then you get into nudging syllables and words around...and I hate that as much as tuning. And I usually work with very experienced singers. Although some situations make it a bit easier to comp, especially if recording multiple sources at one time.

However, I'll almost always do small comps, just so they can get good natural lead ups, and get everything right...just not a whole pass.

I use cardiod as much as omni...really depends on the song, part, and tone of where you want to place the vocal in the mix. I know VERY qualified and successful producers/engineers that each swear by one or the other...I personally like having the option. it's really about not being biased towards one or the other and being open to cardiod sounding "as natural" as omni and omni sounding as "up front" as cardiod...
Old 15th January 2004
  #7
Gear Addict
 

I'll do whatever the singer can do best. Some get "punch drunk" really easy. Others don't have the vocal stamina to do complete rundowns and then comp, their tone changes too much from comp 1 to comp 3 or 4.

Personally I kind of like punching...but only lines. I'm not in to punching words here and there.
Old 15th January 2004
  #8
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stealthbalance's Avatar
 

it absolutely varies everytime. what has never varied for me is using a cardiod pattern for a lead vocal. if its some diva bitch that thinks she walks on water, i just roll the song from top to bottom and get 1 to 10 takes. then comp hopefully with the bitch gone on a plane off to who knows where. if its most working class singers or band types/singer songwrite types, i'll give them 3 or 4 full runs of a song that they are feeling really good about and not say a word - i'll only encourage them positively( so they can't ever accuse me of tainting their flow or style). then i'll punch every line or word or breath until i get what i feel is melodically and emotionally valid and honest- most singers that i record or have recorded have absolutely no concept of what the difference is between perfection and greatness. perfection is for the mind , greatness is for the heart. which is also why for the most part i can't stand most of todays pop/r&b female singers doing all these completely empty vocal acrobatics that mean absolutely zero in my book - screaming like a bunch of banshees at the very tops of their range nonstop from the 2nd verse on - it makes me crazy and gives me a headache. thats when all the dynamic eq comes out and all the bs needed to tame these miserable showoffs. they can save it for american idol. after i get my punched and coached track i'll comp from that and their uncoached track for best result , usually 97% the coached track. i also like to record most singers ( not the divas) in the control room. if a singer moves around alot i will hand them a hand held mic if i haven't done that from the start. as im sure you can tell , doing vocals has become one of the most unpleasant experiences i ever do as a producer . it used to be drums but daws helped that. then its the many hours of tuning - which is for me more than most because i pick stuff that is emotionally moving and sensitive to the lyric and vibe , and not whats the most in tune and in time. then its nudging words back and forth in milliseconds to get that magic feel. and we haven't even start all those backgroud vocals - OMG !!
ok im done venting .
s

Old 15th January 2004
  #9
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

Whatever's needed. Rock n' roll and their not overly picky? One take with punches.

I love recording vox in OMNI, sounds so much better worked close in.

War
Old 15th January 2004
  #10
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by stealthbalance
as im sure you can tell , doing vocals has become one of the most unpleasant experiences i ever do as a producer . it used to be drums but daws helped that.
I love doing drums and dispise intense vocal sessions.

The first thing I do is try to figure out what is going to make the singer comfortable. I try not to push people into things that they don't want to do so I end up varying my methods a bit. If we have time to spend I usually I put up two or three mics and do one to three passes on the song and I record each mic to it's own track without compression. That helps the singer to get warmed up while I find the best mic for them. After we pick a mic I'll patch in a compressor and get that set up and we'll start doing real takes.

Sometimes I have the singer do at 2-4 takes and we'll comp them together line by line or section by section and will pull lines from other takes as needed. I prefer to go section by section because it's quicker and usually helps the overall feeling and flow to gel better. Other times we'll do a couple of takes until we have a good one and then punch-in whatever needs to be punched. But I'm with Dave Martin, when I leave a song, the vocals are as done and probably won't be retouched unless we find a problem.
Old 15th January 2004
  #11
Gear Head
 

I prefer to comp, but can go either route. Just depends on which way the vocalist is more comfortable with.

There are a couple of reasons I prefer comping. First, I feel like I get better performances when the vocalist can get into the flow/groove of the song as opposed to stopping/starting. After each take we'll listen back and discuss corrections/modifications. Second, I find it helpful to do the comps the next day with fresh ears and perspective.

As I said, I can work either way. Using the method that makes the vocalist comfortable is the direction I'll go.
Old 15th January 2004
  #12
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
I mostly get the whole song, get a really good track and punch a few things. If a singer is having problems, or seems tired I'll work in sections, or if the verses and choruses are really different, then I'll do a track of verses and a track of choruses.

I hate comping and try to avoid it. I'm with Dave and Jay, when we move on, the vocals are done!
Old 15th January 2004
  #13
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

I've never met anybody who didn't hate comping! The thing is that it usually improves a recording significantly unless the way the song needs to be phrased is locked in stone and the only issue is pitch.

I usually take several passes from the top until there's one that's pretty much "there" and then punch together a track of "intellectualized" verses and choruses. Comping between these works pretty well. It's always tricky because it's really easy to overproduce vocals and most singers really want you to do it. At the end, I like to have the singer see if they can beat the comp. They can often use it as a starting point and take their performance up to a whole other level.

I did almost all of Motown's vocal sessions for around a year and a half. It was intense but an amazing learning experience I only began to appreciate years later!
Old 15th January 2004
  #14
Lives for gear
 
Tim L's Avatar
 

I think getting the vocal down in a single session before moving on is much more important for vocals than most other "instruments". I hate doing punches on or comping from takes recorded at different sessions. No matter how good the session doc's are adhered to during tracking, it just never sounds the same. Sure, with a good singer you can get it close but it's never quite right to my ears. Of course that's not to say I won't do it if I have to... just that I find it to be a major drag!
Old 15th January 2004
  #15
Gear Head
 

Bob, are you really from "Mowtown"? fuuck (check your avatar!)
Old 15th January 2004
  #16
Gear Head
 

Oops. The finger was meant to point at the word. I see it might mean something I didn't mean! Where's the good old-fashioned smiley smiley when you need it *avoids inserting any others for fear of misinterpretation*
Old 15th January 2004
  #17
Gear Addict
 
smoothmoniker's Avatar
 

how do i record vocals?

[drum roll]

i don't. I learned really early on that there are a handful of guys here in town who are amazing vocal producers/engineer, and I'm not one of them, so whenever possible, I send them in to do it.

-sm
Old 15th January 2004
  #18
Gear Addict
 
Inner Light's Avatar
 

I usually set the singer up and let him/her warm up with 2 or 3 takes while I'm recording. then we listen back take notes, and see what the singer wants to do. full passes or line by line.

I don't mind doing comps, but I find when we've done like 10 passes, people attention spans are pretty short, and they get confused as to which take to start with. Others have no problem and are on the ball. Which is why I sometimes prefer to make decisions and punch till we get one great take.
Old 15th January 2004
  #19
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Meriphew's Avatar
 

Sometimes I'll punch in a part here and there, but mainly I prefer to comp from a few passes.
Old 15th January 2004
  #20
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Midlandmorgan's Avatar
 

I record everything sung...never know when, during a 'level check' or something, the vocalist will find the magical phrase and voice...

But, typically, I take what's thought of as the 'best' entire take, and punch the soft spots....

FWIW...
Old 15th January 2004
  #21
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Tim L
...No matter how good the session doc's are adhered to during tracking, it just never sounds the same...
This is because people's voices change. A bit more or less at 4k will usually make it pretty seamless. I used to have to punch in lyric changes to tracks from months and even years earlier. And we didn't have enough open tracks to comp so the singer had to keep on singing until we BOTH got it right!
Old 15th January 2004
  #22
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Volodia's Avatar
 

I like to record vocals . When I feel the singer is "in" the song I'll do 2,3 or 4 tracks . Then I"ll punch on each tracks the "bad" sentences and I comp from there . When the comp is done we check it and eventually fix it by punching . It might seem like a long process but it's worth it . I usually record in cardioid mode . Recording vocals is about the vibe too . I try to create a nice environment for the singer :carpets ,lights , lava lamps ,whatever it takes . The headphone mix is very important.
Old 16th January 2004
  #23
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Doug Ring
Bob, are you really from "Mowtown"? fuuck (check your avatar!)
Bob's the real deal! Bow down to his greatness...NOW!
Old 16th January 2004
  #24
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Scinx's Avatar
 

To those of you who like omnis on vox - What are some recommendations for male vocals omnistyle
Old 16th January 2004
  #25
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Tim L's Avatar
 

Mr. Olhssons not the man from Mowtown... he's the man from Motown...
Old 16th January 2004
  #26
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Tim L's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Olhsson
... A bit more or less at 4k will usually make it pretty seamless...
Thanks for the tip... I'll definitely give that a shot!
Old 16th January 2004
  #27
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

The avatar was Motown's 8-track control room around 1966. I'm amazed it even exists because cameras were not allowed unless it was a pro taking a publicity shot. I bumbled into it on the net!
Old 16th January 2004
  #28
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

I think the "beat the comp" idea is great,
although it seems "beat the autotune" would be more prevalent now heh heh.

Chris
Old 16th January 2004
  #29
Lives for gear
 
sonic dogg's Avatar
I like to get the singer in a comfortable frame of mind and get their headphone mix as much to their liking as possible .Then its three or so times through and then punching in the vamps and entrance/exits to the chorus/verses that we like.Sometimes I'll use two mics and print them both.No effects allowed.
Old 16th January 2004
  #30
Here for the gear
 
spcbrown's Avatar
 

from a singers point of view...

1 take straight through, or 2, and it's done for me cause I don't have weakness in my vocals, no maintaing pitch problems, but I suppose not all "singers" are as good as me. I like to be in a larger, but acousticly controled space and sing from a couple or three feet from the mic, but no more than 3.5, if no compression is being used, allowing the dynamics of my vocals to flow naturally. Omni works best for this method. If much less power is required for vocals, then right up on the mic,cardioid/hyper cardiod/supercardioid, will work and a small room will work, with or without compression. beam me up scotty.
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