The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Breathy, M83-like vocals? Shoegaze content... Modular Synthesizers
Old 27th January 2009
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
thewhitecascade's Avatar
 

Breathy, M83-like vocals? Shoegaze content...

This is my first post here on gearslutz, but I've always loved how much good advice and help can be found here.

We are a band recording a demo and doing everything ourselves. Going for a very shoegazey sounding style/mix. We have been getting reliably good sounds out of guitars, bass, and drums but vocals seem to be a problem for us. 1) I've never had training and 2) I'm having a hard time getting the sounds I want. How does one get a breathy and somewhat transparent sound like my bloody valentine, m83, slowdive, etc. I will post specific clips below with comments:

YouTube - M83 - Don't Save Us From The Flames I like the vocals on the verses: there seems to be heavy reverb on the breathy part of the voice but not on the main audible character, and probably a ton more to it then that. I like this accent, and i'm trying to find out how to get vocals like this.

YouTube - M83 - Farewell/Goodbye// Sarah&Ashli Slideshow This is my favorite example. I'm really aiming for something like the female vocals in this song. What I have right now is too overbearing. Is it character of my voice, or am i just using bad/incorrect techniques, or is it the right mic/preamp/compressor studio tricks that we can try to approximate?

YouTube - My Bloody Valentine - Realise A classic by MBV. I'm getting chills listening to it right now. Different than the first example but also transparent sounding and perfectly acceptable to me.

YouTube - Slowdive - Shine Although the vocals are female you still get the idea. I don't want my voice covering things up, and I want them to convey melody/harmony in a textural way.

In my opinion approximations to any of the above would greatly improve what we currently have. You can check out the current incarnations of our songs here: The White Cascade - ReverbNation

The gear we have at our disposal is limited to sm57/58, MXL990/91 small/large condensers, the cheapo ART preamps, and free VST plugins. As you can see, we have the budget gear under control, or I would like to think. I'd like help with the recording techniques and mixing/processing advice. The band is unfortunately more learned in guitar/bass/drums recording atm.

Lastly, our drummer is very dynamic and loves to make use of a ton of cymbal rolling and metallic shimmer sounds. If there is anything I can do to unite or augment this percussive shimmer and somewhat hi-freq content with my vocals, especially the airy and breathy parts of my vocals, then I would love to try it. Thanks!

Last edited by thewhitecascade; 27th January 2009 at 10:46 AM.. Reason: formating
Old 27th January 2009
  #2
Lives for gear
 

Hi thewhitecascade,

first of all, there's a difference between the reverb-laden vocals on Slowdive and M83 records and the relatively dry ones on those made by MBV. Kevin Shields, singer/guitarist/producer of My Bloody Valentine, never used reverb. Not on their guitars*, not on their vocals, not on anything.

What he achieved was done entirely by recording and singing technique in the first place, and by compression and equalization afterwards.

(*on guitars they used reverse reverb though - you can find a decent one on a Digitech Digidelay, which are about 100$ and come with a cool looping function.)

Having said that, that "shoegaze" vocal sound is pretty easy to come by.

First of all, be ready to record every vocal track at least three times and mix them together. What Shields did was record each track about ten times, choose the best track, and mix that one a little louder than the rest. That way you don't get the typical double tracked sound of the later Beatles, but you add a certain indirectness to the vocals.

The recording and singing technique is simple: sing at an off-center angle into a condenser microphone. Sing softly, but steadily and clearly (not breathy). Whatever you do, don't breathe into the mic. Use a wind screen. Voila, a couple of good takes later and you're ready to start mixing.

Now you'll have to eq and compress the hell out of the vocals (I'm guessing you don't have an outboard compressor, so compressing while tracking is not an option for you). You can process the vocals tracks as a group or individually. If you're reading a lot of new stuff here, try every track individually at first, to better hear and understand the effects of the processing.

For the compressor, you could try a low threshold, a high ratio (why not begin with infinity:1?), soft knee, and a rather slow attack. This will significantly decrease the overall dynamic of the vocal, making everything sound equally loud or soft.

For the EQ, try using a broad high-pass filter (taking away all the lows). Begin with losing everything beneath 2000 Hz and see how that sounds.

Next up, your question about the cymbals. First something about volume:

In most rock recordings, you'd do best to put these at pretty low levels in the mix, elst they eat up the guitars and the vocals. The cymbals employ the highest frequencies, so they'll shine through no matter how soft their levels - they don't need a lot of volume to be heard, but they'll still be adding important ambiance. Plus, when afterwards you're converting your waves to mp3 to put them on your MySpace, the audio quality loss will be most noticeable in the cymbals.

Now for EQ: try to eq the cymbals so they won't bump into the guitars or the vocals, meaning reserving the very highest frequency range for the cymbals. Below them you can try to put the vocals and perhaps lead synths, and below those come the guitars.

A side note on eq'ing: you're mostly better off "negatively eq-ing" than boosting frequencies: take away low frequencies rather than boosting the highs, for instance. This way you'll stay closer to the original signal quality.

All in all, you'll have to experiment a bit before you'll find a convenient work method. A last word: read this thread. Don't be put off by the title. It's fun, very interesting and it contains essential information.
Old 28th January 2009
  #3
Gear Head
 

some great advice here!
Old 28th January 2009
  #4
Lives for gear
 
moon_unit's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Shadow View Post
For the EQ, try using a broad high-pass filter (taking away all the lows). Begin with losing everything beneath 2000 Hz and see how that sounds.
2000? I think you meant 200. heh

Anyway, just to give my 2 cents regarding this particular style ...

For the vocals, you don't want want a whole lot of clarity. You have to approach it completely opposite from how you would a typical rock or pop vocal, where you either want a lot of midrange energy to cut through the guitars, or extra high end sheen to make it sound more polished.

No, what you want is a "dull" sound. I would actually try cutting in the upper midrange from 2 khz on up or so. And I'd totally ditch the idea of the low cut. Low-cutting will only make the vocals more clear, which I don't think is the goal of a shoegaze style, where you want the vocal to be more subdued. For the mics, I would steer clear of the condensers.
Old 28th January 2009
  #5
You won't sound like these singers unless you are one of these singers. I suggest you take your voice, train it with Melissa Cross Studios Dvd and then you embrace the tone of your own voice! Don't ever try to sound like someone else... Hey I wish I sounded like Kurt, but I never will.
Old 28th January 2009
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit View Post
2000? I think you meant 200. heh

Anyway, just to give my 2 cents regarding this particular style ...

For the vocals, you don't want want a whole lot of clarity. You have to approach it completely opposite from how you would a typical rock or pop vocal, where you either want a lot of midrange energy to cut through the guitars, or extra high end sheen to make it sound more polished.

No, what you want is a "dull" sound. I would actually try cutting in the upper midrange from 2 khz on up or so. And I'd totally ditch the idea of the low cut. Low-cutting will only make the vocals more clear, which I don't think is the goal of a shoegaze style, where you want the vocal to be more subdued. For the mics, I would steer clear of the condensers.
Do try out moon_unit's approach, at the very least it'll be interesting and more likely it'll lead to useable results on some of the songs. Variation is good.

An example of the vocal sound I'm talking about is My Bloody Valentine's You Made Me Realise EP. The vocals are practically devoid of low frequencies and sit way back in the mix. On the title track, there's a little overdrive on the vocals as well, although I don't know whether this was done at the mic preamp stage or added afterwards in the mix.

A more contemporary and more mainstream indie pop example is Asobi Seksu: try listening to their songs "New Years" and "Thursday" (both from Citrus). The shiny reverb on the vocals adds even more high frequency color. Both are also nice examples of the cymbals retaining their ambient effect at very low levels.

EDIT: For your reading pleasure, here's a link to some scans of a Tape Op magazine (TapeOp.com) interview with Kevin Shields on how MBV's seminal Loveless album was made:

Flickr: wllmtwd's Photostream
Old 28th January 2009
  #7
Lives for gear
 
moon_unit's Avatar
 

I've found Shoegaze to be a great style of music for people who can't sing worth a lick.

All you have to do is do a whole bunch of layers. And then throw a crapload of dreamy reverb on it all, and it will probably sound cool.

Old 28th January 2009
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit View Post
I've found Shoegaze to be a great style of music for people who can't sing worth a lick.

All you have to do is do a whole bunch of layers. And then throw a crapload of dreamy reverb on it all, and it will probably sound cool.

Sad but true.
Old 28th January 2009
  #9
Registered User
 

"singing worth a lick" is highly over rated if you write ****ty songs.
Old 28th January 2009
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldTimey View Post
"singing worth a lick" is highly over rated if you write ****ty songs.
Haha true as well
Old 28th January 2009
  #11
Registered User
 

a balance!

to the OP:
let us know how it goes, i love the sound of slowdive/jesus and mary chain/mbv records.
Old 28th January 2009
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
thewhitecascade's Avatar
 

We are going to try several things, probably overdubbing several (3-10) vocal tracks and mixing them together like what was done on loveless.

Also in those loveless interviews I remember they said they took some of the vocal tracks and hi-passed them, while lo-passing others. Interesting, and something to think about.

I will probably have to use an autotune VST to some extent, and definitely a compressor plugin.

I'll let you guys know when we have something.
Old 29th January 2009
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thewhitecascade View Post
We are going to try several things, probably overdubbing several (3-10) vocal tracks and mixing them together like what was done on loveless.

Also in those loveless interviews I remember they said they took some of the vocal tracks and hi-passed them, while lo-passing others. Interesting, and something to think about.

I will probably have to use an autotune VST to some extent, and definitely a compressor plugin.

I'll let you guys know when we have something.
Kjaerhus has a free compressor plugin (the Classic Compressor) which has all the basic functions and works well.

If you intend to multitrack your vocals, you probably won't need Autotune: the different tracks tend to melodically even each other out. So you should try it without first.
Old 18th November 2014
  #14
Gear Head
 
sallgoodbruh's Avatar
 

any other techniques?
Old 19th November 2014
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
MixingWizard's Avatar
TAPE! Particularly cassette tape. See if you can find an old 4 track tape recorder (preferably with noise reduction - this can do some really weird stuff to the high end).

If you cant find a tape recorder try some tape saturation plugins (have a search on here - there are loads to choose from).
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
soupking / High End
19
Whitecat / The Good News Channel
1
VJesk / So Much Gear, So Little Time
16
phaedrus / So Much Gear, So Little Time
9

Forum Jump
Forum Jump