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A different texture for background vocals Ribbon Microphones
Old 21st December 2010
  #1
A different texture for background vocals

I have been very happy with my Studio Projects C1 through an EH 12AY7 for lead vocals. I read some posts on this forum recently where people talked about using a different microphone for background vocals.

When doing background vocals, I find myself doing a lot of highpass eq'ing to get them top sit in their own place. The singer's voice has quite a bit of midrange body to it.

So, I am wondering if there is a mic I can use to record background vocals that will allow the sound of the C1 to sit nicely up-front, with the backgrounds in their own place in the mix. Perhaps this is a good role for the SM7B? Or perhaps it will be the reverse, and I will find a mic that works better for lead vocals and allows the C1 to sit in its own place for backgrounds? Or maybe the C1 will do fine if I use another preamp for backgrounds? I'm open to imaginative solutions...
Old 21st December 2010
  #2
A long body ribbon mic.

I have a Shinybox 46mxl that kills for anything you want to use as a layer - it's very soft but present and leaves lots of space for the lead vox.

I think you can get some kind of usable results with any decent ribbon mic.

Using a different type of transducer gives a very different texture to work with in the mix - this is a "natural" solution.
Old 21st December 2010
  #3
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uncle duncan's Avatar
 

One "rule" suggest less 5k for BG vocals. The sm7b is all about 5k, but you never know until you try it. In your case, with the C1 on lead vocals, perhaps a mic with a less hyped high end would be good.
Old 21st December 2010
  #4
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mattjew24's Avatar
 

An article in Recording or Mix magazine (Can't remember) suggests using an SM58 for backup vocals.
Old 21st December 2010
  #5
Interesting responses, all of them!

The SM58 idea is very easy to test, my singer always has his with him since that's his stage mic, so I will definitely give that a shot...

Hardtoe, I'm a big fan of the ribbon mic idea! My EH 12AY7 probably doesn't have enough gain for a ribbon (it's cranked all the way for the C1), but I have been tinkering with the idea of getting a Grace M101 anyway...If I can think of some otehr applications for the ribbon I could justify they purchase - I wonder how it would sound on acoustic, mandolin and 12-strings?

Uncle Duncan, do you think that an SM7B might take the role of a mic for lead vox and the C1 take over for backgrounds in that case?
Old 21st December 2010
  #6
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A different texture for background vocals

I actually am quite fond of ribbon mics on acoustic instruments. I have a Royer 121 and I use it on acoustics a lot. I flip it around for the back/brighter side and it sounds very lush and amazing.
Old 21st December 2010
  #7
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mattjew24's Avatar
 

I think the idea for using a dynamic/ribbon for background vocals is based on the fact that they have much slower transient response when compared to a condenser, so they sort of sit in the mix in a mellow fashion.
Old 21st December 2010
  #8
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Xander's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattjew24 View Post
I think the idea for using a dynamic/ribbon for background vocals is based on the fact that they have much slower transient response when compared to a condenser, so they sort of sit in the mix in a mellow fashion.
Ribbons in general have an inherently fast transient response due to the low mass of the moving element.
Old 21st December 2010
  #9
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mattjew24's Avatar
 

Aren't both ribbons/dynamics immensely slower when compared to condensers though?
Old 21st December 2010
  #10
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uncle duncan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jplanet View Post
...Uncle Duncan, do you think that an SM7B might take the role of a mic for lead vox and the C1 take over for backgrounds in that case?
Much as I dislike the sm7b on vocals, if it makes your singer sound good, it would stand to reason that the C1 would be more transparent for backup vocals. You might want to try the big foam pop filter on the C1 to tame the high end, or sing off axis, which is supposed to reduce sibilance.

On your musings about preamps, consider the AEA TRP. It's a two channel unit with 83db of gain - designed for ribbon mics. It has no phantom power, but an external phantom power box can be purchased separately for pretty cheap. The sm7b sounds great through a clean pre like the AEA TRP. It's like removing a veil from the sound. You could also get that from the Grace, but that pre is rumored to be very clinical sounding - as in, not very musical. With the AEA TRP, you can dial in a bit of "gloss" by upping the input gain and lowering the output gain.
Old 21st December 2010
  #11
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Xander's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattjew24 View Post
Aren't both ribbons/dynamics immensely slower when compared to condensers though?

Royer Labs - Ribbon Basics


I usually do not put ribbons and moving coil microphones in the same category. They only thing they have in common is they use electromagnetic induction to generate the signal. They have very different characteristics and behaviors.
Old 21st December 2010
  #12
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I like using small condensers with a hi-pass. If your lead vocals have lots of 500 Hz and 3.5 kHz, then your backing vocals can fill the gap in the middle. So suck out the bass (below 400 Hz) and articulation (above 2 kHz) and try to find a spot in the frequency band that gets a little bump and complements the lead vocals. A small condenser will give you less warmth and more air than an LDC, use that to your advantage to get the high-mids that are generally missing on lead vocals.

Also: Try mild distortion, tape saturation, etc. (any effect that smoothly degrades the sound) on the backing vocals.
Old 21st December 2010
  #13
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Xander's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrCrowbar View Post
Also: Try mild distortion, tape saturation, etc. (any effect that smoothly degrades the sound) on the backing vocals.
I find that these techniques work great to smooth out the background vocals. Saturate/distort them while listening to the overall mix. You'd be surprised by how much you can apply to make them fit in the mix well, especially in a busy sort of song. Don't be freaked out when you hit solo!
Old 22nd December 2010
  #14
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Unclenny's Avatar
I like using my Peluso in figure 8 mode.

I sing from one side and then move around to the other. My room is somewhat....sonically asymetrical.....so you really can hear the difference.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrCrowbar View Post
I like using small condensers with a hi-pass. If your lead vocals have lots of 500 Hz and 3.5 kHz, then your backing vocals can fill the gap in the middle. So suck out the bass (below 400 Hz) and articulation (above 2 kHz) and try to find a spot in the frequency band that gets a little bump and complements the lead vocals. A small condenser will give you less warmth and more air than an LDC, use that to your advantage to get the high-mids that are generally missing on lead vocals.

Also: Try mild distortion, tape saturation, etc. (any effect that smoothly degrades the sound) on the backing vocals.
Interesting that you mention a small condenser - I have an SM81, do you think that would be a good option? I've always wondered how that might sound on vocals...I just need to get a pop screen for it...

And, yes, I agree about light saturation.

You know what is a good example of the kind of background vocal sound I love - listen to any Elton John song....the bg vocals on Elton John's tracks are fantastic - they really have their own place, and sound beautiful...I would love to know how that sound is achieved, though I'm sure whatever they do would not have any place in the Low End Theory section here!
Old 22nd December 2010
  #16
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mattjew24's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xander View Post
Royer Labs - Ribbon Basics


I usually do not put ribbons and moving coil microphones in the same category. They only thing they have in common is they use electromagnetic induction to generate the signal. They have very different characteristics and behaviors.
Uuuughhh...they're both considered technically "Dynamic" mics. But i see whatcha mean...the whole 3micron thick corrugated ribbon idea sounds radically different.

just saying, the sound of a condenser is generally caused by the extremely fast transient response...and to use that for backup vocals just would seem to be far too much for a lot of mixes...but it's all just my opinion here.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #17
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Xander's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattjew24 View Post
Uuuughhh...they're both considered technically "Dynamic" mics. But i see whatcha mean...the whole 3micron thick corrugated ribbon idea sounds radically different.
Yeah, we're on the same page. Sorry if I sounded brash. I just find that they overall have quite different sound characters.

Quote:
just saying, the sound of a condenser is generally caused by the extremely fast transient response...and to use that for backup vocals just would seem to be far too much for a lot of mixes...but it's all just my opinion here.
I completely agree.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xander View Post
Yeah, we're on the same page. Sorry if I sounded brash. I just find that they overall have quite different sound characters.



I completely agree.
I'd really like to get a ribbon of my own and experiment with it...never even used one. Just going by what I have heard, they sound dark and mellow. sounds good for background vox indeed.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #19
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Xander's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattjew24 View Post
I'd really like to get a ribbon of my own and experiment with it...never even used one. Just going by what I have heard, they sound dark and mellow. sounds good for background vox indeed.
The word that comes to my my mind whenever I hear a good ribbon (Coles 4038, Royer R122 or SF24) is FLAT. Just balanced and not hyped. Yes, the Coles can sound dark if compared side by side to a condensor. But there is no detail or resolution missing. And if you don't need all the high end up, it's perfect. And you won't tire from listening to it either!
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