The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Vocal level automation. Confused help please :(
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
Vocal level automation. Confused help please :(

I think I've confused myself.

Amateur hobbyist using Cakewalk bandlab.

What I used to do: sing vocals ---> select parts of a vocal that were too loud/quiet and alter the offending regions' levels ---> compression.

Then I learned all about volume automation, watched some vids.

So then I'd: sing vocals ---> draw volume lines to automate the volume and and down for quiet and loud bits --> compression

But to my horror when I later reached for the volume fader on my MCU just to take the vocal track up or down I saw it dancing around like crazy following the lines I drew and fighting my fingers!

So I thought, ok shall I just bounce the changes permanently into the file? But no I don't want that because I'm always changing stuff. Do I create an aux or bus or something so I can control the general level with the fader? Then I thought hang on if I want this to make the compressor do less work shouldn't I be using gain instead of volume!?

But then there isn't a gain automation bit in cakewalk. But then I realised yes there is but not lower down it's up in the bit under "clip automation" instead of general automation and I dont' knwo how that is differnt to general automation.

Then I thought I'd get vocal rider and I couldn't get that to automate clip, instead it comes up with another automator presumably for the plugin itself and even though it's called volume, at least it frees up my mixer fader to adjust track volume. But then is this actuallyl gain or just volume it's affecting i.e. will it be sending through the alterations to a compressor so the compressor does less work?

I'm a tiny bit confused by this but I'm sure it's an easy thing I'm just getting worked up about. Any advice appreciated!
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Quote:
But to my horror when I later reached for the volume fader on my MCU just to take the vocal track up or down I saw it dancing around like crazy following the lines I drew and fighting my fingers!
In Cakewlak, Volume automation overrides the fader. Because its following the automation you enabled. Same goes for any type of automation, like pan or effects
Quote:
But then there isn't a gain automation bit in cakewalk.
Yea but that is pre effects and for me, i like to keep all gains at unity, unless the track is super quiet, then ill bring it up so the effects get a proper signal level

I think you should work on recording vocals better, so you get a more even level through out your vocal recordings or just use Volume automation and set it to ware you do not want to tinker with it anymore. If you do, then you have to adjust the volume envelops and not the fader
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samion View Post
I think I've confused myself.

Amateur hobbyist using Cakewalk bandlab.

What I used to do: sing vocals ---> select parts of a vocal that were too loud/quiet and alter the offending regions' levels ---> compression.

Then I learned all about volume automation, watched some vids.

So then I'd: sing vocals ---> draw volume lines to automate the volume and and down for quiet and loud bits --> compression

But to my horror when I later reached for the volume fader on my MCU just to take the vocal track up or down I saw it dancing around like crazy following the lines I drew and fighting my fingers!
In most DAWs that are good and professional you'll have different automation modes. An interface like the MCU should follow the modes that you set. If the faders are moving around then you likely have your channels (that the faders are displaying) set to automation read, touch or latch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samion View Post
So I thought, ok shall I just bounce the changes permanently into the file? But no I don't want that because I'm always changing stuff. Do I create an aux or bus or something so I can control the general level with the fader? Then I thought hang on if I want this to make the compressor do less work shouldn't I be using gain instead of volume!?
You would have to look at the specific signal flow for Cakewalk and how you have set things up. In some DAWs you can choose if the volume/fader and its automation is before or after the inserts. So that will determine if your volume automation is before or after your compression. People prefer different things so you have to just decide what you want to do.

You're right of course that if you have a vocal channel, automate the level of the fader, send the output of the channel to an Aux, then the Aux is all after what happens on that channel.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samion View Post
then I realised yes there is but not lower down it's up in the bit under "clip automation" instead of general automation and I dont' knwo how that is differnt to general automation.
Again 'usually', "clip gain" will be adjusting the signal of the clip on the timeline and that will be before the signal hits the channel. Some DAWs also have a "gain" or "trim" function that is in the beginning of the signal chain.

I would say this though: If you really want to automate the level by drawing in curves or using your faders then it's probably better to move the plugin so that it's after volume/fader automation. In my opinion it's generally easier to work with volume automation than clip gain or clip automation curves.

One example of how you (maybe) can adjust your workflow is that if you move your compression to after your volume automation, and you want to adjust the automation using your MCU, in most DAWs you can then engage a mode called "trim". When you do that the faders should snap to "unity" meaning the physical faders don't change the level at all and won't move. Instead what happens is that when you grab the fader it will write an offset value to the automation that already exists. It's very useful.

A level riding plugin is probably something I'd save for later honestly. Get the basics down first.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
I think you should work on recording vocals better, so you get a more even level through out your vocal recordings or just use Volume automation and set it to ware you do not want to tinker with it anymore. If you do, then you have to adjust the volume envelops and not the fader
Thanks.

True the holy grail is to get vocals perfect volumed but it seems this rarely happens in real life even for pros let alone my years of trying hence so many of them using volume automation and vocal rider etc.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samion View Post
Thanks.

True the holy grail is to get vocals perfect volumed but it seems this rarely happens in real life even for pros let alone my years of trying hence so many of them using volume automation and vocal rider etc.
It see it all the time. it happens to me almost daily from the tracks i get to mix, to the vocals i record. They need very little, if no automation at all, just some light to medium compression.

You need to practice your vocal recording technique so you can do this also. Its an art and takes practice to record like that.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
It see it all the time. it happens to me almost daily from the tracks i get to mix, to the vocals i record. They need very little, if no automation at all, just some light to medium compression.

You need to practice your vocal recording technique so you can do this also. Its an art and takes practice to record like that.
Thanks man, I'll certainly endeavour to become as good as you are and I accept these measures aren't ideal but in the meantime I'd like to be able to do what I'm asking, which I also understand is fairly common even for at least some pros.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Quote:
I'd like to be able to do what I'm asking, which I also understand is fairly common even for at least some pros.
Sure you can do what you are asking. Its just more work as your solutions are stated above
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
In most DAWs that are good and professional you'll have different automation modes. An interface like the MCU should follow the modes that you set. If the faders are moving around then you likely have your channels (that the faders are displaying) set to automation read, touch or latch.
Yes thanks I've just checked. If I take the autaomtion lane off Read the fader doesn't dance around and I can use it to affect the whole track's volume. BUT it also doesn't apply the volume envelope so it defeats the purpose for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
You would have to look at the specific signal flow for Cakewalk and how you have set things up. In some DAWs you can choose if the volume/fader and its automation is before or after the inserts. So that will determine if your volume automation is before or after your compression. People prefer different things so you have to just decide what you want to do.
Oh ok I'll look at the flow. I do know that putting "post" on makes the volume affect the send but I don't know if it also makes it affect the effects too. In fact the compression I use is even earlier than the effects in the prochannel right at the top, so I'll have to find out that too. From what I've read I'm missing a major purpose of volume automation if it's not pre-compression.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
Again 'usually', "clip gain" will be adjusting the signal of the clip on the timeline and that will be before the signal hits the channel. Some DAWs also have a "gain" or "trim" function that is in the beginning of the signal chain.
Yes Cakewalk has a gain option for every track and it seems also a clip gain envelope for the clip itself too.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
One example of how you (maybe) can adjust your workflow is that if you move your compression to after your volume automation, and you want to adjust the automation using your MCU, in most DAWs you can then engage a mode called "trim". When you do that the faders should snap to "unity" meaning the physical faders don't change the level at all and won't move. Instead what happens is that when you grab the fader it will write an offset value to the automation that already exists. It's very useful.
Sorry i'm not sure I fully get this. My MCU faders become only automation writers? So would I be able to use them for automation write and then switch back to be normal faders for touching up the mixing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
A level riding plugin is probably something I'd save for later honestly. Get the basics down first.
Hmm yeah ok. I already got vocal rider and that seems cool but yeah I need to understand the basics first true.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samion View Post
Yes thanks I've just checked. If I take the autaomtion lane off Read the fader doesn't dance around and I can use it to affect the whole track's volume. BUT it also doesn't apply the volume envelope so it defeats the purpose for me.
Exactly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samion View Post
Oh ok I'll look at the flow. I do know that putting "post" on makes the volume affect the send but I don't know if it also makes it affect the effects too. In fact the compression I use is even earlier than the effects in the prochannel right at the top, so I'll have to find out that too. From what I've read I'm missing a major purpose of volume automation if it's not pre-compression.
You have to write what you are referring to when you say "post". Different DAWs offer different settings for different functions and it's not clear what you're looking at. In my DAW (Nuendo) for example, I can move a line 'in' the insert slots 'rack' so that anything above the line is an insert that is pre-fader, and any insert that is below the line is post-fader. So in my case I sometimes have compressors below that line and they are therefore post-fader (and its automation of volume).

What you write above however makes it sound like you are talking about pre-/post- for sends, not inserts. It's the same principle but for a different 'function': You can have sends be before or after the fader/panner.

So make sure you're looking at the right 'place' or 'function'.

As for the purpose of automating volume: It really depends though. Some engineers prefer to have the signal go straight into a compressor which shaves off peaks for example, and then they automate levels after that. Some do the opposite. Some do both by having a compressor first, then automate the level of the track, and then after that have more dynamics processing. So I don't really think it's useful to think of it the way you do here, it's a matter of preference and figuring out what goals you want to achieve. Fortunately today anything is possible in DAWs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samion View Post
Sorry i'm not sure I fully get this. My MCU faders become only automation writers? So would I be able to use them for automation write and then switch back to be normal faders for touching up the mixing?
In a nutshell, yes. I'll let you know how I might work with voice on shows that I mix. The purpose here isn't to tell you that you should do the same, just to illustrate how it works technically (levels only):

1. I adjust clip gain on the timeline in the "project" or "edit" window. This adjustment is for the entire clip and is before all inserts, sends and faders.

2. I put my automation in "touch" mode. The faders I work with are touch-sensitive motorized faders, which is what I think yours are as well. When they are in this mode if I touch the fader it begins writing automation - I don't even have to move it as long as I "touch" it. It will write automation according to where the fader is located. If I lower it it will write lower level automation onto that track at whatever 'positional value' the fader is at. If I move the fader to negative 19dB the track will write volume automation at -19dB.

Note that if there is automation on the track the fader will move along with and follow that automation automatically if I don't touch it physically. If I touch the fader while it is moving it should cause the existing automation to be overwritten with whatever I'm doing when I'm touching the fader. Even if I'm not moving it it will write automation simply because I'm touching it - it will then just write a static absolute value as long as I'm touching it. If I move it then it will write the 'moving' value.

Any time you release the fader, meaning any time you stop touching it, the fader will resume "reading" automation only, and will move along with the existing automation again.

3. I put my automation in "touch" AND "trim" mode. The fader now jumps back to a center location which equals "unity gain", or no gain change at all. Because "trim" is an offset, if I touch the fader without moving it, it will write no offset, meaning it will leave existing automation alone. Nothing will change. But if I touch and move it however it will offset existing automation with whatever I do.

So if in #2 I wrote -19dB at some point, and at #3 I grab the fader and move it down 5dB from its center location, the new value will be -24dB. The automation was offset by 5dB downwards.

4. Lastly, if I feel like it, I can place the automation in "Latch" + "trim". "Trim" does the same thing still - it offsets already existing automation by whatever I do with the fader - but "Latch" is different because it leaves the fader where I left it when I stopped touching it, and it continues writing automation at that value. It only stops writing automation when I stop playback (or "punch out").

----

So you can see that there are a lot of different ways that you can use the faders on the MCU to adjust your automation. You can write new automation from scratch, you can trim/offset that automation in different ways, and you can just leave stuff along if you want.

In addition to that there's a lot I left out because it's in general a bit more.. 'complicated'...
Old 6 days ago
  #10
Lives for gear
 

I’ll often insert a gain plugin and do any automation with that while will effectively leave your fader free for balancing your mix. This kind of automation reslly be done, though, when you have everything locked in and have begun to mix. Otherwise you could find yourself undoing what you have done, several times or even recording over it.

If you have consistent enough levels just use a compressor, at least while you’re still developing your project. Or if you we’re looking for some in between solution you could always try gain riding plugin in like Vocal Rider. Effectively it’s just a glorified gain plugin, but instead or doing the automation manually it does it automatically for you based on a small number of settings. It can even right it out to automation so you could alter it manually. Not that I’m trying to promote you spending money here, I’m just simply offering you a few different options you could consider.
Old 5 days ago
  #11
Gear Guru
 

Instead of using a trim mode on the fader, I like to draw my trim. That is to say, after I have drawn my 'Manhattan Skyline' of volume automation on a vocal, I might decide the whole verse needs to come up. I select that portion of the automation line with the cursor, and then drag it up or down with the trim tool. (Sometimes you have to add a break point at the ends to keep it from 'tilting'.) In Pro Tools, holding down the Command key while you drag allows you to go up or down in tenths of a dB. And no, I never bother with a tenth of dB, but on occasion I have done two-tenths of a dB.

That portion that I select could also be the whole song, or just a phrase. The point is that all the work I did to level out the vocal to itself is preserved and trimming the line preserves those ups and downs but now it fits against the track louder or softer.

I am really not a fan of the 'double automation' that some folks do where they automate a gain plugin to 'save their fader' for trimming. Because inevitably you end up wanting to trim two parts of the song differently. So you end up automating the fader itself anyway.

I like to have one line to look at for volume.
Old 2 days ago
  #12
Gear Head
 

Or just send the track to a bus and use the bus fader to change overall volume
Old 2 days ago
  #13
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
Or just send the track to a bus and use the bus fader to change overall volume
again, this only works if you decide you want to trim the volume once per mix, per track. What if you are listening to the chorus and feel the (already automated) vocal needs to come down a little and then later on, you are listening to the verse and feel that the (already automated) vocal needs to come up a little? You now have two different 'requirements' for that bus fader.

Are you going to start automating the bus fader up and down, too? Where does it end? What if you end up doing this a number of times during the mix and you don't remember every single one of them? You could be looking at your automation for the vocal on one of the places you automated, and wonder why the volume is changing "by itself"

Not for me. I would rather trim the damn thing once on one fader and at least be able to see what I have. I automate largely by "line" so I just highlight the line and drag it up and down to trim.
Old 1 day ago
  #14
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
Or just send the track to a bus and use the bus fader to change overall volume
Seems a bit unnecessary to do this when there are other options that are "neater". I'm absolutely not against using buses/auxes/groups or whatever any given DAW calls them, but for a good reason. Just to "trim" makes little sense because then we're just adding channels for not a very good reason.

If on the other hand you're already using one for a different reason (such as summing different channels or whatever) then adjusting the level there is obviously fair game...
Old 1 day ago
  #15
Lives for gear
 
skillz335's Avatar
Well as you experiment with all these techniques as frustrating as they can be, eventually you will learn to use all of them in unison as a super move...as all the other audio engineer superheroes do..
Old 1 day ago
  #16
Lives for gear
 
BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
i use Clip gain over Automation 99% of the time to balance vocal levels.

i find it much easier. thats in Cubase.

Buddha
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…
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump