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chessparov 10th September 2002 02:36 AM

"Headphone free" tracking
Alpha, your "no cans" comment in another thread perked my curiousity. How often are you recording vocalists and musicians
this way? Are they performing better as a result?

Anyone else's input would also be appreciated in addition.


P.S. Just starting to learn the old "sing to the monitors" trick BTW.

Jules 10th September 2002 02:39 AM

yeah, what about guide vocals when you do that? Say - a singing bass player?


Bob Olhsson 12th September 2002 02:26 PM

Most people perform a lot better without phones. Prior to the mid '60s it was very common to even do vocal overdubs with the singer listening to the studio playback speaker. (The playback speaker, usually an Altec A-7, was used to play takes back to the musicians because only three of four people could fit in most control rooms and you were usually talking about 10 or more musicians playing on a full date.)

alphajerk 12th September 2002 02:46 PM

i just do it without the VOX done on the live tracking if i can. just let the band rip and then come back to the VOX later. if not, i can have the VOX in the CR with me [the band still doesnt hear it]

i have been thinking about having a full on PA setup using wedges but i need a bigger studio to do that.

there is just something about the vibe thats created going all live without cans over any other way. i dig it. the bands dig it. of course you have to mind what you are doing and the band has to nail it [or at least not **** up so bad that an OD wont cover it]

Fibes 12th September 2002 06:48 PM

Some bands need the energy of the singer and that's why I have a small PA. I hate recording with headphones. Why would I expect bands to like them? Soon I'll have an Urei Time align up at head height for guitar overdubs. Don't ask why I have just one.

chessparov 12th September 2002 07:28 PM

Have you guys usually done the "reverse polarity" thing with the speakers
where the backing tracks are summed to mono?

Bob, your comment "playback speaker" seems to indicate the studio was O.K.
about some bleed on the overdubbed vocal. That method makes my life a
lot easier in an untreated recording environment AKA home.
Trying to figure out the 65 degree "null" point when using a hypercardiod
microphone isn't as easy as it sounds though!

As a singer, have to admit that wearing headphones is rather inhibiting.
I agree with AJ too about preferring to track everything live if possible.
Assuming that some use of baffles is typically a good idea for separation.


e-cue 12th September 2002 08:43 PM

I have one prissey, little, flaming, bed wetter R&B singer that can't get into the vibe with headphones on. I usually take 2 Genelec 1032's, flip one out of phase, and stick them directly to the left & right of a ribbon mic like a RCA44, Aea44, or the like. I also try to mute any tracks that the artist will let me get away with, in case we plan on doing "drops" later. The ribbon mic is great at rejecting sounds from the left & right. You still get bleed, but it's minimized. For a talkback, instead of routing, I use a pair of cheap ass walkietalkie's I got from toy's r us.

"Breaker, Breaker Good buddy, That take sucked. Watch your pitch, and open your throat wider to get some tone going, over"

Jules 12th September 2002 10:19 PM

With respect. Why would anyone think to place a singer right in the sweet spot of 100% phase bull**** monitoring and expect them to dig it?

I have em hollaring behind me in the CR and do a seperate take on another track of the just mains (at the same level / no singing) and feed that back in out of phase...

I am here to learn..

I assisted recording of Sade (shweeeet) she used ONE speaker on the floor pointing up and sat down for vocals.


chessparov 13th September 2002 01:49 AM

Jules, that does seem to be easier-at least on the singer.

The best way for me to nail things with headphones is to absolutely know the song inside/out, to otherwise "lean"
on the backing tracks severely compromises the performance level. This can cause the singer to sing ahead or behind the beat.
Most singers that are insufficiently rehearsed tend to go flat trying to figure out where they are instead of knowing what they're singing about.

This is getting me thinking that if and when I'd do any personal
commercial releases it's going to be...headphones off.
Free at last! (well maybe not for the pro studio time)


e-cue 13th September 2002 02:40 AM


Originally posted by Jules
With respect. Why would anyone think to place a singer right in the sweet spot of 100% phase bull**** monitoring and expect them to dig it?
Well, you get away with what you can. From a 'bleed' point of view, I flipped the phase and the artist didn't say anything (which made my brain want to melt through my ears when I listened). If he didn't dig it, I'd flip the speakers back in phase and try something else to minimize the bleed, by I dunno, taping plumber insolation on the sides of the mic, etc...

Jay Kahrs 17th September 2002 03:19 AM

I'm with Jules. I would never subject a singer to that out of phase bull. Maybe it's because I'd never do anything to someone that I wouldn't do to myself while recording. If a singer wants to track vocals without headphones I almost always use a dynamic mic and have them eat it. I'll postion it so the speaker(s) are in the null and I mute whatever I can. Whatever I can't mute is as low in the mix as possible. I've never had a problem doing that.

One time I had an engineer book time in my room to cut everything live to 2". This was kind of odd to me but maybe not to other people... He had the band setup in the main room and the singer off in the lounge. Rather then put the amps in the iso-booths he had them in the live room with the drums, but everyone had headphones on. Huh?

alphajerk 17th September 2002 04:58 AM

thats the way i normally track. i put them in a 16x12 room with half stacks going full on and bass rigs going full on... enough so the drummer can clearly hear it... everyone for that matter. like its a practice session. no headphones. i try not to track the singer at that time though simply due to the fact i dont have a PA to do it.

and when i use a bigger room, same thing but a LOT easier. i swear, guys with a big budget have it SO EASY yet seem to just **** it up a LOT.

its all about VIBE.

and you would be fully suprised that in my small room how little bleed there is in the drum mics.

chessparov 18th September 2002 05:23 AM

Jay (& anyone else), what's a good starting starting distance to
approximate "eating" the microphone, and what, generally speaking,
are you cutting on the low end EQ? I realize this will differ based on the
microphone used BTW, so what mikes are you using?
Seems like using an RE20 (or PL20)with its "variable D" design would work
particulary well in this application BTW.


Jay Kahrs 18th September 2002 05:56 AM

Alpha, I think you missed my point. The band was tracking with the amps in the same room as the drums but everyone had headphones on. Doesn't make any sense to me.

As for eating a mic it varies. I hate it when people get 4-5" or more from a mic when I'm doing live sound. I can't get enough gain out of the mic before it starts to feedback. In the studio they can whatever they want. When someone starts to eat a mic I'll roll off as much low end as I can get away with. Sometimes I'll also add a nice cut in the low mids somewhere between 125 and 350hz. Sometimes highpassing all the way up to 350 or 400hz works just as well or better. It really depends on the mic, the singers voice and the music.

chessparov 18th September 2002 06:27 AM

Will keep an eye-I mean ear out for the low mid adjustments.
Thanks again.


alphajerk 18th September 2002 06:55 AM


Originally posted by Jay Kahrs
Alpha, I think you missed my point. The band was tracking with the amps in the same room as the drums but everyone had headphones on. Doesn't make any sense to me.
ahhhh. intoxication.


although *I* love to track with headphones on. i just love the vibe of it. hearing it so close and detailed in your ears... i dont know why either. actually i HAVE done session where we are all playing in the same room but have headphones on. of course the amps were setup for isolation rather than bleed [which was fully avoided]...

even if its late at night and i set up a couple mics for me and my acoustic to record im not relying on anyone else i choose to wear the headphones, put on a nice trippy verb and go to another place over just playing without headphones live in the room.