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TRACKING AND MIXING VOCALS AND COOL TRICKS
Old 20th November 2002
  #1
Here for the gear
 

TRACKING AND MIXING VOCALS AND COOL TRICKS

Hey gang,

In response to a few emails I got on how I recorded and mixed vocals
for a song I posted on this forum the other day, I thought I would share
the play by play for vocal tracking and mixing and my methodology
for you to check out, comment on, tear apart, rip me a new one, whatever.

The song in question was mixed using the things I learned from Charles Dye's
HDL series in Digizine. If you'd like, you can listen to the song by clicking this:
www.halftheworld.cc/time.mp3

I'll give you the full run down on the exact step by step playback on
those vocals and the mix in general, as well as a very cool trick for
printing your mix and burning a cd without ever using Pro Tools bounce to disk
(which many people feel degrades your sound quality).

First, Mary sings the song from top to bottom on 6 separate vocal takes,
into a Studio Projects C1 mic with the switch in the flat position.
The mic is connected via a Monster Cable Performer 500 series
21 ft. mic cord into the Apogee Trak 2. The Trak 2 does not use Soft Limit,
nor any ASP functions. The vocal is sent at 24 bits straight into PTLE
with the levels peaking into the yellow, but never into the red.

Now I have several vocal takes which need to be edited. On the song
"Time" as well as all the Half The World songs I'm working on, I edit
vocals the old fashioned way . . . and it's very time consuming . . .
it takes hours. I take the first phrase in the song, and listen to that
phrase and audition each vocal take, listening only to that phrase,
against the band playing and decide which vocal take offers the best
performance, and I cut and paste that phrase into a "comp" vocal track
using playlists. Sometimes I cut and paste individual words.
Hours later, I have a killer sounding composite lead vocal track.
Now I start over on a new track which will be the "comp" double track vocal.
Until I discover a faster / better way to do this, I'll be stuck using the old fashioned
method. Once I have a comp lead vocal, and a comp double track lead that
matches it as closely as possible, I'm ready to mix.

When I mixed "Time" I used a standard set of plugins which have always given
me a huge present vocal sound and I set them up the same way on every mix
even for other bands singers . . . as follows:

1. In the first insert position, Auto Tune, set to the key of the song, in automatic mode,
with appropriate notes dialed in or out accordingly, so that there are no weird moments.

2. In the second insert position, Waves Renaissance Compressor set to the Vocal preset,
then I lower the threshold so that the loudest moments of the vocal performance sound
smooth, but not squashed . . . this tends to run anywhere from 3 to 6 db of gain reduction.

3. My secret weapon! . . . Waves Renaissance Vox, this is where the magic happens. I always
use the 25dbcomp preset . . . I can't explain what this does but it makes the vocal track much louder
and fuller, much more present and intimate . . . then I obviously have to back the volume of the vocal fader
down a bit to compensate for the greatly increased gain. This is the best preset ever ! It creates
a vocal pocket almost on it's own!

4. That's it for plugins on the lead vocal. Now, on the lead vocal track I create a send to bus 1-2 (or whichever)
to the Reverb channel which is a stereo aux input with an appropriate verb dialed in. I adjust the amount
of the send to taste.

5. I duplicate Auto Tune and the Ren Compressor plugins with identical settings on the double track vocal channel,
but not Ren Vox . . . this goes on the lead only.

6. I now adjust the fader level for the double track vocal channel so that it's about 60% of the lead . . . in other
words I try to make it sound like one full voice rather than two voices. Also, I may mute it during the verses
then bring it in during the choruses to make the hook stand out . . . just depends on whether it works on the
verses or not.

7. If I want delay or effects, I'll usually NOT put it on the lead voc, but rather do the old trick of putting a send on the
double track vocal, which routes over to an echo or flange channel, with the effect dialed in at 100% wet. This gives
a nice effect on the vocals but it's not effecting the lead, which makes the lyrics remain clear and audible.

That's it for vocals!

Now for a very cool trick you can do with your Apogee (or any device with digital ins and outs) . . . you may already know about this but . . .
When it's time to print your mix, don't bounce to disk, instead send the whole mix through optical 7-8
out to the Apogee Trak 2 with UV22HR turned OFF (no dithering) .
Simultaneously, have a new stereo track armed and recording and MUTED with it's inputs set to Optical 7-8.
Name this new track 24mix (because it's an undithered 24 bit mix).
When the song's done, you now have a 24 bit stereo mix on a stereo track.
Save and Close.
Now create a new 24 bit session. Import your 24mix stereo track into this new session. Create a new stereo
track named 16mix, set it's input to Optical 7-8, MUTE IT, and arm it to record. On your 24 mix channel, insert
any plugins you would normally have put as a last step on your master fader, light compresion, etc. Create a
Master Fader and send your 24mix track out to the Apogee with UV22HR dithering turned ON for 16 bits (or a dithering plugin).
When the song is done, you have recorded a 16 bit dithered final mix. Don't don't touch the 16mix channel or
you'll add wordlength.
Save and close.
Open up Jam and drag the two 16mix files straight into the Jam window and it will show up as a single song.
Burn your cd!

This is one of the best ways I've found (short of a pro mastering lab) to get burned cd of your mix which is virtually
identical to the original 24 bit files . . . bypassing the Pro Tools Bounce to Disk feature.

Sorry for the length, I thought it might be helpful and fun to discuss.

Pete
Old 20th November 2002
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Mike Jasper's Avatar
Great description and I never knew you could do that little trick.

But I still want to know: why do you go from the Apogee Track2 to the Digi 001 in optical, rather than coaxial S/PDIF?

Jasper
Old 20th November 2002
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Hey Mike . . .

The Apogee Trak 2 has no SPDIF input (a drag) . . . only SPDIF output.
The only way to get digitally in to the Trak 2 is to buy the
optional ADAT lightpipe card, which gives you the optical
8 in / 8 out.


Pete
Old 21st November 2002
  #4
Here for the gear
 

Hey Mike . . .

One thing I forgot to mention . . .

I always use my Apogee as the master clock . . . I never use the
PTLE clock.

You may already know this but, the clock signal is carried from your
Apogee PSX along any digital connection. SPDIF or Optical.
Just go to Session Setup in PTLE and specify your clock source.

Pete
Old 21st November 2002
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Hey Pete,

Do you have the D/A card for your Trak2?

Also, are you running the lightpipe into the optical in/out on the Digi 001 PCI card?

Do you know why the Trak2 dithering down to 16 bit sounds better than the PT dithered mixer, or L1 dithereing, or is that just your assumption?

Thanks in advance

Jotown
Old 21st November 2002
  #6
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jotown
Hey Pete,

Do you have the D/A card for your Trak2?

Also, are you running the lightpipe into the optical in/out on the Digi 001 PCI card?

Do you know why the Trak2 dithering down to 16 bit sounds better than the PT dithered mixer, or L1 dithereing, or is that just your assumption?
Hey Jotown,

I do have the D/A 2 channel card for my Trak 2 . . . though it's not
absolutely necessary to have it. I simply have it because the A/D
and D/A on the 001 are less than stellar . . . and I wanted to have
killer D/A to monitor through while mixing.

My Apogee Trak 2 and my 001 are connected via lightpipe to the
optical connections on the 001 PCI card.

I researched the heck out of numerous dithering options before I
bought my Trak 2. I found that many mastering houses use Apogee's dithering.
I have the Waves Platinum Bundle, so I have compared the
dithering on the L1 and L2 with Apogee's UV22HR dithering many times
and there is a noticeable sonic
clarity improvement with Apogee. The Waves L1 and L2 dithering
is certainly good, but I can hear a marked improvement with Apogee.
Also, as a company, Apogee is definitely not a
"jack of all trades". Their focus is only on a few things, and they
do those things incredibly well . . . that's my feeling.

As far as Pro Tools "dithered mixer" . . . I am not familiar with this.
My knee jerk reaction is that it sounds frightening. How does it
work? Is there built in dithering on the Master Fader? Can you specify your wordlength?

Sometimes I think Digidesign spreads themselves too thin, trying
to be experts on too many technologies at once. This seems to be
even more so since they released HD. I think there's something to
be said for acknowledging the limits of expertise, and yielding to
someone else (or another company) who is more focused to cover those bases . . . my opinion.

Pete
Old 21st November 2002
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Yeah the dithered mixer plugin is free on the Digi website and it does go on the master fader.

As an owner of a Trak2 I am pleased to hear that I may have my best dithering option already. I would love to hear your stuff, but right now all I have is a dial-up connection so it is a download thing.

Thanks for the response.

Jotown
Old 23rd November 2002
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Hey Charles,

What are your thoughts on using the Apogee Trak2 vs doing the dithering in PT at the mix bus?

Thanks in a advance.

Jotown
Old 25th November 2002
  #9
Gear Nut
 

Hey Pete,

Can you clear this up for me? You've got a 24 bit file being dithered to 16 bits and then recorded back into your 24 bit session. Don't you end up with a 24 bit file with 8 empty bits? How are you able to drag this into Jam when it's actually a 24 bit file (Jam only takes 16 bit)or am I totally missing something.

I've always wished one could use different bit and sample rates within PT, but as far as I know it can't be done yet.

Thanks,

Jamie

Now create a new 24 bit session. Import your 24mix stereo track into this new session. Create a new stereo
track named 16mix, set it's input to Optical 7-8, MUTE IT, and arm it to record. On your 24 mix channel, insert
any plugins you would normally have put as a last step on your master fader, light compresion, etc. Create a
Master Fader and send your 24mix track out to the Apogee with UV22HR dithering turned ON for 16 bits (or a dithering plugin).
When the song is done, you have recorded a 16 bit dithered final mix. Don't don't touch the 16mix channel or
you'll add wordlength.
Save and close.
Open up Jam and drag the two 16mix files straight into the Jam window and it will show up as a single song.
Burn your cd!
Old 25th November 2002
  #10
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally posted by GreatDivideStud
Don't you end up with a 24 bit file with 8 empty bits? How are you able to drag this into Jam when it's actually a 24 bit file (Jam only takes 16 bit)or am I totally missing something.
Good question . . . I actually spent forever on the phone with
numerous people at Apogee making absolutely sure that I was
correct in my understanding of how to do this.

Officially . . . I'm not sure whether Pro Tools sees the 16 bit file as
a 24 bit with the top 8 bits being null, or whether PT sees it as a
16 bit file and simply allows it to exist in the session.
But I do know for sure that Apogee is dithering it to 16 bits and
that once you record the 16 bit dithered audio into your 24 bit
session, you need to save and close. You cannot alter the 16 bit
file in any way. No volume changes, no plugins, don't even touch
the fader or you'll be adding wordlength, and it won't be 16 bits anymore.
Just save and close . . . then open up Jam and drag the
Left and Right 16 bit audio files into the Jam window, and it shows
up as a single song ready to burn on cd.

Also, when I was using PTLE 5.0.1 it would not let me import
16 bit files into 24 bit sessions . . . but from 5.1.1 it started letting
me do this.

Jam has never given me an error. It always sees it as a stereo 16
bit file. I'm using the latest version of Jam. If Jam tells you that it's
not a 16 bit file, then you probably have not succesfully dithered to 16 bits.

However . . . now that you mention it, I might try using the Waves
L2 dithering and route my whole mix to a new stereo track and
then try dragging that track into Jam . . . I wonder if it will recognize it? . . . might be interesting to try.
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