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VOCAL TREATMENT
Old 22nd September 2005
  #1
Gear Nut
 

VOCAL TREATMENT

Hey Michael, Love your work and words of wisdom... very inspiring! I thought the Athlete album you mixed was awesome.

Anyway i got a couple of questions regarding mixing vocals for you :-

1) I love vocals loud and upfront in a mix, when appropriate, really sitting on top and/or in command of the music. Any advice for placing vocals loud in a mix but still having them seem part of the song. Perhaps echo that’s barely audible? Any particular reverb types, settings, units that are good for gelling the vocal with the music? Is it about the balance/freq of the backing track instruments?

2) What's your attitude towards and to what extent to do you clean up vocals? i.e. sibilance, pops, breaths etc. Do you ever leave a vocal sibilant because it works...?

3) How can I get rid of excessive sibilance without giving the artist a lisp from over de-essing and losing the air around a vocal?

Much thanks for your time and all the best

Matt F
Old 22nd September 2005
  #2
Past Guest Moderator
 
Michael Brauer's Avatar
 

I’m not sure I can explain this one in a technical way, but I can give you a kind of guide that may help.

If you make a vocal loud, the tendency is that it will sound like a vocal up mix. The vocal sounds like it’s sitting above the track and not connected. Yet, I get them loud and they feel like they’re driving the song. The answer is that you need to have little threads attached to the vocal connecting itself back to the band. I know it sounds a bit too ethereal but that’s the vision I have of it. It’s a combination of compression on the vocal, small delays, delayed plates, short plates and riding it. But it’s more than that, when you mix the vocal, imagine it’s a cork bopping on top of the water. It has to stay on top of the wave at all times. The lower the cork is floating on top of the wave, the more into the mix it feels. Giving you delay settings, and reverbs won’t do you any good so I’m not going to waste the time. It’s the image you have to get in your head as you’re mixing the vocal.

Michael Delugg taught me that image when I assisted him at Mediasound. He did all the Barry Manilow records. The first time he had me ride a vocal (no automation so it had to be just right every pass) I was lost. I couldn’t keep the vocal driving the song. I kept riding him out of the mix or getting swamped by it. So Mike had me close my eyes and imagine the vocal was just a cork floating on top of a wave. The wave being the mix, of course. It was hard, my finger would cramp and have little indentation marks on the tip from pushing on top of the fader so hard. In time, I relaxed and I could feel the place where the fader always wanted to be and I just followed the moves instead of fighting it. It doesn’t happen overnight, nothing does, but without the image in my head, no amount of mix notes on what he was using would have gotten the correct result.

I clean up vocals if it needs it. I keep a certain amount of sibilance but I de-ess when it becomes a distraction. There are several ways to deal with removing sibilance. The DBX 902’s don’t work for me. If you hit it to hard it get’s the lisp going. I have an SPL de-esser. It’s automatic, just pick one of two settings and the amount. It cancels out the S as you hit it harder without giving you a lisp…most of the time. On some vocals, it just doesn’t work well enough. I avoid any compressors that will enhance the problem. I might attenuate a sharp Q on a high mid frequency to help the problem. I have an Electrodyne compressor that has three different levels of de-essing in the unit that can work great on some vocals. I have David Derr’s new Lil Freq EQ that has a de-esser in the chain. You can put it at the front or the end of the EQ. That also works well. If I don’t have success with one approach, I try another and another until something gives. There are many more options that I’m sure other engineers can offer on gearslutz. It’s an old age problem that we all have to deal with.
Old 22nd September 2005
  #3
Lives for gear
 
six_wax's Avatar
 

I find images and pneumonics like this to be spectacularly helpful. Thanks again for sharing!
Old 22nd September 2005
  #4
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Old 22nd September 2005
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Ol' Betsey's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Brauer
So Mike had me close my eyes and imagine the vocal was just a cork floating on top of a wave.
That's great.

And it's great that YOU'VE passed on that analogy.

From the past, to the present, to the future...

Cheers

R.
Old 22nd September 2005
  #6
Past Guest Moderator
 
Michael Brauer's Avatar
 

haha, yes, exactly as i invisoned it, even the same colors, wow, simply amazing jules!!!How do you do it?
Old 22nd September 2005
  #7
Past Guest Moderator
 
Michael Brauer's Avatar
 

Now that i look at it, that cork diagram of yours is a good level for pop/rock. if you give me a second diagram with the cork just barely shedding water, that's the rock level And if you give me a third diagram of the cork under water, that's how I felt last night after drinking two bottles of wine.
Old 22nd September 2005
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Brauer
haha, yes, exactly as i invisoned it, even the same colors, wow, simply amazing jules!!!How do you do it?
It's the pneumonics man, the pneumonics....
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