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Achieving beautiful vocals
Old 21st April 2019
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Achieving beautiful vocals

Hello,

I'm currently preparing songs for my band's next album. We're playing a pop/funk style, but I'm really inspired by hip-hop for the general production, that's why I come to you guys.

I get pretty good results on drum/bass/synths and guitar but the quality of my vocals is pulling the whole song down. When I compare it to french hip-hop songs, I just feel like they're ahead of me.

They get beautiful vocals. It's detailed, with lovely high ends, but still pretty consistant in the low/low-mids section. All I can get is thin and agressive vocals.

At the moment I'm recording with an Audiobox USB and a Telefunken m81.

Here's a list of tracks I like :

YouTube
YouTube
YouTube
YouTube (special mention to this one, they have such a nice texture on vocals)
YouTube

I just make a precision, I like autotune but in my musical context I can't use too much autotune, so I'll maybe use it to get some depth but not something too noticeable.

I know that I need better gear, that's why I'll buy a RME babyface and a Sony c100 very soon.

So my question is simple, with my future setup, can I achieve such results ?
Or do I have to go in a studio ?

I really like the worflow I have in my place, moving to a studio would cost a lot of money, with uncertain results. Plus talking about performance, my brother (who's the lead singer) needs a comfortable place to sing, where he's confident enough.

Last precision, I know that the quality of the vocals is depending on the mixing skills and singer's takes, but I'm pretty confident about it, I work with people I trust.

Thanks for your answers and feedback.

Etienne.
Old 21st April 2019
  #2
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Led Music's Avatar
There’s no real way to predict whether you’re going to achieve the results you want with your future setup.
A lot of times it’s in the hands of the recording engineer to get the best out of the equipment you’re using.
I’d say as well a good part of the end result will come from good mixing.
Old 21st April 2019
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Indeed it will depend on the skills of the engineer.

Thing is I'm pretty new to hip-hop, and I just wonder if my future gear is enough to achieve that kind of results. Or do all these rappers have an overall expensive setup ? The impression I have when they talk is that it's mostly homemade.

But I just want feedback from people who managed to reach that quality, and see if they had a lot of gear or just a few good devices.
Old 21st April 2019
  #4
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atma's Avatar
The recording space is the biggest factor with vocal recording. Fix your acoustics before you invest in mics and preamps.
Old 23rd April 2019
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Got it, any recommandation for a brand selling bass traps and diffusers ?

I checked and they all claim to have the best stuff with revolutionnal materials. I don't care about the price but I want something reliable.
Old 23rd April 2019
  #6
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atma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatov View Post
Got it, any recommandation for a brand selling bass traps and diffusers ?

I checked and they all claim to have the best stuff with revolutionnal materials. I don't care about the price but I want something reliable.
Personally, I use a GIK Portable Isolation Booth set up behind me, and then I have a bunch of "moving blankets" (you can get these from any U-Haul) hung up in front of the mic. Of course, I'm also using a pop-screen on the mic. This is probably the cheapest and most effective set-up without spending thousands treating your entire space.

In general, GIK is a really decent company—you can actually call someone there and give them your room measurements and they can help you set up a properly treated room. On the other hand, if you want to go all out, you can actually build your own traps for much cheaper if you're willing to spend the time/effort. The most common materials used are Owens-Corning 703, and 705; but you have to build wooden frames and then cover them with fabric (and obviously hang/place them in your room properly). But also, be warned—dealing with pliable fiberglass panels can be a complete nightmare, as the fibers stick to you (and everything) and are insanely irritating and super unhealthy to breathe. Though if I'm not mistaken, there ought to be an entire sub-section here on GS dedicated to acoustic treatments (?)
Old 23rd April 2019
  #7
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SmoothTone's Avatar
 

Before you buy anything, take some time to get the best sound out of what you have and then you'll have a clearer idea of what (if any) limitations you have and what can be improved.

Take the time to find the best place in your recording space to record vocals. Move around the room and talk/sing while listening to the way the room interacts with the voice. Make a note (or even put markings on the floor) where the voice sounds most natural and there are no nasty resonances or reflections. Don't quit until you're sure you've found the spot in your room that makes the voice sound most beautiful. Inches matter here!

Then take some time to find the best placement for your mic. Experiment with different distances, angles, etc. Again, listening for the position that sounds most natural or closest to the beautiful sound you are chasing. Millimetres matter here!

If at this point you notice some reflections from nearby surfaces you can start to think about placing absorbant materials (anything from thick blankets to cushions or matresses or even bookshelves - whatever improves the sound) between the singer and the reflective surface. Pay attention to surfaces above the singer as well.

Then take some time to find the sweet spot for your preamp. Again, listening to the singer while varying the gain to see what setting gets you the richness you are after. Take care not to go too hot into your ADC. Most converters, especially consumer/prosumer grade ones, sound better with some headroom.

If at this point you're still not as close to the sound you're chasing as you want be, you can think about investing in an upgrade to the weakest link in your chain, whether this be the room, the mic, the preamp or the converter.

Hope that helps!
Old 23rd April 2019
  #8
Gear Nut
 
zukan's Avatar
 

Any chance of a link to your vocal mix? It's impossible to advise if we don't even know how your processing sounds.
Old 23rd April 2019
  #9
Here for the gear
 

I get that, I think you're right we didn't spend enough time trying different mic positions, that's a mistake.

Anyway, I'll buy the RME soon since I need it for my guitars so we'll do our best with that and the Telefunken, and we'll see what's really necessary .

Here's a link to a chorus I'm working on, I think you'll hear my problem. When I hear it alone, I feel it's ok with my 2 years experience and my gear in my mind, but when I compare it to rap hits, they just crush me.

Choose Chorus by EtienneNosz | Etienne Nosz | Free Listening on SoundCloud

Any feedback is welcome by the way ^^.

Etienne.
Old 23rd April 2019
  #10
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatov View Post
At the moment I'm recording with an Audiobox USB and a Telefunken m81.
I have not used an m81 before, but a dynamic mic would not be high on my list for vocals for pop vocals.
Old 23rd April 2019
  #11
@ Hatov -- You've already gotten some great suggestions for room treatment, and all that is definitely true. It will help a lot. However, it looks like you're using a dynamic microphone that will already be rejecting a lot of room sound (as well as a very cheap interface) and I have a feeling that you'll get closer to what you're looking for by using a good condenser mic with just a little distance (like, 12 or 16 inches, instead of just eating the mic like you might with a dynamic), particularly if you treat the room. A better interface will help, preamp-wise, and if you pick up an RME you'll be very well taken care of in that regard.

As far as a high quality budget friendly condenser goes, I'm a perennial evangelist for the Audio Technica AT-4033. It's an affordable transformerless large-diaphragm condenser (some would argue "medium diaphragm," but whatever) that stacks up against mics many times its price. Anything from the AT 40xx series should be a big improvement in your results, though, particularly if "beautiful" is the adjective you're going for with your vocals: they're smooth, quality, clear mics, built to last in Japan by serious craftspeople, and I respect the hell out of them.

Most hip hop producers I know will go for a Neumann u87 of any variety before anything else, and if you have a few grand to spend, great, do that! But if you don't, the 4033 will take you far.
Old 18th May 2019
  #12
Here for the gear
 

I've went down the path you are on ... Treat your recording area first !!! Then upgrade your mic , I just sold my Sony c100 it's a cool mic but it didn't fit my voice it was just to clinical , I have a very light mid-rangey voice and the Sony just sounded harsh but extremely clear ... So I bought the Manley reference C and I'm in Love with it !!! It cuts through the mix without being harsh and I use it with my Apollo unison ... I have the Rupert shelford on the way though
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