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A little help - country music... Condenser Microphones
Old 10th February 2018
  #1
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jnorman's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
A little help - country music...

Totally out of my ken, I have been asked to record vocals for 3 country singers for a CD project. They will be bringing backing tracks, adding the vocal parts, and I am to mix and master the project.

I don’t even have what most people think of as a vocal mic, so I will use my Schoeps cmc64s with pop filters. I have r121 and n8 ribbons, but I don’t think they are right for country vocals. Likewise my km183 omnis...

So, I will probably import the backing tracks, set the singers up with headphones, mic them from about 6-8” and Go from there. I assume the backing tracks have been mixed, which may present a problem when trying to glue the vocals to them. If they haven’t been mixed, I face a problem with “who’s the producer here?” I am being hired by the singers “agent”.

Any advice? Thanks.
Old 10th February 2018
  #2
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Lownotes's Avatar
 

I've done several of these types of projects, in Rap, Rock, and Country. It can be fun. The quality depends alot on the quality of the backing track. Be prepared to hit the web in search of a better one occasionally. I have a template set up for stereo import tracks and vocal tracks, groups and effects to speed things up.

The most important thing is getting the headphone mix right, especially with any "beginners". They settle too easy.

Hope that helps! Good luck!
Old 10th February 2018
  #3
Much depends on the style of country music (alt, folk, pop, etc.). Each style seems to have its own idiosyncrasies and appropriate “sounds”. Once you get the tracks, listen to some similar things on YouTube and you’ll get a feel for what to do.

BTW, the N8 might be just perfect for the vocals, depending on style. If you are doing the vocals one at a time, try the N8 about 12 inches from the voice and use a pop screen.

Bon chance.
Old 10th February 2018
  #4
By any chance are the three singers all female? I ask because the hottest new thing (or is that "thang"?) in "Hot Country" right now is all girl trios.
If so, you might check out "Runaway June" and "Post Monroe", two of the hottest.
Old 10th February 2018
  #5
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I sense there is more to this story than we are being told: any clueless "agent" that would prefer a recording resource with zero experience or appropriate gear for a given task is probably working for talent that also does not have a clue. Too this end be prepared for the possibility of the following challenges. 1. Novice studio vocal talent often have a lot of trouble working with head phone cueing. 2. The vocal skill level for both leads and harmony are complete unknowns so arrange a short run through at your console to play the backing tracks through your monitors while the vocal talent can "warm up" with the tracks with out mics or cans for cuing: this should inform your next step.
The most important agreement between all parties is a clear understanding of the linear limitations of the end recording. In the event the singers are not close to a performance level that could be considered "session ready" offer to provide a bench mark recording of where they are today. Set up some of your mics and try to lay down a couple of cuts with cuing cans, if possible, to give the clients a chance to evaluate where they are sonically before you dig into a project that may well turn out to be a star wars type of "Black Hole". Conversely if the talent has real possibilities be honest with yourself as to whether or not you have available (rent or borrowed) the gear and production chops to do an appropriate job for the clients that they may well deserve.
Hugh

Last edited by hughshouse; 11th February 2018 at 01:42 PM..
Old 10th February 2018
  #6
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Hugh's advice above is very pertinent, do your homework via such intelligent questions, trust your instincts and if it sounds too good to be true (for any party)...it probably is !

Any SD omni is going going to be less susceptible to breath pops than the equivalent sized cardioid...though it's still prudent to use a pop shield of some sort, perhaps even a couple of them, separated by 1cm or so.

Since you'll be working reasonably close to the singer's face/mouth, the relative contribution of the room and surrounding surfaces will be proportionally quite small. You can forget all those rules about using an omni to record an acoustic ensemble at a respectable distance in a nice churchy acoustic...this is a whole other can of worms !

You won't get the warmth and tilted up bass proximity effect of a cardioid too close...just a nice natural and extended bass and a non peaky treble.

Look at a few YouTube country singers in the studio and you'll often see the voice mic suspended from above at about nose to forehead height . This encourages a straight, slightly upward oriented posture which helps the voice develop and project, and avoids the mic diaphragm being in the direct receiving line of the singers mouth air blast...it can go above, to either side or below...anything but straight ahead from the tongue and teeth ! It's best if any breath hits the mic from an angle, not straight on...it's too easy to overload the capsule that way

Set up a few of these on several mic stands with a couple of pop filters on each, then you can rapidly move from mic to mic, having them sing a few phrases into each.

Go with the mic that flatters their voice best. Don't be afraid of ribbons and dynamic mics either, and do lots of short, rapid experiments and playbacks
Old 10th February 2018
  #7
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Could you just rent/borrow a "vocal mic" or two?

SDC's can be nice on vocals, when they are the right mic for the source. Your Schoeps are pretty flat mics though, so there's nothing there that can really help out a singer.

LDC's that are made more for vocal duties have a frequency response that, while it isn't flat, can definitely flatter some voices.

It's not that your Schoeps won't work, it just seems like it's taking a lot of effort to figure out a way to record with them, whereas if you can get your hands on a vocal mic (even something as ubiquitous as a u87) that might simplify things quite a bit. As Hugh mentioned you may already have a lot to deal with with inexperienced singers and agent.

-Mike
Old 10th February 2018
  #8
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
I sense there is more to this story...
Hugh is so right. In the words of Mr. T...

Old 12th February 2018
  #9
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I’ve done some of these types of sessions, but not with country music. Some thoughts:

Consider renting or borrowing an LDC. Your ribbons might work depending on what the rear lobe will pick up.

Use a pop filter.

In remote recordings that we normally do, you want to grab some of the acoustic. Opposite generally holds true for vocal recording like the one youre doing. Consider using a sleeping bag, heavy blanket, or something similar. When placed behind the singer (perhaps drapped over a sturdy mic stand), it will do wonders removing the room sound that the mic would pick up. This will help you get a sound that is free of room sound, echos, accoustic signature of room. You can dial these in later in post to get it to fit in best with the backing track.

Backing tracks - consider checking the range with the singers before getting too far in the recording process. I’ve pitch shifted entire tracks before and it helped. Usually a few semitones either way works out fine. Beyound that, artifacts come into play.

Consider a simple 1 pager contract that puts all copyright responsibility on the artist.

Tom
Old 12th February 2018
  #10
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Thread Starter
Thanks to all of you for your helpful comments.
Tom - good advice. Thanks.
Old 12th February 2018
  #11
Gear Addict
I assume you'll be getting paid. To protect yourself, do your best to pre-arrange exactly what work you'll have to do. I wouldn't agree to the project without hearing both the backing tracks and the singers; without that, you'll have no idea whatsoever what it will take to give them a reasonably acceptable product.

For instance: how much mixing work will the backing tracks take? Are the backing tracks copyrighted material and did they get clearance to use them (you won't want to get involved without clearance, of course)? How good or bad are the singers' pitch, rhythm, phrasing, and tonal control? You will probably have to comp together several takes; will you also have to Melodyne them heavily (or similar)? I'd gather information, then give them an hourly rate with an inflated very rough estimate of how many hours the whole process might take (inflate it so that if things go awry and it all takes longer than you expect, you'll still be within the rough estimate). If they walk, you might be better off without the work.

If you're going to do it, I'd consider getting a LDC; they're handy to have around. I'd buy rather than rent, because they might want to come back and re-do things at some point in the future, and you should have the same mic available if so. There are tons of pretty good LDC's for a reasonable price out there, especially used. For female vocals, I'd suggest a used AT3035, which can be had for about $100, and is a really clean, fairly flat but detailed mic that you can use as a spot mic for instrumental recordings in the future. I also like the Sennheiser MK4; it has a bit more HF lift (mine was well under $200 used). The Low-End forum here on GS has a million threads about other inexpensive LDC's (including some U87 clones that I haven't used).

If you don't want to buy a mic, I recorded two or three singers decades ago with a SM81, and the results were good, so one of your SDC's or a ribbon could certainly work.

Many singers expect a bit of hi frequency lift from a vocal mic (for "intimacy and sheen"). A slight rise starting anywhere from 3k to 6k and continuing out to 10k or beyond is common in vocal LDC's. If you use a flatter mic, you might consider using a parametric EQ to dial in a slight lift (I would record flat, but let them hear the lift in both the headphones while recording and the playback channel).

Best of luck with it.
Old 12th February 2018
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
Totally out of my ken, I have been asked to record vocals for 3 country singers for a CD project. They will be bringing backing tracks, adding the vocal parts, and I am to mix and master the project.

I don’t even have what most people think of as a vocal mic, so I will use my Schoeps cmc64s with pop filters. I have r121 and n8 ribbons, but I don’t think they are right for country vocals. Likewise my km183 omnis...

So, I will probably import the backing tracks, set the singers up with headphones, mic them from about 6-8” and Go from there. I assume the backing tracks have been mixed, which may present a problem when trying to glue the vocals to them. If they haven’t been mixed, I face a problem with “who’s the producer here?” I am being hired by the singers “agent”.

Any advice? Thanks.
What DAW are you going to record to....or are you recording to a dedicated hardware recorder ?

It'll be very useful to experiment (if you get the gig, and the material and singers pass all the "clearance checks" above) with how much of their own voice they expect to hear to sing to/with as reference...and become familiar with how to minimize latency, if the cans monitoring (do you have open or closed type ?) isn't direct, but goes through the DAW first.

Also, do you have a nice reverb and short delay to feed into the monitoring cans mix, to flatter their voices...this can really lift performance. Don't print these effects to the recording however...you want it dry !

So... a bit of homework ahead...your wife can trial these methods with cans on and playing flute...same principles apply

I hope they are good singers...OMG the comping involved if they are not.... but worry about that later

Last edited by studer58; 12th February 2018 at 03:43 PM..
Old 12th February 2018
  #13
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Roland's Avatar
Large diaphram condensors are usually the order of the day. The Schoeps are great and fantastic for classical vocal spots, but the presentation is wrong for the type of vocal they are likely looking for. You can get decent cheap ones from Rode, more expensive from AT then up to expensive and beyond. Cheap solution is a Shure 58, will likely sit better in the mix, great dynamic, sm7. Any of those will work, give or take the vocalists.

Good luck!
Old 13th February 2018
  #14
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If you decide to buy an inexpensive LDC, consider an Audio Technica 2020. Other AT mics further up their range offer other choices. I have a pair of 4050s that work just fine. Tad bright, but decent.
Old 14th February 2018
  #15
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emrr's Avatar
Keep in mind Motown sometime in the late '60's moved to using KM86's for almost everything, including lead vocals. Just this week a thread came up about using KM84's for lead vocals, many happy users.
Old 18th February 2018
  #16
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Old 18th February 2018
  #17
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However, once the vocals are captured and it's time to mix...can I suggest you avoid this "over-anxious parenting" like the plague: 7 Tips for Mixing Vocals

It's the aural equivalent of psychotic helicopter-parenting...of swiping every domestic surface with an antibacterial sponge before toddler's epidermal layer makes contact. If you want the recipe for cookie cutter audio uniformity and burger chain vocals consistency...you got it !
Old 22nd February 2018
  #18
KEL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
Totally out of my ken, I have been asked to record vocals for 3 country singers for a CD project. They will be bringing backing tracks, adding the vocal parts, and I am to mix and master the project.

I don’t even have what most people think of as a vocal mic, so I will use my Schoeps cmc64s with pop filters. I have r121 and n8 ribbons, but I don’t think they are right for country vocals. Likewise my km183 omnis...

So, I will probably import the backing tracks, set the singers up with headphones, mic them from about 6-8” and Go from there. I assume the backing tracks have been mixed, which may present a problem when trying to glue the vocals to them. If they haven’t been mixed, I face a problem with “who’s the producer here?” I am being hired by the singers “agent”.

Any advice? Thanks.
Interesting. I'd probably have more questions that could/should have been asked up front. But any time before the session is enough time to get organized and understand what the tasks you'd be responsible for, then price accordingly or respectfully turn down the job.

-What kind of CD project has premixed backing tracks? Sounds like kids or novices
-I'd definitely ask for the tracks up front and listen. Don't be afraid to offer your opinion on the condition of the tracks.
-Mixing and mastering a poorly mixed track can only go so far. But, you'd be responsible for a whacked out bass, kick, guitars etc because you "mastered" it.
-is it a trio, three separate singers on separate song projects, one lead vocal with two harmonies? The answers to those questions would impact how you intend to record the girls.
-How many songs?
-Is anyone producing the vocals? The "agent"? That's really where you get results; knowing how to produce vocalists, to get them to phrase, hear pitch issues, groove, place their voices, emote, not yell, not burn out, etc. Getting a level then recording is easy.
-What is the end goal of these recordings? The answer probably doesn't matter unless these demos are being shopped against all the zillion other nashville hopefuls. If the agent took a lot of money from the client or parents to produce these CD recordings, there may be hidden agendas and motivations behind decisions.
-if these mixes are expected to sound like current nashville productions, melodyne or antares is probably in the mix..
-be clear as to how much, or often you can (or should) revisit the mixing process. You can quote a price then the agent can revisit your studio to massage mixes insisting that it falls under the initial fee structure. Getting the final decision maker to rubber stamp or sign off on your mixes is important. Then, if fixes or mix massages are needed , those are on a new fee clock.
-I generally recommend that a real mastering engineer be used for an additional checks and balances set of ears…and usually they have specialized equipment.

I've done these kinds of sessions a lot, for decades, at least a couple thousand demos worth, hundreds of singers. Gear means less than people skills , producer skills and ears. That being said, a few choices of vocal mics can mate a mic with voice before turning EQ knobs.

Good luck
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