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Vocal performances Saturation Plugins
Old 3rd September 2007
  #1
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Vocal performances

By searching for "vocal performance" in the thread titles, there were no results, and when searching for "vocals" I did not see any performance related (all gear related) threads on the first 2 pages. So I decided to make a new thread out of it, if such a thread already exists, I'd be happy if someone would point me to it

Recently my recording buddy and I did some vocal tracking for a song. My recording buddy is a singer too, and has the same vocal coach as the singer of the band we were recording. That was actually quite nice, as he could help the performer here and there on some techniques. We really worked on getting a good vocal track, and when we were finished, we thought we had it. We finished mixing, and now that I send it to a much more experienced engineer than me, to give it a listen. He suggested to re-record the vocals, and after listening again, I know he's right. It's just not there yet.

So I was wondering, what's your way to get a good vocal track out of a mediocre singer, and how do you know when a vocal take is good enough?
Although very interesting, I assume that it's not such a big problem with great singers, who deliver a good vocal track from the first take.

Old 3rd September 2007
  #2
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Unclenny's Avatar
For me.....and I mostly record myself (I think I qualify as mediocre), a good vox take is one that elicits some sort of emotion upon the first listen.

Even with a few pitch issues etc., I'll keep a take that sounds and feels real.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #3
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chymer's Avatar
 

I get them to sing with as much emotion as possible, with as much energy as possible, just encouraging them and giving them confidence to really sell their performance........then......
melodyne.
Chymer
Old 3rd September 2007
  #4
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andychamp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibvee View Post
(...)what's your way to get a good vocal track out of a mediocre singer, and how do you know when a vocal take is good enough?(...)
I've learned that what bothers me most about singers is when they try to sound like someone else. The biggest favor you can do a singer is to help them find their own voice.
But...younger/less experienced bands will resent that, because you're changing a key element of what they consider to be their sound(Aww, man! He used to sound like Dio. Nobody's gonna recognise us now!).
A lot of it has to do with their own self-image.

Also, the sooner you learn the singer's "performance curve", the easier the sessions will be. Some take half a day to deliver, some start full-on but lose energy quickly, others slowly get better with every take...it varies.
And they've got the weight of the world on their shoulders: the rest of the band want to see the record finished, they're eager to please the (often more experienced) studio guy and they feel like under a microscope.
So, for the vocal takes I usually have only 1 other band member present (I figure out which one during the basic takes) and try to keep a balance between performance and relaxation, make'em feel like they earned their coffee break but be ready to hit record when they're ready to deliver. Let them go at their pace, but always, lightly, pushing for just a little more.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #5
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gurubuzz's Avatar
 

1. record the warm up takes..they are usually the best...and if the singer says just let me practice the next verse a bit ...record it...

2 Make them feel like there is nothing special or different about today....just sing your song like its just one more performance....
The Idea of the above statement is to relax he singer...the more adrenalin the tighter the muscles and more flat or sharp notes...


3 After a few takes ...tell them to stop thinking.......Thinking about what you are going to sing next puts you somewhere else rather than here and now....


4. Dim the lights....No coffee or alcohol ... fresh water and remind them to keep lubricated...if they insist on drinking alcohol remind them that it dehydrates and to sip water before each stop and start...


5. Spend time on a perfect headphone mix...Delay or reverb in the cans helps singers pitch notes better...don't use detuners or flangers/chorus etc

6.When punching in get them to sing along with the previous line ...this makes the breath natural....
Old 3rd September 2007
  #6
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Akoppenheffer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chymer View Post
I get them to sing with as much emotion as possible, with as much energy as possible, just encouraging them and giving them confidence to really sell their performance........then......
melodyne.
Chymer
Haha, I'll go with that opinion as well.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #7
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BLueROom's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chymer View Post
I get them to sing with as much emotion as possible, with as much energy as possible, just encouraging them and giving them confidence to really sell their performance........then......
melodyne.
Chymer
yup
Old 3rd September 2007
  #8
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FossilTooth's Avatar
 

Yeah... the biggest problem with mediocre vocalists is that they tend to be so concerned with singing it "right" that they don't have a fair chance of delivering a compelling performance. Often, discussing classic singing technique with an inexperienced singer in the studio can do more harm than good.

There's only one thing that can help a mediocre singer improve: Lots and lots of singing. (provided they have any verifiable taste of their own).

Ever hear the first Stooges record? Iggy Pop's vocals sucked hard. It was one of the most self-conscious sounding performances I've ever heard. It sounds exactly like what it was: a kid recording for the first time, hearing his own voice blasting in the headphone mix without enough of the band. It didn't stop him from becoming a living legend down the line. Neither did his 'singing ability" in general. He found a eventually way to make his personality come across on records. Which brings us to the next point:

Even when it comes to Brittney Spears, listeners are looking for one thing in a vocal, first and foremost: Personality.

While this easily explains the popularity of Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, it also explains the popularity of almost every vocalist from Bing Crosby to Biggie Smalls.

What's the moral? Stress less about getting it right, and focus more on getting it good. Every singer is different.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Ey all, thanks a lot for the replies. Really some things that are worth trying out.
Quote:
melodyne
I actually intended not to learn how to use it, let alone, buying it... But perhaps I'll have to, one day. But for now I'd first like to learn everything I can do without melodyne to record good vocals.

Can't remember who it was, but one of the great producers/engineers (it might be in the guests forums here) talked about making a headphone mix in the control room together with the artist, and patching it directly on the phones, are there more people who do this? How often do you experience that a talent isn't performing at it's max because the headphone mix isn't right?
Old 3rd September 2007
  #10
Gear Head
 

A lot of really good advices in this thread for sure, wish that some of you guys would have been my producer/recording engineer!

One thing that really helps out when one is standing there in the vocal booth,, is to be able to adjust the headphone mix on the spot.

Meaning, have a blend function in the booth so the singer can blend how much of the pre-recorded material and the direct tap from the microphone in the both, the singer is hearing.

THAT helps out a lot!

Because you can spend a whole day creating “the” headphone mix and the singer may be happy with it at that moment, but after a couple of hours this might change and by then the singer is very likely not going to admit it because you’ve spent so much time creating it and he doesn’t want to appear like an asshole in front of the only guy who (if you are a professional) is relaxed and nice to him/her in the studio.

Also the singing is performed in coordination with both the hearing and the voice and the hearing changes over the day, so a blend function is an extremely helpful tool that is just as extremely unusual in studios.

I’ve built my own in-ear system that I use both on stage as well as in the studio just because of all the hassle that I’ve had, hearing myself enough when performing.
Andy








Old 3rd September 2007
  #11
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travisbrown's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by andychamp View Post
I've learned that what bothers me most about singers is when they try to sound like someone else. The biggest favor you can do a singer is to help them find their own voice.
Interestingly, there are stories that Elvis Presley would work very hard to emulate inflections and phrasing that he liked on demo tracks from pitching songwriters. Often these demos were of songwriter trying to sing like Elvis, so you'd have Elvis copying singers copying Elvis.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #12
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heathen's Avatar
 

I like to make a vocalist sweat. When they are sweating they will perform, they have to, because I don't let up, it's like this, track done ok, "next track" u ready, c'mon lets go? No quick cigarettes, no quick bite to eat, no quickly checking email or sms and no listening back to tracks we just did unless I/they are concerned something was really not right,

First time a vocalist works with me I try to work them hard, get them a little edgy and waving thier hands around and slowly watch the veins in thier forehead start to swell, though still encouraging them at the same time. Then after the session is done I'll make a cuppa tea and relax with the artist (just so they know I can chill also) and listen back.

Then I explain to them why we just worked so fast and hard, "it's so we don't kill the the vibe" I tell them. Then usually every time we work from there on they know what I want from them, I'm quite demanding and they know it, but when they hear the performance played back they are usually happy to be pushed a little, they start to push themselves, I want them to push me also.

At the end of the day a slow boring day will translate into the sound, a fast paced day where the time goes quickly will translate into the sound also. But you can't push them too hard or they will just think you are a dickhead.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #13
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heathen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by travisbrown View Post
Interestingly, there are stories that Elvis Presley would work very hard to emulate inflections and phrasing that he liked on demo tracks from pitching songwriters. Often these demos were of songwriter trying to sing like Elvis, so you'd have Elvis copying singers copying Elvis.
Every time I see that Elvis scene in "Forrest Gump" I near piss myself laughing.
Old 4th September 2007
  #14
Gear Addict
 

Damn, I'm NO expert by any stretch,

but if a singer can't perform in a studio how the heck can they survive on a stage. A note is a note, guitar, bass, vocals, keys, a note is a note.

Great advice by all of you guys, I like the idea of pushing the band hard, nothing worse then wasted time. Lawyers love it though!
Old 4th September 2007
  #15
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8th_note's Avatar
 

Quote:
We really worked on getting a good vocal track, and when we were finished, we thought we had it.
Are you trying to do this in a single vocal take? With the singers I typically work with I can't imagine not comping a vocal from 4 or 5 takes. There's no way these guys (or girls) could lay down a single keeper vocal track. Man, if you're trying to get a single good vocal take from an inexperienced singer you've got an uphill battle.
Old 4th September 2007
  #16
Gear Addict
 

No! We really did quite some vocal passes, and noted which things were best in every take.
I hate editing, but there's just no other option. As long as I'm not doing a Celine Dion or similar I think this will be necessary.
Old 4th September 2007
  #17
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miqer's Avatar
 

With singing soul: not so pro women singers, tend to (sometimes) get shy and sing not so loud... Almost whisper... I sometimes go stand next to them and scream out the lyric. Then I ask them to also screeaaam... Scream it, like Tina Turner would! Like Janice Joplin would.
Now we are having fun screaming...
After that, when the headphones go on, they tend to whisper again... So again... I ask them: give me that raw energy... Volume! Whaaa.. And she goed: really? And I say: yeah...
The performance is usually better, more powerfull. (The compressor is on, yes).



M.
Old 4th September 2007
  #18
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miqer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibvee View Post
as I'm not doing a Celine Dion or similar I think this will be necessary.
When live, Celine Dion runs around the stage like an 80ies rock goddess, high air kicks... So funny. Wonder what she is like in the studio. Has she broken any Hammonds by jumping on them?
Old 4th September 2007
  #19
Gear Head
 

Do you seriously think Celine is a one take singer? Hahahaha
Jesus there is more than 1 documentary with Celine in the studio, just download it.
And let’s just say that most singers do several takes.

And as for “making a vocalist sweat” I don’t even no where to begin,

Let’s just say that I would probably make something break in your body if you tried to make me sweat in the studio.
A singer is under enough pressure as it is in the studio, especially a singer in a band.

The very comment in it self tells me you don’t work with professional artists, with a record company and a decent budget backing them up.
dfegad
Old 5th September 2007
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andytheswede View Post
Do you seriously think Celine is a one take singer? Hahahaha
Jesus there is more than 1 documentary with Celine in the studio, just download it.
And let’s just say that most singers do several takes.

And as for “making a vocalist sweat” I don’t even no where to begin,

Let’s just say that I would probably make something break in your body if you tried to make me sweat in the studio.
A singer is under enough pressure as it is in the studio, especially a singer in a band.

The very comment in it self tells me you don’t work with professional artists, with a record company and a decent budget backing them up.
dfegad

I have to agree... a singer should do his takes in a relaxing environment, WITHOUT being under pressure, sweating or any of that stuff. That stuff only creates tension, and once a singer gets tense, the vocal performance WILL suck. Good vocal technique is built on the singer being totally loose, cause thats the only way he/she can hit notes. If you do the opposite, you have somebody who's straining his voice and singing off key.
Old 5th September 2007
  #21
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by andytheswede View Post
Do you seriously think Celine is a one take singer? Hahahaha
Jesus there is more than 1 documentary with Celine in the studio, just download it.
And let’s just say that most singers do several takes.
I picture Celine Dion as one of the better vocalists, the one take thing is more imaginary if you know what I mean. If I'd be working with her right know I would probably be satisfied with the first take already. I read some things from a producer of her, and how they usually work.
I believe you were the one making the comment about the personal headphone mixing? One of the studio's I have access to has an 8 channel headphone mix system, which is indeed very handy, but the others I work in know and then haven't got anything like it at all. I should think about a little trick which makes this possible without to much hassle.
Old 5th September 2007
  #22
Gear Head
 

Well one little trick is to buy a cheap Rolls mixer, that’s what I’m using.
Like this one for example http://www.rolls.com/data/mx22man.pdf
NOTE FOR THE DUMMY: the signal being recorded does not pass trough the cheap rolls mixer.
Old 5th September 2007
  #23
Gear Addict
 

  1. Make the artist "Feel good" mabout their singing. Positive reinforcement (even in correction) is a very good thing.
  2. Stress emotion and feeling in the music.
  3. You should record everything (even if the vocalist thinks you're not recording)
  4. Record multiple takes (at least 3-5 for the lead vocal)
  5. Comp like crazy. Often times, 3 mediocre performances can be comped into 1 GREAT take.
  6. Get some tuning software (like melodyne) to clean up problem areas.
Old 6th September 2007
  #24
Gear Addict
 

Ah, thanks all!

I believe Beh$%^&*(er recently made something that looks a lot like the Rolls thing, I might look into that. Just taking something like that with you might come in handy now and then maybe.

Got some things to try out next time that I'm recording vocals
Old 6th September 2007
  #25
Gear Head
 

thumbsupa lot of the rolls stuff can be run on batterys
Old 6th September 2007
  #26
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by andytheswede View Post
One thing that really helps out when one is standing there in the vocal booth,, is to be able to adjust the headphone mix on the spot.
I never use a vocal booth and never understood the logic behind it. Any sound needs room to bloom and breathe and I don't know how a singer could be comfortable when being isolated in a phone booth with everybody watching.

And I'm not sure if it's better for the singer to adjust his own mix. It might work for some people but singers usually aren't tech-heads and could be distracted by all he knob-fiddling.

I try to get out of the way when recording vocals and just let the singer do his thing. That might mean NOT testing 7 different preamps but rather setting on a particular mic/pre/comp combo very fast and then just record.
Old 6th September 2007
  #27
Gear Nut
 

I certainly qualify as a "mediocre" singer. Here's what I do. When I am ready to record the vocal, I start with the easiest part of the song, be it the verse, chorus or the bridge. I sing that part, and that part only until I have what I want. Then before going any further, stack it with another vocal take that matches perfectly. By doing the song in sections it is much easier for me to match up the vocal takes and remember where I did my pauses, got louder, etc. Then I move on the next easiest part, repeat the process and finally finish with the most difficult part. This way I have not sung myself out on the difficult parts first.

I just do not have a good enough voice to lay down a single vocal and have it sound like anything, and since I am in my own home studio, I can take all the time I need.
Old 7th September 2007
  #28
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u b k's Avatar
 

DITCH THE HEADPHONES.

headphones, ime, are the enemy of good pitch, they disconnect the singer from their instrument. guitarists, drummers, they're used to hearing their instruments come in exclusively thru the ears. but singers need to hear their voice inside their head as well as outside their head. headphones drown out the inner vocal resonance and cut off the sound in the room as well. all the cues we depend upon are gone.

so stick that mic dead center between the monitors, go mono, flip phase in one speaker, and have them sing to the music in the room. watch them come alive, hear the pitch immediately get better, feel the difference in the whole vibe.

who practices singing into a mic while listening in headphones? nobody ever does this, ever, yet we expect them to come into a pressured alien situation like the studio and have them develop a new skillset on the spot while demanding a compelling performance. and we see, time and again, how well it works, yet people blame the person rather than questioning process.

if you want them to lay the best track possible, you have to create an environment that is as close as possible to what they're accustomed to, to what is natural for all of us. imagine having to wear latex gloves while recording guitar. imagine having to use sticks made of some strange polymer while banging drumheads made of gauze.

some singers do fine with cans, god bless 'em. MOST, ime, do better without them.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 7th September 2007
  #29
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rodge's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chymer View Post
I get them to sing with as much emotion as possible, with as much energy as possible, just encouraging them and giving them confidence to really sell their performance........then......
melodyne.
Chymer
as do i
Old 7th September 2007
  #30
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
some singers do fine with cans, god bless 'em. MOST, ime, do better without them.
It's probably true for older singers, though I never had any problems with them using headphones.

But younger people spend so much time listening to iPods and the like thru cans that I seriously doubt that they feel uncomfortable wearing them in the studio.

There's surely a lot to be said for hearing your voice from ,outside' but on the other hand singing while listening to the playback thru cans will get the singer more into the overall sound and also lets him/her adjust dynamically.

But maybe it's different when using a booth because personally I always record vocals in a former living room-turned-studio room that has just the right amount of reflection for vocals and so the singers will obviously hear that thru the cans as well.

It's true that singers might not practice with a microphone but then I never practice electric guitar thru an amp either.

But I definitely will try to record some singers without cans soon, especially as I've got a pair of spare Genelec 1029As that probably are very well suited for the task.
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