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"Thin" vocals


(@sweep)
New Member
Joined: 16 years ago
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Topic starter  

Hi.

I'm having problems recording my vocals at the moment. It feels like they almost sit outside the mix, and they sound too "thin" and weak.

I've been reading a lot of singing advice, such as tips about breathing techniques, but to be honest it's all very confusing. I really want to improve my vocals but learning to breathe through your diaphragm is hardly the easiest thing to do when you don't know anyone who can help you, and you're not even sure if you're doing it already or not.

I'm looking for any tips, suggestions, anything. Any help is greatly appreciated.


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 geoo
(@geoo)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2823
 

Lay on your back and practice singing. I am not saying this is the answer to all your problems but it does teach you awareness of using your diaphram.

Jim

“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)


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(@kingpatzer)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2198
 

What mic and pre-amp are you using?

A good pre-amp matched with the right mic makes a huge difference.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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(@sweep)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3
Topic starter  

My mic is a Shure SM58 and the pre-amp is a Spirit FOLIO Notepad.


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(@kingpatzer)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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ok .. some basics.

The SM-58 is an ok mic, and lots of people use them You might want to look at a large diaphram condenser mic though, it will make a noticable difference. SM-58's are noticably dull in the high end, so if you've got a higher range voice, that might be part of your problem -- particularly since you're using a lower end pre-amp.

But, let's see what we can do without buying new gear :)

I personally like to track vocals wtihout any effects.

If you have more than one mic -- set up one to sing into, and the other on a stand in front of you pointing at the wall in front of you. (immediate ambient echo ). If you can't dual track or don't have two mics, skip this step.

Set you levels at 0db and sing something, make sure the amber lights are showing you good signal, but that you're not clipping. Adjust the fader for the track up or down as you need to.

Record a couple of takes of your vocal track dry and pick the very best one to use.

Go through your track in your recording software and set up a high pass filter to pull off any extra bass -- particularly on any heavy "p" and "b" sounds. Use a parabolic eq to figure out the frequencies to cut. What you want to do is just filter away noise, not tone! Just select the areas with the pop's .. you'll be filtering below 300Hz or lower.

Look through for any large unintended dynamic changes. Something unanaturally loud or soft. Pan this spots up or down by +- 3db or so. You're just looking to make the track smooth.

Now figure out the tonal goal -- get a sense in your head how you want the vocals to sound. Be reasonable in your expectations -- fx can't turn a person with a thin voice into Pavaratti! So take a good hard listen to your starting track (with it processed just a little as noted above) and try to imagine how THAT voice will sound in the final mix.

Now . fx time:

Firsrt, bounce your vocals to a second track. Now you're going to apply FX to one and keep on dry. Then you're going to blend the dry and the FX track back together in the final mix.

Compression -- these are hard to master, as they are tricky little beasts. Set a fairly high ratio and a slow attack and release time to start with and play with the settings . . . this gives a more intense presence.

EQ -- not a lot .. you might want to increase the low end just sliightly if the vocals seem to be to light. But heavy EQ tends to mess up vocals in my opinion.

However, a good trick with EQ is to put a high shelf eq on and listen to the dry track . . . above 4k . . . the vocals should seem very present (but odd, since we've lost the full lower end!) If they don't sound right, try putting an exciter after the compressor to try and spice up the upper end.

Use a vocal exciter, not just an eq boost -- an eq boost on a mic that doesn't record well on the high end just boosts noise!

Once it sounds good, then just mix the wet and dry till it sounds good. Ride the wet levels through the song to mix it into the rest of the tune.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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 geoo
(@geoo)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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Awsome tips KP.. Thank you. Does this work even if you have a large diaphram condensor mic? I have one of those and a knock off sm58. I was thinking of using your tips but having the condensor in front of me and the 58 knock off pointed at the wall. Maybe even just moving things around to see all the different variations I can get.

Never thought about vocals so in depth.

Jim

“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)


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(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2198
 

Awsome tips KP.. Thank you. Does this work even if you have a large diaphram condensor mic? I have one of those and a knock off sm58. I was thinking of using your tips but having the condensor in front of me and the 58 knock off pointed at the wall. Maybe even just moving things around to see all the different variations I can get.

Never thought about vocals so in depth.

Jim

Yes you can use a large diaphram condensor for the trick as well. Try it both ways -- using the Shure to get the echos on one set of takes, and using the LDC for the echos for another set of takes. Go with the ones that you like the best as the dry take.

The thing to always keep in mind is that fx can modify the base, but if you really don't like the dry vocal track, then fx in the mix won't make it suddenly "pop."

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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(@sweep)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3
Topic starter  

Thanks, those are some really great tips. My secondary mic is of lesser quality, I assume that would be the best one to record the "wall" track with?

It's also been suggested that I should, using the dry/wet technique, make the wet vocals slightly detuned. This makes sense, logically, as it would thicken the vocals.

Should I oppose the dry and wet vocals in terms of their right/left placement, or should they be in the same place? Or should I just fiddle with it until it sounds best (the best method, albeit sometimes the most confusing one)?


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(@kingpatzer)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2198
 

Thanks, those are some really great tips. My secondary mic is of lesser quality, I assume that would be the best one to record the "wall" track with?

yes, I'd start that way. But try it both ways. You never know what will sound best.
It's also been suggested that I should, using the dry/wet technique, make the wet vocals slightly detuned. This makes sense, logically, as it would thicken the vocals.

I've seen this trick used, but I've never liked the resulting sound. Frankly, if you're ears are good enough you'll notice the vocals as being off-key.

Should I oppose the dry and wet vocals in terms of their right/left placement, or should they be in the same place? Or should I just fiddle with it until it sounds best (the best method, albeit sometimes the most confusing one)?

how you play with the right left placement on the wet/dry mix is up to you. The important thing to take note of is to make sure that the mics are not out of phase for the recording . .. that'll kill sound more than anything!

I usually start with them evenly balanced right and left. Panning then happens based on what the rest of the instrumentation is doing.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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