Recording mysteries of the universe - flat vocals on live recordings

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by JacieFB, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. JacieFB

    JacieFB Member

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    A question has been haunting me - perhaps you can help or at least commiserate?


    :bonk


    I've noticed on a lot of live recordings or on practice room recordings that the vocals (my own included, alas) sound flat and slightly out of key. I admit to not being the most gifted singer in the world, but I do work at it and I feel like I do a stand up job.

    Case 1: A few weeks back, one of my bands recorded a scratch practice demo just to hear what we sound like. We used a Rode K2 perched far enough away from the band to get a good signal and hear everything without it killing the mic. We go to listen back and the vocals sound a touch flat. (2 guitars, 2 vocals, drums, bass, btw). Recording doesn't sound bad otherwise. The guitars are a bit raunchy, but both of us decided it was strat night so we were fighting for sonic space for sure. Like I said, though, the vocals sounded a touch flat on the recording...however in the room during the performance, it sounded just fine. No one else had any complaints during the performance, either.

    Case 2: Last weekend, a different project was rehearsing and decided to make a couple of videos. Different singer, same thing. I wasn't singing, but during the performance, I remember thinking, wow that sounds bang-on. The rest of the band had similar feedback for him. I should mention that this vocalist has a bit more experience than me. He's better at his thing, I'm better at mine, but the bottom line is that he SHOULD be able to sing in key. And it sure sounded like he did. However, when I listened to the videos, his vocals sure sounded a bit flat. It was recorded on a digital camera, btw. Quality was decent - enough to hear everything, peaking and distorting occasionally, but all in all, not too bad.

    Is this the recording? THe product of too much sound into mics that can't handle it? Does the Sure 58 and Beta 58 cancel the frequencies that are in pitch and leave the ones that are slightly flat? lol

    Are my ears stupid?

    Anyone?
     
  2. Rex Anderson

    Rex Anderson Member

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    It's well known that volume affects pitch. Studio singers using headphones notice it. If the mix is too loud or too soft in the cans, vocal pitch on the overdub will be sharp or flat.

    Get a good monitor so you can hear yourself well. Record a bit and check to see where you are re: pitch.

    Adjust as necessary.
     
  3. Teleking

    Teleking Supporting Member

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    I notice this, too. I'm not the greatest singer in the world, but I've been singing 20 plus years. We record our rehearsals now thanks to my new StudioLive mixer. Fantastic as it really lets you focus on what you're doing well and wrong.

    I've noticed that the vocals due tend to be flat, and it bothers me. So I started recording with headphones out of the mixer and it quickly fixed that problem. Could barely hear the phones over the volume, but it was loud enough and my voice cut enough to where I was very on. Take the phones off and I'm a bit flat as well.

    My band likes volume, and I'm probably the worst offender as I LOVE my amp and it needs to be set at a good volume to get the goods. So we rehearse pretty loud.
     
  4. BluesForDan

    BluesForDan Member

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    what I'm getting out of this thread is that trying to sing in a loud environment tends to make your vocals flat? Am I getting that right?
     
  5. Rex Anderson

    Rex Anderson Member

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    Check this out:

    http://www.recordingeq.com/rw/tip01.htm


    if they are singing flat (under the pitch) it’s usually because they hear way too much of themselves and are backing off a bit. Simply turn down their vocals in their mix. The opposite is also true. If they are singing too sharp (or over the pitch) it means they can’t hear themselves enough and are pushing their vocals in order to hear themselves.
     
  6. RocksOff

    RocksOff Member

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    Try turning bass guitars down. In fact, remove them from the mix when studio tracking, or at least bury them.
     
  7. Flogger59

    Flogger59 Member

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    Yup, I do this when recording vocalists. Headphone volume and mix are critical.
     
  8. speakerjones

    speakerjones Member

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    This.

    Certain Reverbs too either live or in the studio, can make vocals sound pitchy. It's a good idea to not monitor with much reverb. It can hurt more than it helps and really throw you off.
     
  9. Nelson89

    Nelson89 Member

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    I've noticed this as well, but it usually happens more as the rehearsal goes on and my ears get more fatigued (I'm the singer and guitar player and record rehearsals). A lot of it is just cause there's so much sound in the room that it's harder to perceive the pitch. Better earplugs help...
     
  10. Tazboy

    Tazboy Member

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    I will also add my voice (pun intended) to the chorus that loud volumes tend to make vocalists sing flat and not realize it. Loud low frequencies such as bass makes the problem worse. I usually reduce or remove the bass and kick drum from the vocalists headphone mix when possible.
     
  11. JacieFB

    JacieFB Member

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    Interesting. Thanks for sharing your experiences. The one question that I have still, is the fact that I was a "neutral" listener in my Case 2. I was standing in the room. Things were loud, but not too loud. We do a pretty good job of keeping the mix as low as possible. My room is pretty well treated so that reflections and big reverbs aren't a problem. I swear that his vocals sounded good to me during the performance. Then when I listen back, they sound flat. Am I crazy?
     
  12. RocksOff

    RocksOff Member

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    It's the bass frequencies. They were affecting him, as well as you.
     
  13. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    The recording process does not magically make vocals flat.

    Lots of things are happening during a live performance that affect your perception of sound. One is sheer volume. Another is the out-of-phase reflections that happen in any room, treated or not. These reflections create psychoacoustic anomalies that can fool the ear.

    If it's sung on pitch live, the live recording will be recorded on pitch. If it's off, then it's because it's sung off pitch. There's no way around this.

    If you were talking about a vocal overdub, where the band was one pitch and the vocal way off, then I'd suggest checking your equipment. But that's not the case here.
     
  14. Hwoltage

    Hwoltage Member

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    Have you ever really listened to the harmonies on the intro to Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion?

    :facepalm
     

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