Tried a new vocal tracking chain

maydaynyc

Gold Supporting Member
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1,387
I've been recording an average but aggressive singing male rock singer recently and wasn't happy with my typical chain of Telefunken AK-47 > API512C with no eq or compression added during tracking. For last night's session I decided to change things up so I set up a Sure SM7b > Great River MP500NV > API 525 compressor and I just loved the difference. Not quite as high fidelity as before and I had to set the compressor much more aggressively than I normally would for a tracking vocal (peak reductions were around -8 to -10 dbs) but the end result had more power, consistency and somehow I think he sang better with what he was hearing in his headphones, not as much oversinging.

I know, you want audio clips. We ended late last night and I didn't have a chance to export anything. I'll get to the studio to produce some rough before/after clips this week and add to this post. In the meantime, if anyone has some favorite vocal tracking chains I'd love to hear them.

[URL=http://s113.photobucket.com/user/maydaynyc/media/20161218_165646_zps455zgtzj.jpg.html] [/URL]
 

maydaynyc

Gold Supporting Member
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1,387
Nice. I would really like an sm7b one of these days.

My personal experience is that it was not an immediately gratifying mic the way a nice LDC is. Every time I did an A/B shootout I ended up using a bigger, brighter, fuller mic. But as I used it more I discovered it works better on less experienced singers, particularly those with an aggressive style. I wouldn't use if for a pretty female voice or anyone crooning. Also its very low gain so you need a good preamp. You can see from the picture I'm adding about 48 dbs of gain. The signal going into the DAW averaged around -12 with peaks -6 to -8.

I've never tried it on anything but vocals. But now I might experiment with it on electric guitar, although I mic guitars much less these days now that I push my Kemper on anyone willing to try it!
 

Rex Anderson

Member
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5,524
I bet you would get a lot more info on Gearslutz.

Of course you will hear a lot of "vintage Neumann M-49, U-47, AKG C-12, Telefunken 251" mic choices that are unobtanium for mere mortals.

And of course, you have to have some Pultec EQ's in the chain too. Be sure to get a Farichild 670 when you can.

https://www.justmastering.com/article-classiccompressorsguide.php

I have not tried any of the plug-ins, but hear they are quite good these days. Certainly more affordable.

I know most of this is not helpful. There are so many good mics, compressors and EQ's these days, the challenge is to find what you can afford that sounds good on the singer you are recording.

Looks like you have some good options and have done some searching. Wish I could add something useful, but I'm one of those lucky guys that had all the vintage mics and processors.

@jmoose will probably have some good opinions for you.
 

maydaynyc

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,387
I bet you would get a lot more info on Gearslutz.

Of course you will hear a lot of "vintage Neumann M-49, U-47, AKG C-12, Telefunken 251" mic choices that are unobtanium for mere mortals.

And of course, you have to have some Pultec EQ's in the chain too. Be sure to get a Farichild 670 when you can.

https://www.justmastering.com/article-classiccompressorsguide.php

I have not tried any of the plug-ins, but hear they are quite good these days. Certainly more affordable.

I know most of this is not helpful. There are so many good mics, compressors and EQ's these days, the challenge is to find what you can afford that sounds good on the singer you are recording.

Looks like you have some good options and have done some searching. Wish I could add something useful, but I'm one of those lucky guys that had all the vintage mics and processors.

@jmoose will probably have some good opinions for you.

Thanks Rex, I'm good on my plugin chains for post tracking processing. And I've got a modestly nice set of mics and outboard gear at my disposal for tracking but I tend to get into habits of using the exact same mix of stuff each time to make the sessions go faster and cut down on experimenting time. For example I know how to get a good sound of of my Lindell pre and compressor with an AK47 in about 2 minutes. But this little exercise of just using a different mix of mic, pre, comp than I normally use was a good reminder that experimenting is fun and can yield good results. That's why I asked what other people use.

For example I know @loudboy also uses the Great River pre that I have so I'm sure he's got some good ideas I never thought of for pairing it with eq/compressors, mics, etc.
 

jmoose

Member
Messages
5,216
Also its very low gain so you need a good preamp. You can see from the picture I'm adding about 48 dbs of gain. The signal going into the DAW averaged around -12 with peaks -6 to -8.

Thanks for the mention, gotta get back to work here in a minute...

With an SM7 and "aggressive rock" vocal you shouldn't need nearly that much gain to get a good signal.

How far was the singer from the mic? Usually people eat the SM7, lips basically on it and I dunno? 20-25dB of gain? My old Telefunken V672s only have 35dB available and I've never had to open 'em up all the way...

I'm basically always compressing vocals on the way in. Can't really think of an instance where I didn't. Sometimes its just tickled, meter barely moving 2-3dB with an 1176 at 4:1 - other times the needle is buried with compression at 12:1 and or I'll chain compressors together. Whatever it takes to make the vocal sit in the mix. Its how & what I was taught.

Always try both phase positions with vocals.

Vocalist hears their voice through two places... the headphones and the bones in their body.

I'll always ask 'em what sounds better, A or B... flip it back & forth a few times and I've never NOT had someone hear the difference and have a preference.
 

maydaynyc

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,387
Thanks for the mention, gotta get back to work here in a minute...

With an SM7 and "aggressive rock" vocal you shouldn't need nearly that much gain to get a good signal.

How far was the singer from the mic? Usually people eat the SM7, lips basically on it and I dunno? 20-25dB of gain? My old Telefunken V672s only have 35dB available and I've never had to open 'em up all the way...

I'm basically always compressing vocals on the way in. Can't really think of an instance where I didn't. Sometimes its just tickled, meter barely moving 2-3dB with an 1176 at 4:1 - other times the needle is buried with compression at 12:1 and or I'll chain compressors together. Whatever it takes to make the vocal sit in the mix. Its how & what I was taught.

Always try both phase positions with vocals.

Vocalist hears their voice through two places... the headphones and the bones in their body.

I'll always ask 'em what sounds better, A or B... flip it back & forth a few times and I've never NOT had someone hear the difference and have a preference.

thanks @jmoose, great feedback. For the gain level, I had a pop filter about 2" back from the mic so he was no closer to it than that, but sometimes he was pulling back a bit too. He has this bad habit of "performing" while singing that drives me crazy. He says it helps him get in the right head space but he was jumping all around and constantly moving on and off mic. Also my compressor was net reducing the signal from where it was coming out of the pre so with no compression I could have set the pre a bit lower.

For compression, this was the first time I used this particular compressor so I was getting to know it a little and ended up setting it more aggressively than I normally set a compressor when tracking. Typically I'm no more than 4:1 and setting the threshold low enough that its just tickeled, as you say. I can and often do use much more compression during mixing via plugins, sometimes using 2 compressors in a chain. But I don't like to commit that much compression to "tape" when tracking, I don't trust myself enough yet.

Regarding the phase switch, its so interesting you bring that up because it never dawned on me to ask the singer which setting he liked better. I A/B'd it myself while he was singing and decided there was no difference to my ears so I left it off. Now I wonder if he would have heard a difference had I let him know I was doing it. The impedance button, on the other hand, had a big effect on sound quality and I liked it far better with the switch on.
 

Rex Anderson

Member
Messages
5,524
Set your mic pre gain level with all EQ/compression etc OFF. Tell the singer to stay on the mic and learn how to work dynamics, i.e. back off when belting it out. All other emoting is amateur BS. Be a pro, don't be a wanker.

Once you have mic pre level set and know where the peak dynamics are, you can set your compressors and EQ. You can use 2 compressors, one to just touch it and another to prevent digital overs (limiter). Depends on the singer, the track etc. There is no set it and forget it. You can also ride gain on a fader if you know what he is going to do. Manual compression. Best to push up low levels rather than trying to pull down loud passages, great advice I got from Bob Katz. It takes a while to get to know your gear and the singer. Tell him you need some time to work it out so he know you can't start tracking immediately. Give him a break before recording if he wants one.
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,306
I agree with Jmoose, that's a lot of gain. Usually around 40dB is good for a male rock vocal.

I used to use the GR and RNC combo a lot. Set to "Super Nice" it would level things out, but not add a huge amount of color.

I agree that some compression on the way in is usually the way to go, but I'll usually save the heavier amounts for mixtime. I'll usually send the Ld Vox out to my Purple MC-77 and really spank it for a rock mix and it generally sounds great.

The SM-7B is a great mic for a lot of uses - I've used it for male rock vocals, bass amp, guitar, kick. Sounds very nice on all of them.

There are a great many classic recordings that have used them - Michael Jackon's "Thriller" record is probably the most notable example. I'm sure Michael wasn't forced by budget constraints to use it... <g>
 

jmoose

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5,216
thanks @jmoose, great feedback. For the gain level, I had a pop filter about 2" back from the mic so he was no closer to it than that, but sometimes he was pulling back a bit too. He has this bad habit of "performing" while singing that drives me crazy. He says it helps him get in the right head space but he was jumping all around and constantly moving on and off mic.

Regarding the phase switch, its so interesting you bring that up because it never dawned on me to ask the singer which setting he liked better. I A/B'd it myself while he was singing and decided there was no difference to my ears so I left it off.


How is "performing" while singing bad?? As the engineer/producer its your gig to accommodate the artist and let them be relaxed enough to get great takes.

In this case you had him way too far from the mic and inhibited both him and yourself, so there was probably quite a bit left on the bone.

I'd love to see someone tell Henry Rollins or Anthony Kedis to hold still... likely you'd get tossed from the session. Rollins cut most all of his vocals with a 58 in hand and wedges blasting at him like a show. Hes not gonna stand there and be polite with an old C12 or whatever. Engineer needs to bend to the artist.

First two minutes of this video explains it all. You see Kedis with his hand and mouth on an SM7 and he knocks it off the stand.

That's why people use the SM7 in studios. Singer can eat the mic, manhandle it... high pass at 100-150Hz and get a decent sound on tape. If its used correctly you don't need 50dB of gain or Cloudlifters or any of that nonsense.

I rarely hear a difference in polarity from the control room. Singers always hear it, even the untrained ones. Bone conduction is a very real thing especially with latency and digital mixers. I've posted links to a Dave Rat article on the subject here a handful of times and people stick their heads in the ground like an ostrich... its easier to complain and ask why it sounds crappy then learn about the issue and correct it.

 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,306
How is "performing" while singing bad?? As the engineer/producer its your gig to accommodate the artist and let them be relaxed enough to get great takes.

I'd love to see someone tell Henry Rollins or Anthony Kedis to hold still... likely you'd get tossed from the session. Rollins cut most all of his vocals with a 58 in hand and wedges blasting at him like a show. Hes not gonna stand there and be polite with an old C12 or whatever. Engineer needs to bend to the artist.

+1 - I've gone as far as to set up stage lights, to get the vibe right. Lead Vox are probably the most important par of a recording, and we'll often spend more time on getting that tambourine track just right...

The last record I produced, the singer was much more comfortable recording by himself at a house he had on the lake. I set him up w/a Scarlett and a decent mic and let him go. Way easier and got much better takes from him. When we worked in the studio, we'd usually have to do 2-3 sessions per song, as he'd keep changing things he wasn't happy with. Sonically, not an issue.

Whatever it takes to get the best performance. You can easily ballpark levels, if the guy is ready to go. Making him do run throughs while you set levels is pretty counterproductive, IMHO. I'll usually do that while we're picking mics.

First two minutes of this video explains it all. You see Kedis with his hand and mouth on an SM7 and he knocks it off the stand.

Kiedis would probably sound better if he was in a different room from the mic. <g>
 

maydaynyc

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,387
How is "performing" while singing bad?? As the engineer/producer its your gig to accommodate the artist and let them be relaxed enough to get great takes.

In this case you had him way too far from the mic and inhibited both him and yourself, so there was probably quite a bit left on the bone.

Its not necessarily bad but at the point where i am in my engineer experience curve it made it more challenging for me to capture the performance. However i did adapt, primarily by setting the pre and compressor to settings I wouldn't normally use. The end result accomplished its goal, I got the vocal performance at a good level. If 2" from the mic was "way too far" then I appreciate the feedback and next time I'll try to get a singer closer. To be fair, I didn't really experiment with him any closer and its reasonable to criticise my engineering for not thinking of it, instead I took the lazier way out of setting hotter levels on my pre.

First two minutes of this video explains it all. You see Kedis with his hand and mouth on an SM7 and he knocks it off the stand.

Let me clarify what I mean by "perform". Unlike Anthony Keidis in the video who moved very little and was really consistent about getting back on the mic for each vocal phrase, my guy was taking two steps backwards and doing some kind of interpretive dance while singing so that his voice was sometimes right on the pop screen, sometimes back several inches and off center from it. I wouldn't care if he did the cha cha between phrases if he got back on mic consistently when it was time to sing like Anthony did. BTW it was this guy's 2nd or 3rd time maybe ever in a recording studio. So far different situation than in the video. Also he was not rapping or rap singing or screaming like Rollins. It was more of a poor man's Roger Daltry style so not near as aggressive. But I do like the idea of getting right on the mic like a live performance, I will try that next time.

I rarely hear a difference in polarity from the control room. Singers always hear it, even the untrained ones. Bone conduction is a very real thing especially with latency and digital mixers. I've posted links to a Dave Rat article on the subject here a handful of times and people stick their heads in the ground like an ostrich... its easier to complain and ask why it sounds crappy then learn about the issue and correct it.

This is great thanks, I'll look for those posts. It really never occured to me that phase could affect a singer while tracking a mono voice. Will check it with the singer next time for sure.

its easier to complain and ask why it sounds crappy then learn about the issue and correct it.

I hope you didn't misinterpret any of my posts in this thread as complaining. Just the opposite I strated the thread becasue I was proud to have taken my same old equipment used in a different configuration and setting to get a result that pleased me. Yes the singer's performing while singing was a challenge for me and I addressed the best I knew how at the time. Now with your helpful posts I have some more tools in my toolbox to try next time. Thanks!
 

jmoose

Member
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5,216
If the "talent" is inconsistent & bouncing on & off mic you either need to point out what's happening so they can correct it, or you can do what you can to minimize and work with their eccentricities without overly alerting them. Regardless the guy needs to be aware of what he's doing and how its affecting the track. That's producing. Coming up with a solution? That's engineering.

If the guys all over the place and wants to imitate Daltry then hand him a 58 or something like that. Maybe a Neumann KMS105? Infamously, Sylvia Massy used an AKG C1000 on Maynard from Tool because he couldn't stay on whatever the nice shockmount tube mic was... he was moving around too much. As a result the takes were lacking the energy of the live performances. She's told the story a million times, go look it up...

Point is that you have to be flexible and bend to the artist. It doesn't work the other way. And if you get someone who's moving around, well they get a mic they can put their hands on and swing around. And yeah, at that point using a pop screen from at least 2" away? Not the right approach. You want the singer to be comfortable, not intimidated.

Phase and bone conductivity effects not just singers but lots of instruments, including guitars, drums etc.

The grumbling & complaining is more aimed at the numerous IEM threads that pop up here all the time. Usually its like "these suck, my guitar tone sucks, my vocals suck" - well, rather then try to EQ the crap out of it or endlessly swap mics, did anyone hit the polarity button???

We're dealing with latency and time arrival. Bones in your body have no latency, while every digital monitoring system has at least 3ms. Hence, phase issues for the talent which has the effect of moving their voice closer or farther away.
 

Dubious

Member
Messages
2,233
Man i have yet to get anything that knocked my socks off with an sm7b... undersnare maybe?

Ive been recording a super animated death metal singer lately. What i do is set him up about a foot from a pop filter... LDC is about a foot behind that and a second one about another foot back. This gives me 2 options to pick from (or blend) plus if he happens to clip the first mic the second acts as a safety.

Also the 525 may be the smoothest comp ever made - u xan set it to some insane extremes and its always smoooooooth.
 

ItsaRat!

Member
Messages
967
I find myself using the SM7b all the damn time. I don't think I've disliked anything I've put it on yet. Not that it is always the right choice or anything but it's one of the most used mics in my locker for sure. I especially like it for aggressive rock vocals. It often sits really nice in the track with a little comp on the way in and minimal eq. For my part if I'm finding myself doing heavy compression on the way in I'll use my patch bay to get a parallel dry track at the same time as a safety, and usually end up blending them together. It's often the case that I don't mess with the vocal eq/comp wise after the fact. I don't find that it's an overly flattering sound, but flattery will have to take a backseat to comfort, energy, and performance. Great mic. Should be in everyone's locker imo.
 

WiresDream

Member
Messages
2,079
If the "talent" is inconsistent & bouncing on & off mic you either need to point out what's happening so they can correct it, or you can do what you can to minimize and work with their eccentricities without overly alerting them. Regardless the guy needs to be aware of what he's doing and how its affecting the track. That's producing. Coming up with a solution? That's engineering.

If the guys all over the place and wants to imitate Daltry then hand him a 58 or something like that. Maybe a Neumann KMS105? Infamously, Sylvia Massy used an AKG C1000 on Maynard from Tool because he couldn't stay on whatever the nice shockmount tube mic was... he was moving around too much. As a result the takes were lacking the energy of the live performances. She's told the story a million times, go look it up...

Point is that you have to be flexible and bend to the artist. It doesn't work the other way. And if you get someone who's moving around, well they get a mic they can put their hands on and swing around. And yeah, at that point using a pop screen from at least 2" away? Not the right approach. You want the singer to be comfortable, not intimidated.

Phase and bone conductivity effects not just singers but lots of instruments, including guitars, drums etc.

The grumbling & complaining is more aimed at the numerous IEM threads that pop up here all the time. Usually its like "these suck, my guitar tone sucks, my vocals suck" - well, rather then try to EQ the crap out of it or endlessly swap mics, did anyone hit the polarity button???

We're dealing with latency and time arrival. Bones in your body have no latency, while every digital monitoring system has at least 3ms. Hence, phase issues for the talent which has the effect of moving their voice closer or farther away.

This stuff is really useful to me, thanks for posting!
 




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