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Thread: How to truly record/mix vocals into music properly?

  1. #1
    Xpred is offline Registered User
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    How to truly record/mix vocals into music properly?

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    I have so many questions, I don't know where to start. But I mainly want to know how should I properly "mix" or blend in the vocals with the music. I usually just record karaoke/instrumental tracks where I have the music as one track and the vocals as another. Currently, I'm using Adobe Audition. I have the music file on the first track and the vocals on the second track. My question is what are the necessary presets and things I need to do to make my vocals sound "correct" or right like an actual professional studio-esque song?

    What I do usually is just record the vocals in mono 24-bit 44.1khz. Then I just mess around with a BUNCH of settings because I never know what I'm doing. I just try to listen until it "sounds" right. For example, I just use a bunch of compression, graphic EQ settings, add some reverb, and some other stuff if it sounds "right." However, when doing this, my vocals doesn't sound like it should. I doesn't sound as sharp enough or as clear enough. It also doesn't sound like it should be as it is. Y'know, professional songs' vocal is very clear and it seems like as though it's placed directly INTO the center of the music or something. Or the vocals sound like they're behind the music. My vocals sound like they're just poorly mixed and recorded over the music.. or such.. Well, I don't really know how to explain it. But, I'm pretty sure my mic is able to produce much better results. Maybe I'm just doing something wrong in the "mixing" or I like to call it... messing around process, heh.

    Anyways, I was wondering are there a set of instructions or list of things I must always accompany with when recording vocals? Like I should always add "this" type of preset or "that?" Or is it just all about experimentation with presets and everything. How do you guys do it? Like step by step so I can learn.

    Also, is this the "CORRECT" way of putting vocals with music? Like multitrack wise. I have music on 1st track, vocals on 2nd track (recording mono-wise). Then I just export audio when done, and I can save it via mp3/wav. Hmm...
    Last edited by Xpred; 12-31-2005 at 04:40.

  2. #2
    SouthSIDE Glen's Avatar
    SouthSIDE Glen is offline independentrecording.net
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xpred
    I have so many questions, I don't know where to start. But I mainly want to know how should I properly "mix" or blend in the vocals with the music. I usually just record karaoke/instrumental tracks where I have the music as one track and the vocals as another. Currently, I'm using Adobe Audition. I have the music file on the first track and the vocals on the second track. My question is what are the necessary presets and things I need to do to make my vocals sound "correct" or right like an actual professional studio-esque song?
    I want to start out by saying it sounds like you're working an entry-level budget here, so I'll keep my recommendations inexpensive but effective...

    When you say "music track", do you mean you have only one instrument (which one?) that you record yourself, or are you saying that you are taking an actual commercial karaoke stereo recording and bringing it into Audition?

    If it's the second, you're going to have a real hard time geiing your vocals to sound like they truely belong in the mix with the instrumentals, the vocals are pretty much always going to be sitting over the top to some degree. But a big part is going to be vocal microphone selection and ambience.

    Start with the best quality vocal mic you can get your hands on; A nice Audio Technica, AKG or even Neumann LDC. Rent one if you don't have a friend with one you can borrow, you can get them for just a few bucks a day if you're in or near a decent-sized city. An SM58 just ain't going to match with the "pro sound". Mount the mic in a fairly dead room; using a closet full of clothes as a vocal booth is not a bad idea, though it can get warm and huimid in there if you try too many takes in a row. The idea is to get a well-miked but bone dry vocal as your foundation to start with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xpred
    What I do usually is just record the vocals in mono 24-bit 44.1khz. Then I just mess around with a BUNCH of settings because I never know what I'm doing. I just try to listen until it "sounds" right. For example, I just use a bunch of compression, graphic EQ settings, add some reverb, and some other stuff if it sounds "right." However, when doing this, my vocals doesn't sound like it should.
    Not suprising at all. You should not have to ever use a "bunch" of anything on your trackings - unless you are going for some purposely unnatural effect. The more compression, EQ, and reverb you have to add to a signal, the more the quality of the signal will be comprimised.

    If you start with a good clean, dry recording from a great mic, make sure you "work the mic" well to naturally leep your voice levels as matched as possible; keep the amount of compression you need to add to a minimum. Any compression you do add next, keep it simple, and go with a decent-sounding plugin for vocals, and not the stock compression that comes with Audition. Try the opto settig on the freeware Blowfish compressor from DigitalFishPhones, for example.

    Then, get your self a quality convolution reverb plugin. Try the freeware "SIR" reverb plugin with some free Lexicon impulses. Lightly sprinkle this reverb over your vocals *after* any compression you might add. Mix with the instrumentals as best you can.

    NOTE: All plug-ins mentioned are free on thae Internet, but they are VST plug-ins. To use them with Audition, you'll need to also get the "VST-to-DX Wrapper", also available in a free version from the Internet.

    G.
    Glen J. Stephan,
    SouthSIDE Multimedia Productions

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  3. #3
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    LeeRosario is offline 1K Silver Member
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    What's funny about vocals is that there is more than one way to make this happen.


    The tradition is something like a good combo of mic, preamp, EQ, the right amount of in tempo delay and reverb. If the vocals don't sound good, then you're mix won't. Thats just a fact.

    If you're looking for an elaborate production, then yeah, maybe renting expensive gear will do the trick. But these days, you can do just as well with a 400 or 500 dollar mic. Of course more expensive mics can easily put vocals in thier "place" with little or no EQ.


    Sometimes, the secret is in the mastering stage. As a professional engineer, we practice something called "The Group of 4".

    1st is your full mix (everything together in stereo or surround)
    2nd is called a TV mix (instrumentation with only chorus vocals)
    3rd is your instrumental mix (no vocals)
    4th is your lead vocal mix (just vocals)

    This involves creating "Stems" of your mixes.

    So for example, this means that after you're done with all your mixes and you feel that you got it as best as you can possibly get it, you start creating your stems. You'd do this by soloing your groups with thier appropiate FX and recording them into a stereo track. So lets say you're doing your instrumental mix stem, then you mute all your vocals and record the music into a new stereo track (WITH the FX).

    Then you mute all your instrumental stuff and solo out your vocals and do the same.

    You can even get more elaborate and make stems of even smaller groups. A drums stem, lead instruments stem, back ground vocals stem, etc.

    This allows the mastering engineer later on to re adjust anything just in case the full mix has any problems.

    So essentially, the mastering engineer is almost acting like a second mixing engineer.


    Cool, huh?
    Lee Rosario
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  4. #4
    SouthSIDE Glen's Avatar
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    Very cool, indeed, and I agree. Nor would I say that my approach is the only valid one.

    But he's talking (I think) about mixing vocals with commercial karaoke stereo instrumental tracks, and also talking about a budget where a even $500 mic (which is beyond budget to 80% of the people on this board) still needs to be rented. For $100 one can rent a couple of A-list microphones for a day and have them delivered to them...at least in Chicago. Another $50 will give them a decent mono preamp in the deal. That's the kind of thing I was referring to for something as basic as laying vocals over karaoke.

    He wants the vocals to sound ad "pro" as the karaoke mix, and a rental mic and pre in the right space with modest but decent quality processing is the cheapest and most efficient way to get there, IMHO.

    G.
    Glen J. Stephan,
    SouthSIDE Multimedia Productions

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    rudibass2 is offline Junior Member
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    Another thing you can do to help get your vocals in the center of the mix is to rip the stereo backing track into two seperate mono
    tracks that can be panned a bit left and right of center . That is of course you are importing the track in stereo to begin with .

    Just be sure to save the original to file . Strip the right and then the left in the Edit Waveform veiw and then save each mono file and use them when your ready to mix down .


    Just a cheap fix that might help !!
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    Xpred is offline Registered User
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    Southside, I'm using a MXL 990 mic with the PreSonus FireBox as preamp. The first track is actually a commercial quality full-stereo instrumental/karaoke track and the second is just vocals. Also, when you say mix the instrumentals as best as possible, do you mean actually like copying the vocal track, and then going to Mix/Paste it directly into the music track? Cause I use to do that the old way with only single track editors, but now I have a multitrack, I just put the vocals in the 2nd track, and when I go to "export audio"... it just seems to automix it all together ya'know. However, my vocals sound dry and don't have enough umph in it. I guess I need to try your method of a vocal booth or different positionings.

    LeeR, I know my mic sucks, but I'm just trying to get the most out of it as possible using the most effective way to at least try to get close to a more professional sound. However, I only have two tracks because the 1st track is already full-stereo mixed karaoke/instrumental with drums, guitar, etc the whole deal. I don't know what EQ to use ever on my vocals.. do you have like a step-by-step which-to-use type of thing so I know what to add to my vocals or is it usually different for every song/case?

    Rudibass2, ahh... is this how they usually do it? They being the true studio professionals and artists themselves? I always wondered why just mixing it sounded like it's over or not evenly blended into the song. True professional songs seem to sound different like the vocals are so nicely mixed and seem not in front or behind, but perfectly centered where they should be (or at least that's what my ear hears)...

  7. #7
    Dogman's Avatar
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    I have never done this with commercial kareokee tracks, but I have sung to a few mp3's that were already mixed to stereo. What I did, was add some chorus, or delay, or reverb, and eq my vocals to try and fit within the stereo mix. Just takes some messing around. A bit of work, but you should get some acceptable results. Try different things. Solo your performance, and get it sounding as best as possible. Maybe compress the vocals a bit. If the sound is fairly even, it might sit within the music a bit better. Doesn't always work so easily for me, but I don't sing real well. Trial and error. Just play with it a bit, and you might hit on something that sounds well.
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    SouthSIDE Glen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xpred
    Southside, I'm using a MXL 990 mic with the PreSonus FireBox as preamp. The first track is actually a commercial quality full-stereo instrumental/karaoke track and the second is just vocals. Also, when you say mix the instrumentals as best as possible, do you mean actually like copying the vocal track, and then going to Mix/Paste it directly into the music track? Cause I use to do that the old way with only single track editors, but now I have a multitrack, I just put the vocals in the 2nd track, and when I go to "export audio"... it just seems to automix it all together ya'know.
    No, you have it right as far as the mixing of the tracks goes; basically there is not much actual mixing to do. It's just trying to get the sound and the levels of the vocals to match the recording well.

    Rudi has a nice little trick in mind, but with a karaoke mix that probably shouldn't be necessary, as they are typically mixed to leave a hole for the vocals to begin with. Though it couldn't hurt to experiment with that.

    The MXL 990 is a decent mic, but it's not the most "pro-sounding" in the world. However, you should be able to get something decent enough with it. If your vocals are dry and missing oomph, then I'd stick with most of my original prognosis. The vocal booth may not be necessary if you're already too dry, but a little compression to add "oomph" followed by some quality 'verb to wetten them up a bit and give them a little depth should be a good start.

    G.
    Glen J. Stephan,
    SouthSIDE Multimedia Productions

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    Xpred is offline Registered User
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    Alright. I dunno what "dry" or "wet" means in terms of vocality. But I just know that my recordings and after-mix, it just doesn't sound like........ as sharp or as good as pro's do it, heh.

    I guess the vocals sound like they're on top of the track too much.. is there anyway to do it like the true professionals themselves do it perhaps like center it or change it around, so it doesn't so so awkward? I'm trying to see if I can make it blend the vocals with the music much better and make it sound perfectly in, instead of behind the music or too in front of the music. How do you center it or make it sound working?

    Also, last but not last (So many questions hehe)... is there an order in which is preferred in terms of applying EQ/presets? Like I tend to apply graphic EQ first with the DB boost in the Hz/Khz range, then compression, then last reverb. Only 3 real things I do.. is there an order of what to do first and last?
    Last edited by Xpred; 12-31-2005 at 23:14.

  10. #10
    47ronin is offline Senior Member
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    be careful about boosting EQ too much, most of the time you should be cutting slightly when you use EQ.

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