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Thread: Vocal recording levels

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    Vocal recording levels

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    Hello,
    I am fairly new to recording vocals but have been recording instrumentals for a few years now. My daughter is a singer and we have recorded a few tracks. I need advice on recording vocals and post processing them.
    She sings with emotion, and her voice varies in volume. It sounds great live, but when recording it doesnít work very well. Her soft parts seem quiet, and her louder parts are very up front. Any recommendations on processing a vocal and evening out the overall level?
    Iíve tried compressing but I seem to over compress to get the quiet parts on the same level as the louder parts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MusicKen_ View Post
    Hello,
    I am fairly new to recording vocals but have been recording instrumentals for a few years now. My daughter is a singer and we have recorded a few tracks. I need advice on recording vocals and post processing them.
    She sings with emotion, and her voice varies in volume. It sounds great live, but when recording it doesn’t work very well. Her soft parts seem quiet, and her louder parts are very up front. Any recommendations on processing a vocal and evening out the overall level?
    I’ve tried compressing but I seem to over compress to get the quiet parts on the same level as the louder parts.
    Manual gain editing.

    What DAW are you using? What compressor?
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    Sometimes you have to result to automation, i.e., changing the volume fader throughout the track, but compression should get you pretty close. The trick is learning how to use all those settings, like ratio, threshold, [makeup] gain, attack, release, and knee (when present).

    Lots of information on using compressors, and I probably do it wrong according to someone, but here's how I'd tackle that track.

    First, it really helpls to use a compressor that gives visual feedback on what it's doing. So if you can put one of those in the chain, the first thing to start doing (IMO) is setting the threshold so it's only compressing the peaks. Just watch how they get compressed, i.e., which ones and how much. You don't want to compress everything! Play with that knob for a while to see how it works.

    After that, you play with ratio, attack & release to get the amount of compression you need to make things even out as much as needed, and then start to add in some makeup gain to push up the bottom, i.e., to restore the overall loudness of the track. Go slow with each of these, but don't be afraid to twist them all the way to see what they're capable of.

    If it turns out to be really impossible, I'd suggest you somehow get the singer to watch some videos about mic technique, or even better, take a lesson from someone that knows how to teach it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith.rogers View Post
    Sometimes you have to result to automation, i.e., changing the volume fader throughout the track, but compression should get you pretty close. The trick is learning how to use all those settings, like ratio, threshold, [makeup] gain, attack, release, and knee (when present).

    Lots of information on using compressors, and I probably do it wrong according to someone, but here's how I'd tackle that track.

    First, it really helpls to use a compressor that gives visual feedback on what it's doing. So if you can put one of those in the chain, the first thing to start doing (IMO) is setting the threshold so it's only compressing the peaks. Just watch how they get compressed, i.e., which ones and how much. You don't want to compress everything! Play with that knob for a while to see how it works.

    After that, you play with ratio, attack & release to get the amount of compression you need to make things even out as much as needed, and then start to add in some makeup gain to push up the bottom, i.e., to restore the overall loudness of the track. Go slow with each of these, but don't be afraid to twist them all the way to see what they're capable of.

    If it turns out to be really impossible, I'd suggest you somehow get the singer to watch some videos about mic technique, or even better, take a lesson from someone that knows how to teach it.
    Absolutely yes to the above ^^^^

    Though depending on the DAW, you may be able to simply adjust the gain level in pieces of the performance. Cut events and adjust gain. It a Cubase thing...
    PC Win7-64-24G i7-4790k/Cubase 9 Pro 64-bit/2-Steinberg UR824's/ADAM A7x/Event TR8/SS Trigger Plat Deluxe/Melodyne 4 Studio/Other things that don't mean anything if a client shows up not knowing what it wants.

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    Two words: Clip Gain. Just make sure her quiet words are still decent enough volume. If some of her louder words clip while recording, it's no big deal because of floating point. It'll be a combination of bringing loud parts down, and quiet parts up to "meet somewhere in the middle". Sometimes I'm adjusting whole phrases, sometimes words, and sometimes even just syllables. It's tedious and can take some time, but worth it. You want to end up with the track averaging out somewhere around -16 to -20.

    Get it as even as you can all the way across the board, then adjust the level of the entire clip as a whole if need be. THEN bring in your compressor. But EQ before the compressor to hi-pass and pull out the sub-lows, usually around 80-120hz. Then search for nasal-y mids and pull those down a tad with a narrow Q. Then set up your compressor so it's getting anywhere from 2-6ish db's of gain reduction, but without too much of a boost in volume, frequently bypass the compressor to check. Medium attack and release are good starting points. Which compressor are you using?

    I'm assuming your DAW has Clip Gain Automation?
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    I use 2 stages of compression in those situations. The classic "1176 into an LA2A" thing works pretty well if you have compressors that behave similarly to those old standbys. UA has some info about the technique here: Chaining the 1176LN and LA-2A Compressors for Maximum Control | Universal Audio. I do this with hardware compressors, but there's no reason it wouldn't work with VSTs as well. Good luck!

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    Record her without any compression - just make certain the loudest isn't going to peak. Then you can try all sorts.

    There is often this problem when singers are self-taught, and have trouble learning or re-learning proper mic technique. Is she singing lips on grill style, as in live, or is she singing at more of a distance 6 to 12" or so. Lips on mic, to lips 4" away from mic drops the level very quickly, and changes the tone from mellow and murky, to open and thin - the cardioid response being the problem. I'd suggest trying something like a popper stopper - not really for stopping pops, but for preventing her getting too close - this reduces the need for compression to be severe, and it can be gentle, and you just need to eq to get the sound you want, assuming the mic is decent quality and your pre-amp/input device quiet, noise wise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmys69 View Post
    Manual gain editing.
    This is what you need to do. Do this first, get them close to the level you want, then compress. Compression alone won't fix the problem; you'll be getting 20db of gain reduction before you're there, and then you'll have a brand new problem. Manually edit gain first.

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    All of the advise above is valid, but the one thing that was never mentioned was the song arrangement.

    If she has quiet parts and loud parts, the music surrounding her should go quiet when she does. (Or at least thin out)

    If her dynamics are appropriate for the song, the mix and arrangement should be changing with her. When that happens, you no longer have to find ways of making a quiet part of the performance the same volume as the loud part. Or, at least, you don't need as much processing to keep everything where it needs to be.

    All of the techniques above will help you get the vocals to sit correctly once the dynamics of the song match the vocal performance.
    Jay Walsh
    Farview Recording. I am also the forum spokesmodel for Terasyne Amplification

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    learning or re-learning proper mic technique.
    All great advice in here, but I'd have put this first, at the very top of the list!
    If it's an operatic performance miked at distance then fair enough, but if she's close to the mic it will go a very long way learning how to 'work' the mic.
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