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Thread: Vocal FX directly on recording track?

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    Vocal FX directly on recording track?

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    I've been exploring my singer/songwriter side lately and I've come to the point of recording my vocals for a couple of songs I wrote. I use a studio mic hooked up to a digital interface complete with professional monitoring headphones in a somewhat decently treated room, however no matter what technique, mic distance or gain staging I use, I do not like the sound of my voice when I hear it back in real time through my headphones while I'm recording and it is not because of pitch or because I don't know how to sing, but rather because I find it sounds nothing like what it sounds in my head (shocking, I know). I might be off on terminology here, but I find it sounds dry, thin and lifeless and that is really affecting my performance.

    From the studio footage professional artists post on the Internet, I've noticed studio engineers always apply massive reverb (maybe some other FX too?) to the artist's input recording track so it makes their voice huge as if they're singing in a cathedral or arena. So I guess my question boils down to: How are you supposed to hear yourself back in your monitoring headphones and what effects/plugins are normally used on the artist's track while they're recording? Any tips on how to get your voice to sound closer to the way you're used to hearing it in your head while recording are also welcome.

    P.S. New guy here, both the forum and home recording world, so I apologize in advance if I'm not up to speed with the jargon or if I'm taking too long to get my point across. =D

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    a few thoughts:

    1 just about everybody hates the sound of their voice when they hear it played back. Some get used to it. Some (like, for example, John Lennon), never do. There is a reason for this. When you sing (or speak) you hear your voice partly externally through your ears, and partly internally through your skull and eustachain tubes, and partly as your brain thinks you ought to be sounding. When you listen to a playback, you only hear it as it is. Which can be disappointing.


    2 Many vocals on recorded music have a noticeable amount of reverb on them, and this indeed gives body and depth. This is generally added after the event. It can be added while recording, and can help with confidence and the singing performance. However, it has its drawbacks, one of which is that it can cause you to lose pitch, and your vocals can be pitchy, or, more commonly, go flat.

    3 However, it is worth a try. I don't know what DAW you are using, but most will provide a monitoring function that will allow you to hear what you are doing whatever effect (e.g. reverb) you have on the voice track that's being recorded. But if you can become comfortable recording without effects, you will have better vocal control, and you can add these after.

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    Thank you for your thoughts, gecko zzed!

    Quote Originally Posted by gecko zzed View Post
    I don't know what DAW you are using, but most will provide a monitoring function that will allow you to hear what you are doing whatever effect (e.g. reverb) you have on the voice track that's being recorded.
    I use Presonus Studio One simply because I love the UI design. My reverb plugin of choice is FabFilter Pro-R.

    Quote Originally Posted by gecko zzed View Post
    But if you can become comfortable recording without effects, you will have better vocal control, and you can add these after.
    I feel like there's a long way to get there. I assumed that if most big names in the industry use these effects to give dimension to their voice while recording, it was common practice and it's just something you do for voice recordings.

    One more question (and I'm sorry for being a complete n00b): When recording vocals, is what you hear in your headphones supposed to drown how you naturally hear yourself through the resonance chambers of your head? I ask this because I kinda hear both and it's slightly confusing, which sometimes make me take the headphone cup off one ear. I am using a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pros which offer a decent amount of passive noise cancellation, so I'm not sure whether to crank up the signal in my headphones or not. :P

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    It's very common to provide reverb for the headphone feeds. I never apply it to the input channel, but to the recorded track, and then route that reverb send to the bus I'm using to feed their headphones - then they can have it as weird or swampy as they like - and probably not be remotely the kind of reverb you will apply to the finished track. For your own voice, it's easier because slapping a church reverb on the headphones usually does the trick. It's not just beginners who need this. I've been asked for it by people who can really sing, and of course on stage, for live sound I would always have a reverb setup to do just this - give the singers reverb in their floor monitors, or into their IEMs. Some have it as a requirement in their riders. You can actually spend so much time, muting and unmuting this to keep them happy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by canus.inferni View Post
    which sometimes make me take the headphone cup off one ear.
    This is not uncommon. Many singers do this when recording to get a better sense of their pitching.

    But there are no universal truths, each singer is different and will work best with their own way of recording . . . some with reverb, some without, some with headphones down low, others with very loud and so on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    It's very common to provide reverb for the headphone feeds.
    Quote Originally Posted by gecko zzed View Post
    This is not uncommon. Many singers do this when recording to get a better sense of their pitching.
    Thanks, guys. I must admit I feel a bit more relieved now after reading this.

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    I'd go so far as to say that with in ear monitors, reverb is essential.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    I'd go so far as to say that with in ear monitors, reverb is essential.
    hmm . . .I'd be more relaxed about it than saying it was 'essential'. I think personal preference will have an influence.

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    The transition to IEMs is a shock for live performance. The first thing my own band had to do was add a reverb channel to the personal mixer, as the first thing users say is that they hate them because of the isolation. Reverb and for some, a room mic (although I don't use that) is essential for pitching. I sing harmonies and find I cannot pitch accurately with a clean mix of the voices in my ears. I don't know why - maybe it's the smearing effect of reverb that does something when you gently raise or lower what you sing? It also makes pitching with my double bass harder too - the same cause? I don't know. Providing PA for others, it's a rare day for IEM users to not want reverb in them. In the studio, with headphones, I find the same thing happening - perhaps linked to why so many only work with one ear covered? Is this the same phenomena?

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    Cool

    Just a little update after experimenting with some stuff... I've found that for me having reverb on the vocal recording channel (I replace it with proper reverb settings later on when I mix) helps tremendously with the delivery. I still keep the headphone cup off my right ear to hear myself in real time as otherwise it gets confusing, but that's just a personal preference I guess.

    Anyway, thank you so much to everyone who contributed with an answer. You guys are the best!

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