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Thread: Vocal Mics and Recording Environment

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    Vocal Mics and Recording Environment

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    I almost gave up on recording a particular song because I couldn't make it "come alive". Then last nite I performed the song in a medium sized room with tile floors, and sheet rocked walls and ceiling. I used a sure wireless mic and they had me cranked up pretty loud. It sounded great. So now I'm wondering how to capture that sound in a recording situation. Is it all about the right mic and processor and effects used to "manufacture" (or fake) that sound? An album I feel that has achieved this "live vocal sound" is Celine Dion's "The Color of Love". You can hear her breathiness; it's close and intimate. How can I capture this in a padded down recording studio? What do you think?

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    Sure, you can capture a warm and intimate vocal take in a dead room. It won't sound exactly like Celine Dion, but you can get something reasonable from it. As you said, you would be adding it all in artificially. From the short listen I gave to your reference track, it sounds like they added it all in artificially, too.

    She has an amazing voice and can give a great performance, so firstly, you need to copy that. She is most likely using a great mic and mic preamp. There are mics on the market with a reasonable price that will get you 80% of the way there. Same for mic pres or the mic pres in an interface. They're good, better today than say 10 yrs ago. Some might be great, but on the consumer level, none are stellar.

    The recording engineer probably has her going through one or two nice compressors before hitting the board. To get that breathy intimate feel during the verses, you really need to crank up the compression. But doing so brings out some harsh artifacts, like lip smacks, hard consonants, gulps, and all the other sounds our mouths make that we never hear. Mic technique is key here. Celine most likely knows how to keep most of that under control. Then the compressors can help with reducing the rest. And not just any ol' compressor can do that. There are compressors out there that better than others for vocals. Then the mixing engineer is editing out whatever remains.

    For the loud chorus parts, they are doing one of two things; either she's backing off the mic and the engineer is running her through a limiter, or they do separate takes for the choruses and completely change their set up. Different EQs, compressors, and definitely a limiter on her vocals. I'm betting on the second option.

    Then for the effects, there is a delay/reverb thing and I'm pretty sure a 2nd reverb. A nice lush reverb with a wide stereo spread.

    And she probably recorded her vocals in a million dollar vocal booth, but honestly, I don't hear it with all the other stuff going on with her vocals. Maybe that's why it cost a million bucks!!

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    Wow, thanks for that. You've really given me something to chew on. Will study your points and see what I can do here in my little "shoe-string" studio. Thanks!

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    I'm wondering quite what you mean when you said it sounded great. To you or the audience? My experience is that as a performer, no matter if you have in-ears, one or two wedges or side fills, the one thing you simply don't know is what you sound like out front. So in your recording space, you can try to re-create the stage space, with level and monitors similar to the stage setup - but while that helps you feel comfy with the performance - the recording is still the same mic, and has all that spill, making your mix much, much harder. I guess if you want the end thing to sound live that's good. Have you thought about what you want the product to sound like? I get the impression you are very keen on the performance rather than the quality? I don't mean you want a less good recording - but the stage sound that impressed you won't be a better sound for a recording, just a nicer sound to perform with.

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    Actually, I don't know what the audience thought. But to me, the ambience in the room made my vocal sound "alive" and "intimate".. That's what I meant by "great". Yes, of course quality is important. But so is getting the energy, dynamics, inflections, nuances, and even the sound of the breath of the song, across to the listener. That's hard to do in a dead, padded studio . . . but like "Chili" said (above), it can be done.

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    I'd be curious if your main aim here is hearing this sort of effects while tracking as an aid and inspiration?
    Placebo stomps 96k ....... Recent projects
    Ray Catfish Copeland 'Got Love Jim Goodman 'Southern Steel

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    It's often hard to get that effect in headphones. Never quite sounds the same, but maybe if you spend some time with delays, reverbs and EQ, you could save it as a preset to use when tracking?

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    Something like Logic Pro’s Space Designer that uses IRs might be worth looking for where you can experiment with “real” physical spaces. Not sure what DAW you use but I’m guessing there are equivalent plugins out there.

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    Yes, the inspiration is great. It kicks my butt and motivates me to sing... But it's all a waste, if nobody else can hear what I'm hearing or if the recording doesn't reflect the subtleties of the vocals. My case in point was "Celine Dion, The Color Of My Love." The vocal tracks are alive; they're amazing. (Besides the fact that she's a great singer.) So could I achieve that in a dead room? With some good equipment and know how I could at least approach it. Or, my question was, do I need to record in a different room, like a large walk-in shower?

    ---------- Update ----------

    Yes, indeed. :-)

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    Thanks for that. I will look into it.

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