Enough Is Enough-Adding vocals kills my songs.

BroKen_H

Re-member
I write decent songs. (personal opinion)
I record the tracks well. Some of my playing skills lack, and usually those parts get kind of panned and backgrounded. Everything sounds good when I put them all together.
I get great instrumental tracks (personal opinion, again, but I really think I do).
Then I add vocals and EVERYTHING sounds off...and I don't mean because my vocals are lousy (yeah, we've gone over that a few times). I mean the instruments just don't sound good anymore, even when the vocals aren't going...

I don't even know what to ask. I've tried lots of different things, and I just get lost trying to get vocals to sit well in a mix, then the mix doesn't sound like it did as an instrumental. Just got through posting another clinic song. Been looking forward to this song for a long time. Sounded AMAZING to me. Then I add the vocals and start remixing, ducking, compressing and voila!---crap! The new tune sounded alive and fluid, and now with vocals, it's just dark and meh...

Hard to open up like this, but I need to get my mixes better.
Anything? Anybody?
 
Maybe this is going to sound so obvious but sometimes the answer is...

Don't mix the song as an instrumental then add vocals.
Record everything, then mix the song.


When you do the former you may think you're consciously leaving space for the vocal (or not?!) but you can't really know for sure.

I'm guilty of jumping ahead myself but honestly...Take one of your finished sessions, back it up, then open it and remove all plugins and automation.
Now mix it again from start to finish with all the parts in place.

If it's not as simple as that then maybe the content of the mix or the the actual parts need to be looked at, but from your description I think the above would certainly be worth trying.
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
Start your mix with lead vocal, kick and snare. Make that group sound good then add bass and re-balance, then add guitars etc. and re-balance.
 

DM60

Well-known member
I agree with everyone, the vocals to me are as much a part of the song as anything else (in my mind, more). First, I am not saying I am a good vocalist, but my songs are written for vocals. Therefore, everything plays to the vocals. If the instruments don't compliment the vocal and I can't get the vocal to work, I start changing the arrangement.

I also think, as a personal opinion, you push your vocals too hard. I like the sound (always has that Ozzy sound), but if you don't sing all of the time, it is hard to push your vocal that hard and get it to sound right. Might want to figure out how to dial it back. Try tracking hotter and forcing yourself to lower your vocal volume. Very few people can sing at loud volumes and control the sound of it (I mean opera people and rock guys do it, but they do it all the time).

If the song has words and the music is intended to support those words, then the instruments need to play to the vocal, not the other way around. IMO.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
Great! Thanks guys. Was a little afraid to open the worm can (usually stinks). Very helpful. I almost always start recording. Record some more. Then finish recording and I still don't have any idea what the words are going to be. I guess it's time to start writing a bit different...I guess it all fits. It was Taras' song Suffering of Aiden that caught my attention that my vocals are not working with the music. His method of working the vocal line (even without lyric) would be a good place to start.

Dave. I'm trying to work without the net (Polar). Last song (11) doesn't use it at all, and more pitch adjust on the trumpet than the vocal. I know what you're saying. When I sing along with the radio, or just by myself, I don't push nearly that hard. It's been suggested several times...maybe I'll listen eventually. (Old dog/new trick syndrome) But I DO want better mixes, and part of that is breaking bad habits, yes?
 

Chili

Site Moderator
I do something similar to what BSG said. Kick, bass, vocal, then everything else in a supporting role. I use a limiter on my lead vocal. Outrageous, but I like it.

You don't have to change your tracking process. If vocals are last, then that's fine. The suggestions above are about changing your mixing process.

Cheers.
 

snow lizard

Dedicated Slacker
I do something similar to what BSG said. Kick, bass, vocal, then everything else in a supporting role. I use a limiter on my lead vocal. Outrageous, but I like it.

Yeah, I started being a lot happier with my vocal tracks after I started nailing them with compression.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
On my new track, I just added an 11:1 compressor on the vocal bus to go with the parallel compression I had in place...it does tend to make the vocal stand out better

Steen: Been thinking exactly that. My last set of mixes (last year's release) I basically turned off everything, erased all the plug-ins, zeroed the faders and started over. Most of those mixes sound better than everything I've done so far this year...Time to do what it takes, Yes?
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
This is this year's lesson, I guess. Last year's was don't master until your ready to master...meaning the mix is DONE. Haven't mastered ANYTHING yet this year. :) Lesson learned.
 

Chili

Site Moderator
Now that you're close to finishing up an album's worth of tunes. You're only halfway there.

Figure out which mix is the best. Save all the channel settings for that tune (kick, snare, vocal, piano, effects, etc). Go to all the other tunes on the album and apply those saved channel settings to all the channels in each song. Remix using the best song as reference. All your tunes should be more homogeneous sounding and easier to master.

The theory is based on the idea that you tracked most everything similarly over the years. It's your voice, your acoustic, your electric, etc. As time goes on, you hear each song differently, and mix them differently. Now that you have them altogether, you want them to sound like you recorded them on the same day, hence the same channel settings for all songs.

I did that with my last CD and it came out really good. Well, at least I think so. lol
 

andrushkiwt

Well-known member
hmmm, I look at my situation like this: i'm basically using the same amp sims (maybe some fine tuning within them, but there's always a mesa boogie sim played through my gibson), same bass amp and cab sims (ampeg), same drums (superior drummer), and same mic. I don't have a whole lot to figure out each time to get them to sit. I have a formula, as un-artistic as that might sound. For example, I use a stereo chorus spread underneath every vocal line; it's subtle, but it makes it wider and more up front at the same time. I know where my EQ cuts need to be (again, it's my voice through the same mic), I know where my de-esser needs to sit. etc, etc


point being, i'm used to my setup now so i'm able to get things sitting well, at least to my ears and some others too. I don't record vocals until the last second and lyrics are written seconds before that. I just "hear" how my vocal will fit in the mix based on past recordings.

my suggestion: go back to an old song and re-work the vocal tracks. Start with the lead vocal. Scrap every single plugin on it and start from scratch with its mix. Work for 20-30 at a time, max, then break for an hour or two. Repeat for a few days. Seriously. If you don't take breaks, you get so used to what you're hearing that it starts sounding "ok". Come back to your vocal mix and see what you just did the last hour.

Of course, you have to take into account mic technique too and tracking. Bad tracking and no vocal will sit properly! Do 10 takes, minimum, and comp those lines down to the individual word if you have to. Basic stuff, EQ, compression, reverb, maybe delay. Work those basics of the vocal over a few days and see what you got. Then....compare back to the original from a year or whenever ago!

Clearly, i'm not as knowledgeable as the dudes responding in this post, but since you called me out, i felt bound to contribute something! :) take what you will, everyone has good ideas thus far.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
Chili - Great advice! Going to start working on that. With one strangeness...my music is not homogeneous. You've heard what I do. Some songs are almost 80s hair metal. Others are acoustic country swing, a few of them have elements all over the board. I don't seem to have any middle of the road. I'm going to try exactly what you said, but I'm afraid running the channel settings for



may not work well with



and vice versa. Worth a shot though! :)

Taras - You may not think you're very good, but your music says otherwise. If I could summarize what I got out of what you said: Take your time. Most of what you said other than that I already do. My stereo chorus sitting behind is the Polar plugin that everyone but me seems to dislike. :D I've got presets for my voice that I slap on the channel and then tweak to fit the mix. Ear fatigue is one of those things. I can sit for 4 hours and not realize it's been more than 10 minutes. Then I'll go through the render-convert-upload-post process and suddenly I "hear" things I couldn't when I was JUST sitting there working, so yeah, I see the need! I guess I just haven't found a groove that's comfortable yet.
 

andrushkiwt

Well-known member
Ear fatigue is one of those things. I can sit for 4 hours and not realize it's been more than 10 minutes. Then I'll go through the render-convert-upload-post process and suddenly I "hear" things I couldn't when I was JUST sitting there working, so yeah, I see the need! I guess I just haven't found a groove that's comfortable yet.

Tell me about it. I don't know what it is about mixing our music, but time really flies. I often come on here to listen to others tunes when taking a break from my own. Commercial stuff too.

Have you tried mixing the vocal along with drums and bass only? I think someone else suggested that somewhere, and I'll second that option. I know doing vocals last limits that possibility.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
You know what works for me. If I sit with the monitors off and listen to my mixes in the cans...with them off my head. Really makes pitch problems prominent. Yeah, I'm usually on the mix clinic as much as I'm mixing when I'm mixing. :laughings:

Yes, vocal/bass/drum was suggested, and I'm going to try that, but my next day off won't be till next ??? Man I don't even know, Wednesday, I think.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
The other thing about ear fatigue (and mixing in general) is sometimes it takes someone else pointing something out for me to hear it. Trip pointed out in my newest clinic entry that everything below 400 was mud. Realized I hadn't run my normal high-pass checks...missed a step and it made the whole thing sound muddy and dull, and I COULDN'T HEAR IT...need to set a timer, I guess.
 

Robus

New member
There's a common mistake that begins in the songwriting phase. It begins when you invest too much time in tracking, overdubbing, and mixing instrumentals before you have a clear idea of where the lead vocal is going. Speaking from experience, it can turn into a giant waste of time that often never yields a finished song or when it does, yields a song that is not as good as it could be. When you are trying to write a vocal part, you don't want an elaborate arrangement that is already tracked. That's a ball and chain around your ankle. That just makes it harder to re-imagine the vocal melody, make changes on the fly, and let your creativity flow. Because who wants to go back and retrack all that accompaniment if you make a melodic change that requires a change in the chord progression? There is a reason why so many songwriters work with just a vocal and piano, or acoustic guitar.

Don't keep tracking and overdubbing instruments until you have nailed down the lead vocal. Work with the simplest arrangement that you can manage, one that is easy to change as the the vocal part evolves. Once the songwriting is finished and you are on to recording, get the vocal in as early as you can. Then build the arrangement around that.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
Yes, agreed. If lyrics were not so difficult for me that would be no problem...but I doodle...and then fill...and then redoodle...and pretty soon, I've got it done, and I'm still waiting on the lyrics...

Again, I think what's best for me, maybe is to just record tra-la-la or watermelon, watermelon with a vocal line and then write the lyric to fit the line...replace the nonsense with the lyric and be done. I'm trying. It's not that my lyrics are an afterthought, I just need a LOT of thought. My best work (in my mind) to date was done just as you say. Me and the acoustic, playing and singing for several weeks before a single track ever went down. Wish I could write like that all the time.
 
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