My singing vocals don't sound good. Advice?

Chelonian

Member
I am quite new to recording music and finally got an audio interface and have begun trying things out. I've been singing to karaoke tracks just to kind of get the lay of the land.

So far, I am displeased with the tone of my vocals when singing. I'll describe my setup and what's wrong.

Setup:

- Room: ~10' x 10' x 8' small room in a house with one sizable window. Carpeting.
- Me: baritenor singer, with what I (and others) think it is a pretty good tone.
- Microphone: Blue Spark condenser mic with pop shield. (I also have a Shure 57, and Audix 58, and an ancient Shure 55S mics I could use)
- Wire: Just some cord
- Interface: MOTU M2
- Computer: a laptop that is enough to handle things
- Headphones for listening: garbage $7 Panasonic headphones (yes, I will be getting new ones)

Problem:

My tone just sounds too much like mid-range. There is not much bassy fullness and not much airy treble parts. So it winds up having a kind of annoying middle tone too much. And yes, I can EQ the vocal track afterward, but I can't really help matters too much. I want the original signal to be brighter and nicer sounding. It doesn't really sound close to professional yet. I know I'm not going to get high level studio recordings at home, but this is sounding not much better than I was getting singing with my $30 TracFone smartphone!

I don't know if the problem is anything with my list above, my technique in terms of how far I am from the mic, the input levels, or what. But I'd love to move things toward a more beautiful vocal recording.

Thanks for any insights!



 

jamesperrett

Active member
The one thing missing from your list is acoustic treatment. With no acoustic treatment you would probably be better off using one of your dynamic mics fairly close to your mouth to eliminate the sound of the room as much as possible.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
nah, you dont want the room.. Try hard to get rid of it..Use hypercards, or whatever. Then build it back with short ambient reverbs.
 

Chelonian

Member
The one thing missing from your list is acoustic treatment. With no acoustic treatment you would probably be better off using one of your dynamic mics fairly close to your mouth to eliminate the sound of the room as much as possible.
Would it even be worth treating such a small cube of a room?
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
A sample will go a long way to helping us determine if the issue is a room problem, your natural vocal tone, or your mic setup/choice. The SM57 really shouldn't sound bad. I don't know the Audix 58 (is this supposed to be Shure 58?). I do have an old 55S and I don't think its a great mic for vocals unless you are trying to do some retro sound. The Spark seems to be a fairly normal condenser, Make sure you don't have the high pass filter engaged, as it's pretty steep at 15dB/octave starting at 150Hz.

You could throw up some heavy duvets or moving blankets and control higher frequency flutter echos. For basic vocals, you really don't need bass traps unless you're singing in Melvin Franklin territory. Most of your core voice frequencies are going to be in the range of ~110 to 500Hz.

Now the other area to worry about is how you are determining that your vocals are bad. If you are using crappy headphones, you can't be certain WHAT you have recorded. It would be like trying to judge the accuracy of your 4K TV while looking though frosted or colored glasses.
 
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Slouching Raymond

Active member
Every pair of headphones I've had sounded different.
$7 is way too cheap, to expect much out of them.
You can spend hundreds on headphones.
There are a grat many wireless headphones around, and I would avoid them ike the plague.
I usually spend around $40 - $50 for headphones. Am currently using Sennheiser HD205 headphones, which I think are OK.
What you see on my head here are Etreme Isolation headphones, for drumming, and avoiding bleed.

Your mic and interface seem to be plenty good enough.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Without a clip, we're stumbling in the dark, but a few things to consider. The mics you have all sound different, and will enhance or possibly distort your voice. The thing with a room is that it has a sound - clap your hands and it magically reveals itself. If the room sounds good, then it can be included in your recordings. If it sounds naff, then you need to try to exclude it. This is where things rely on your ears. Headphones can be a like a misreading speedo in your car. Are you doing 30? Or maybe 25 or 35? Who knows. Another car alongside with windo open can help, but what if that speedo is off a little too? Who is right? Do you want a pair of headphones that makes a poor voice sound better or a pair that makes a great voice reveal it's deficiencies so they can be 'cured?"

I'm sure you've discovered with those microphones you have (probably forget the 55 - it never was a wonderful mic for singing - iconic in shape, sadly not sound) that your voice changes as you approach the mic. The bass end starts to increase out of proportion to the treble end. This can be changed with EQ afterwards, of course, but the timbral change to your voice will vary. It will change differently on each mic, but if your room is negative rather than positive, the important thing is to maximise the voice and minimise the room. Only you, or somebody that knows you well can decide when the wanted/unwanted balance is right, and also if the EQ you have (and your ears) can bring back your voice as you want it to be.

A good example if you want to search it out is the Michael Ball/Alfie Boe combination. Alfie Boe's voice has become more modern and less operatic as he now works with closer mics for his collaborations with Ball. Their two 'sounds' were streets apart, and over the collaboration time, Boe has changed his tone considerably. He recorded in studios for years, not just in concert halls and wonderful spaces, and his original voice was a more distant voice. Now it's warmer and more contemporary sounding. The majority of the change is distance.

Dump those headphones immediately. You cannot make ANY decisions on them. There are many topics about headphones, and one thing I learned years back in a hifi shop was that headphone comparators killed sales of some well known brands. We had a display of 20 hooks. Each hook had a socket. We would put all our headphones out and what happened was bizarre. With Brothers in Arms playing, people would put them on and immediately take them off and put the next pair on, then the next. Some would be discarded straight away, and slowly the swapping would become going between 3 or 4 - then they would pick pair A or pair B. Until they sold out, nobody would buy any of the others. There would always be two that suited almost everyone. Perhaps a different two, stock levels allowing, but some on a comparator. Usually one would be open back and the other closed back. More often than every other brand, Sennheiser would be the most popular. Every now and then another brand would have a great pair - Koss, Sony, Beyer and a few others would appear, then vanish again. Often price was not a driver either. One pair of Sennheisers (ages back) had tiny drivers, loads of plastic and yellow foam. They sounded wonderful. Then they were discontinued - probably, we thought because they were too good and too cheap. We sold more headphones of the also-ran category once we scrapped the comparator!

Your next step is clear. Get some decent headphones that sound good on the kind of music you create. Try all your mics at a range of distances from 1ft to lips on the mic. Determine if you can stop pops and wind blasts at these distances. Review recordings of the same piece on the different mics at different distances. Generate some kind of spreadsheet if you think better that way - score each one on different categories - tone, breath noise, room sound component, flattering or not etc etc. Then post some of your choices for strangers to comment. Soundcloud clips or other locations let you open your voice for comment. Keep in mind that sometimes people will be honest, because they don't know you and while sometimes this might be rough - it's usually factual. Family and friends might never tell you there is a horrible whistle though the gap in your front teeth - but strangers won't know there is a gap? People here are usually honest. Sometimes comments have been quite blunt. We've had such a range between truly an excellent recording (not person, note) through to truly dire. If people really do have a terrible voice, they simply may no know - you see this on TV shows all the time. Their friends have never told them. You won't be in this category, I'm sure - but without hearing you and your space, we're just guessing.
 

Chelonian

Member
A sample will go a long way to helping us determine if the issue is a room problem, your natural vocal tone, or your mic setup/choice.

Any particular type of singing sample you recommend to best assess this?

Now the other area to worry about is how you are determining that your vocals are bad. If you are using crappy headphones, you can't be certain WHAT you have recorded. It would be like trying to judge the accuracy of your 4K TV while looking though frosted or colored glasses.
The thing is, actual pro vocals from real songs do sound good on these headphones. But, I take your point: I need better headphones for listening. Any inexpensive ones (under $40 USD) you could recommend?
 

Chelonian

Member
Without a clip, we're stumbling in the dark, but a few things to consider.
Any suggestions for the best sort of sample clip I could sing to give you the best chance of figuring out what the issue is?

Dump those headphones immediately. You cannot make ANY decisions on them.

Your next step is clear. Get some decent headphones that sound good on the kind of music you create.

Can you recommend a good starter pair for under, say, $40 USD? Thanks.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
If a headphone design flatters or disguises what somethiung really sounds like, it's impossible to use it as a reference. That's the snag. You don't want mixes to sound good when they're not.

Singing wise - any style, just 10-20 secs would do for a basic assessment. Longer if you like. This sort of allows a pretty accurate determination. You said you are displeased with your tone - this we could easily confirm, or not.

Sennheiser HD-300s are fairly neutral, but maybe a bit bright for some people. At that price level, they're all a bit plasticky.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
Aside from headphones, there is more gear to help your vocal production. In the rack you need a nice preamp. A Compressor. An EQ. A Reverb box to blend in with your voice. Not to swim in reverb, but short ambient thickening.

Stretching the vocal with two compressors is researchable. One Compressor set slow, then another one set fast. It stretches the attack curve.

Here is an oldie but goodie..The Aphex Aural Exciter..It adds harmonics with your singing. Make sure you get the one that is for +4 line level. The -10 only one is sucks. The better ones are older. Though the last ones, like the Aphex 250 type III has controllable settings for a tweakable knee like curve. Fantastic. Not a BBE maximizer. That sucks too. The Aural Exciter is much better.
 
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Chelonian

Member
Aside from headphones, there is more gear to help your vocal production. In the rack you need a nice preamp. A Compressor. An EQ. A Reverb box to blend in with your voice. Not to swim in reverb, but short ambient thickening.

Stretching the vocal with two compressors is researchable. One Compressor set slow, then another one set fast. It stretches the attack curve.

Why is that helpful to the sound?
Here is an oldie but goodie..The Aphex Aural Exciter..It adds harmonics with your singing. Make sure you get the one that is for +4 line level. The -10 only one is sucks. The better ones are older. Though the last ones, like the Aphex 250 type III has controllable settings for a like knee curve. Fantastic. Not a BBE maximizer. That sucks too. The Aural Exciter is much better.

To what degree can all of this (not just the Aural Exciter, but everything above you've mentioned) be done successfully with software?
 

Slouching Raymond

Active member
20220922_201208.jpg
Looks like an Aphex convention 😁
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
Aphex is currently an incredible bargain. The Made in the USA rack units up till the mid 90's are high quality..I dont know anything about the newer stuff.

Why is that helpful
Someone recording rock music, wants to sound like the radio, those are the tools to do it. Get the best source you can into it, then bump it up.
 
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