Entries in vocal (17)
You’ve got a great track down and now it’s time to get those all important vocals recorded to make this a killer hit. If there’s anything that seems to get more people stressed, it’s recording the vocals.
The longer you spend trying to get a vocal performance right in the studio the harder it can get, so the sooner you get the killer performance better.
The key to a great vocal recording is a great vocalist performing at their best. Remember recording vocals is not an exercise is seeing how many takes and edits you can get down in a marathon session, it’s trying to capture the emotion and passion, with the least amount of stress.
So here are our top 5 tricks for getting a great vocal performance.
In this free video tutorial Russ shows the new Leveller feature in iZotope RX4, this can used to automate clip gain. In this example he uses it on a vocal. He also uses the de-breath module from Nectar 2 for removing extraneous breaths from the track.
Monitoring Without Headphones
Some vocalists hate using headphones when tracking vocals, instead preferring to monitor through speakers.
The problem is that this gives excessive bleed of the rest of the instruments though the vocal track.
This video tutorial shows you a trick that helps to remove a lot of that bleed and cleans up the audio for further processing.
From the authors of 12 Steps For Preparing To Record Vocals and Breathing And The Voice - In Performance and Production Part 1 and Part 2; In this third instalment to their series, Producer Dan Cooper and Vocal Instructor Georgie Gillis will give their two-pronged approach to voice projection in the mix.
The Singer’s Perspective By Georgiana Gillis
Why Do I Need To Worry About Projecting My Voice In A Studio Environment?
One of my pet peeves as a vocal coach is to hear a singer not projecting into the microphone during a recording session. They mistakenly keep their voices ‘local’ as if the pop shield were their target audience. This false delivery then gets mixed and mastered into the final product with lack lustre results. The one thing your producer cannot fix with any post production tricks, is how you carried your voice into the recording microphone in the first place.
How Can Projecting Help With My Vocal Takes?
Projecting your voice not only gets it INTO the microphone, but helps with these three key elements which must come from you the singer and cannot be faked:
- VOLUME - If you were talking into a mic and your producer pushed the fader up you would still sound like you were only talking, only louder - not shouting. The same goes for big belting choruses - what’s the point if you are only singing them to yourself?
- ENERGY - Singing requires a certain amount of energy. Any listener can hear the difference when your voice sounds flat and lifeless. Aim for your vocals to always sound effortless and never strained.
- EMOTION - Passionate vocals convince the listener that you are singing from the heart. Believe your own hype and ham it up! If you are not recording original material, go for songs that you can relate to.
Ok. What Exactly Is Projecting Your Voice?
Technically it could be described as the action of extending your voice towards a desired target - in this case a microphone. Like breathing, projection is another one of those hear-say terms that can be interpreted in a number of different ways depending on who is teaching you. Learning how to project correctly and safely is often a case of making these small adjustments to your technique:
- Visualise singing live - In a performance situation you would sing TO your audience whereas in a studio we only have a microphone in an acoustically treated room. Visualise your perfect audience and then go for it!
- Use ‘Forward Placement’ - This describes where you ‘place’ your voice in order to achieve the best projectile results. Sing as if you were singing solely to the back of your top front teeth - this directs your air flow outwards where you need it most.
- Deep Breathing - (Breath = Power) Make sure you are using some form of diaphragmatic/deep breathing to enable your voice to ‘soar’. Combining correct breathing with Forward Placement has the desired ‘bow and arrow’ effect of projectile singing.
Can’t I Achieve The Same Results If I Just Make Myself Louder?
No. Getting louder does not mean you are necessarily extending your voice forwards. Simply forcing your voice without any precautionary action (shouting) is effectively ‘smacking’ your vocal folds together aggressively while at the same time forcing too much air through your larynx. Signs that you have been doing this already include; the feeling that you have ‘strained’ your voice, sore throats, hoarseness or regular bouts of acute or even chronic laryngitis. Over the long term, abusing your voice like this causes polyps and permanent laryngeal damage (listen to Rod Stewart for an example of vocal damage).
How Do We Place Our Voices Forwards?
In short, once we have taken a nice deep belly breath, that air then goes on a journey out of the airways, through your larynx, into your throat and hits the soft palate where the air can then either go up your nasal cavity or out of your mouth (or both).
- Put your tongue up on the roof of your mouth. This is called the hard palate.
- Run your tongue along the hard palate towards the back of your throat.
- Keep going until you reach the soft, pillowy soft palate.
- On the other side of the soft palate is the opening to the nasal cavity.
When singing we want our voices to go OUT of our mouths and not UP our noses as no singer wants to sound nasal. But because the nasal cavity is openly connected to our mouths like a chimney to a house, we need to MANUALLY direct the air flow to go where we want using Forward Placement - and so aiming the air outwards rather than upwards.
How Do We Achieve Forward Placement?
When coaching my students I tell them to sing to the back of their top front teeth (incisors). It is a simple yet effective image to visualise. To take this one step further, pay attention to how you use your lips when singing; In your normal ‘indoor’ voice, say the word ‘speak’. Say it again and notice what happens to the corners of your mouth. ‘Speak’. They pull up and back to make the required sound, thus losing some of your voice at the corners as well as sounding nasal and bright. Now try singing the word ‘speak’ with your lips pushed forwards. Hear the difference? To project effectively, everything should go forwards; voice AND lips.*
Difficulty with Accent - Irish or American?
One of the best accents for Forward Placement is Italian as their speech patterns naturally go forwards and up. Another good accent for singers is Welsh. It is perhaps no accident then that great singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Katherine Jenkins and Tom Jones come from these countries, to name a few! Unfortunately there are some accents which are prone to sounding nasal - American and Irish accents are two examples of such and depending on the regional dialect can encounter more placement problems than others. However, using Forward Placement can remedy this considerably.
What If Your Chosen Method Of Singing Does Not Normally Require You To Project?
Obviously there are many different styles of singing and if yours is a style that relies heavily upon microphone amplification, for example; breathy vocals, stylised singing or using ‘hushed’ tones to create that modern ‘not bothered’ effect - then discuss this with your producer. He or she will adjust the sensitivity/proximity of the mic and volume in your ears accordingly. Even so, placing your voice forwards will enable the mic to pick up as much of your voice as possible with the minimum amount of loss.
True projection means to use a combination of deep breathing in conjunction with placing your voice in the foremost resonating chambers of your mouth. Taking this projectile action supports your voice in travelling a greater distance as well as gaining greater power and volume. It is also the key to unlocking a passionate, energetic performance. Second to breathing correctly, learning how to properly place your voice is integral to overcoming nasal tones, belting safely and riding your breaking point to name but a few.
*In this article I refer to ‘Forward Placement’. It is also known by other names such as voice or vocal placement. Their are many schools of thought on the correct way to do this as well as variance within genres. There is no exact science however and it mostly comes down to individual feel.
This two part article will cover these methods. I believe… and many others will agree, that in order to get great sounding vocals is to get it right, or at least the best you can, in the initial stages of the recording process before any mixing or fairy dust tricks have been applied.
In Part 1 my fiancée and song writing partner Georgie Gillis will cover the important performance techniques required when tracking vocals based on her 13 years experience as a vocal instructor, performer and recording artist. In Part 2 - I will cover the technical processes for recording great sounding vocals.
The Singer’s Guide - 12 Steps To Prepare For Your Best Vocal Take By Georgiana Gillis.
They say “Success is 90% preparation and only 10% perspiration”. Unlike the other instruments in your mix, your voice requires a very different kind of preparation. Whether you’re a professional singer or hobbyist, the following tips can help you get the very best from your voice.
Before You Arrive At The Studio - Sleep Before The Big Day
Singing requires energy - fact. Tired bodies create flat notes. I always tell my singing students to approach a performance as if they were entering a boxing ring - pumped. When it comes down to it, you will want to channel all of your energy into a great vocal take. If you are ill, have not slept well or have had a late night you will not be able to give it your best.
Water Is A Singer’s Best Friend
Water to your voice is like oil to an engine. Stick to still water as your drink of choice and always keep a bottle available for sipping. This can be done as frequently as you need during vocal takes. Beware of dehydration - your body will allocate water to other body parts before it reaches the mucous membranes aka your larynx. Room temperature is always best as it is absorbed more quickly than cold.
Don’t Eat A Heavy Meal Before Singing
Approach eating and singing in the same way you would swimming. Don’t eat a heavy meal right beforehand. A full stomach encroaches on your breathing space - not to mention diverting your energy to digestion. Ideally, eat little and often in the run up to keep energy levels high or if this isn’t possible, make sure you eat your meal a couple of hours before recording.
Plan To Sing When You Feel Fresh
Usually not first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but in the fresh part of your day according to your own body clock. Your concentration levels peak and fall during the course of any given day. A good time to record vocals would be when you are usually at your most energetic. For most of us for e.g. that is not near the afternoon ‘slump’ or late in the evening.
Russ shows how to tighten up vocal stacks using some of the standard features in Pro Tools.
In this video you will learn several techniques and keyboard shortcuts that will be useful for editing audio in Pro Tools including tab to transient, strip silence, audio warp and more.
Join now and watch over 700 Pro Tools tutorials videos for just £20 a year.
Audionamix ADX TRAX Software Videos
Audionamix ADX TRAX Software Background
Founded in 2008, Audionamix works in audio source separation. Based on years of research, the company developed the patented ADX Technology and continues to pioneer audio solutions for the film, broadcast and music industries. Audionamix’s technical expertise in isolating and separating elements from a master recording empowers content owners, engineers, producers, and artists to create new arrangements, and unlock television and movie assets for expanded distribution.
Audionamix has released ADX TRAX software that utilizes the company’s technology to easily, quickly and effectively isolate vocal elements from its accompanying music track. Located in Los Angeles and Paris, the company’s technology and services provide solutions to a wide range of audio challenges.
Audionamix ADX TRAX Software Key Features
- Non-destructive, automated audio source separation software, powered by the cloud.
- Significantly reduces time consuming manual editing required to effectively isolate a lead vocal or create an instrumental.
- Multi-Algorithmic Matrix allows you to select a multitude of processing combinations to optimize separations for a wide variety of source files.
- Integrated post separation enhancement tools allow you to customize and refine your separated results.
- Intuitive Graphical User Interface, with industry standard navigation and editing tools to further accelerate your workflow.
- Familiar comping feature combines your best results.
- Compatible with multiple bit depths, sample rates, and even mono files.
- Free software updates and online user support for the term of your license.
What do you think about Audionamix ADX TRAX Software?
Friend of the site Michael Wabro has been looking at it. He said “It does really work but it takes an age to get it right, but I was pretty gob-smacked at the result”. What do you think?
Its a cloud based subscription model but they do have a 3 day free trial. It is stand alone and Mac only at the moment, but they are talking about plug-in versions coming soon. Check it out and let us know how you get on with it.
Our friends at Sontronics have launched a new vocal microphone, the Aria. We wil get a review copy soon and have James put it through its paces.
The new Sontronics ARIA is a valve condenser microphone with a fixed cardioid pattern, designed by Sontronics founder Trevor Coley specifically for getting the best from your vocals. They say:
The Sontronics ARIA will give you stunning results on every male or female vocal recording, thanks to its silky-smooth characteristics, its accurate response and Sontronics’ trademark smooth high-frequency roll-off. Housed inside the chromed grille is a large, 1.07-inch, edge-terminated capsule that captures all the detail and subtleties of any male or female vocal, while the hand-selected European 12AX7/ECC83 tube lends a character that you’d expect to find in a classic vintage valve mic costing many times more. For that extra level of control, the accompanying SPS-2 power supply unit boasts pad (0, -10dB) and filter (linear, 75Hz) switches as well as a tube-ready LED, letting you know when the mic is warmed up and at its best to record.
“I’ve been working on the concept of a vocal-specific valve mic for a long time,” explains designer Trevor Coley, “and the ARIA is the culmination of months of research and beta-testing, which I’ve been lucky enough to do with some incredibly talented musicians and producers. The result is a go-to microphone that really is a must-have for anyone serious about achieving the best, smoothest, warmest possible results from any vocal recording.Sontronics ARIA really will take your breath away!”
Denis Kilty continues this 3 part series on capturing a choir.
Capturing The Sound
Choirs can be physically arranged in a multitude of ways for recording, each way chosen to accurately reflect both he performance capability of the singers and the level of isolation required for mixing. The most standard way is SATB in two lines, Soprano and Alto at the front with tenor and bass lined behind. This particular set up is designed for whole takes, so due to the level of spill, what is recorded is what you get. It is also possible, if the choir is of a high enough standard, to mingle the singers to create a total vocal blend at source. This requires total independent knowledge of the music and a strong sense of place within the ensemble from each member, so reserve this set up for the best of ensembles. Ensembles can also be split according to gender, with tenors and basses on the left and sopranos and altos on the right. Often choirs record in a slight semi circle, with the lines of singers “honeycombing” (looking between the shoulders of the person in front fro projection clarity). This tightens the stereo image as the singers at the edge are closer to the stereo microphones.
To record this positioning, a number of techniques can be used. An XY stereo pair of cardioid condensers placed in front of the choir is a good place to begin. The XY configuration captures a decent Stereo image and the inherent crossover between microphones creates quite a concrete center image too. An expansion of this is to instead use two Figure Of 8 patterned condensers in the same format, also known as the Blumlein Pair. This technique captures the same focused stereo image but the bi-directionality of the microphones means that the stereo room ambience behind the microphones is also captured.
It’s that time of year and the tide of jingle riddled music graces the airwaves once again. Christmas is a season that celebrates largely religious music and the coming of the carol, and we can all expect and agree that the most prominent display of Christmas music is going to be through the medium of the voice.
Given the impending approach of Christmas, I thought it relevant to impart some simple tips and tricks for working with choirs and vocal ensembles in a production and recording capacity. Before we look at microphones in depth, it is pertinent to address pre-production due to the inevitable element of close interaction the producer or engineer will have with the ensemble being recorded.