Best way to make vocals sound better??

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UpcomingKingS
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2006/01/05 13:52:54 (permalink)

Best way to make vocals sound better??

hey can you help me what sound effects do i use to make the song blend in with beat like a tupac song... not to loud over the beat you know what i mean thanks
#1

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    Petronome
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/07 12:09:22 (permalink)
    The key is to record the vocals in a good place with good equipment, as far as I'm concerned. However, blending vocals to mix can be helped by for example compressor. Also EQ'ing vocals can help.
    #2
    yep
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/08 23:42:09 (permalink)
    Use a highpass filter then a compressor.

    Set the highpass filter pretty aggressively to start, and use it in the chain before the compressor. Compressors that have an element of saturation or coloration such as the LA2A, PSP Vintage Warmer, Voxengo Crunchessor, or Blockfish are good picks for in-you-face hip-hop vocals. Most of these compressors also have very simple controls, which is a convenient plus for vocals that vary in level quite a bit, as with most hip-hop stuff.

    Set the highpass filter to around 100-150 Hz to start with heavy reduction (like -12 on the gain slider or so) and medium Q (maybe like 1 or a little lower) and set the compressor so that almost every note is triggering the compressor, but also so that the compressor is letting go between notes (watch the compressor's gain reduction meters-- try and get it to move on every note, bouncing down to maybe 3-6db average gain reduction). Then simply play with the highpass filter's frequency settings and with the compressor settings.

    You might be surprised at the degree to which you can cut lows out of the vocal track with a highpass filter before it starts to have a negative effect on the sound. Cut out as much as you can before the vocals start to sound noticably worse-- you might need to increase the input gain to the compressor as you start to filter out the lows, which is fine. Use the compressor to fatten up and fill out the remaining midrange vocal track, and to bring up the resonance and articulation. You should be able to get a pretty consistent, filled out vocal sound that remains clear and doesn't dissappear into the mix or force the bass and drums to seem tiny compared to the vocals.

    Once you got the vocal hammered into shape a little, you may want to do more eq to offset any perception of flatness from the changes you made above. Add another, seperate instance of an eq plugin after the compressor in the signal chain. Use this one to sculpt the sound. A small cut in the upper presence range (maybe around 7-10kHz) may take some of the edge off and reduce any extra sibilance added in the compression stage. A little boost just above this cut can restore the sense of airiness and openness, if necessary. Another little bump right at or just above the cutoff of the highpass filter can add some size and proximity to the vocals. A little cut in the midrange can reduce any nasalness or pitchiness that might have been brought up by the compression.

    Then, to thicken the sound a little, you can add some short delays-- maybe like a stereo delay with one side set to around 30-50ms and the other side set to 10-20ms or so with the feedback turned way down (start turning it up from zero and back off when it starts to muddy up or sound echoey or reverberated). You can also use aux busses for this and use mono delys which you can place more precisely in the stereo spectrum, which leads to my last suggestion:

    use the stereo field-- if you have big bass, big kick, big snare, and big vocals, as with most hip-hop, and they're all panned dead-center, you can sometimes achieve significantly more clarity by panning one or more of these instruments off-sides a little. Try, for instance, putting the kick and snare a little to the right and the bass and vox a little left, or vice-versa. Play with it and see what sounds good.

    Finally, of course, the most important thing is the original raw recording-- Garbage In, Garbage out. Don't let garbage in. Use the best mic you can for the vocalist, and focus on getting a really killer performance. There is no mixing trick in the world that can make up for a lackluster performance.

    Cheers.
    #3
    Brett
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/11 08:43:30 (permalink)
    Set the highpass filter to around 100-150 Hz to start with heavy reduction (like -12 on the gain slider or so)


    Yes that is reserved for bass players

    B


    #4
    SurfingMusicMan
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/17 14:38:50 (permalink)
    Yep, is this what you recommend for rap vocals or for all vocals generally?
    #5
    yep
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/17 15:14:10 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: barthowk

    Yep, is this what you recommend for rap vocals or for all vocals generally?


    Specifically for a tupac-style deep, raspy voice with a fast, articulate delivery over a dense, bass-heavy, heavily-compressed mix.

    Not what I would use for Dido, or Tom Petty, or Luther Vandross.

    Cheers.
    #6
    fanzzz
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/25 16:22:51 (permalink)
    Yep--R U recommending using the high pass filter for noise reduction on the vocal track or something else?

    I want to get better at recording at home and definitely the noise reduction issue. Is that where most noise is--low end? It seems a lot of mics have either low-cut or high cut filters.. I got an MXL 990 recently, but I don't think it has cuts on it, switches...

    I would like to use compression also in the future. It's good for vocals, but should one use compression for all the tracks to raise the loudness(which is or can be good) or just say vocals? I read that's a big thing--people always trying to get theird CD's as loud as possible through whatever means.

    On one post by Chaz and some nice links it talked about the Motown Mix or whatever--using compression on vocals and sending it to 2 channels--one compressed signal and the other is natural. Add some reverb to the natural and blend it with the compressed version, maybe EQ the compressed version and then you have a way to retain the vocal expression, dynamics much better instead of having it quashed with just using compression alone. Kewl trick! I'll have to try it out when I get some compression software or an outboard compressor. My home equipment is very limited--Mobile Pre(M-Audio), couple mics, Music Creator 2, etc..

    Mr. Oliver
    #7
    yep
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/26 11:30:05 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: fanzzz

    Yep--R U recommending using the high pass filter for noise reduction on the vocal track or something else?


    The midrange and higher frequencies are the most important parts of the voice for clarity and intelligibility. There are also where most of the throatiness and character of the voice is.

    The lower frequency content takes up a lot of energy and space, and is prone to becoming muddy, especially if you are using extreme close-miking techniques and heavy compression as is common in hip-hop.

    To get a lot of exaggerated power, size, and impact from the low end of the bass and kick, you need to make room for that stuff to breathe.

    Cutting the low frequencies of the vocals opens up the low end for the stuff that does it best (bass and kick drum). It also allows you to crank up and compress the vocal prescence and clarity without drowning out the power of the mix.

    The ear is easy to fool in some ways, tough to fool in others. The ear is very forgiving to cutting lows-- it kind of "fills in" the missing frequencies. So you can get away with cutting lows in places where you might be surprised. The stuff that's really important to keep is the lows that you want the listener to really "feel" in a physical way. To get a lot of power in a mix, it never hurts to try cutting the lows out of everything except the stuff that really has to have that kind of impact.

    Also, focusing on the critical frequencies of the vocals allows you to turn them up louder in the mix than you would be able to otherwise.

    When everything is doing it's own job, playing it's own role, and not in the way of the other stuff, that's when you can really get those big, powerful, slamming mixes like they do in modern hip-hop.

    Cheers.
    #8
    fanzzz
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/01/27 17:33:41 (permalink)
    Thanks for some ideas on cutting the lows. I guess you can cut them in the first place, fill it in with drums or bass or record as normal with vcocals, drums and bass and then maybe EQ the vocals and cut the bass down with EQ, course that would be a bit different, but similar...
    #9
    akil
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/06 11:28:43 (permalink)
    what role does the recording booth play in the vocal sound quality?

    Big Boy
    #10
    ohhey
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/06 12:22:23 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: akil

    what role does the recording booth play in the vocal sound quality?


    The first reason why you would have a booth in the first place is because you don't have a quiet place to record and need to keep out other sounds from the mic. If the booth has acoustic material inside to pervent reflection it would also keep natural room reverb from being picked up by the mic. If you record dry then you can add any fake reverb later and adjust it to taste. If you have a quiet good sounding room to record it that may be the sound you need and in that case a booth would not be needed. If you keep as far away from walls as you can that will help keep down reflections.
    #11
    akil
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/06 18:30:32 (permalink)
    Mybe thats my problem. When i built my studio i just assumed i needed a booth. I will try recording outside of my booth and see what kinda of sound i get.

    Big Boy
    #12
    skiptomylou4556
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/06 20:19:39 (permalink)
    how do you seperate the vocals and the instrumentals?
    #13
    yep
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/07 09:27:56 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: skiptomylou4556

    how do you seperate the vocals and the instrumentals?


    From a complete, finished mix?

    You can't, really. The machines and techniques that claim to do this do not actually seperate the "vocals," they merely sperate the stuff that is only panned to the center. You can do this easily by splitting a stereo track in L and R and reversing the phase of one side-- this will remove the "center" information, leaving only the stuff that is panned to the sides. It may get rid of some of the vocals, but will also likely remove most of the bass and drums, and anything else that was panned center. To try and get only the vocals, you can take this "center removed" track, reversing the phase, and combining it with the "regular" track to get only the center-panned stuff.

    It doesn't usually work very well.
    #14
    Brett
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/07 09:41:10 (permalink)
    There is some software called Utagoe (Japanese for singing voice) that accepts a normal mix and an instrumental mix giving just a vocal track. Works very well, I've done some mash ups with it. But it's a bit hard to use and obviously you need an instrumental verison, being able to read Japanese helps too!




    post edited by Brett - 2006/02/07 09:45:02
    #15
    j boy
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/07 19:56:06 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: ohhey

    The first reason why you would have a booth in the first place is because you don't have a quiet place to record and need to keep out other sounds from the mic.

    A guy I know was recording a vocal in his studio, when his cat wandered by and yowled loud enough for the mic to pick up. Turns out the guy liked the way it fit into the gestalt of the song, so he kept it... you just never know.
    #16
    fejede
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/07 23:20:33 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: yep

    ORIGINAL: barthowk

    Yep, is this what you recommend for rap vocals or for all vocals generally?


    Specifically for a tupac-style deep, raspy voice with a fast, articulate delivery over a dense, bass-heavy, heavily-compressed mix.

    Not what I would use for Dido, or Tom Petty, or Luther Vandross.

    Cheers.


    Yep, what about a Bow Wow type (i.e., not so deep but still want that hip-hop presence) or a younger voice (teenagers).

    When you Eq, Compress, Eq (the first e.q., you mentioned cutting to -12 on the gain slider) If that is not done does that make it "harder" to let the rest of the chain work (it does not seem intuitive to cut it that much or at all), but that probably because I just don't get it. I would have if I had the sense to use that chain left the first eq gain where it was (i.e., unchanged).....(that's bad right?)

    Regards,
    #17
    yep
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/08 10:52:14 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: fejede

    ...When you Eq, Compress, Eq (the first e.q., you mentioned cutting to -12 on the gain slider) If that is not done does that make it "harder" to let the rest of the chain work (it does not seem intuitive to cut it that much or at all), but that probably because I just don't get it. I would have if I had the sense to use that chain left the first eq gain where it was (i.e., unchanged).....(that's bad right?)

    Regards,


    First of all, it's not like a "bad" or "good" thing, where this is a recipe that you have to follow and if you put in an extra 1/4tsp of yeast then the bread won't rise-- you have to use your own ears and your own judgement.

    One thing that I should have made clear above is to make these kinds of changes and decisions while listening tho the whole mix, not just the vocals on their own.

    The 12 dB cut I suggested is just a starting to point, to see how much you can get away with. Some degree of steep low-cut is almost always a good idea on vocal tracks, just to clear up any rumble or handling noise. But what I am talking about is something like this:

    When anyone speaks or talks, there are several components to the sound. The lowest part of the sound is the actual "note" produced by the vibrating column of air in the vocal cords (this "note" is being produced even if you're not singing-- think of the vocal chords as a clarinet or a horn, because that's kind of how they work). This "note" is complemented by different overtones and resonances that form in the nasal cavities, the throat, and the mouth, and those overtones and resonances are what make an open singing voice sound different from a flute or a pipe organ or a computer-generated sine wave playing the same note. We can think of these as the "vowel" sounds-- the open "note" produced when you pronounce "aaaah" or "oooh" or whatever.

    Once your vocals chords are making a "note," there are also a whole bunch of atonal sounds that modulate and modify that note to produce intelligible speech. The most obvious ones are the consonant sounds produced by the lips, tounge, teeth, and mouth movement-- the stuff that makes "sss" sound different from "d" or "k" sounds. There are also a lot characteristics that have to do with the vocalist's delivery, style, and singing voice-- stuff like raspiness, gravelliness, throatiness exist in different people to different degrees, and are part of what makes different voices unique, as is the way different people's mouth and vocal apparatus works-- think of the difference between the Old Dirty Bastard and the guy from the Smashing Pumpkins-- you'd never mistake one for the other.

    In western classical music, the tradition is for the singer to minimize all of the sounds in the second paragraph and focus on delivering the clearest, richest "notes" during the vowel sounds, to make the voice sound like an instrument, almost. In hip-hop, obviously, the opposite is true-- the singer isn't really "singing" at all, and what makes a really good MC not just his or her rhymes, it's also the character and flavor of the delivery. If we use eq to down-play the "note," which is the part of the soundwave that takes up the most energy, then we have a lot more room to hype the stuff that really gives that MC their unique personality (incidentally, this kind of approach also often works for certain kinds of punk and metal singers who are more about throat sound than they are about musicality).

    Every voice and every performance is different, so there's no "one size fits all" approach that works for everything, but this technique often does a great job of clearing up the low end to get the power and size of the kick and bass, and allowing you to push the vocal delivery right out in front. It might seem counter-intuitive, but a deep, powerful voice still sounds deep and powerful even if you remove most of the lows, especially if there is other low-end content (such as bass and drums). As long as the presence range is loud and clear, the listener will still "get it" and their ears and brain will tend to "fill in" the missing lows. It's weird, but it works, try it. A 12dB cut on the highs sounds way more drastic than a 12 dB cut in the lows.

    So anyway, if the vocals are a little higher-range than Tupac, I'd still say try the same thing, but maybe try a broad dip in the low mids (either instead of or in combination with the low-cut filter) and see if it makes an improvement, and if so, see how much you can get away with before it starts to sound worse (remember to do this with the rest of the mix playing-- not with the vocals solo).

    Incidentally, cutting the "note" portion of the sound also reduces any "pitchiness" caused by the MC pronouncing "notes" that aren't in key with the beats. But that's just a bonus.

    Cheers.
    #18
    fejede
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/08 12:25:02 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: yep

    One thing that I should have made clear above is to make these kinds of changes and decisions while listening to the whole mix, not just the vocals on their own.



    I caught myself listening to the vocals outside of the mix just the other day...I was even more "geared up" to fix them. I'm glad you confirmed the processing is better made within the context of the mix (seems simple enough to think that way...but us beginners seem to find ways to make things harder than they already are...).





    ORIGINAL: yep

    If we use eq to down-play the "note," which is the part of the soundwave that takes up the most energy, then we have a lot more room to hype the stuff that really gives that MC their unique personality (incidentally, this kind of approach also often works for certain kinds of punk and metal singers who are more about throat sound than they are about musicality).

    Cheers.



    BRILLIANT....

    ORIGINAL: yep

    It might seem counter-intuitive......As long as the presence range is loud and clear, the listener will still "get it" and their ears and brain will tend to "fill in" the missing lows. It's weird, but it works, try it. A 12dB cut on the highs sounds way more drastic than a 12 dB cut in the lows.


    It does seem counter-intutitve.....that's exactly what I've been grappling with.....Definately will be trying that soon...There is a track I want to finish the vocals on and what you are schooling us on is right on point to help me move forward.

    If Cakewalk were to take votes on "The Most Helpful" and something to that effect (as well as other categories...most likely to succeed, etc). You, CHAZ, and those of that ilk (I know I left a great deal of important names - please forgive me)...You'd easily get my vote. You know maybe Cake could give out awards and such....


    Regards,
    #19
    fejede
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/12 13:31:31 (permalink)
    Yep....tried some of the vocal processing techniques.


    Got some of my best results ever.....


    I'll keep at it....


    Thank you, Sir.


    Regards,


    #20
    bmxplosive
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/15 03:26:57 (permalink)
    You could also use automation instead of using compression. I know some old schoolers swear by this, and they can get some good results. Compression is the sound of modern records, but I think I am going to try to start doing more automation instead of crushing everything. Anyone have any thoughts on this instead off compression?

    Swaff
    post edited by bmxplosive - 2006/02/15 03:31:32
    #21
    fejede
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/15 08:56:16 (permalink)
    I did both recently (compression and volume automation). I think the combined efforts worked better then just the compression alone.

    In my most recent tune, there are three main verses. Despite my efforts there was enough of a noticeable difference in the volume levels for each verse.

    The vocals were not recorded in one great take. It took a try or two...

    Anyway, compression techniques as described by Yep above did wonders. The volume automation evened the takes out even more...


    Of course, I'll head back to the "lab" and worked to do more....


    Regards,

    #22
    yep
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/15 10:15:55 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: bmxplosive

    You could also use automation instead of using compression. I know some old schoolers swear by this, and they can get some good results. Compression is the sound of modern records, but I think I am going to try to start doing more automation instead of crushing everything. Anyone have any thoughts on this instead off compression?

    My guess would be that the most common approach is to use both. Automation (actual mixing) is best for controlling the level of passages, or even individual notes, turning the loud parts down or the quiet parts up, or controlling individual spots where the singer was too close to the mic, etc.

    In a sense, a compressor could be thought of as an automatic version of this, but that's not necessarily how it's always used. Different compressors respond in different ways and have different "sounds." You can use compression to add sustain or impact or to "fatten" or "warm up" a sound or bring out more detail and presence, stuff like that. The advantage here is that you can tune the compressor settings by ear in real-time to get the sound profile you want, and the compressor can respond a lot faster than your fingers could. The compressor can track the individual undulations in the waveform. To try and reproduce this effect by drawing in automation envelopes would take a lot of time and effort, and a huge amount of trial-and-error if you wanted to be able to audition different "settings," the way you can do very quickly and easily with a compressor.

    But because of these things, a compressor is not a good substitute for actually mixing your tracks, and controlling the levels of different passages. A compressor will change the sound of different song sections differently, depending on the intensity and dynamic profile and how it changes over the course of a song.

    Neither one is a direct replacement for the other. What methods will work best for a particular song depend a lot on the type of music, the nature of the instruments, the type of sound you want to get, and so on, and also on plain old personal preference.

    Cheers.
    #23
    mlockett
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/15 12:11:59 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: bmxplosive

    You could also use automation instead of using compression. I know some old schoolers swear by this, and they can get some good results. Compression is the sound of modern records, but I think I am going to try to start doing more automation instead of crushing everything. Anyone have any thoughts on this instead off compression?

    Swaff

    I know different folks disagree (even among experts), but I think using automation (or gain envelopes) has a very natural sound when used well. I see compression more as an effect. Compression is in someways simillar to the ADSR controls provided with many synths/samplers. It affects the dynamics on a more "micro" level. A comp may operate on every individual note, and inflections in that note, where as with automation (at least the way I use it) would have far fewer ups and downs... just upo or down to fix a phrase or word here and there.

    I think many would agree that in most cases it's best to correct the most eggregious dynamics with automation, even if you follow it with a compressor. While the compressor will tend to even out the dynamics, the compressor will affect the very quiet part much differently than the loud parts (unless you automate parameters on the compressor ).
    #24
    Spinedoc
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    RE: Best way to make vocals sound better?? 2006/02/15 21:07:03 (permalink)
    I heard of a new plugin called "Vocsteady" over on KVR that supposedly automates the task of volume automation in a plug in vs. direct compression. Not sure what that is supposed to translate to in reality but it sound intruiging.
    #25
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