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If anyone has any tips on mixing vocals, I'd sure love to hear them. I have a friend who records and swears that the only way to get natural-sounding vocals is to record using 2 mics, but I'm stuck in Buenos Aires with only 1 mic for the rest of the year. I've generally been recording the vocals dry, then pasting them to 2 additional tracks, which I process with slight delays, do some EQ and add a little reverb, but my friends say it sounds like I'm singing in the bathroom (actually, I am, since I am recording in a noisy apartment and the only quiet place to record audio is the bathroom!).

 

Vocals are the Achilles heel of my recordings, and if anyone has procedures to share that have worked for them, I am ALL EARS!!!

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I have a friend who records and swears that the only way to get natural-sounding vocals is to record using 2 mics, but I'm stuck in Buenos Aires with only 1 mic for the rest of the year.

Fear not, people have been making hit records since the dawn of recording using 1 mic only - and still do this today ;-)

 

Your problem sounds more like you need to get a vocal booth or treat your room with panels and traps.

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Here's what you do, get a nice sized tube, I would say at least 20 to 30 inches in diameter, cut in half. put some type of foam on the inside surface, something like matress foam if you don't have any professional stuff. Place that around the back of the mic, oh about 6 to 8 inches away. Problem is solved.
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Here's what you do, get a nice sized tube, I would say at least 20 to 30 inches in diameter, cut in half. put some type of foam on the inside surface, something like matress foam if you don't have any professional stuff. Place that around the back of the mic, oh about 6 to 8 inches away. Problem is solved.

Not exactly. Most vocal applications require a cardioid mic pattern. This pattern will be more sensitive to what happens on the address side of the mic, rather than the back. You may be better with an absorber panel or a hanging blanket or such behind you when you track vocals.

 

Bottom line: With most vocal applications, unless you are absolutely sure that what you are capturing for room sound is what you are ultimately going to use in the mix (as in, you are not going to do any heavy processing on the vocal, which includes FX, tuning, comping, or heavy compression), you should try to capture the vocal as dry as possible.

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Slight compression (Opto or VCA are good) of about 4:1, depending on how squashed you want it and how much you fear the noise floor rising.

 

EQ, with attention given to rolling off the bottom end and attention given to the "presence" frequencies. Look at the relationship between the snare, guitar, bass, keys, kick and vocals. Make sure there is a space for the vocals to breathe.

 

Try an Exciter on the vocals if you want to pop it forward.

 

Send the vocal to 2 aux channels. Use one of them to add delay and reverb and the other to distort and filter.

 

These are just a few ideas.

 

BTW, you are actually better off using one microphone in my opinion. I like to keep it simple.

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Here's what you do, get a nice sized tube, I would say at least 20 to 30 inches in diameter, cut in half. put some type of foam on the inside surface, something like matress foam if you don't have any professional stuff. Place that around the back of the mic, oh about 6 to 8 inches away. Problem is solved.

Not exactly. Most vocal applications require a cardioid mic pattern. This pattern will be more sensitive to what happens on the address side of the mic, rather than the back. You may be better with an absorber panel or a hanging blanket or such behind you when you track vocals.

 

Bottom line: With most vocal applications, unless you are absolutely sure that what you are capturing for room sound is what you are ultimately going to use in the mix (as in, you are not going to do any heavy processing on the vocal, which includes FX, tuning, comping, or heavy compression), you should try to capture the vocal as dry as possible.

 

Looking at this discussion, then, would it be best to mix both suggestions? Have some kind of absorber behind you and in front of you, be it make-shift and home-made?

 

I'm recording in my basement, which has large open spaces. However, I purposely shoved all my gear into the most closed off space in the area, but it's surrounded by concrete walls with insulation (fiberglass, if I'm not mistaken). I can definitely feel my vocal energy/presence being drained away while singing, so I can't even begin to imagine how that's affecting the recording.

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Buy 4 duvets from Target. $60 a pop. Line one corner of you basement with the duvets. When singing into the mic (in cardioid pattern) make sure your back is to the corner, surrounded by duvets. You can also build the thingamabobber mentioned before. That should soak up the majority of room reflection.
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What mic are you using? What preamp? Both will make a huge difference in your sound, although I take it from your first post that you don't have the option of switching those for a little while. But certain mics sound certain ways and certain pres do certain things so it would help me to know.

 

Secondly, a homemade vox booth is not that tough to do. You can literally hang four towels to make your booth. Use the thick plushy beach-towl kind. I used to work at a studio where we did this by screwing curtain rods to the ceiling and then draped the towels over them so they were double ply thick and only hung down to waist high. I laughed at it at first but the difference in and out of the "booth" was significant.

 

If your not getting vocals right from the mic and pre that sound good to your ears then no amount of eq and compression is going to fix them.

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Buy 4 duvets from Target. $60 a pop. Line one corner of you basement with the duvets. When singing into the mic (in cardioid pattern) make sure your back is to the corner, surrounded by duvets. You can also build the thingamabobber mentioned before. That should soak up the majority of room reflection.

 

Hmm.. Sounds interesting! Thanks, I'll definitely have to try that.

 

However, I don't have a specific wall to do that with (hard to explain)... But I'm sure hanging these duvets, thick beach towels, etc, from the rafters behind me will also work, no? Or do they have to be fixed onto a wall?

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I would think that the treatment works fine 'hanging.'

 

Just don't give the sound the ability to reflect off of any surface that could aim it toward the front of the mic.

 

Solo a vocal and turn it up really loud. Do you hear flutter, echo, reflections, sustained decay, or anything like that? If so, you might need to deaden the room more.

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Just don't give the sound the ability to reflect off of any surface that could aim it toward the front of the mic.

 

Does that include what's behind the microphone stand, or simply what's behind me as I sing into the microphone?

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If you are a perfectionist, both.

 

An absorber behind the microphone is meant to stop the sound from going into the room. The duvets behind you are to stop room sound from going into the mic.

 

Good luck.

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The only problem with a live room is that you only get one "room sound." If you deaden everything, there is a world of sonic possibilities with Space Designer and Delay Designer and it makes the process of mixing easier to boot! I think.

 

As cool as linoleum floors might have made artists of the past sound...they look awful and make the studio look like a rehab clinic.

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I dunno . . I kinda like that lively room sound. Like on those old Motown records, . . . Martha and the Vandellas . . .

:D

 

Wall Of Sound, Baby!

Don't get me wrong, I love this stuff, too. But you gotta be sure of what you're doing (when you track) to pull this off, there is no going back. If you have to 'go back' (comp, tune, etc) then dead is the way to go.

 

I like to record bands with some spill between mics (some drums in the guitar mics, etc) for the same reasons, but it comes with the same limitations...

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Yeah, I like "the deader the better", too. I hadn't worried about the room dynamics too much, figuring I could somehow fix it with effects, but no dice.

 

I'm using an Audio Technica AT 4040 microphone plugged into Duet and thence into my laptop (Powerbook). I'm going to experiment with hanging towels, etc. around the room.

 

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll work through them one by one and hope something makes the vocals better. Of course, there's always the problem of not having a great singing voice, but then that doesn't stop Moby....

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Here is a all in 1 solution.

 

Since you are recording in your bathroom, you can do a little remodeling and combine your necessities to one multi functional space.

 

 

http://www.acousticalsolutions.com/images/products/clearsonic/main_vocal_booth.jpg

 

It will give a new meaning to the phase "My vocals sound like Sh*t!"

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Here is a all in 1 solution.

 

Since you are recording in your bathroom, you can do a little remodeling and combine your necessities to one multi functional space.

 

 

http://www.acousticalsolutions.com/images/products/clearsonic/main_vocal_booth.jpg

 

It will give a new meaning to the phase "My vocals sound like Sh*t!"

 

Though, be warned, you should avoid doing vocal takes after dropping your payload. The fumes may cause you to get light headed and pass out. Or, even worse, start writing songs like Creed.

 

:shock:

 

Yeah, you heard me. I said it.

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I built one of these, from standard building materials. It's 4'x4'x8' high, with one side hinged like a door. The inside is treated with donnaconna board and Auralex foam panels (just glued in) and there are Neutrik panels with mic and headphone connections thru the wall. It has a light, power outlets, a breather/instrument cable port, and a mic hanger hook inside. It doesn't have any nifty windows, but that's what talkback is for. It seals well enough to have a guitar amp (I have used it with a blackface Super Reverb, a DC-30, and a 50W Plexi, so not just some wussy little practise amp) cranked up inside it without much bleed.

 

I could post photos and drawings if anybody is interested.

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