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getting good a vocal sound

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Casey C., Mar 15, 2004.

  1. Casey C.

    Casey C.

    Sep 16, 2000
    Butler, PA, USA
    what are the essentials to getting the voice where it needs to be on a recording? I have numerous mics rented but i don't have a large condenser. I haven't played with it too much yet but I need to know what I should try. our first try came out kinda flat sounding. good for back ground but not good enough for the lead vocals.
  2. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Hi Casey, a good mic is important, and a good mic pre is equally as important.

    All large diaphragm condensers are not alike. A Neumann U87 sounds completely different from an AKG C-414-EB (although both are industry standards). You have to find the mic that sounds best with your particular voice. Mine is kind of throaty and gravelly, so I like mics with a wide upper midrange boost. Also, the EQ that you may apply is important, sometimes a mic that sounds way to bassy "by itself" might sound just right when you kick in the low cut filter. My absolute favorite vocal mic is the Neumann M-149, it's a beautiful mic and it sounds perfect with my voice (I can run it "straight through" the mix without even any EQ in most cases).

    The mic pre is also critically important. Any given mic can be made to sound considerably different by selecting the appropriate preamp. I look at pre's like tools in a tool kit, it's a good idea to have a wide selection so you can pull out the appropriate tool for whatever need happens to present itself. Some of my favorite pre's are the vintage Neve and API modules. I have a rack full of various Neve pre's including the 10xx and 12xx series, and the 34xx series. Also have several API pre's based on the 2520 chip (and a few that use the Jensen 990c, which is an improved 2520 that's manufactured by John Hardy).

    Here's a couple of examples of tracking chains I use for vocals. One is, and AKG C-414-EB-P48 through a Neve 3415 preamp, with the lo filter turned all the way up on the mic. Another is the Neumann M-149 through a Neve 1290, with a 6 dB cut at 80 Hz on the board (or in an outboard EQ). Also have gotten good results with tube mic pre's, but here the choice of a preamp tube is critically important, and one man's Telefunken is another man's Mullard or RCA.

    The other thought is, if you're applying compression to your vocal track when you're mixing, it's very likely to change your sound. That's something you just have to experiment with, till you find a combination of EQ and compression that works. That's why the good engineers get paid the big bucks, 'cause they know about that stuff, and they can usually dial up something that resembles a desirable lead vocal sound on the first or second try. Depends on the singer too. I know a guy that dials up the midrange for the chic singer in his band, then compresses the hell out of it and adds a little fatness in the 300 Hz region. It's an odd way to process a lead vocal, but it sounds good with the particular way he does the mix.

    Really, there's no substitute for trial and error. If you have a hard disk recorder with lots of space, you can try running various mics at the same time, that way you can A/B the tracks when you're listening back and select the one (or the combination) that sounds closest to what you want.

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