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Recording loud and quiet vocal performance

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Mytt88, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. Mytt88


    Jan 18, 2011
    Hi all,

    Last night I tried to record a vocalist for my band with a track that has quiet and loud parts. It goes from talking volume to full on screaming.

    If I brought the levels low to avoid clipping the loud parts the quiet parts are way too low in the mix and when I raise the volume I get the noise levels creeping in. If I set the volume/input correct for the quiet parts it overloads and clips on the loud parts. We tried moving further away from the mic for the loud parts but I can notice the tonality change a bit too much for my tastes when doing that. I had used the minus 20db pad on both mic and audio interface to stop the clipping.

    I was using a condenser mic so I'm thinking that was the problem. Would a dynamic mic be the way to go? Anything similar to an sm7b in the cheaper price bracket?
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    How about if you record the soft and loud parts on different tracks?
  3. Mytt88


    Jan 18, 2011
    I thought about that but it would just mean pulling the volume fader down on one track on the daw and not actually stop clipping the interface on the way in
  4. ScottTunes

    ScottTunes Gear-A-Holic Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    So Cal
    Set input gain to -12 to -6 region to cover loudest input. "Normalize" track once recorded. Then use one or more compressors (LA2A is a great on for this) and gently compress the hell out of the track! You'll know by the sound if you've gone too far with it. Joe Meek used to say "if is sounds good, it is good."

    If you have the outboard gear, use a compressor going in, and only knock off about 2 db. If you have a 2nd comp/limiter, use both the same way - reducing signal by only 2 db each compressor.

    I don't know what you know about compressors, so please don't think I'm speaking down to you. But the idea is to reduce the dynamic range you spoke of. Once recorded, you'll be able to reduce that range further.

    The most important thing is to record the vocal without clipping, since that is not a pleasant sound. Then work with it afterwards "in the box," as they say... There are many free or nearly free comp/limiters available to help you, if you don't already have one (or a few).
  5. ScottTunes

    ScottTunes Gear-A-Holic Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    So Cal
    Oh, and yes, a dynamic mic might be better in this situation. A Shure SM57 works well. But my fave dynamic is an EV RE15 (or RE10, or RE20). The 57 would be the least expensive of these mics... But any dynamic would do the job.
  6. Mytt88


    Jan 18, 2011
    Thanks for the response. I've used waves bass rider (I'm a bassist and dont have vocal rider) along with cla la3a plugin. I don't have outboard gear at the moment but will probably get a comp.

    I'm quite new to this so I'm just experimenting so all advice is welcome.

    Is normalising evening out volume? And any plugins good for this? I have heard of audacity having it but would prefer staying in one place rather than exporting and importing back in.

    I've got it to a decent take level wise and avoided clipping the only problem now is the noise floor. Not sure how to get rid of it will probably have to re track with a dynamic mic

    Thanks again
  7. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Stumbo's implying that you'd record the loud vocal sections to one track, w/ the preamp's gain set to avoid clipping. Then you'd adjust the preamp gain (and move the singer closer to the mic, and maybe use a different mic for different character) before tracking the quieter vocal parts to a separate track.

    That gets you around clipping on the loud track and—assuming your vocal preamp is decent—gives you better signal-to-noise on the quiet track. It also makes it easier to use different compressor settings on the quiet and loud sections.

    That's good practice when the situation allows. After tracking, you can also befriend your DAW's automation:
    • Automate the fader or automate a trim insert to get the different sections of the vocal track to sit in the mix. A "section" here could be as small as a single syllable.
    • Automate the faders between lines and phrases of the vocal tracks to reduce hiss. Alternatively, you could automate mutes, although that often sounds too obvious if the track is exposed.
    • Automate the compressor settings—that is threshold, ratio, attack/release, and make-up gain—to get different sections of that vocal track to behave. If you're automating a ton of settings, then in terms of workflow, it's usually easier to drag a sections of a vocal performance to separate tracks, grouping sections onto the same track when they need similar processing or FX.
    • Alternatively, put more than one comp (w/ different settings or different characteristics) on a track, and automate their bypasses to determine which comp is acting on different passages or phrases.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2017
    Stumbo likes this.
  8. Mytt88


    Jan 18, 2011

    Yes I see I tried that and it gave a different tonality to the vocals which I didn't like. It's what I ended up doing but I know for next time it could be better with the correct mic.

    The automation sounds a bit too advanced for me at the moment but I will definitely look into it solid advice thank you
    Stumbo likes this.
  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    derrico1 's suggestion is spot on, IMO.

    also: 'mic technique' by the vocalist (close to mic on soft parts, further away on loud parts) is an obvious solution.

    or a combination of both! good luck.
    DirkP and Stumbo like this.
  10. ofajen

    ofajen Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    Gain riding during the take would be my choice.

    Stumbo likes this.
  11. ScottTunes

    ScottTunes Gear-A-Holic Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    So Cal
    Most DAWs I've encountered have a "Normalize" function built in (REAPER has it listed under "Processing").

    It adjusts track volume as loud as it can get before clipping.
  12. Use a compressor and even more important, as JRA wrote: mic techique by the vocalist!!!
    Mics have a "Proximity Effect". If you are very close to a mic, the low frequencies are overly enhanced. It feels like someone speaks directly into your ear. It gives a feeling of intimacy.
    And the other way round: during loud passages go further away from the mic!
  13. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Set the recording levels at the loudest part the singer sings, just touch the red a little.
    There will be plenty of information at the lower levels that will get recorded where you could boost them later if they're too quiet.

    Cardioid mics have that proximity effect, an omni mic doesn't. If the vocal is being done by itself, try an omni mic

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