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Vocals-to-music levels ratio

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by xk49w, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. I play in a quartet, guit/bass/drum backing a singer. We mix from the stage. I made a recording of a recent performance and analyzed the contrast levels between vocals and music using Audacity. Vocals were 10dB louder than the music. The instrumentals sounded great. Vocals, not so much.

    I need to convince this singer to turn em down. What is a normal ratio? We have a very clear sounding setup.
  2. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    a compressor on vocals is nice, so you can nudge them just above the music where they belong (i dunno, 3dB? 5dB?) without blowing everybody up when the singer belts one out, or having the vocals disappear on a quieter passage.

    any more than that and it sounds like karaoke.
  3. Adam Harzuf

    Adam Harzuf

    Nov 16, 2004
    Let the singer listen to a CD and prove him his error.
    I second the compression, it's a must for main vocals, especially if they're dominant in the mix.
  4. Medford Bassman

    Medford Bassman Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Medford, Wisconsin
    What would be a typical compressor setting for vocals?
  5. modulusman

    modulusman Banned

    Jan 18, 2004
    How did you record? If everything was being miced then whatever was turned up the most on the mixer will be the loudest. It might haved sounded fine out in the audience.
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Exactly. "Board recordings" are notoriously unreliable in terms of capturing what the audience actually heard.

    Almost invariably the vocals and keyboards will be way too loud and the lower end instruments are barely audible if at all.
  7. I used a Roland R-09 placed about a dozen feet in front of the stage, placed closer to the ceiling than the floor. I was surprised at the clarity actually.

    Speakers are a pair of EAWs on stands, probably 500W per side. They support only vocals and some drum - one drum snare mic that picks up some tom and cymbals, and a mic for a bit of kick. Bass is 200W or so (single 15), guitar is a 27W Conrad Blues Jammer. Compared to many we are not a loud group but to me the vocals sounded stupid loud compared to the rhythm section. Listening to the recording I could hear it was at the edge of feedback.
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Sounds like a typical vocalist's mix... or a church.

  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    yeah, lead singers think the band mix should sound like their vocal wedge :rolleyes:

    so a pretty powerful set of tops with no subs, and smaller stage amps? i'm not surprised the band is lacking behind the vocals by comparison.
  10. tbirdsp

    tbirdsp Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE
    Some things to consider: The speakers on the stands were probably picked up better than the instruments/amps on stage. No matter how good they are, IMHO those small mics can't pick up low freqs well. I think it's still possible the actual mix in the room was OK.

    I did a direct board out stereo L/R recording with my Tascam DR-05 and the result was exactly as modulusman and jaywa posted - vocals were way too loud (as I expected). I had the guitar amp and kick mic'd, and the keys and bass were DI into the board (with amps on stage too). Musician friends of mine said the mix was fine in the room though (my borrowed bass wireless didn't work or I would have checked it out myself - got a new one now). Next time (this Sat, same bar) I'm going to use my subgroups and put the vocals on one side of the recorder inputs and the instruments on the other. Then I can split that into two mono tracks in my DAW software and at least control the level/EQ of the vox and instruments independently. Not as good as truly multitracking everything, but should work OK.

    Our singer is awesome, but she is new and doesn't know mic technique, plus she has a huge dynamic range. I'm running the built in one-knob compressor in my Mackie ProFX16 on her, but may have to get a more sophisticated compressor.

    I hate to say it, but your average joe may not notice if the vocals are too loud in the mix, but I bet they will notice if they are too quiet.
  11. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    post some clips.
  12. Ask your singer to give you examples of his favourite songs from CDs and listen to them. What is the vocal-to-band ratio there? Likewise, give your singer a list of your favourite songs from CDs to listen to. What is the vocal-to-band ratio there?

    There are different traditions out there regarding vocal-to-band ratios. You two may have different values regarding this. Your vocalist may give you an audio example and say "This sounds good", and you listen and say "This sounds bad." Then you give an example and say "Now this sounds good", and your vocalist goes, "No, this sounds bad."

    You two will then have to work that out. (Note, that we all generally suffer from the "More Me" illness. ;-) )
  13. I'll try to find something representative.
    Good suggestion. I know what he likes and have much of it. I should check the ratio in those recordings, just for a point of comparison. I was probably a little knee-jerk in my reaction. We have a meeting coming up. I have my opinion and I need to hear theirs.