Thursday, July 16, 2009

recording a vocal track and other recording tip's

Recording a vocal track can be one of the biggest challenges for the home record-est, WHY?
The mic you choose and the pre amp. I have covered mics and pre amps, now the pro studio sound sounds better on a vocal track. I will refer to a vocal as the known word VOX from now on, let’s look at why the studio sounds better and what you can do to get a more pro sound on your vocal so listen up this is an important blog-lesson.

You really can record a great vox if you have one of the big 3 mics I mentioned yesterday and I said my fav is the Audio Technica AT202 and the preamp the DPM 2 channel pre amp. This is the key to set up a mic properly.

1. have a pop filter, the goose neck one that clamps on to the mic stand, this is a must, a must did you get that; this will eliminate almost all pops and is a must.

2. You must have an in line compressor this is essential. Depending on your software or multi track you must have a compressor set to a soft knee compression, meaning a low setting as not to add coloration to the signal as heavy compression will do. The ratio is simply 2:1 and many units say soft knee or have a pre set for the vox channel. The compressor must be pre fader and not post or it will do no good, the mic signal must go past the compressor before it is recorded. This is the important step pro studios use to give a smooth vox recording with no spikes, high levels and no lows it keeps the level constant and so natural. Never by pass this pre fader compression or you will have spikes, lows highs etc, so do this at the set up. OK

3.I gave 3 mics that can give pro quality; the studios have 2-4,000+ mics like a Neumann U87 or an AKG 414c, or a ribbon mic. An engineer will have several mics and many pre amps and yes it is true a certain vocalist will sound better with a certain combo of a given pre amp and mic, a good studio pre amp is 4-8, ooo I kid you not and that is how they get that pristine sound, we do not have those toys, but we can work around it and record a great vox track with what we have and if set up correctly.

Many new and old pre amps are tube driven or tube emulated I feel you should stay in the analog realm as long as you can and at the mix down use digital and edit with Pro tools as all studios do.
IF...I repeat if you can afford a little more on a Mic and pre amp you will get better sound this is a fact. Presonus and AKG have mics around 200 to 300 that are out of this world, but I would still use the 150.00 DPM dual preamp it is great. The AT4040 around 250-300.00 was used to record a U2 CD so not a 2,000 mic, need I say more, It's all how you use what you got and continue to try new things to get the sound you are looking for.

With 100.00 AT 2020 and a dpm preamp you can make a radio ready, cd at a pro level. Always record the vox track dry, always, if your system offers it you can feed some re-verb to the singer to enhance the emotion and give a better performance.

4. Record everything DRY no effects this is done at the mix down trust me. One way to give a vox a nice re-verb sound and still make out every word is to, once the vox is recorded copy and paste to another track, use the re-verb or whatever to the copy, pan left or right around 45 degrees and lower the level, put the lead vox with a small amount of re-verb like a studio A or studio B or a small Vocal Plate or better if you have it my fav NY Plate excellent results. The effects on any digital multi track will simply not due aside from the pre fader vox track. Put the wave form in the PC, it is always best if you have multi track software to record each track one at a time so you can add limiters, compression and effects and later mastering effects.

5. Set up a basic mix. do the rhythm track first, this is not a must but the standard in pro audio I have broken that rule many times, but in the start go with the rule as it is effectual. The rhythm track is Drums, or Drum machine, sample drums whatever, next bass guitar, than any rhythm guitar, this is worked on to set the groove and get the level correct, next move on to keyboards and guitars or horns.
Than 3erd do the leads and pads and all fillers. And finally the lead vox track and than the Back up vox and Harmony’s. I have waves plug in that has a great harmony program; all I can say is wow.

6.The normal problems some musicians have during the recording. During the rhythm tracks a click track should be played in the head set to keep time. I have recorded many, many people who simply can not record to a click track for a starter get used to it, as it will help keep time on the rhythm tracks. Later once you are better or a pro you may not need a click track, honestly the best names in the biz still use them so do what works for you, also with a click track the other instruments have a point of reference and will make collaborating  esp. over the web much easier,

7. The guitar player must not do the following...most guitarist are always fiddling with the guitar knobs not good, they must discipline them self after the sound check to leave all instruments at the level the sound check was done this is a biggy I have encountered many problems in this area, play the loudest passage and stay with that and do no changes to any instruments, you can fiddle with all your stomp boxes and knobs at a live gig not a recording, easier said than done, wait and see.

8. A common problem band's have when recording with baffles and sound isolation booths is it feels sterile and they can not seem to produce that live sound, what do you do, make sure all players can see each other or like U2 record as a full band, it requires more work for the sound man but can be done and seems to be the way many bands are recording to feed off each others energy, so record as a whole band and see.

Make sure to be loose, keep it fun take breaks and do your rocking best as you know you can do. Even if the lead scratch vox comes out a tad bad the singer can go and do an overdub of the vox, this is what most groups do with all the singers in the same area to sing and harmonize together.

8.the lead singer esp. in a live performance, and recording wants Cardioid's mic or a hyper Heypercardioid mic, what this mic does is record only the source in front of the mic and cancels out the stuff all over and to the sides, for a overdub on back vox you will want an omni mic meaning its going to record at all directions think of a round circle it pics it all up, these are the mics used for live recording to pic up the crowd and 2 are used or more as room ambient mics while recording live to pick all the sound up. A figure of 8 is used between toms, cymbals and two singers standing left to right, etc.
 it picks up the left and right and is a great mic for applications for this case. always use condenser pencil mics on drums you can get the at2020 smaller condenser for 50.00 bucks, set 2 Mac’s way up top over the Left and right of the cymbals this is a must I have heard many groups use dynamic Mac’s and well no shimmer and sizzle on the cymbals no matter how much Eq used so get 50.00 overhead condenser Mac’s. A dynamic Mic like a Sm58 is used for live concerts and does not need a 48 volt phantom supply or pre amp a condenser is a fragile mic and requires a pre amp and phantom voltage.
What I like about the at2020 and the BI and m-audio nova these have super high SPL sound pressure levels and are great to mic lit. anything at all, and if your recording a live show use one of these on vox and back vox and not a dynamic OK.

Now to the solo musician that plays synths, samples, Vsti's dxi"s etc the good news not much is needed the mix is simple and the eq is little required ambient music uses almost no compression and tweaking all in all from a recording Engineer stand point that is an easy project. If you add a vox track follow the rules listed above and all will be well.

 I will touch on outboard Digital multi track recorders. Many now have 40 to 80 GB hard drives, drum machines synth chips and pretty good effects. I was doing a mastering Job for a rock band that had a real good digital multi track, the problem it was so digitized and sterile and well a bad mix I turned the job down. Digital is good and bad, if you go 100% digital add some analog emulators like T-Racks or nomad Blue tubes to give some analog warmth it helps, also I would not record a full band with these multi tracks They are to limited, they are great for guitarist and songwriters and all, but doing a finished pro level CD will not happen unless you spend big bucks sorry. I love the units, they have their place, but not for analog instruments, they are fine for ambient and musical CD's but not rock music, that is my opinion and truly compared To even Magix Music maker deluxe or samplitude studio pro 79.00 it is no match at all trust me.

 Use your PC, get some software and hear the difference for your self I turned down dozens of mastering jobs that were recorded on 500-800 dollar digital recorders, now if you know what your doing and are an expert as I am, I am sure I could have made a much better mix, many units are under 300.00 do not trust them hears why.

Most outboard units have a sample rate of 16 bits and 44.1 KHZ true that is CD quality, but one needs a unit that can record at 24 bit and 97 KHZ this matters, I heard a unit that was 18 bit and 48KHZ and it was not bad at all but I could hear the difference, so most software will record in 24 bit or 32 floating bit and 48 KHZ like magix that is OK and many good recordings can be done.

Last, what is the end result of your recording?
1. To sell at gigs almost any 16 by 48KHZ will do but the cost of duplication is over a grand for a half way good product

2. Is it bound for a song publisher, meaning selling your songs, if so, a table top recorder is fine as a publisher wants a demo not a final master

3. A recording to get gigs, anything will do like a CD at 16 bit at 44.1 and remember shop a demo to clubs or churches make it a live recording and so they get what they hear this is important and if you give a CD with all kinds of effects and overdubs you will not sound like that live so do a live recording at a gig or a practice this is music norm, so follow that rule or you will kill your career giving a false recording of a studio cd and not a live cd, it must reflect what you sound like live.  The person listening to the recording wants to know what you sound like playing live.    
4. Are you shopping to an A&R man at a record CO, I did A&R and we want a finished master and packaged retail ready CD and that's that.

5. Posting MP3's on the net like,'abaldo
or just
many place to post and sale your music.
Of late I only sell mp3's and that's it, also I teach and produce. But hay it’s a living and I love it. You will not get rich selling Mp3's, but any amount helps and many, many sites are out there even sites to submit songs to play on Internet radio, go for it. A note on posting an MP3's the old standard was mp3 pro that used a CBR encoding and it looses a lot of the fidelity when converted a wave file to a MP3 if you have a converter that will allow it do the VBR constant bit rate, sound much better many places only allow low-fi mp3's meaning 128 baud a high fi is 320 and that is CBR ,at VBR a lower bit rate can and is high fi and you can get away with it, make sure to post when you can hi fi mp3's at the highest VBR rate available or good Ole Mp3 pro at 320 hi-fi esp. if you are selling songs.

Well till next time this is  Danny Louis Abaldo saying happy recording, you can do it.

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