Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix. (Finished pg 2)

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
User avatar
marqueemoon
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 4777
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:37 pm
Location: Seattle

Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix. (Finished pg 2)

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:21 am

I've been working on a song that's been giving me fits and I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on it.

It's a "louder" song (for me anyway - think Elliott Smith at his most pissed), and I'm having trouble getting the vocal to sit in the right place. The issues are a mix of performance and mixing I think. I definitely want to re-track as I have some pitch issues, and I think it's just going to take more attempts and comping to get the right energy while still keeping things in tune. Singing loudly is not really in my wheelhouse, and I need to find a place where I have good energy but can still hit the notes consistently.

This will be my third attempt at tracking vocals. The first I was really belting and it wasn't usable at all. That was with a very forward-sounding cheap LDC. Last night I tried with a cheap Radio Shack SD dynamic. It pops out of the mix almost too well and ends up sounding like karaoke or something. I was thinking it sort of worked, but it failed the car listening test miserably. I think there just wasn't enough detail captured.

How would y'all approach tracking this in terms of mic/preamp/compressor? I usually compress lightly going in and use a "color" preamp for vocals, but I have a few other options. Maybe try cleaner and dirty it up at the mix stage?
Last edited by marqueemoon on Mon Feb 01, 2021 3:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Larry Mal
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 16431
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:25 pm
Location: Saint Louis, MO

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:35 am

What microphones do you have available?

And what is your recording environment like? That is, do you have a place you can record vocals in a more or less acoustically neutral way, without a lot of background noise and ambient sound?

The reason I'm asking about that is because your idea of using a little compression and a preamp that brings out your vocals a bit sounds pretty spot on, but if you are compressing a bunch of room noise along with your vocals then you are looking at having more trouble fitting it in the mix down the road.
Back in those days, everyone knew that if you were talking about Destiny's Child, you were talking about Beyonce, LaTavia, LeToya, and Larry.

User avatar
Telliot
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 10619
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 6:38 pm
Location: CA

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by Telliot » Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:42 am

Without hearing the mix, here are a few thoughts. I have similar issues, in that I’m not a loud singer, and mixing for my voice can be challenging.

The biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is how to use EQ to unmask my vocals. Oftentimes this can be done by sending my guitars and keyboards to a sum track and carve out a section of its EQ to see if I can hear the vocal better. Usually this gives me an idea of where the problem(s) lie(s). The downside to this method is you scoop valuable frequencies from things that don’t need it, so my next step is to try and apply a ducking sidechain compressor, using my vocal as the source.

At this point, I find I tend to get better mixes if I apply this to individual tracks, rather than the sum track — usually, not every instrument I initially included in the sub group are problematic, and so I don’t want to unnecessarily over-EQ those tracks.

This is just one of my methods, and have no idea if it’s correct. I just know it seems to work for me. There are much more knowledgeable people here who will hopefully chime in with some suggestions.
The cool thing about fretless is you can hit a note...and then renegotiate.

User avatar
jorri
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 2560
Joined: Thu May 07, 2009 1:53 am
Location: bath, UK
Contact:

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by jorri » Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:30 am

Compression.

Ambience might help. and some stereo field to your reverb maybe. So might distortion if by louder you mean 'heavier'.

Cutting the EQ to bare essentials can help too. just go 100, 1k, 10k, and see how much of each those need without fiddling. However when you start honing in on frequencies afterward sometimes the frequencies you want are off the usual recommendations.
Then it sounds brutal, but bussing everything else and making a cut at the frequency you boosted the vocals. (another case of, ok maybe you can hone in later, maybe its just the gutiars, or middle field, or whatever)

Popping out of the mix is like....those 1k ranges. It sounds like you want to 'blend' and not separate, maybe adding more 'air' and not mids.. it seems like room verb of the correct type may help too if it has that dry close sound. you can make verb short, remember, or even just use a fast delay. you can also look into something like the TDR proximity which gives a sense of distance. I also think some decent saturation (tube, tape?) makes anything 'sit' before you even touch EQ or compression to be fair.

Other things, maybe dial out the resonance with a high Q, if its a cheaper mic then maybe thats it. Usually can see that on the analyser.

as others said hard to know without hearing its very much a thing to suit a specific case .

User avatar
charmonder
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2014 10:45 am

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by charmonder » Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:48 am

sometimes you can just use a thing called " exciter" or "enhancer" and it helps brings a single layer to the top without hurting the mix.

User avatar
Larry Mal
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 16431
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:25 pm
Location: Saint Louis, MO

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:51 am

Also it occurred to me that you might want to double or triple track your vocals, that's a fairly common technique and gives you a lot of options you might otherwise not have.

But really, this might be time for you to consider paying someone else to do the mix for you. I like mixing, I think it's fun, it's easy to get lost in it when you are the artist. I'll sit there and be sentimental about my bass line, for instance, because I think it rocks but I know that what is best for the mix is maybe not a super prominent bass line.

A second person does not have the same sentimentality and might have a better perspective. Think of an editor, someone who can help tighten the story up so that it punches directly and has emotional impact.

Also, be frank about your skills and capacities. I'm not judging you, but some time ago I realized that as much as I like mixing, I'm not a professional, and I don't have the same skills. That doesn't mean I don't mix stuff, but if there's something very special, then get it to a pro and make it be the best it can be. I don't have the best skills, and I don't have a proper room for mixing, nor racks of pro equipment that I know well.
Back in those days, everyone knew that if you were talking about Destiny's Child, you were talking about Beyonce, LaTavia, LeToya, and Larry.

User avatar
øøøøøøø
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 5042
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2008 8:26 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by øøøøøøø » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:05 am

marqueemoon wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:21 am
I've been working on a song that's been giving me fits and I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on it.

It's a "louder" song (for me anyway - think Elliott Smith at his most pissed), and I'm having trouble getting the vocal to sit in the right place. The issues are a mix of performance and mixing I think. I definitely want to re-track as I have some pitch issues, and I think it's just going to take more attempts and comping to get the right energy while still keeping things in tune. Singing loudly is not really in my wheelhouse, and I need to find a place where I have good energy but can still hit the notes consistently.

This will be my third attempt at tracking vocals. The first I was really belting and it wasn't usable at all. That was with a very forward-sounding cheap LDC. Last night I tried with a cheap Radio Shack SD dynamic. It pops out of the mix almost too well and ends up sounding like karaoke or something. I was thinking it sort of worked, but it failed the car listening test miserably. I think there just wasn't enough detail captured.

How would y'all approach tracking this in terms of mic/preamp/compressor? I usually compress lightly going in and use a "color" preamp for vocals, but I have a few other options. Maybe try cleaner and dirty it up at the mix stage?
I think it's hard to say without hearing the specific piece of music! Usually if a vocal has that "too quiet until it's too loud" thing, then it's a sign of an issue of some sort (and not always with the vocal itself!) But whatever the issue turns out to be, it will be unique to this particular production of this particular song.

I was working on a mix just yesterday where I was struggling with placing the vocal. It was a fairly loud/propulsive track and the vocal had been performed in a very restrained, almost whispery manner.

I tried all the usual things I try--compressing the vocal in parallel (sometimes with a bit of top end EQ), reducing the amount of effect on the vocal, etc. It all "helped" if I squinted, but I could tell there was still a larger issue that was interfering with how I wanted to hear this vocal.

Finally I just started soloing various combinations of vocal + instruments, and this sort of helped me uncover that the Wurlitzer piano was really masking a lot of vocal fundamental. And not the frequencies I usually associate with intelligibility, either! More like an octave below that, around 800 Hz.

Once I addressed that specific issue (by rebalancing and changing my approach to the Wurli in the track), it became easy to get the vocal where I wanted it. But the point is, it wasn't where I'd have expected it! And while I'll file that away as a "place to look in the future" next time is almost certainly gonna be different, you know?

User avatar
marqueemoon
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 4777
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:37 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:19 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:35 am
What microphones do you have available?

And what is your recording environment like? That is, do you have a place you can record vocals in a more or less acoustically neutral way, without a lot of background noise and ambient sound?

The reason I'm asking about that is because your idea of using a little compression and a preamp that brings out your vocals a bit sounds pretty spot on, but if you are compressing a bunch of room noise along with your vocals then you are looking at having more trouble fitting it in the mix down the road.
Pretty standard basement situation. Concrete floors with linoleum/ rugs.

This is a good point though. Normally this environment is fine, but if I’m adding more compression than I might normally or a little hair via an amp sim that could bring out some unflattering things.

User avatar
Larry Mal
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 16431
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:25 pm
Location: Saint Louis, MO

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:28 am

marqueemoon wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:19 am
Larry Mal wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:35 am
What microphones do you have available?

And what is your recording environment like? That is, do you have a place you can record vocals in a more or less acoustically neutral way, without a lot of background noise and ambient sound?

The reason I'm asking about that is because your idea of using a little compression and a preamp that brings out your vocals a bit sounds pretty spot on, but if you are compressing a bunch of room noise along with your vocals then you are looking at having more trouble fitting it in the mix down the road.
Pretty standard basement situation. Concrete floors with linoleum/ rugs.

This is a good point though. Normally this environment is fine, but if I’m adding more compression than I might normally or a little hair via an amp sim that could bring out some unflattering things.
Yeah, defeat that environment. There's a lot of products out there, you can spend any amount of money. But I used to have a little ad hoc recording setup I would carry around which was a reflection filter and a bunch of packing blankets.

Reflection filters are kind of controversial and they do make a lot of claims that they really can't support, however, in tandem with the packing blankets I got good results. I would hang the blankets from the ceiling in a rectangular booth shape, and have the singer stand in there in front of the microphone and the filter. It's a cheap solution, it works OK, and I will bet that you will be able to get vocals to sit in the mix a lot better if you undertake some kind of solution like that.

As it is now, you are recording a whole lot of stuff that you really don't want and of course it's harder to mix that in, same as it's hard to remove the raisins from Raisin Bran so just get a cereal without raisins in the first place.
Back in those days, everyone knew that if you were talking about Destiny's Child, you were talking about Beyonce, LaTavia, LeToya, and Larry.

User avatar
marqueemoon
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 4777
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:37 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:52 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:05 am
marqueemoon wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:21 am
I've been working on a song that's been giving me fits and I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on it.

It's a "louder" song (for me anyway - think Elliott Smith at his most pissed), and I'm having trouble getting the vocal to sit in the right place. The issues are a mix of performance and mixing I think. I definitely want to re-track as I have some pitch issues, and I think it's just going to take more attempts and comping to get the right energy while still keeping things in tune. Singing loudly is not really in my wheelhouse, and I need to find a place where I have good energy but can still hit the notes consistently.

This will be my third attempt at tracking vocals. The first I was really belting and it wasn't usable at all. That was with a very forward-sounding cheap LDC. Last night I tried with a cheap Radio Shack SD dynamic. It pops out of the mix almost too well and ends up sounding like karaoke or something. I was thinking it sort of worked, but it failed the car listening test miserably. I think there just wasn't enough detail captured.

How would y'all approach tracking this in terms of mic/preamp/compressor? I usually compress lightly going in and use a "color" preamp for vocals, but I have a few other options. Maybe try cleaner and dirty it up at the mix stage?
I think it's hard to say without hearing the specific piece of music! Usually if a vocal has that "too quiet until it's too loud" thing, then it's a sign of an issue of some sort (and not always with the vocal itself!) But whatever the issue turns out to be, it will be unique to this particular production of this particular song.

I was working on a mix just yesterday where I was struggling with placing the vocal. It was a fairly loud/propulsive track and the vocal had been performed in a very restrained, almost whispery manner.

I tried all the usual things I try--compressing the vocal in parallel (sometimes with a bit of top end EQ), reducing the amount of effect on the vocal, etc. It all "helped" if I squinted, but I could tell there was still a larger issue that was interfering with how I wanted to hear this vocal.

Finally I just started soloing various combinations of vocal + instruments, and this sort of helped me uncover that the Wurlitzer piano was really masking a lot of vocal fundamental. And not the frequencies I usually associate with intelligibility, either! More like an octave below that, around 800 Hz.

Once I addressed that specific issue (by rebalancing and changing my approach to the Wurli in the track), it became easy to get the vocal where I wanted it. But the point is, it wasn't where I'd have expected it! And while I'll file that away as a "place to look in the future" next time is almost certainly gonna be different, you know?
Yeah. I’m wondering if the kick might actually be the culprit here. For whatever reason the close mic is a little blown out sounding. The drum take was a huge pain in the ass to get and I tried to save it by getting as much attack as I could from other mics and doing a parallel thing with the close mic track with a sub frequency enhancer and pulling the dry mic back, but I still need a little in there. Sadly I don’t have the skills or software to replace the kick close mic with a sample.

This is a weird one in that I’ve been writing the song as I go, so I’ve replaced a LOT of parts . Now that it’s sounding more like a finished product little things are bugging me.

NBarnes21
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 3258
Joined: Wed May 21, 2008 10:21 pm
Location: Boulder, CO
Contact:

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by NBarnes21 » Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:33 pm

Great responses already and not sure I've got much to add, I would say I often end up compressing vocals quite a lot, and something like an 1176 into an LA-2A works great, setting the 1176 with a faster attack to grab those plosives that jump out too much, and the LA-2A after that to level the whole thing out. Also carving out the right space for it in the mix as Brad mentioned!
Hello, my name is Nate, and I'm a bend-aholic

User avatar
Telliot
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 10619
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 6:38 pm
Location: CA

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by Telliot » Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:44 pm

In typical fashion, Brad explained what I was trying to say in a more comprehensive and elegant way. 8)
The cool thing about fretless is you can hit a note...and then renegotiate.

User avatar
marqueemoon
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 4777
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:37 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:15 pm

NBarnes21 wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:33 pm
Great responses already and not sure I've got much to add, I would say I often end up compressing vocals quite a lot, and something like an 1176 into an LA-2A works great, setting the 1176 with a faster attack to grab those plosives that jump out too much, and the LA-2A after that to level the whole thing out. Also carving out the right space for it in the mix as Brad mentioned!
What do you typically use for ratios?

This song is one where some audible pumping might actually be ok.

User avatar
øøøøøøø
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 5042
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2008 8:26 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by øøøøøøø » Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:47 pm

You know, lately I've been trying to do as little "carving out" with EQ as I can manage--I've been feeling I get better results when I do as much as I can with balances. I still EQ a lot but it tends to be with artistic (rather than practical or technical) motives.

In my example above from yesterday, I ended up turning the Wurlitzer down a bit and moving it way out on the side instead of near the center. I may have also done a slight dip around 800 (I tried it, and don't remember if I left it or put it back).

As mentioned above, I'm a fan of the 1176-LA2A combo (and I like to put a Pultec EQP-1A in between).

I don't usually go extremely fast attack on the 1176 (knob around noon maybe?), but I do usually want a very fast release for this purpose--just to catch the tallest peaks a bit. I leave it on 4:1 almost all the time for lead vocal, and I generally only want to see the meter tapping on the occasional peak. The API 525 is great for this as well (set on 2:1, or "C").

Then the LA-2A does the leveling and adds its own timbre post-EQ (and I invariably end up writing some automation after that). If I want something a bit more stylized, I might swap the LA-2A with a Sta-Level or whatever--I've really been loving the Highland Dynamics BG-2 as well.

If "audible pumping" is what you want, you can try pressing down multiple ratio buttons (if you're using plug-ins, it's usually some sort of shift-click; if hardware I like pressing 4:1 and 20:1 at the same time). Also a Level-Loc/Level-Or (or Devil-Loc plug-in) can get you to pumping. Try it in parallel, it can certainly make a vocal sound stylized in an exciting way

NBarnes21
PAT. # 2.972.923
PAT. # 2.972.923
Posts: 3258
Joined: Wed May 21, 2008 10:21 pm
Location: Boulder, CO
Contact:

Re: Getting a vocal to sit in a louder mix.

Post by NBarnes21 » Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:10 pm

marqueemoon wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:15 pm
NBarnes21 wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:33 pm
Great responses already and not sure I've got much to add, I would say I often end up compressing vocals quite a lot, and something like an 1176 into an LA-2A works great, setting the 1176 with a faster attack to grab those plosives that jump out too much, and the LA-2A after that to level the whole thing out. Also carving out the right space for it in the mix as Brad mentioned!
What do you typically use for ratios?

This song is one where some audible pumping might actually be ok.
4:1 as Brad mentioned is usually a good place to start
Hello, my name is Nate, and I'm a bend-aholic

Post Reply