KVR :: Production Techniques » Need advice with processing/EQing/mixing a vocal track [View Original Topic]
There are 13 posts in this topic.
- Sat May 26, 2012 8:30 am
Greetings to all of you, fellow musicians. I've been composing and recording my music on and off for years now with a moderate degree of success now and then. I've always specialized in instrumental music and especially solo piano stuff - not too difficult to EQ/master once you know the drill. I don't have a professional studio, I record music in my bedroom, just with my MacBook Pro and an RME Fireface 400 sound interface. I always thought I'd gotten the hang of producing music more or less pleasing to the ear, until now, that is, when I started incorporating vocals into the pieces and going a little pop for once. With a great friend of mine, a wonderful female singer (you'll have a chance to hear her beautiful voice), we started writing and recording some tunes together for a possible release later this year. When I started processing the first batch of vocal tracks, I quickly realized, though, that I have a problem getting a really good sound out of it. It just doesn't sound right and although I tried virtually anything, it's still somewhat lacking. I use Logic Pro 9. This is the isolated vocal track with all the effects applied:
I used the following effects, in this order: Noise Gate, Compressor, Pitch Correction, Match EQ, Channel EQ, Space Designer, Adaptive Limiter, Stereo Spread. The whole output is then mastered in Ozone 5 (i.e. EQ, Maximizer, Exciter, Dynamics, Imager). For a little perspective, this is the whole track as it currently sounds:
There's a lot to be desired, especially in the vocal track, but I'm clueless about my options. It seems kind of distorted in some areas (especially during longer and louder vowels), it sounds as if it could use some trimming in the higher frequency areas, but then it starts to sound too muffled. Or is it just something a more careful automated mix would help? As I said, I'm not a pro, just an enthusiastic amateur and this is the first time I'm recording "serious" vocals in my music a I really don't know what to do and where to go now. I'll be thankful for any advice and for some confidentiality, of course, this being an unfinished, work-in-progress project.
Thank you very much,
- Sat May 26, 2012 12:54 pm
I think the vocals sound very good without the instrumental. Also the overdriven part give cool vintage feeling to it.
I have a problem with the instrumental though. While the vocals sound classy, the instrumental is very standard and has no real authenticity.
Just my first impression. Let me know if you want to know something specific!
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:02 pm
My suggestion would be, if you think some frequencies are bouncing around, try some multiband compression on the vocals to tame them a little bit. It makes the overall mix seem more unified and controlled
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:08 pm
I'd be more carefull with multiband compressors. It might be a common technique in electronic dance music, but totally wrong in music which has the aspiration to sound natural and organic.
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:11 pm
My impression is that the guitar strumming is taking the focus from the vocal. Like too much overlapping frequencies at same level, or something - maybe lower the guitar? .. Nice track though.
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:21 pm
Thanks a million everyone. I have now completly redone all of the effects on the vocals track, it was a real overkill having so many effects that only destroyed the overall sound. I realize the guitar "steals" too much from the high frequencies in the mix, but taking the highs from it was the last resort for me - I really liked the bright Supertramp-like 12-string sound. If the current mix still doesn't work out, I'll try taking the hight frequencies (or volume) away from the guitar, but I now started to like where this is going.
This is the current version of the track:
I'd love to hear your opinion on the progress.
I've also sent it to the singer to know what she thinks.
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:30 pm
just make sure you don't take away too much from the sounds, or else they will begin to feel "un-natural". Also, be careful when your mastering the track, don't overcompress/limit. Keep some headroom so your dynamics don't get screwed up.
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:33 pm
[based on the original mix tracks]
That distortion is pretty rough. If it was recorded like that, you will have a problem.
There's a lot of murkiness in the mids, 500 or so. This is always tricky, especially with girl voices, because when you start cutting there, it can thin the sound too much and make it seem "AM radio" style. FX can compensate to a degree, some chorus, to bring back fullness. But..yeah it's a battle.
The highs problem you could tame with careful de-essing. If you do it right, you can cut harshness without turning it lofi. Find the actual ess or shhh freqs. Look with a spectrum in real-time to where the esses are. It should be should be clear. Boost that area and see if it makes the dog cry. This is important because if you drop harshness up there, you gain more freedom to bring more brightness without it being grating, including in reverb or other fx.
In spite of the processing, the vocal wasn't very even on individual phrases, sometimes tailing off.
You can identify all that yourself, which means you can fix it. The overall sound you were going for - in spite of all those small problems that stacked up - was great, light on FX, strong midrange, dynamic. Ditch your chain and start over. You should be able to handle any vocal with an EQ, compressor or two, de-esser if needed, and reverb/delay/chorus if it stands apart too much. This is just to make it fit in and work in a utilitarian sense. The rest is flavor sauce, and I don't suggest not to use anything that makes it better.
If that distortion was recorded that way, you will have to be clever to make it work, if re-recording is off the table.
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:44 pm
Heard the new mix. Heh, I didn't need to type all the above. When heard back to back, it's like she was in a cardboard box before and you pulled her out. It's sounding really nice.
- Sat May 26, 2012 1:52 pm
Thanks for going into all the trouble, though. Your post really enlightened me on the matter. I started experimenting with the DeEsser and tried cutting some highs from the guitar, but overall the mix didn't sound particularly better. Different, but not more pleasant, if you know what I mean. I'll leave it like that now and wait till the singer takes a listen to it and tells me what she thinks - since she's out of the box now.
- Sat May 26, 2012 2:08 pm
Anything you are not used to can throw you off. I've been multi-miking my drums this year without having much experience doing it before past accepted lofi-style. I had times feeling in the dark, not having any perspective on what kind of balance is typical between room and close mics, how much to use EQ on the SD direct or and how much through EQ on the overheads, all that.
Someone else trusting you with their voice is a lot of responsibility.
- Sat May 26, 2012 2:33 pm
Well said, I can second that. Last year I recorded a live piano album, came home after the performance and...now what? I had no clue if I'd miked and recorded the whole thing right and a retake wasn't an easy thing to be had, being a completely live recording. I spent days and days tweaking the sound and acheiving a satisfactory result. In hindsight, I should've done it completely differently and today I'd have done it much better for sure, but that's the comfort of hindsight.
I know the same will happen some time after we've put these songs out one way or another. But we're all doing what we can in the moment, right? I still haven't even scratched the surface what's possible and these are all pretty much my beginnings.
I will be quoting what you said about the responsibility of taking care of someone else's voice a lot, if that's cool.
It's very true.
- Sun May 27, 2012 12:13 am
Sure. Drop a line when you finish the tune.
There are 13 posts in this topic.