Old 02-17-2019, 08:40 PM   #1
foxAsteria
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Default Any of you record vox with the monitors on?

Curious how common it is to forgo headphones when recording vox and simply point a dynamic away from the monitors. I find it loads easier to sing in tune without phones and the bleed wasn't even much worse than what I get from cranking them near a condenser (gotta crank the phones ). Had the monitors decently loud too.

I had planned to redo them in a more controlled way, but it's not as enjoyable using cans for some reason and I was even thinking of getting a better dynamic for this task.

Anyone else record vox like this?
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Old 02-17-2019, 10:16 PM   #2
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I do it pretty often. Like, maybe one out of every ten projects or so. Both in the control room and/or in the live room with the PA speakers.

Some singers are not good with headphones, particularly untrained singers who are maybe not so strong with landing specific notes, but who instead sort of intuit a melody by feel--something about headphones changes the way you hear yourself, especially with the relationships between fundamental pitch and harmonics, I think. Singers sometimes start trying to glom onto the harmonics of their voice and the bed recording, rather than the fundamental. In any case, sometimes people sing better without headphones...

There are a bunch of techniques for limiting or reducing bleed, including out-of-phase speakers or recording a "dummy" track of just the bleed and flipping the polarity or whatever... I have not found that stuff to be helpful. For one thing, bleed is not necessarily that bad. I mean, it's the same song and the same parts.

For another, those kind of polarity-reversal approaches always seem to leave weird phasey artifacts very low in the mix, that get ugly as soon as they hit the vocal compressor. I'd rather have "good" bleed at -50dB, then weird phasey space monkeys at -60 or whatever.

What I will sometimes do, is use only one speaker and position the mic to get it right in the null, which is generally slightly off-axis with a cardioid mic. Figure-8 mics such as ribbons are like, supernaturally good at rejecting the null, but the null is directly to the side, so it's a slightly weird position for a singer, sometimes.

To me, the performance trumps sonics, 100 times out of 100. So whatever it takes to get a great performance comes first, and then I figure out how to get the best sonic capture second. If I were working with clients who had the budget to do hundreds of takes and get vocal coaching and spend a month making a record, I might do things differently.
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Old 02-18-2019, 12:06 AM   #3
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To me, the performance trumps sonics, 100 times out of 100. So whatever it takes to get a great performance comes first, and then I figure out how to get the best sonic capture second.
Oh hell yes! whatever works for the vocalist/musician first.

This being said, I prefer singing with headphones.. But they're so loud that the bleed in the mic is not insignificant.

I also agree that trying to null the monitors with phase can result in weird gremlins. I'd rather just have a bit of bleed.

For rock, I also used a Sennheiser 935 dynamic with monitors.. It wasn't half bad. The sound rejection was very good, and the 935 is.. Almost as good. A little EQ and we're in the ballpark. I guess that with an even better dynamic (like that sexy neumann over there) You could have the best of both worlds.
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Old 02-18-2019, 04:19 AM   #4
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Bono and Bjork have both famously tracked vocals with a plain SM58 (which has fairly good off-axis rejection) in the control room, monitoring through speakers. Spill can be a giant pain while mixing, though.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:17 AM   #5
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Some singers are not good with headphones, particularly untrained singers who are maybe not so strong with landing specific notes, but who instead sort of intuit a melody by feel--something about headphones changes the way you hear yourself, especially with the relationships between fundamental pitch and harmonics, I think. Singers sometimes start trying to glom onto the harmonics of their voice and the bed recording, rather than the fundamental. In any case, sometimes people sing better without headphones...
That seems dead on. I'm certainly untrained and do it all by feel. Good to see you're still around the forums. Your "sound like ass" thread has helped me a lot through the years.

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But they're so loud that the bleed in the mic is not insignificant.
Me too. That's partly why I initially said fuck it and started tracking with the monitors.
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Old 02-20-2019, 11:02 AM   #6
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I do it pretty often. Like, maybe one out of every ten projects or so. Both in the control room and/or in the live room with the PA speakers.
Same here, maybe two out of ten. This gets into some of the same area as the thread about recording a band at their space that had some posts about headphones or not. If headphones make for a cleaner recording but a lesser performance it's well worth it to do without. I became a convert when I was doing bands with singers that had more experience recording than myself and with some of them the first thing they told me at the vocal session was that they'd be singing without headphones.

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There are a bunch of techniques for limiting or reducing bleed, including out-of-phase speakers or recording a "dummy" track of just the bleed and flipping the polarity or whatever... I have not found that stuff to be helpful. For one thing, bleed is not necessarily that bad. I mean, it's the same song and the same parts.
I do the recorded dummy track generally and use infrequently but sometimes, just to erase a little bleed, but I agree it's often two steps forward and three back. If it's two forward and only one back I'll use it for that little bit. I've also sent a mix to the singer's earbuds, not loud but it enables the monitors to be lower. I've actually had some good luck using just earbuds, high passing the mix to them at around 100hz. Believe it or not, that originally came up not to cut bleed but because the singer's head was so greasy and sweaty that I was avoiding having my good cans smelled up

But yeah, bleed is all over the drums mics on each other, and we make it work. Recording a squeaky clean vocal track and then finding ways to make it sound more a part of the band is pretty ironic.

Sometimes I do it mainly because we've been doing guitars and bass ODs using monitors so we just continue, if appropriate.
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Old 02-20-2019, 02:03 PM   #7
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I got to hear some of the iso tracks from rock band and it was pretty enlightening to hear how much bleed there is in some of these pro-recorded sessions (e.g. AC DC). Perfection is way over-sold in this biz.
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Old 02-20-2019, 02:07 PM   #8
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Perfection is way over-sold in this biz.
It's over-iterated by those on the net who haven't actually done much actual recording of real instruments in the real world we live in.

All those samples etc. people get used to aren't anything like a real, live recording. I'm not sure how someone thinks, mic placement and a good room is going to keep that pounding kick drum from entering every mic on the kit and vice versa LOL.

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Old 02-20-2019, 02:08 PM   #9
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I got to hear some of the iso tracks from rock band and it was pretty enlightening to hear how much bleed there is in some of these pro-recorded sessions (e.g. AC DC). Perfection is way over-sold in this biz.

However, plz correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a full mix hitting the back of a mic become polarity inverted?
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Old 02-20-2019, 02:19 PM   #10
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However, plz correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a full mix hitting the back of a mic become polarity inverted?
There is some cancellation that occurs in order to "reduce" where the mic is "most" sensitive. AKA it isn't "silent" behind the mic. Try it, point a SM57 at a snare with the HH behind the mic, does it pick up the HH?
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Old 02-20-2019, 02:21 PM   #11
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Try it, point a SM57 at a snare with the HH behind the mic, does it pick up the HH?
Uh, why yes it motherfudging does. Heheh, gotcha.
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Old 02-20-2019, 02:31 PM   #12
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However, plz correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a full mix hitting the back of a mic become polarity inverted?
Not sure if the polarity is actually inverted, but if you're thinking of inverting the vocal track to cancel out some of the bleed... yes, some people do that. You'd want to record a separate "no vocal" track with the same mic setup to cancel it against, and then you might have to play with how much of the cancellation track you can blend in before the vocal starts to suffer.
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Old 02-20-2019, 02:34 PM   #13
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If vocals in the control room are good enough for this guy, they're good enough for me:

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Old 02-20-2019, 03:34 PM   #14
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I don't like tracking with headphones for anything - electric or acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle. I always find it uncomfortable and unnatural. I haven't yet tried vocals while using monitors, but I've thought about getting an SM7b for a while now, and I spose it would be ideal for that.
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Old 02-20-2019, 08:28 PM   #15
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I don't like tracking with headphones for anything - electric or acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle. I always find it uncomfortable and unnatural. I haven't yet tried vocals while using monitors, but I've thought about getting an SM7b for a while now, and I spose it would be ideal for that.
_
Yes. Honestly, that's a great mic in general, and especially good for scenarios where you are looking to capture a "studio" sounding vocal, with minimal bleed.
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:41 AM   #16
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I try not to but it's happened. I tend to sing with one can off my ears a little and it helps me with self-tuning.


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Originally Posted by foxAsteria View Post
Curious how common it is to forgo headphones when recording vox and simply point a dynamic away from the monitors. I find it loads easier to sing in tune without phones and the bleed wasn't even much worse than what I get from cranking them near a condenser (gotta crank the phones ). Had the monitors decently loud too.

I had planned to redo them in a more controlled way, but it's not as enjoyable using cans for some reason and I was even thinking of getting a better dynamic for this task.

Anyone else record vox like this?
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:43 AM   #17
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Someone should write a quote like "perfection is the refuge of the mediocre" or something ; )


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I got to hear some of the iso tracks from rock band and it was pretty enlightening to hear how much bleed there is in some of these pro-recorded sessions (e.g. AC DC). Perfection is way over-sold in this biz.
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:58 PM   #18
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Just to chime in on some of the stuff RE: perfection and classic albums having a lot of bleed, etc...

I feel like I should clarify that control-room bleed does have downsides, and I would almost always rather have the singer perform with headphones, from a sonic perspective. It's just that, given the choice between perfect sonics and perfect performance, I will go for the better performance every time.

If you have a great-sounding control room, and if you want to sound like a classic album, and if your singer has a red-faced, roaring, throaty delivery like James Hetfield, and if your mixes are super-dense rock, then the downsides to this method are minimal.

The biggest places you will run into trouble are if you have bad control room acoustics, and if you want to sound like modern commercial radio, and if you have a super-dynamic singer who is going to need a lot of level-riding or corrective compression (before we even get to crushing the vocal), and especially if you have a very sparse or airy mix, ala Ed Sheeran or most top-40 type stuff. That specific recipe will give you trouble, with this method.

Bleed is all over tons of classic albums. There is no need to dwell on how much it didn't hurt Motown, or the Stones, or Led Zeppelin, or whatever. If that's the kind of sound you're going for, then some bleed in a good room might even help kind of glue the sound together in that warm soupy murk that gives some of those old records such a human, inviting, and authentic quality.

But the sound of modern pop radio is largely the sound of super-compressed vocals. Ever since Max Martin & co started pushing Britney Spears's girlish vocal fry right out to the front of the speakers some 20 years ago, it's been off to the races. Even "authentic" or "retro" influenced artists like Adele or John Legend still have that absolutely crushed vocal sound, super close-in on the listener, where you can hear every detail of the vocal cords.

That's the kind of sound where bleed into the vocal mic is a problem, because once you start Brauerizing the vocal, you bring up every little microscopic detail, including the control room bleed. And especially if you have the kind of sparse, open instrumentation popular in a lot of top 40 stuff today, that warm, soupy, murk might start to sound less like a comforting blend, and more like a weird pumpy echo, especially if your control room is at all ringy.

This is all especially super-true if the singer is very dynamic, with levels that are all over the place. James Hetfield sings like a distorted guitar, and his dynamics are a steady-state brick. That makes it much easier to control the background noise, than if your levels are set to accomodate someone who soars between whisper and scream.

I say all this mostly just because I feel like my first post was a little blase, and also because I feel like some of the subsequent discussion could lead some people to think that sweating over every little detail is not important. I think if you want to produce professional-sounding, release-ready, radio-friendly modern pop records, then you really do need to obsess over every little detail, and you really do need to get everything as perfect as you can.

As I said above, I will take a perfect performance over a perfect recording 100 times out of 100. And there are some styles of music, especially stuff like indie rock, jazz, alt-country, and so on, where certain kinds of recording artifacts can sometimes be a feature and not a bug. But before recording this way, it is worthwhile to be aware that it does start to limit some of your options in terms of what kind of record this is going to sound like.

Have fun.
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Old 02-22-2019, 12:08 AM   #19
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Great follow up points. I get it though. I do run into trouble when I try to play back a bunch of takes all at once (which I sometimes do to simulate a choir) and they all have audible backing track sound. It can get hairy.

I guess I was just wondering if there was something to the fact that I tend to get better parts when mucking around with the dynamic in front of my computer than I do when trying to capture a more polished performance. It's a trade off. Or maybe it's also partly because I'm not a very good singer and the more clear I make my vocal, the more the things I don't like stand out.

For certain, I'm not making anything to compete with top 40. I don't even bother writing the song before I start recording and often keep takes before I even had words to sing. That's how much I enjoy unexpected chaos and those "happy mistakes."
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