Old 12-13-2007, 02:18 PM   #1
Jason Brian Merrill
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Default a "natural" vocal sound

i dont know how to be more clear than the title...

Im looking for a vocal effects chain/settings that will allow for a really smooth, "natural" sound on vocals.

what means natural?

well, no cheap fizzy hi-end for one

no radio announcer sound for two

also, natural ambience without overdoing it, helps.

what are your settings?
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Old 12-13-2007, 04:31 PM   #2
Alistair S
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I'd be interested to see what other people are doing too.

My recording needs are pretty simple. I write songs, mostly with acoustic guitar. I just want to be able to demo the song, and mostly want it to sound as if I am sitting in the room playing. Not sure I'm there yet, but sometimes the processing can sound good too.

Generally, I find that less is more. The right microphone helps. I now use a Shure SM7B and it seems to suit me well.

My room needs treatment, but I can get away with it if I'm not too far from the microphone.. maybe 8 inches or so.

I will normally roll off anything below around 75Hz, depending on the song (sometimes I roll off more).

Some light compression on the vocal track .. a ratio of around 2.5 maybe. I just put Reacomp on there.

I use Reaverb and some impulses that I got from Jim Rosebery on here a while ago. The "Studio" impulse is subtle, and I apply it lightly.. as a send around -12db(ish), and I often put a hpf on too (in Reaverb) at around 0.1. It seems to make it more subtle.

That's about it.

I've also been playing with the Vocal Magic impulse someone posted recently here. Using that, I do have to back it off quite a lot, though, before I get something that fits for me.

If I want to add anything "extra", I quite often send the vocal to another track and mess with a very gentle delay (maybe Readelay, with a couple of taps with a short delay (maybe one at 0.1 1/4 notes and one at 0.2), one left and one right and no feedback) and sometimes Reapitch, pushing up the second track a few cents (but with the volume lower on that track).

As I say, I'd be interested in what others do on this.
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Old 12-13-2007, 08:20 PM   #3
Lawrence
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Brian Merrill View Post
i dont know how to be more clear than the title...

Im looking for a vocal effects chain/settings that will allow for a really smooth, "natural" sound on vocals.
Hey JBM. Without getting long-winded there are 3 or 4 things that will certainly help.

1. The right mic. It's different for everyone... and often different songs.

2. A good preamp. Not necesarily expensive but generally uncolored or at least not too much.

3. "Acoustic Support" Much harder to get especially for us home studio guys. The idea is to capture real early reflections of your voice.

4. Distance. There's nothing natural about many close miked vocals although it sounds better than a bad room sound. Getting into a larger space and backing off the mic 2-3-4 feet can do wonders for "natural". Hard to do in places like we use though.

Hope that helps.

P.S. Vocal chain wise when mixing, zero compression and minimal eq goes a long way towards what you're looking for. Use automation instead... and try mixing from the vocal down instead of the drums up.

Those rare times when I record someone singing who sounds just right, I mix from the vocals down so as not to spoil it.

Last edited by Lawrence; 12-13-2007 at 08:31 PM.
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Old 12-13-2007, 08:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
Those rare times when I record someone singing who sounds just right, I mix from the vocals down so as not to spoil it.
That was some of the best advice I ever got when I started in this game. Make the focal point of the song (usually the vocal) the top of the pyramid and mix everything else UP to that point to support it. NOT overwhelm it.

I found it is actually much easier to start that way. Many early projects I had, I went back and approached them in that way and the remix was MUCH better and actually took less time.

Learn something new all the time...

D
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Old 12-15-2007, 05:53 PM   #5
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JBM

I also record almost exclusively vocals and guitar...acoustic stuff...so the cleanness is very important.....I usually start with the guitar track...use RealEQ...maybe some delay to fatten it a bit..

On the vocals I use RealEQ...mostly to roll off stuff at the very low end...and then I actually will play with boosting some frequencies to find a cleaner vocal....all pretty much by ewar....

I am going to try a different approach on my next try...I am m going to use RealEQ...and set a point at about 6-12 db up...then I will sweep the point back and forth, listening for muddiness...when I hear that, I will place a point there and cut the freq maybe 3-6 db...hopefully to remove frequencies that are producing issues with the vocal....rather than the boosting I have done in the past...

I rarely use compression, but am going to play with it also a bit...I have liked the snmoothness it can produce on the vocal when used right....

the only time I use delay is pretty much on backing vocals...but that is probably due to my inexperience....I think subtle delay can really sweeten a vocal

I will use SIR for reverb...add impulse from my collection....I use SIR on a separate track and send other tracks to it...then I adjust the amount of reverb in the send...not oin the wet dry mix on the reverb....

lastly, there is a major issue with mixing in home studios..it is the acoustic space we work in....the speakers may be very flat...active studio monitors...but the room acoustics may just be messing with our ears....check out the articles from Ethan WHiner.....not encouraging...to learn after writing a song...playing a song...mixing a song...and mastering a song...that the room sounding may be lying to our ears....oh well....

BTW...I use mastering plugs on the Master track after all the mixing is done...has really made a difference in what I am hearing....particularly ReaXcomp...I generally use RealEQ one more time...sweep around 300 Hz and 3-6 KHz for an opportunity to add 3-6 db in a couple of area...by ear of course...once that is done, I add ReaXcomp..useing griz lee presets....then I like Stereo Field by loser (JS effect)...a limiter...then psych dither.....

really liking the sound after all this...I'm sure I have no clue about what I'm doing...but it sure is fun.....
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Old 12-21-2007, 06:07 AM   #6
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Default Natural Vocals

Hate to say it, but vocals are one place where buying quality equipment seems to make a big difference to achieve natural sounding tracks.

A warm tube preamp and a quality mic are really required to get a smooth, natural sound. Obviously there's a lot to be said for the singer and their technique, but quality equipment is a huge help.

Case in point: We recently upgraded from a $199 MXL mic to an mAudio Sputnik ($499) and the quality of the vocals increased ten fold. The main difference aside from the quality of the sound, was the fact that the Sputnik didn't pick up ANY room noise. It sounded like a person, rather than a person in a room.
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Old 12-21-2007, 06:15 AM   #7
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that sounds like a change in polar pattern, maybe a tighter pickup.

natural-sounding vocals often need a little acoustic environment treatment, to tame the room sound. duvets and acoustic panels help -also check out the SE reflexion(sp?) filter.
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Old 12-21-2007, 06:31 AM   #8
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Sweetwater sound has Baby Bottle mics for 299...B grade (refurbs)....TERRIFIC DEAL.....
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Old 12-24-2007, 09:04 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkFriend View Post
A warm tube preamp and a quality mic are really required to get a smooth, natural sound.
A quality mic - yes, but "a warm tube preamp... really required". I don't think so. A good, transparent preamp helps, though. It does not have to a tube design, however. For vocals, I really like our Focusrite Red 1 and our Apogee Trak 2. Both solid state designs. We have some pretty decent tube gear available, but these both produce really excellent results. At the cheaper end, we also have an M-Audio Tampa that works pretty well too.

The main thing (after the singer) is the room/recording space.

Andy
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Old 12-25-2007, 11:48 AM   #10
Lawrence
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"Natural" changes from person to person. A 414 might sound natural on me but horrible on someone else.

The most natural vocals I've ever recorded had minimal EQ, usually just bass rolloff and a touch of high end or mid range boost. Just a touch.

But... only the engineer in the room (and the talent) knows what natural really sounds like for a given singer. Sometimes "natural" isn't good as people have abrasive freqs in their natural voice that need to be killed.

Often "good" is better than "natural" or accurate. "Smooth" maybe? Eq'ing out abrasive freq's isn't natural but it sounds much better.

Last edited by Lawrence; 12-25-2007 at 11:52 AM.
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Old 12-26-2007, 03:51 AM   #11
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All that has been discussed about 1 million times here: www.gearslutz.com
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Old 12-29-2007, 04:36 PM   #12
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I would agree that a tube preamp isn't necessary.

I had tremendous luck with a dbx 286a. Compresser/gate/expander/de-esser, and not a tube in sight...

Unfortunately I sold it before I learned the cardinal rule of recording hardware - NEVER SELL ANYTHING. I didn't know how musically right that compressor sounded until I tried recording with my "upgrade".
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