Voice Recording: Advanced Techniques Part I

voice recording

Voice Recording: Introduction

Everyone is aware of how much a sophisticated voice recording  can include to any music production, however attaining this inside the studio can seem to be something of a dark art, so this month we demystify the recording, control, and mixing tactics required to produce skilled results.
In theory, getting a superb voice recording sound ought to now be less complicated in the past, as studio quality microphones appear now to be obtainable for little more than pocket income.  Clearly the vocalist will constantly be essentially the most crucial aspect – an excellent voice recording requires a great singer – but when we presume for the minute the singer is delivering a superb performance, what could you do with the engineering end to capture this in its best attainable light?

Picking The Best Microphone

The majority of pop vocal perform is carried out utilizing some type of large-diaphragm, cardioid-pattern capacitor microphone, but there are exceptions. By way of example, some singers prefer to operate with dynamic mics such as Shure SM58s, because the tonality fits their voice and/or the design of music. It truly is also properly attainable to generate an excellent voice recording utilizing a small-diaphragm capacitor microphone and, while in the appropriate room, an omnidirectional microphone can give good outcomes, so it truly is actually a situation on the end justifying the signifies.

voice recordingMaybe much more appropriate compared to the kind or make of microphone is its tonal character, as matching the microphone to the singer is more important than numerous individuals appreciate – and if you’ve never had the possibility to examine a range of various mics in a recording situation, which is quite understandable. Even now I still get phone calls from individuals asking which mic will be the ‘best buy’ inside a certain cost variety, but that is really not possible to response in the meaningful way with no realizing one thing regarding the voice getting recorded. Most studio microphones, specifically large-diaphragm versions, have a distinct tonal character, so it’s greatest to possess a assortment of microphones accessible, enabling you to pick the preferred a single for every recording task, whether or not that choice is only among two or three different designs.

If your price range can attain to this point, then the obvious choice is to get a single pretty neutral mic, a single using a warm, syrupy top quality, and another having a little bit of sizzle on the best finish. You might also wish to think about a tube microphone, although these can sound quite different – so different, in reality, that it truly is hard to say what the tube sound is. In my experience, the better tube mics sound crisp and clear without having currently being severe or sibilant, and they also add excess weight and density on the lower voice recording frequencies. People mics that deliberately overdrive the tube to obtain a ‘warm’ sound(warm sound effects) can find yourself sounding mushy, dull or simply plain distorted. Fortunately most mic manufacturers have now realised that the best-sounding tube mic may be the one that does not make use of the tube to produce artificial distortion – what it contributes naturally is very enough.

Now I wouldn’t dare propose that ladies are in any way ‘difficult’ as being a species, but I have discovered that picking the most effective microphone to suit women singer is generally much more challenging than for male singers. Maybe it really is because their voices tend, on stability, to get smoother sounding than men’s voices, which most likely equals much less harmonic difficulty – or at the least, a decrease amount of several of those complex harmonics. This leaves the throaty factors of the sound much more exposed, so should you select the incorrect microphone you can end up with what seems like distortion when what you’re genuinely hearing would be the much less desirable throaty artifacts in the sound becoming stressed. Close miking is pretty unforgiving of unattractive voice recording qualities anyway, but if you are regrettable in choosing a mic that exaggerates these much less attractive artifacts, you happen to be in difficulties in the commence.

As you may well anticipate, microphones with a sturdy presence peak inside the upper mid-range will be the almost certainly to present rise to issues of this sort (presence peaks up over 8kHz are significantly less prone to aggravate this type of dilemma), but then that same mic may well rescue a session where you happen to be managing a singer that has a voice that lacks definition. It’s not usually a case of ‘good mic versus negative mic’, but rather ‘suitable mic versus unsuitable mic’. From the microphones I have reviewed over the past handful of many years, really couple of of them have in fact been poor from a technical standpoint, and also then, it really is normally been in the viewpoint of noise as opposed to tonality.

Exactly the same tends also to become correct for microphone preamplifiers. It truly is undeniably true that pricey boutique versions can sound noticeably greater than budget models, but I have employed preamps and mixers costing underneath L100 in combination with budget Chinese capacitor mics and had wonderful benefits, the two artistically and technically. That’s not to say that the extremely ideal gear would not sound even far better, nevertheless in lots of from the conditions I’ve encountered, the tools has not been the limiting factor. A lot more usually than not, it truly is what the microphone picks up which is the key issue together with the recorded sound.

The Idea Behind Polar Patterns

Most people realize that microphones ‘hear stuff’, but they are not usually mindful of what things they hear. In the event you stick a singer a number of inches away from the microphone, then clearly you’re going to record the singer, but you happen to be also going to record any other sound nearing the microphone. Vocals are nearly usually recorded utilizing cardioid-pattern microphones, as they have a directional characteristic that excludes more off-axis sound (including space reflections or spill from other sources) than omnidirectional microphones, that are equally sensitive each of the way all around. Should you have a really dead area or voice recording booth that may let you use an omni-pattern microphone, you may discover that you simply get a more normal or ‘open’ sound than you are doing from a cardioid microphone, using the additional bonus that there will likely be no tonal variation in the event the singer modifications place somewhat while singing. Omni mics also do not exhibit a bass improve when utilized close up (the so-called ‘proximity effect’), so the quantity of low finish they produce doesn’t vary because the singer will get closer to the microphone.

The other period an omni microphone could be preferable is when you happen to be recording inside a live atmosphere where you wish to capture the all-natural ambience in the area. An obvious example of this can be choral music, but it can also be applied to solo elements exactly where artistically suitable. Where you’ve got a choice, a single-diaphragm, committed omni mic usually produces a more correct off-axis response than you receive from a multi-pattern mic that combines the outputs from two capsules to create the various polar patterns.

One particular further polar pattern to mention is figure of eight, simply because there is lately been an upsurge of curiosity in ribbon microphones, which all possess a figure-of-eight pattern. Ribbon mics have a distinct tonality that is different to each typical condenser and vibrant mics, and they can sound good on a vocal that wants its higher end smoothing out a bit. These mics are equally sensitive for the front and also to the rear in the capsule, so placing an absorbent screen driving the microphone although recording can assist avert undesired area insights from getting onto the recording. Figure-of-eight mics may be beneficial when recording a singer who plays acoustic guitar at the same time, when you can organize for that dead zone from the mic (90 degrees off-axis) to be aimed in the direction of the guitar to minimise spill. Note that all figure-of-eight mics possess a strong proximity impact, so, once more, in case you work as well near to them, the bass end will boost quite noticeably.

Returning for the topic of cardioid microphones, a single element that hasn’t attracted the focus it deserves is the fact that single-diaphragm mics frequently behave differently to dual-diaphragm models. Dual diaphragms are used in switchable-pattern mics, and in cardioid mode they appear to select up far more of the space sound in close-miking situations than single-diaphragm versions. The single-diaphragm mics usually seem to produce a drier, much more centered sound, which aids in circumstances where the quantity of acoustic treatment method that may be utilized is limited. However, the dual-diaphragm model may deliver a much more open sound, but frequently demands to become used in a much more managed environment to get successful.

The Environment made for proper acoustics

As all microphone pickup patterns are three-dimensional, ‘the sides’ also choose up from over and below. Whether or not your area is quiet and there’s no targeted traffic noise, unless the space has become designed by a studio acoustician there is going to be reflections from walls and also other surfaces that bounce ‘second-hand’ vocals back into the microphone. These reflections will probably be captured moreover for the direct sound on the voice, so you are going to get the sound on the area overlaid within the sound you happen to be really right after.

This can be usually a substantial dilemma inside the home studio, as you’ll find reflective walls, ceilings and furniture conspiring to corrupt your vocal sound(hq vocal pack or dirty vocal). Whilst you may possibly add reverb afterwards, you are going to find that it isn’t going to hide the boxy tone caused by room reflections. Even individuals who’ve bought seriously professional-grade gear fall foul of this difficulty. There’s a parallel here with photography: even a price range camera can offer you an artistically fantastic picture if what is in front on the lens seems very good and is accurately lit. But if the subject is badly lit, then no level of upgrading will deliver about a significant improvement while in the finish end result.

Typical readers will understand that there’s a method to improve this scenario without resorting acoustic therapy in the entire room. All you have to do is improve the acoustics in the vicinity in the microphone. I think a lot of people value this on an instinctive degree and, due to the fact I maintain banging on about it, some musicians have experimented with employing duvets for acoustic treatment. Even so, a surprising amount just hang a duvet within the wall after which sing facing the duvet! This could assist just a little, since the duvet will soak up several of the sound that might otherwise bounce back off the wall, but it is far from your ideal resolution. Think back to the cardioid mic’s pickup pattern and you may see that while in the over scenario its least sensitive region (right behind it) is now dealing with the duvet, while its delicate front and sides are nonetheless picking up space reflections.

A greater selection would be to hang the quilt behind the singer, as any reflections arriving previous the singer’s head will preferably be picked up by the very delicate front from the microphone. To reduce side pickup, it is possible to hang a double-size duvet inside a curve or use two to type a ‘V’ shape and have the singer stand using their back facing into the apex. That nevertheless leaves the ceiling and floor as possible reflection sources, but a rug or carpet around the floor will help enormously. When the ceiling is low, a foam panel above the mic and singer can do the trick perfectly.

Heading to the next part

Improvised acoustic remedies produced from duvets or blankets are efficient at large frequencies and within the mid-range, but their efficiency falls off at reduced frequencies. In most cases, they operate adequately above the vocal variety, but doubling up the thickness or utilizing a heavy, winter-grade duvet will improve their overall performance with the low end – beneficial when recording baritones. This kind of ‘blanket’ absorbers also function greatest when spaced away from a wall, so the best selection, the place useful, would be to setup the voice recording mic and absorbers out within the space, nicely far from the walls, but at the same time staying away from the very centre from the room, as that attracts its personal set of unique problems connected with room modes according to the space dimensions. Like a ultimate resolve, you’ll be able to shield the rear from the mic (in the end, even a cardioid mic isn’t entirely deaf within the rear) by fixing a piece of acoustic foam close behind the microphone. Auralex make some neat gadgets of this kind in triangle and butterfly shapes that slot onto the mic stand, but if seems to be never concern you, a chunk of furniture foam will serve virtually too.