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"The best investment to get the very best vocal recordings done is to hire a professional vocal coach in the days, or sometimes weeks leading up to the recording." - Jan 'Yarn' Muths

In this episode

  • What’s most important in music: vocals!

  • What to eat/drink before singing

  • What NOT to eat/drink before singing

  • Preparing yourself mentally and physically for the singing session

  • How to get the best vocal sound:

  • When large diaphragm condensers are best

  • Why there’s still a need for hi-end and vintage mics

  • When dynamic mics are best

  • When ribbon mics are best

  • Pre-amps:  Your interface's transistor preamps, vs. tube preamps and preamps with transformers

  • Compressors, if in doubt: don’t!

  • Adding comfort reverb (stereo!) to the headphones

  • The headphone mix: clean, minimalistic, stereo

  • Setting the mood in the live room. 

  • Warming up your voice

  • Performance tips

  • Microphone technique: lay with distance

  • Recording tips and tricks

  • The most important tip of all (and this may be hard to hear - sorry!) 

...

About the 

host

With over 2 decades of recording, mixing and music production experience, Muths interviews musicians, producers and engineers from the Australian East Coast and the world. Always curious about production workflows, gear, software, techniques, and strategies. The Production Talk podcast is a must-listen for anyone interested in music production from the Northern Rivers and far beyond.

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The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music


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Jan 'Yarn' Muths or mixartist.com.au, in the studio

Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at mixartist.com.au

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.

transcript

Transcript

(auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error)

Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, Yarn, of mixartists.com.au. In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So, if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. This is the Production Talk Podcast episode 57. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome back to the Production Talk Podcast. At the beginning of this episode, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country that the following conversation was recorded on, the Arakwal people of the Bundjalong nation. And I would like to express my thanks and love and respect to elders past and present. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And before we start today's episode, I would like to just quickly recap on what's really important in music. And as you may know, in pretty much every genre, it all comes down to the vocals. And yeah, in, in most situations, the vocals are at least 50% of the songs sometimes much more so as a drama myself, I've always avoided learning to sing and I've always left the singing to somebody else. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: But just recently, I came across a fantastic podcast that I would like to tell you all about. It's made by my friend, Shelly Brown, a fantastic singer. You should see her in action. She knocks my socks off and she's got a podcast by herself called Singing Lessons For No One. Well, that was really intriguing to me. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So I actually gave it a shot and started listening in the car and started singing along loud in the car where nobody else was watching. And I haven't had that much fun in a long time. So even I started to learn singing, which is quite amazing. And I really love Shelley's easygoing, no-pressure attitude. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if you are a musician and if you've avoided singing as much as I have, and even if you're an experienced singer, there's probably quite a few things you might get out of Shelley's podcast. Imagine it's basically singing lessons for everybody from a real professional, down to earth, really easygoing and lots of fun. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's called singing lessons for no one. You can find the podcast and all the podcast players. And if you want to just go to the show notes and click the link warmly, recommend it. Okay. Now let's move on to today's episode. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: All right. Let's get into the good stuff. Today's episode is, is special, and it's all about vocals and recording vocals. So because of course we all know how important the vocals are. I decided to give it a special episode and I'd like to share all my tips and tricks and insights and what I've learned about tracking vocals over the years and share all of this with you. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if you are a vocalist, this episode is for you. And if you are an engineer or hobby engineer then you sooner or later will record vocals. So hopefully you will also find something interesting in this episode for you. Okay. So let's get started. What are the most important things that we need to get, right. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: For a really good vocal take. And it might actually start a little bit earlier than you may think. So we are not really starting with a microphone and pre EMS and compressors right away, but let's get started with things to do and not to do before tracking your vocals. And the first thing that comes to my mind is stay well hydrated. Drinking enough water leading up to a vocal recording session is super important because your voice quotes need it. And when you sing a lot, you will naturally get a dry mouth after a while. So when you're dehydrated at the start, so when you're dehydrated at the start, obviously you get a dry mouth much quicker and that's not fun to sing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And it also leads to unnecessary, you know, lip smack sounds that we probably want to avoid. So get started and hydrate probably the, the day leading up to your vocal recording session and make sure you drink heaps and heaps of water. Let's also talk about a couple of things that we should avoid. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So before a vocal recording session definitely avoid any heavy foods. You know, the big breakfast with extra bacon that is not the right food before your vocal session, try to avoid things that are deep fried and heavy, too much diary products can affect your vocal chords negatively. So it's probably a smart idea to, to keep it to the absolute minimum. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Think about all the foods that make you feel bloated or in digested, or, you know, cause stomach aches or acid reflux. All of those foods try to avoid also avoid sweet foods and salty foods because they will again, dehydrate your body. And this will lead to a dry mouth. So that is basically, you know, Mars bars and chocolate bars and chips and things like this. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Those things are probably not the best thing to eat before. I personally am a huge coffee addict. I have to admit that every morning I make myself and my wife a cup of coffee. And I don't really function well without it. However, be if you are a singer and if you are heading into a vocal session, try to avoid caffeine or keep it to the absolute minimum the same can apply to, to black teas because they also contain caffeine. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And that leads to yeah. Dehydration and then again dry mouth. And if you've ever had too much coffee in a day, you know how it can make you feel or irritated and jittery, and that's definitely not the right feeling that you wanna have if you want to sing really well good spicy foods. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Again, I'm a huge fan. I just can't have enough spicy food. Personally, I'm a big fan of Citra chili sauce. However, before vocal recording sessions, I would advise against anything that can upset your tummy. Another thing that I heard mixed opinions about is nuts. So some people say that nuts are really good for you before singing and. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Generally believe if you don't have allergies, then nuts are definitely healthy food. But just earlier this morning I had a nut bar and yeah, even an hour later, I suddenly felt this dry feeling in my throat. And there must have been a little, I don't know, a piece of it in my throat, which was very irritating. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It gave me really dry throat and I had to flush it down with a, a lot of water. So if this is your experience as well maybe be very careful with nuts. Let's also talk about drinks. So a couple of things to avoid in addition to coffee, anything that is bubbly, such as soda pops and sugary drinks again, because they're sweet. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: They will dehydrate you and lead to dry mouth. And then of course all the bubbles, you know what it, it does it makes you all bubbly burpy, and that's really not what we want to hear in a microphone recording. And it's, it's a really weird feeling if you've ever tried. If you feel a burp coming in the middle of a take, trying to suppress it till the end of a take yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Look, it's not, not a good feeling and let's really try to avoid this where possible. Here is a controversial topic, alcohol. Well again, I believe that there can be different opinions to be had about this. I personally don't enjoy drinking early in the morning, but come evening time. I do enjoy a glass of red wine, but I definitely wouldn't recommend too much alcohol before a singing session again for the known disadvantages because alcohol dehydrates, your body leads to dry mouth and it makes it actually harder to sing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You don't also definitely don't wanna be too drunk to sing. That's not a fun thing. unless of course you own a punk rock band or it's part of the performance who knows. I know that there's another side to alcohol where some people use it deliberately to sort of loosen up and get into the right feel and get a bit more energetic. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: We all know the effect that alcohol has and very carefully dosed look I'll leave that up to you be responsible, but you definitely don't wanna be completely off your face when you go into a vocal recording session. This said, I once heard a story that I found really interesting about a drummer who had too much coffee in the morning and just constantly played ahead of the beat who got a bit too jittery. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And apparently they balanced him out with a bit of red wine, which made him laid back. And that was in the mornings. So I'm not quite sure if this is a good thing to do, but yeah, my recommendation is to limit your alcohol to the absolute minimum or don't drink any alcohol at all. Maybe make it a reward for afterwards. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Isn't that a good idea? Yeah. A little yeah, a little treat for once everything is done. Nothing wrong about that. Of course. Good. Another topic we need to talk about is smoking. It is common sense. We all know about it. Smoking affects your voice, negatively, it dries your throat, and it has got a huge range of negative side effects for your health. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So smoking is definitely not a good thing in any way. And when it comes to singing, really try to avoid smoking all up. And if you really have to maybe do it afterwards, but you don't wanna go for a cigarette halfway through your takes and then come back and continue. That really affects your voice and your voice will sound different and it's gonna be harder to sing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So yeah, my recommendation is cut the smoking entirely. You won't regret cutting out cigarettes out of your life. Okay. So a couple of dues now that we've discussed all the don'ts, let's also talk about things that you should be doing before your recording session. I warmly recommend all kinds of light foods that is yogurt and possibly if it's not too heavy fruit raw food, raw vegetables carrots, cucumbers, things like this, or lightly cooked vegetables. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you prefer, if you also like to have a bit of protein why not have, but choose the lighter ones, like avocados, chicken fish, things like this. I've also heard lots of good things about honey before vocal recording sessions. Yeah. Obviously that's a sweet food. However if you keep it in moderation and don't have too much of it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It can definitely have a soothing effect on your voice. We all know this when we are sick and we've got a bit of a sore throat, then a nice warm cup of tea with a bit of honey and maybe ginger or so can make a whole lot of a difference. And this soothing character of honey is definitely something that we can cash in on here. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So why not have a little bit of. Okay. So now that we've discussed all the foods and drinks let's look at other aspects of our lives that can have positive and negative effects on your, your singing. I am sure you've all experienced good days and bad. That's a part of being human that's something that I definitely go through all the time. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And there are definitely some factors that are completely out of our control. However, let's focus on a, on some effects that are within our control and that we can influence to get to start our vocal recording session with our best selves with the best version of ourselves that we can. I'm talking about a good night's sleep. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if you want to record vocals in the morning maybe don't go out at night and have a late one instead, maybe get an early rest, get a good night's sleep. Make sure you wake up refreshed and in a good spirit. You don't wanna be overtired as well or jet lacked? No. I don't think lots of good things have come out of jet lacked singers in my opinion. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's one thing that can weigh us down so good. Night's sleep can really make a big difference and also think about all the other things that happen between waking up and starting your recording sessions. What you should avoid is anything that freaks you out or stresses you out. And being a dad of two kids I know how difficult this can be in real life. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's not something that we can always influence, but we are possible try to avoid unnecessary stress rushing anything that gets you into a freaked out mood, try to avoid those things. If you can instead go for a walk get out and do something for yourself, do something that is beneficial for your mental wellbeing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And there are so many things we can do these days. So a walk is a great thing. If you can go for a yoga session that's definitely something that makes you feel better within your own body. Meditation swim surfing is warmly recommended. If this is your thing or just a beach walk, if you can whatever it is, go for a run or a gym workout, but I'm talking about activities that probably con involve that probably involve fresh air, some kind of physical activity, and definitely in absence of screens and alerts and notifications, the things that get our mind occupied and distracted. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So a bit of extra time, let it be 20 minutes or half an hour of dedicated time for yourself is definitely a good thing that can get you into the best version of yourself that you wanna be before we even start the vocal recording session. Okay, good. I think this is enough about preparing yourself for the vocal recording session. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Now let's talk about preparing the recording gear how to get the best vocal sound of the gear that you have. Well we need to talk about microphones for a second. In most situations, vocals are recorded with a large DIAP from condenser microphones. Today I'm using one myself for this episode. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And when you see vocal recording sessions in studios, that's exactly what they do, but they are definitely exceptions. And we should probably talk about the pros and cons of using large data from condenser microphones. Whenever you use one of those be aware that they pick up A large amount of details. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: They capture the space that you are in, in a lot of details, ambient noise you know, traffic noise in the distance. Those things tend to be more prominent on on large D from condenser microphones than on other types. So you can now use this knowledge to your advantage. If you have a quiet room like I do, then a large di from condenser microphone is generally a fantastic choice, but if you record at home if you deal with ambient noise, then switching to a different microphone types, such as a moving ho or dynamic microphone as they're called can actually give you well less amount of detail on your voice, but once the music is placed around it, that often blends in quite a right. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And they tune out the ambient sound better than large laugh from condensers stool. They seem to be more directional and, and know reject quieter. Surrounding sounds, ambient sounds better than large laugh from condensers too. So yeah, that is definitely something to consider. This said large DFO condensers are definitely a very good choice. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you want to have this very intimate vocal sound, the sound where the voice basically seems to be right next to your ear right next to you. That's what you can get from a large DFU condenser microphone. And yeah, they're just very beautiful in tone, often with a little bit of coloration in the upper mids, obviously that depends on the microphone, but especially the budget once are often also subject to, you know, a little bit of a bump in the Clance range. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So that is something to consider the hissy sounds. And if a microphone picks. Much of it. If, if your microphone picks up too much of it, switching to a different microphone type might be a smart choice. If Clance is too prominent in your vocal recording, you can also play with angling the microphone slightly different. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The microphone doesn't necessarily have to be straight in front of the singer's mouth. You can play with the distance. You can, for example, increase the distance, but you can also change the angle. So I'm now speaking a bit sideways into the microphone. So it's not right in front of my mouth, and I'm sure you can already hear the difference that this just made. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So I'm not turning back into it and all the detail is coming up, but also, you know, some of the brightness and if that's too much getting the microphone slightly off axis can actually. Good. A couple of examples of microphones that I have used are of course, you know, the budget microphones from, let's say road, the NT what's it called NT one a comes to my mind, which I find is a very good microphone considering the price tag. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So you get a really good sound from this microphone for just a couple of hundred bucks, but there are also other examples, like the audio technicals, they have the 80, 20, 20, I personally prefer the 40, 40, a little bit better, 80, 40, 40, but it's also a little bit dearer. So obviously with prize you will also to see it change in quality. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you have the budget you will not regret investing into a quality microphone. Obviously the ments come to my mind, but there are other brands as well that do really, really good vocal microphones. It's not so much of a brand thing, but more of a prize segment things. So if you look at you know, ment for example they belong to the same business family as ER, and sun Heiser, for example produced large star from condenser microphones. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Is it called the MK four if I'm not mistaken which is very affordable and also sounds really good for the price tag coming basically out of the same business as the big Norman which are a lot more expensive. And that's also true for, as I mentioned, audio technical at for road for all the brands that I know that the cheap entry level microphones obviously know are a good value for money, but don't quite sound as good as the expensive funds. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And yeah, most microphone manufacturers have an expensive line and at which you get really good quality microphones. Okay. In some cases, it goes berserk. Just the other day I found an eBay listing for a single microphone for 65,000 Australian dollars. I think that's complete madness. Don't spend this kind of money. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I definitely won't and I don't have it so that's a given. And even if I had the money, I wouldn't but look, some people collect microphones for collector's sake. So, you know, you can't really argue with that. If they've got the budget. But larger studios usually have a nice collection of, of high quality microphones, sometimes vintage microphones and yeah, while they cost a lot of money and sometimes also expensive to maintain. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: They definitely have their place and high end production. I just spoke to a friend the other day about an aekg C 12 VR microphone which is definitely an up prize microphone and a lovely sounding one. And he was considering to get one for his home studio. But in this case, I would literally advise against it because a microphone like this will only ever show its full potential. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you have the right rooms for it, you know, the right PREMs basically everything must be very professional for you to take the full advantage out of this, out of this microphone. So if you just plug it in, in your bedroom, into a cheap interface and a cheap converter look, it's a little bit like, you know buying yourself a very expensive Ferrari, but then putting very cheap tires on it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's not a good match for one another. So yeah. Stick within your budget is, is my suggestion here. Good. So let's just navigate back to other types of microphones. We mentioned dynamic microphones earlier. They can be much better at rejecting room sound. The vocal stage microphones come to mind like an SM 58. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It is definitely not my preferred choice for vocal recording sessions. I think there are better sounding ones, but I believe that every decent sound engineer in the world can take the sound of a 58 and turn it into something. Sounds, you know, absolutely fine by the end of the day. It's maybe not the best it could have been, but everybody should be able to, to take the sound and turn it into something. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So yeah, but you can also move on to other examples of microphones that I've mentioned before in previous episodes. The sure. SM seven B is a very popular microphone. It's yeah. Was on its way out. Wasn't very popular at all some time ago and then it took off again. So it's really interesting to see how. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Microphone popularity changes over time. The SM seven B is a fantastic microphone. I warmly recommend it to everybody, but be careful because this microphone is known to have a low output, which I believe I mentioned in a previous episode earlier once before low output means that the microphone by itself produces only a very small amount of voltage. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And while this by itself is not the problem if you then pair this microphone with a quiet signal, such as my voice, my voice rather quiet then you simply might not have enough gain available on your microphone preempt to get the level up into the pocket where you needed to be. So the SM seven B is often used either for louder signals. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: People who sing really loud into microphone. Now they can definitely use it, use it on electric guitars. No problem, but for quiet sound sources, you literally might run out of gain on your microphone. Preem. So the solution then is to invest a couple of hundred dollars, extra money into a device by the name of cloud lifter. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's basically a small Exel R barrel that you just pluck into the microphone lead. It requires Phantom power and it contains a small amplifier that gains the signal up. And then in addition with the microphone Preem gain, you should have your signal under control. Then this is also necessary for most ribbon microphones, by the way. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Unless, of course you have very good microphone PREMs that you offer huge amounts of, of clean gain, which not every Preem does. So there are pros and cons to be had. Other microphones that I would like to, to give credit to here. The electro voice are E 20 is one of my favorites. I love that thing to bids. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I don't own one yet, but it's definitely on my wishlist for my studio. So eventually I I'm going to get one of those. I personally like it better on my voice than the SM seven B, but you know, they are a bit like the two top contenders in the dynamic microphone world. Other honorary mentions go out to the biodynamic M 88 which is a microphone with a particularly strong base response. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's sometimes used on bass guitars, kicks tos sometimes, but it also works on on vocals and it sometimes use it for female vocals to if they have a thinner voice to bring some of the body back up. So that can be a very nice microphone as well in the right situation. Okay. I could keep going. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: There are the ER MD four to ones, which are also very good and the four, four ones, which are again, a bit more expensive, but yeah, all of the microphones listed before will definitely give you a really good vocal sound. And they are definitely the better choice in roomy and noisy environments compared to a large, different condenser microphone. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Just now I just a minute ago, I briefly brought up ribbon microphones. That's a third microphone type that we should talk about. Ribbon microphones are definitely a good choice for vocals, but not every single one and not for every single voice. So ribbon microphones have a couple of pros and cons. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let's start with the directionality. The polar patterns is called in technical terms. Pretty much every microphone, every ribbon microphone has got a figure of eight polar pattern, I believe with the exception of the buyer one 60. But that's another story. That's an except. Which means ribbon microphones pick up sounds from both sides equally well, and they reject sound really well from the side from a 90 degree angle which makes ribbon microphones well, an odd choice for noisy environments because you get a lot of noise from the back of the microphone. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You capture a lot of, of ambient space that you may not want. So again, for noisy and roomy environments, a ribbon microphone might not be a good choice. Also most passive ribbon microphones have such a low output that a particularly good pre-em amplifier is required. And most standard audio interfaces don't have those fantastic Preem S so something like a cloud lifter may be necessary. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Another huge disadvantage is that ribbon microphones are particularly sensitive and I'm by sensitive. I mean that they break very easily. So you don't wanna drop a ribbon microphone. That would definitely be the end of it. They will not survive that. And you also don't wanna blow across a ribbon microphone like that, that can literally break it without even touching it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So be extra careful with ribbon microphones. If you choose one for your vocals, a pop filter is mandatory just to protect your microphone. Otherwise you literally might break it by singing too loud into the microphone. This is something that could happen. And we definitely don't want this because fixing a ribbon microphone is expensive. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Couple of thoughts on those microphone types Ribbon microphones often have a colorful sound. They don't necessarily sound neutral. Which is an odd choice of course, for vocals, but it can be the right choice for the right song. I guess if you are often an old school sound like a vintage 50 sound or something, then the ribbon microphone might be exactly what you want. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: But for a modern, clean pop sound a ribbon microphone is probably not the right choice. Okay, let's move on. Preem S the good thing is that most audience interfaces these days have PREMs built in that are good enough quality for almost every task. I'm talking about things like focus, right? We've spoken about U a D interfaces, but we could talk about apogees and, you know, all the standard ones that you find all around the industry their preempts are typically clean free of distortion. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And let's say very low distortion and they have very low noise floors. So from that point of view, there's really no big problem with them. This set, some of them don't have enough gain for quiet sound sources. And then we spoke about cloud lifters, which may be necessary. This said the Preem built into your audience interface are generally of the clean nature. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: They use transistor technology, which is known to be basically as clean as can be. And when it comes to PREMs, we have the first choice of coloring our sound deliberately if we choose to do so. That's because pre amplifiers achieve pretty significant amount of, of level changes. So it might be, you know, if you turn the gain up and it it's aiming it, plus six seed decibels that actually multiplies the input voltage by a factor of a thousand. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So it would take something up from a single millivolt to full vault. Some Preem S leave more or less of a colorful sound on the signal as they do. So. So when it comes to the PREMs that do have a sound, I would definitely say that one should be very careful about the entry segment of the market. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So I'm talking about cheap two PREMs and so on. They usually Don't really do what you think they do. And often that actually sounds better when you, when use a clean one instead, instead at least to my ears, but there are some higher quality, some high end pre EMS that use colorful technologies such as valves and tubes that can actually have a very lovely sound. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: No. So Avalon brands come to mind, but they're very pricey. I've used the SPL gold mic Preem before, which has a very strong tube sound I found which can be exactly what you want. Or sometimes it just isn't. Those preempts are definitely not the cheap ones and I'm not aware about any cheap solutions there. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That sound like a million dollars by my understanding you might be even better off just leaving it clean and ask your mix engineer later to do something. If a colorful sound is what you're after. The other category of preempts that adds color are transformer based technologies. So basically they could use different types of amplification circuits, but either input or output or both stages input and output stages can, might be transformer driven. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And the ones that come to my mind are the Neves, you know, the legendary 10 73, it's very expensive. And I've studied the insights of that. And, you know, there's a lot of smart engineering going on. By my understanding, the majority of the Neve sound comes out of the transformer components and they're very expensive by themselves. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So they use Cardinal transformers and they cost several hundred dollars each for the input. And then again for the output transformer. So obviously the price tag of on those PREMs is definitely up there. This said I'm a big fan of transformers. I'm literally just waiting for to take delivery for a couple of vintage Preem S with transformers for my studio, just to have more colorful choices at hand if I need it and I can't wait. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So hopefully in over the next few weeks, I will take delivery. They are getting moderate and by an electronics engineer at the moment. Okay, good. That's the Preem. So stick with the ones on your all interface. If you want to invest into external ones, get a proper one. The cheap ones are not worth it, in my opinion. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you work with an external Preem, you can consider to pluck in a compressor in between your pre amp and your audio interface. That is a choice that you may take. There is no law that requires that if you don't, that's perfectly fine as a general rule. When it comes to compression is if you are in doubt about what you're doing, don't do it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's a general rule. However, if you're very confident and you know exactly how to drive a compressor and you know, that's the way it is commit to it. Why not pluck it between your Preem and you interface and record the sound through the compressor? I personally do it whenever I feel like it, which is most of the. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Good. If I can, I actually work into two compressors if possible, I patch my Preem through a fast compressor first and adjust it so that it basically doesn't do much at all, unless the singer belts out a really loud node. So the compressor is basically sitting there like a protective device allowing the singing to travel through with very little action, but on, on really loud explosives, for example, or on, on a loud yell, the compressor can jump into action and reduce signal slightly. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The way I like to drive my compressors is as little as possible, which means I'm using as subtle ratio, not a very strong one. And I don't drive it far into gain reduction. If I use one of those compressors, I usually follow up with a second compressor afterwards, which is often a more colorful compressor. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And it's set to respond a little bit slower to sound, and it sort of sits behind the first compressor and just sort of, you know, operates on the entire vocal take and sort of massages the signal, the voice as it goes into the converter to just balance yeah, volume differences slightly again, I don't use strong ratios and I, again, don't use strong gain reduction. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So often something like two, three, occasionally 40 BS of, of gain reduction might be all that this compressor is seeing. Okay, good. Then. We should also talk about other things we may wanna add to vocals. One thing that comes to mind of course, is Rever and for a vocal recording session, I don't think Rever is optional. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I would say it's mandatory. However, I will never print my Rever into the vocal I track while I do that with compressors and sometimes accuse, I will definitely not do that with VO, with Rever, for the reason that I know as a mix engineer, that the amount of Rever that I want on my voice often needs to change even very late in the mix. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And in most mixes that I do the amount of Rever varies between verse and chorus, for example, or intro and middle aid. So I actually need to have more control over that later. And I do not like to print a Rever into the vocals because that rubs me of the ability to mix it to, to the degree I want term. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: This said Rever is still necessary. You need it in your headphones. That's what I call a comfort Rever or recording Rever. That's just sitting there, you hear yourself with added Rever in your cans and that gives you a more comfortable sound when you sing. It also helps to, to keep the pitch a bit, little bit better if there's a little bit of room reflections coming through your headphones. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So the best way to add that Rever is therefore a non-destructive means not in the recording path, so it can be simply added in your D w it can be added through your mixer if you want to, but just make sure that the Rever is just literally there to make you feel comfortable when you track. And it's not actually recorded. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I'm pretty strong on this. And I don't think there are many exceptions. We, I would consider differently. Okay, so now let's build up a good headphone mix. So good singing performance all starts with a good sounding headphone mix. If you've ever tried to lay down great performances and you couldn't hear yourself, or the headphone mix was completely out of balance, you might know just how hard it can be to hit the notes, right. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And, and sound comfortable within your performance. So if we imagine a large band recording maybe, you know, drums have been recorded with something like 10 or 12, or maybe in 14 microphones, there's a bass that has been recorded with microphones one or two. And maybe with di, and let's say we have stacks of guitars both through always recorded with two microphones and maybe also di. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Don't add all of those into your he phone mix. So if you can make it more minimalistic. So if you think about the physical space between your speakers, that's a canvas that you have to balance sounds. And now if you translate this to headphones, there's literally less space between headphones, which to me also means there's less space for individual elements. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's why I try to make my he phone mixes as minimalistic as I. So if I let's say had two or maybe three kick microphones, I would make a choice and use only one for the headphones. And it's usually the one that translates best to headphones. So if I have a sub microphone, for example, that produces a lot of sub based frequencies that will not end up in the headphones at all. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I would choose the microphone, the kick microphone that has a lot of clarity in enough attack, a bit of base, but maybe not too much. Same for the snare. If there's a snare top and bottom microphone, I will immediately call the snare bottom microphone and only the snare top microphone ends up in the head for mix a bit bit of rev revert by the way for the snare is always pretty. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So why not? And then I usually add the overheads and see if that makes a good sounding drum set. So if I can, I even. Now drop my Toms from the headphone mix kick snare and overheads of four signals. The overheads of course, panned left, right? That might already be a really good drum sound. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's might be all you need. I only ever add Toms. If they play an important role, if they take the rhythmical lead somewhere in the song, then maybe I'll throw in the Toms as well. If they just play it for an occasional fill here and there, then I actually wouldn't bother adding them into the headphones mix. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let's move onto the bass guitar. If you have more than one microphone, again, the cleaner brighter sounding base might be the better choice for the headphones mix. So the dark boomy one may, might not translate too well to the headphones. Obviously you should apply common sense here, but I often go for only one and in many situations that's actually the di signal. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If I recorded di into mic and the headphone mix, I just add the di it just because it has a little bit more clarity in most situations, but whichever the cleaner, clearer sounding di base signal is that's the one signal you wanna add to, to the headphone mix. Let's add some stacks of guitars. So if you have several guitars recorded, again, cut out everything that doesn't have to be there. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if you have two microphones on your guitar cabinet, decide for the cleaner, more transparent sounding one. The darker, more distorted sounding one is the one that I would probably drop from the hat for mix. And then I'll immediately start panning the guitars around left. And right. So if you have two rhythm guitars, I actually put 'em heart left right in the Hatful mix to create some space in the middle where the vocal is going to sit. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I believe in stereo hat from XUS mono hat for mixes. Just don't cut it for me. I'm actually just in the process of rewiring my studio. The previous owner had it set up for eight mono mixes. I'm setting it up for four stereo hat for mixes. That's my choice. And I'm doing that for the reason that I know how much better stereo hat for mixes sound and how much more comfortable it can make a talent when perform. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Good signals like keyboards. I always try to record in stereo. So if they are recorded in stereo, I pan 'em hard left right into the, a one mix. And then of course the vocal sits right in the middle with a touch of Rever. And then I play with the volume, the loud elements that I really need are kick and snare and base and vocal. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Those need to be well balanced relatively loud. I then bring up the overheads until they sort of connect, kick and snare, but they shouldn't dominate the mix with keyboards and guitars of obviously they need to be audible, but I don't want them to be on top of the mix, but a little bit lower, clearly audible, but not loud. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So that there's a lot of space for the vocals kick and snare provides the groove and the rhythmic of feel that you need to align your vocals to as you sing. And very importantly, the base provides the harmonic foundation of all, everything else. So everything sort of rests on the on the pitch that the bass plays. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And that's a trick that I learned actually from a book that if a Hatful mix doesn't have enough bass guitar, it actually makes it harder for, for the singer to get the pitch. Right. So make sure that the bass is nice and loud, not overbearing, but clearly audible to the singer. And yeah, that makes. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I hope a lot of sense. So kick snare base vocal. These are the core elements and the rest is decorated around it for the he for mix with a, a nice pinch of Rever on the vocals. That's what makes a good headphones sound to me. Okay. Let's move on. What else can we do? Don't underestimate the mood of the life room. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So set the mood right by choosing good lighting, consistent lighting Mo lighting, most importantly, and also be aware that colors around you can have an subconscious effect on how you sing. So aggressive colors or calming colors can be used if you have the ability to actually set the mood right. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: For the song that you're performing. You will notice that your voice changes quite significantly throughout the day. So it is a smart idea to try to knock out a song in one session, let's say before lunch and another one after lunch. But what you want to avoid is to start with a song in the morning, then work on another song for the rest of the day and go back to the morning song late at night, you will find that your vocal sound has changed. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And if you then need to piece takes together compiling as we call it or comping and short, if you try to comp takes together from the morning and the evening, they sound like yeah, a different voice to some degree, and it makes it really hard to get a consistent sound. So wherever you can try to knock it all out in one, go that's my recomme. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Good and we are still not tracking. So let's talk about warming up your voice. Definitely allow a little bit of time to do warm up exercises that can be done while you set up everything else. Or as you drive to your studio, who knows, but warming up a voice for minimum 10 minutes maybe even half an hour, if you don't strain your voice too much is money well invested no time well invested, I would say because that can make a difference to to your voice that I could not possibly match with all the tools compressors accused that I have on my computers under my, in my studio. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Just the amount of sound quality you gain by warming up your voice nicely. That's a really important thing to consider print out the lyrics. Get a music stand print them out in double spacing font and in a large font so that there's heaps of space to add notes and scribbles in between where need to be, make it nice and large. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So you can see it. You don't need to have the sheet of paper to close. If a sheet of paper is very close to microphone, it actually can cause some reflections and especially condenser microphones. They might even, you know, start to misbehave a little bit. If there's a sheet of paper right next to it, have water ready a reminder for myself. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I need to drink as well Jan 'Yarn' Muths: because I've already been talking for 50 minutes. Yeah, have water already. Don't make it icy cold that can also have a negative effect on your voice. Room temperature might be okay, but not icy cold, I guess. And then just get into it. And most importantly, really, really, really have some fun when you sing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if you're worrying about your performance, if you're worrying about your day, if you're too distracted, dealing with your D w and your recording gear, all of these things will compromise your singing performance. So it's now really important that you give it all you have. And one thing you can do is turn off your mobile phone, turn off Facebook, disconnect the internet, if need to be and cut yourself out from all the distractions that might come. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And of course, I think it's, you know, studio etiquette anyway, to turn of mobile phones and recording rooms, because we definitely don't want to have the sound of a buzzing phone in the background. Good. When you perform, when you start singing. Think about the right notes to sing. And the right Del right delivery of this, those notes that is not necessarily a flawless pitch. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Perfect performance. The right performance is one that makes me feel something. And those are the ones that are often the takes that have a certain amount of vulnerability. And sometimes have certain weaknesses or performance weaknesses, and that can actually be a beautiful thing. Obviously it can also sound like a really terrible mistake and that's for you to decide where you draw the line there, but often find that musically perfect takes are not necessarily the ones that give me goosebumps or that make me want to listen to the song. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Again, it's often the, the takes that have a bit of character that have some imperfections that I relate to best. Well, that's my personal opinion. And I think genre is also a consideration here. So for modern EDM pop, I think you know, it's a little bit different than it would be for an heartfelt blue. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I think we all understand that. So think about the context of it also really think about the lyrics and what the story is actually all about. And don't forget about this when you sing. So if you're so distracted operating, you're able to know logic and your audience interface into a microphone technique and keeping the noise out. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Don't forget about what the story is actually all about. And don't forget to act this out to some degree. So if you sing a sad song what's the point of singing it with a happy voice, you know, so, and I'm springing up this example because this literally has happened to me once where recorded a singer at a 3 0 1 down in Sydney. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And she was phenomenal singer, absolutely stunning performance, but it didn't connect and I had to really rethink about it for a moment. And then I realized, okay, wait a moment. This is actually a really bitter song, but your sound sounds so SW your voice sounds so sweet. So the message of the song was actually something sad and, you know, there was heartbreak involved and so on. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So role play is a good thing in some ways to try to think about the situation that the lyrics came from. Maybe you wrote the lyrics. So you might think about a particular situation in your life. Get back into the mood and the mindset of where you were back then, how you felt. And if you, if you didn't write the lyrics yourself interpret them and think about visualize VI, visualize the person who's experiencing, what's going on. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: What does the face look like? What's the expression what's surrounding them, you know, use your imagination to, to actually fall into character as an actor would say, and act out the performance. In my opinion, this is really what makes a great vocal take. Think about storytelling more than just placing notes next to each other, telling a story and acting out the story. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's really where good vocal takes are coming from. Okay, so you can use the distance to the microphone to act out the stories. So if you want to get really loud maybe learn to naturally increase the distance to the microphone. So I'm just trying to do that here for you to give you an example at the moment, I'm about a hands length away from the microphone, diaphragm, and now I'm reducing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Sorry, now I'm increasing the distance and I'm now at a further distance and I'm still speaking really, really loud. Okay. And now I'm moving closer to the microphone and now my voice is really close to the diaphragm. So I'm basically changing the volume of my voice while also moving my head for and back closer and further from the microphone to sort of balance out the volume difference that distance makes you could say that this is already compression, which I think it actually is. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So good singers eventually develop a bit of a muscle memory playing with a microphone distance and using that like like an instrument, I guess. So, if you can do this, use that that's a great thing to do, and it really helps to perform if you are new to it look, experiment, learn it, but don't overthink it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Don't try too hard because you're trying too hard again, can distract you from actually the delivery. So it needs to help you deliver the performance better. If it's a hindrance that don't worry too much about it, you can of course change level later in your D a w I personally like to record a couple of full takes first. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So means the entire song start to finish just to get into the vibe. It's also the right time to make fine adjustments on the hat phone makes and to maybe, you know, adjust the gain of the microphone a little bit better if need to be. And Yeah. So try to, to do that if you're comfortable doing so. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I know that some musical performances have so many words so quickly that it's better to leave gaps and add time to take a breath, but you probably know which way works better for you. Of course. The other way is to record a song section by section, just focus on the verse for a moment. Now, then walk, work on the chorus and so on step by step, the advantage is that you don't have to deliver so much music all at once. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And that often helps with keeping a breath and, you know, managing your air in a, in a better way. So that's also of course, a really, really good way. If you prefer the second way, then I recommend to first set yourself out some markers in your DAW, so that by the press of a button, you can always jump to the verse, jump to the chorus, jump to the bridge so that it makes it really easy for you to navigate in your session. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And if you work with a friend who's recording you maybe still work out these markers in your DW or memorable locations, whatever they called map them out first so that when you speak to one another, you always know what the other person means. And it really makes recording song so much easier. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If, if that's all mapped out. I personally like to record a couple of full takes first and then decide on which direction to go. We might even stick with full takes, or we go into section by section workflows. Often I like to decide for the best take we've had. Look maybe after three full takes. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I might just say, look, let's just listen back. The second one felt really good. Why don't we just stick with the second one and listen through it now? And now, now we work on individual sections. So we might find a certain line that needs updating or certain note was just a touch flat. So we just do these sections again. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You could call this patching up. And for this workflow, it's important to learn punch in and out. Recordings basically means you place the cursor just before the bad note, but you also play a couple of bars of music leading up to it, where you hear your previous take to get into the timing, into the vibe, into the feel into the pitch, and then you sing along and, you know, then automatically goes into recording and you just update that particular section. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if you are unfamiliar with that check your D W's manual or just check for YouTube videos, that's a really important skill to have. Okay, good. I think we're pretty much done here. I personally prefer to not spend days and days and days on one song. I also don't like to record 80 takes on, on vocals because eventually that can get really frustrating for everybody involved. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And there comes the point where as a singer you've hit the peak and it doesn't get better anymore. And if you not keep pushing harder everybody just gets frustrated and gets annoying, but it doesn't get any better. So it's really important to be aware of when you hit your peak and then say, okay, that's, that's what it is now. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let's leave it like this and maybe update this take with a couple of punchin recordings where need to be, and then move on. So fast decision making is definitely a good workflow. Okay. Another thing on recording several takes when you do so it's often useful to compile the best take or golden take as it's called from all the recorder takes means, you know, it might be the intro from the first take and the first chorus from the second one, but only the bridge from the third or whatever you piece it together. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: This is a process that is best done immediately after finishing this song. Don't delay this for later, because life will happen. You get distracted. Something else happens. And before you know it it's been five weeks. And if you try to do that with that much time in between, it's very, very hard to remember what was good. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You have to listen to it again. You might not fear the same anymore as you did on the recording. So you might make different decisions and not necessarily better ones are fined. So if possible, immediately after tracking, compile the takes together, it has to be done before you lay down any additional vocal takes such as ad libs, harmonies, backing, vocals, and so on. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So you, you should not record backing vocals unless you know what the main vocal take is in my opinion, because it might not be a good fit. If you change the main vocals later, that's at least my personal take on it. Okay. So lemme just go over my notes and think about whether there's anything I forgot. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I think I've covered everything everything, but the most important point that I need to make today, we've spoken about so many aspects only about V recording and the most important one. The one that has the potential to give you the biggest leap forward and vocal performance we haven't discussed yet. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That is because that one could be, let me say a little bit offending. It might ruffle, it might, sorry. It might ruffle some feathers. What I'm about to say, so please don't be offended, but I have to say it the very best investment you can do into yourself to get the very best vocal recordings done. Is to hire a professional vocal coach in the days, or sometimes weeks leading up to the recording. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let me rephrase this. Get yourself a vocal coach. If this snow feels like a knife in your back, I'm really sorry. That's not my intention. If I hurt your feelings here, I'm not saying that you are a bad singer. But what I do say is that every singer that I know sings better when going through a certain coaching procedure and I've seen people struggling in the studio a lot, then they came back after vocal coach session and they were like a new person perform 10 times better, more confidence, better pitch, better everything. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And the difference a vocal coaching session can make. Is not something that I could match with all the gear and all the experience that I have as a sound engineer. This is the most important punchline of this episode today. So if you haven't considered it, or if you feel like, ah, you're good enough, you don't need it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wait a moment, give it a shot and try it once at least and experience for yourself. What a difference this can make. I generally believe that we are all better off when we bounce our creativity off other people. And if you can do that with a vocal coach, you might be surprised how much better a performer you are at the other side of it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. So maybe just ask around, ask really good singers that you may know whether they want to be your vocal coach or get some proper training. And going back to the very beginning of this podcast episode I recommended Shelley's singing podcast, which I absolutely love going back. We're closing a circle here. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Somebody like Shelly is probably also in your area, reach out. There are people who offer these services and who have the singing background to make you a better singer, a better version of yourself before you even go into the recording. That is money well spent. So let me just maybe steer back to something else. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I said, I mentioned, you know, external PREMs and how only the, the expensive ones are any good before you buy one of those invest the same amount of money into vocal coaching. You will be surprised what a difference that can make. This is money will invested. If you don't have the budget or you don't feel the need, still check out Shelley's podcast about singing and just go through all the exercises with Shelley, because that will be your warmup exercise. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That can also be to some degree your coaching, depending of course, on where you are as a singer. Yeah. Do something to train yourself up. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: On this note, I think it's time to finish up the episode. The last thing that I want to say for the day is as a production talk podcast listener, if you are in the Northern rivers area or anywhere near the east coast of Australia, I would like to offer a podcast special in my studio for vocal recording sessions. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Reach out to me if you want your vocals recorded professionally, you don't have to. I just told you how I do it. So maybe do it at home if you want to save the money. But if you want to work together with me, you are welcome to do so. So reach out via mix artist.com AU. That is my website. That's how you can contact me or via my social channels. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's also mixed artists.com AU on Facebook. And I. Refer to this podcast episode that you listened to. And for the next couple of weeks from now on, I will give you a discount if you quote this episode. Okay. That's all for today. I hope you had a fantastic time. I hope you got something out for yourself. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Enjoy singing, enjoy making music. And I'll speak to you again next week. Bye for now.
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