022 MixCoach Minute-How to get a good vocal sound

I had a subscriber ask how to EQ a vocal. I told him that getting a great vocal sound really begins before EQ…

Don’t worry… I shared the magic frequencies too.


Raw Transcript:

Hey guys, it is Kevin again with MixCoach. This is another episode of the
MixCoach Minute, brought to you by MixCoach Member. If you really want to
become a great well-rounded mixer that is surrounded by the coolest
community that I am aware of, check out MixCoach Member, okay? There is a
new song every month, tutorials for those songs, mix feedback, and a great
community so check it out when you get a chance. Okay?

I have a question today from Maximum Love, the coolest name ever. He is
asking which frequencies to put in the lead vocal and the chorus, and I am
assuming you mean background vocals when you say “chorus” and not the
section of the song. It could be just a difference in the way we say things
here versus in the UK, Australia or wherever but he says that he wants to
know what frequencies to put in the lead vocals and chorus.

Maximum, or can I call you Max? It really makes a lot of difference;
there’s a lot of things at play here. I do not know that I can just tell
you which frequencies without hearing. I will tell you the general
frequencies a little bit later but I want you to concentrate on a couple of
other things first. Having a good mic and having the vocalist execute a
great mic-ing or even a good mic-ing technique or the way that you are
capturing the vocal makes a lot of difference. If you sing too close to the
mic it is going to sound muddy and boomy most of the time unless you are
going for that effect. You’re going to have little things like P pops,
proximity effect, sibilance may even become more of an issue, distortion
might become more of an issue, gain staging is going to become more of an
issue when you get closer to a mic.

Because here is one of the things to think about, and I know that I have
covered this on other videos but every time you half the distance between a
mike and the subject the volume goes up 6dB. So between here and here, when
you close it to here, that is 6dB, that is another 6dB and that is another
6dB. We are not even on the mike yet, so proximity effect, volume, gain
staging all come into play here. I would have the singer sing about this
far from the mike and make sure you have got pop filters up and keep them
from putting plosives in the microphone, that makes a difference.

So the mic, do not go spending a ton of money, just use what you have got
and learn to use it better. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you
are consistently not getting good vocal sounds, it may not be the mic, it
may be the vocalist. You remember a few episodes ago, a few weeks ago I
talked about where great bass tone comes from; it comes from fingers and it
comes from the player and then it comes from the bass, and then it comes
from the signal chain but it starts with the player.

It is the same thing with getting a great vocal performance. It starts with
the singer. I have recorded some, some high profile people that you would
have heard of and the thing that I noticed is that I could have put an SM57
in front of them. As a matter of fact, I did one of them, or it was an SM5
or an SM7, I cannot remember. It was an SM57-ish kind of mic and the guy
sounded amazing on the microphone. I could have put a U47 and it might have
made a little difference but not much. It starts with the singer and how
they resonate their vocal, how well they can work a microphone.

I have noticed that singers who are very well seasoned in the studio, they
will do as much work as you are doing to get their vocals to sound right.
In other words, they know that there is a sweet spot when they get close to
the mic. Remember I told you about doubling the distance, or halving the
distance for 6dB of difference? If you’re here and you are singing into the
mic and you know how to sing past the mic to keep the plosives from
happening, then this makes 6dB worth of difference. Whereas if you are
standing back here, this doesn’t make any difference at all hardly, maybe
half a dB. So having a great singer sing into an average mic, or even a
mediocre mic you will get a better result.

If you’re not getting the result you want Max, try a different singer. If
it is you, have someone that has a great voice come into your studio just
so that you can see where the standard is and if the problem is you or if
the problem could be that your singer doesn’t capture it. Then it is up to
you as a producer and as a great recording engineer to subtly and very
coach-like, work with your singer and get not only the best signal chain
but the best performance out of them. You do not want to bite them down the
information but you definitely want them to know that they are as
beneficial or as crucial to you getting that sound they want and the sound
you want. They are just as important as any $1,000, $20 mic or $10,000
mic. They are more important than the mike is so work with that.

Now, you wanted to know frequencies, I am going to tell you frequencies, at
least the ones I know, okay? I found that the body of the vocal happens
around 3 to 500. Usually if it gets muddy it will be in the same area. Now
you can add a little bit of a chesty sort of sound at about 300. But what I
would do is set the cue really narrow and then move it around until you
hear the warmness come in. Usually passion happens at 1K. If you want it to
sound like they are singing harder, usually you can add a little 1K to it.
If you want to cut through a track, usually 1K with 900 to 1.5,
usually right around there gives that intensity. Usually definition happens
between 3K and 5K. Usually air happens around 10K.
I hope that helps Max. I will see you tomorrow. Be sure and check out
MixCoach Member when you get a chance. Bye.

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