Jump to content

Help: need tips in recording voice!


Recommended Posts

I'm thinking of doing a cappella remix, but I seriously need tips on making my recordings and voice samples sound perfect.

First off, I have a SHURE SM57 Mic. Most remixers recommened this mic for being really good.

Second of all, the program. I'm using a freeware called "WavePad" which specializes on voice recording. You can download it from here:

http://www.download.com/WavePad/3000-2170_4-10526522.html

If there's a better freeware program, please let me know. I find this one to be pretty good.

Now...the things I need to do to make recording perfect. Now when I first record my voice via Wavepad and Mic, it doesn't come out good at all. I need to do a "high-pass filter" to make it sound audible. Is this normal? If so, then what's the recommended high-pass filter I need to do? The program tells me that "Radio/Telephone" quality audio is 4000 Hz. Should I do that one or is it a bit too high?

Regarding Distortion, I'm having a problem eliminating it. What should I do? I know that lowering the recording volume helps, but should I do that from Wavepad directly or use the stuff featured in my XP like the "Volume Control" and "SoundMAX control panel"?

Of course, I'll have multilayering in my cappella remix. Should I make the singing voice the highest in volume....then the back-up humming and voices lower by how much? Is 25% good? Should I make all the backup layers the same volume or different?

I also know that normalizing should be the last thing I do after I finish recording everything, right?

Any other additional tips? Wavepad has some weird effects I know nothing about like "Automatic Gain Control", "Noise Reduction", and "Dynamic Range Compressors". Are those helpful in any way?

Thanks in advance! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Shure 57/58 are standards in studois, simply because they put out a decent sound but are extremely rugged and extremely cheap. If you're going to do something like an all vocal mix I highly reccomend you getting something higher up, like a Rode N1TA or N2TA, thoser mics produce a much better sound quality (but aren't quite as rugged or versatile and should be treated with care). Aside form that, I haven't really worked with mics much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

tgfoo brings up an excellent point... you could have a fantastic mic, but if the rest of the recording chain is no good, then the final result will be no good. In other words, your sound quality is only going to be as good as your gear's weakest link.

However, I disagree with Doomsday on the SM57/58 thing. They're excellent mics not only because they're durable, but because they sound good. I record with a 58 every week and it sounds great (I only use a Behringer UB502 and an EMU0404 in the chain, so nothing fancy). But it's also worth noting that you can even have a bad mic and get a good sound. For a collab I just recently finished w/ pixietricks, she recorded on a headset mic which is absolutely TINY. You wouldn't expect it to sound good but with a little bit of polish in the production stage, the recording came out great. If we can manage good results with that mic, you should do FINE with a 57/58. :)

Anyway, here are some other general tips when it comes to vocal recording...

1. You say you're doing an acapella mix so you probably don't want a lot of room noise. Thus you want to position yourself pretty close to your mic, but not so close that the bass part of your voice gets exaggerated ("proximity effect", which occurs in mics like the 57).

2. Your recording - with no editing or processing whatsoever - should be loud enough so that your loudest sections are around -10 to -6db. If you record really quiet, when you boost it later you'll have a lot of noise. If you record too loud, you risk clipping, and that can't be fixed once the recording is made.

3. Once you have recorded a part, I would normalize it first. Next, I would make any EQ changes you want to make. Then, I would use compression to level out everything - the amount of compression would vary based on the exact type of sound you want. Finally, I would put a limiter on everything to ensure there's no clipping, and then normalize once more.

Now, this is just the way I do things - it's not the only right way of recording. It's just what I have found works very well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First off, I have a SHURE SM57 Mic. Most remixers recommened this mic for being really good.

The SM57 is a good mic overall, but the SM58 is more tailored towards vocals. It has a natural low-end rolloff, more presence in the mid to upper range, and of course the included spherical pop filter gives notice towards its intended use. If you want even more of a focused vocal response, you could go for the SM86 condenser, and it's only around $50 bucks more than an SM57. I've used it as an overhead mic on the cymbals, just to give you an idea of it's superb high-end response.

Second of all, the program. I'm using a freeware called "WavePad" which specializes on voice recording.

Audacity is another commonly used freeware sound recorder.

Now...the things I need to do to make recording perfect. Now when I first record my voice via Wavepad and Mic, it doesn't come out good at all. I need to do a "high-pass filter" to make it sound audible. Is this normal? If so, then what's the recommended high-pass filter I need to do? The program tells me that "Radio/Telephone" quality audio is 4000 Hz. Should I do that one or is it a bit too high?

You usually don't have to use a HP filter to make it audible... but, yes, it is typically used for vocals because that is where the pops and booms from breathy syllables are located, lower than 100Hz, and that may even be too much. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you might want to look into (if the wavepad doesn't have one) acquiring a DeEsser for sibilance. A DeEsser is merely a frequency specific compressor.

In regards to the "telephone effect", that is an effect typically found by applying a band-pass filter at the mid-range. A band-pass filter only allows a select range of frequencies to pass through. 1K is most often refered to as the middle of the frequency bandwidth (10Hz to 20KHz).

Regarding Distortion, I'm having a problem eliminating it. What should I do? I know that lowering the recording volume helps, but should I do that from Wavepad directly or use the stuff featured in my XP like the "Volume Control" and "SoundMAX control panel"?

If you can see peaks from the SoundMAX control panel, lower the gain there, otherwise, do it from Wavepad. I don't know if the SM57 has a pad or not, but you might want to try that as well. Pad's typically lower the output by about 20 decibels. Mixer's usually include them as well if you have one.

Of course, I'll have multilayering in my cappella remix. Should I make the singing voice the highest in volume....then the back-up humming and voices lower by how much? Is 25% good? Should I make all the backup layers the same volume or different?

That's all up to you, master engineer :wink: Play around with it until it sounds good to you. There's honestly no formula other than more prominent vocals being more up front (louder), and even that's relative.

There are A LOT sound processors out there, and it would take a long time to explain what they all did to you. I recommend taking a gander at zircon's tips.

Have fun!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow...thanks to everyone who replied. Those are some pretty good tips.

One major thing I wasn't aware about is the importance of the equipment between my PC and the Mic...or recording chain as you guys put it. Yes, I sound like a n00b because I don't have a recording chain. All I do is plug in the Mic into the PC...

So...what is a recording chain exactly? What's the most efficient yet unexpensive one?

Thanks again, guys.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Plugging your mic into your PC is your recording chain. The audio goes into your mic, runs through the cable, is converted from analog -> digital through your sound card, and stored. Thus, a recording chain is merely what your sound has to travel through.

As you can imagine, recording chains can vary greatly. Mine personally was (my hard drive gave out) MXL 990/991 -> UB802 mixer -> Echo MiaMIDI sound card.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Plugging your mic into your PC is your recording chain. The audio goes into your mic, runs through the cable, is converted from analog -> digital through your sound card, and stored. Thus, a recording chain is merely what your sound has to travel through.

As you can imagine, recording chains can vary greatly. Mine personally was (my hard drive gave out) MXL 990/991 -> UB802 mixer -> Echo MiaMIDI sound card.

Oh, ok. Got it. I understood it in a different way.

So how I know my recording chain?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Plugging your mic into your PC is your recording chain. The audio goes into your mic, runs through the cable, is converted from analog -> digital through your sound card, and stored. Thus, a recording chain is merely what your sound has to travel through.

As you can imagine, recording chains can vary greatly. Mine personally was (my hard drive gave out) MXL 990/991 -> UB802 mixer -> Echo MiaMIDI sound card.

Oh, ok. Got it. I understood it in a different way.

So how I know my recording chain?

Plugging your mic into your PC is your recording chain.

8O

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Um... guys, there's more to it than Mic --> computer.

What soundcard to you have? How are you plugging an XLR mic into your computer, which, I'm guessing, doesn't have XLR input?

If your soundcard is just the basic motherboard integrated audio that most PCs ship with, that will impose a substantial and inescapable limit on sound quality. Remember, your recording quality can only be as good as the weakest link in your recording chain. The best mics and audio programs in the world won't help if your soundcard sucks.

Also, if you are plugging your mic directly into your soundcard, you have far less control over the input level than you would with a preamp or mixer (either one of which would be a very worthwhile investment if you plan to continue making live recording a big part of your mixing).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Um... guys, there's more to it than Mic --> computer.

Well, yeah, it SHOULD be more than that. But I was pointing out that his current signal path appears to BE that, and nothing else :P

So...is that bad? Is it significantly better if I get a preamp and whatnot? How much does a preamp cost?

Taucer...I plug in the Mic directly into the microphone opening of my PC...I got this nifty adaptor which I plug into my mic so it can fit through my PC's mic opening.

BTW...how do I know the type and specifics of my PC's soundcard? All I get when I look in My Computer's device manager is "SoundMAX intergrated Digital Audio v. 5.12.1.5240" among other things like codes and Legacy Audio and Video devices...all that under "Sound".

I'm going to try recording something (anything) and post it here for quality feedback.

Thanks again, guys. You've been a big help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That means you have motherboard integrated audio. Probably designed for moderately good playback, with recording capabilities thrown in just so they could say it had recording capabilities.

An audio interface would be a very good thing to get. I'm not an expert on these, though, so I think I'll let somebody else give reccomendations on these.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

BTW Zircon...what do you mean by "putting a limiter on everything" in your initial post?

Right now I'm playing around to see the best way to get some good results. The only thing which confuses me is the Dynamic Range Compressor. It gives me three things to play with, threshold, ratio, and limit (are you referring to this, zircon?". I don't know what to do exactly but the Wavepad program gives me two "default" options to use with this functionality:

1) General voice level: -20db threshold, 4:1 ratio, and 0db limit.

2) TV radio advertisement: 0db threshold, 2:1 ratio, and 10 db limit.

I don't know...but I feel that every time that I play around with something it makes it sounds "higher than usual" or "worse". My initial recording didn't seem too low or too high to me.

Wavepad tells me that sometimes, Automatic Gain Control is better than Normalizing. Wonder if I should use both, or one of them is more than enough.

@souliarc

Wavepad doesn't have a DeEsser. Where can I find that?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Compression makes the quiet sounds louder. Actually, it makes the loud parts quieter, but generally you add gain after compressing, so the end effect is that quieter parts louder. The end result is that the entire mix sounds louder, without the peaks actually being any higher.

Threshold is where the compressor actually starts to take effect. For example, if you have the threshold set at -10 dB, anything below that will be unchanged and anything above that will become quieter. The ratio effects how much quieter those peaks become. As for limit, I'm not entirely sure what that's referring to.

Andy can probably explain all of this better than I can.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Threshold is where the compressor actually starts to take effect. For example, if you have the threshold set at -10 dB, anything below that will be unchanged and anything above that will become quieter. The ratio effects how much quieter those peaks become. As for limit, I'm not entirely sure what that's referring to.

Also, using reverb, nomatter the settings, will make ANY snare drum sound like a cat exploding from a firecracker shoved up its ass.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right now I'm playing around to see the best way to get some good results. The only thing which confuses me is the Dynamic Range Compressor. It gives me three things to play with, threshold, ratio, and limit (are you referring to this, zircon?". I don't know what to do exactly but the Wavepad program gives me two "default" options to use with this functionality:

1) General voice level: -20db threshold, 4:1 ratio, and 0db limit.

2) TV radio advertisement: 0db threshold, 2:1 ratio, and 10 db limit.

Ah, so that compressor has a limiter built in. So, once it compresses the sound, it lets you choose a hard limiting point. That's unusual, but not a really bad thing I guess. I would recommend using Audacity's compressor - in fact, I would recommend using Audacity, period. It's a great program.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, I highly recommend you check out zircon's tutorials. Specifically the mastering section, in the Production Values one, if you want to find out more about compression.

Geoffrey's right on the button about compression, but in regards to limiting, it is simply a more extreme form of compression, with very high ratios. I'd say anything above or around a 25:1 ratio is pretty much limiting. Compressor/limiters can also have more advanced parameters such as attack, release, range, makeup, knees, and many others, but threshold, ratio, and output gain are the most common.

Limiting is mostly used at the end of the mastering process to prevent any peaks at all from getting through. It has a very fast attack, because there can be peaks so fast that it doesn't show in the wave form, and you may not be able to tell until the final product. Some don't even trust putting the threshold at 0 decibels either, and may go for -.3 or something.

I wouldn't trust those defaults, nor the automatic gain control, merely because i'm not sure how well they will apply to your specific mix. I don't know what specifically the AGC does either, but i'd imagine you don't have the options to apply automation to the volume control for large, gradual increases or decreases (to provide your own sort of "manual" compression).

As far as the DeEsser goes, i'm not sure you could find a soft one that is compatible with WaveLab. Audacity may have one, i'm not sure, but if not, you may be able to get by without one. For beginners, Audacity may have an overwhelming way of displaying its parameters (another reason you should check out the tutorails), but it does indeed rock for being free.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow...thanks to everyone who replied. Those are some pretty good tips.

One major thing I wasn't aware about is the importance of the equipment between my PC and the Mic...or recording chain as you guys put it. Yes, I sound like a n00b because I don't have a recording chain. All I do is plug in the Mic into the PC...

So...what is a recording chain exactly? What's the most efficient yet unexpensive one?

Thanks again, guys.

I don't think enough people are aware of USB microphone technology. The Samson CO1U plugs directly into your USB port. No audio interface is needed. It sounds as good as a regular CO1 with a pro interface, and it's only $10 more (I bought my CO1U for around $80).

From there, I would use audacity (that wavepad thing isn't even freeware; it doesnt' let you save). Audacity has a noise removal tool that automatically detects and removes noise, that you might find very useful. I would be sure to use the noise removal tool before applying compression. EQ should probably go before compression also, but how you mix your voice is up to you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right now I'm playing around to see the best way to get some good results.

I hate to be frank, but, you will not get good results from that horrid lame excuse for a sound card in your machine.

On-board soundcards exsist just to allow the PC to make sound with a record input so you can use your webcam (or Skype or whatever) with sound, nothing more.

I suggest you invest in an audio interface. An "audio interface" is musician jargon, though. In a nutshell, it means a soundcard that is designed for audio production.

The cheapest one I can think of off the top of my head is the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96. It can be had for around $90-$100.

Personally, I use the M-Audio Delta 1010LT, and I have been almost completely satisfied with it. (balanced 1/4" TRS inputs instead of RCA, please. My only gripe with that card. Oh well, at least it had an XLR interface thatr I could use for my mixer...)

Installing an audio interface will involve opening the PC up. It is really easy to do, but if you don't feel comfortable doing it, call your favorite PC-knowledgeable person.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right now I'm playing around to see the best way to get some good results.

I hate to be frank, but, you will not get good results from that horrid lame excuse for a sound card in your machine.

On-board soundcards exsist just to allow the PC to make sound with a record input so you can use your webcam (or Skype or whatever) with sound, nothing more.

I suggest you invest in an audio interface. An "audio interface" is musician jargon, though. In a nutshell, it means a soundcard that is designed for audio production.

The cheapest one I can think of off the top of my head is the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96. It can be had for around $90-$100.

Personally, I use the M-Audio Delta 1010LT, and I have been almost completely satisfied with it. (balanced 1/4" TRS inputs instead of RCA, please. My only gripe with that card. Oh well, at least it had an XLR interface thatr I could use for my mixer...)

Installing an audio interface will involve opening the PC up. It is really easy to do, but if you don't feel comfortable doing it, call your favorite PC-knowledgeable person.

90-100$, eh? I'll look into that. I'll also see what's going on with that USB mic...

Anyway, thanks again to Souliarc, Zircon, and Taucer for the additional advise. I read Zircon's production thread like Soul suggested, and I found it to be very useful and easy to read for the most part. I understood some of the definitions, but I'll most likely give it another read while I'm recording. I especially appreciated the vocal examples here and there...I just need to figure out limiting and thresholds when it comes to a cappella remix. It also seems that I'm going to use Audacity from now on...I just downloaded it. I remember trying it a while back but I found it to be very, very in-depth. It's too overwhelming. :P Hopefully I can get into it some way or another.

So...any additional suggestions? I recorded a short sample of my singing via Wavepad without adjusting anything. It sounds good in my ears but I'll most likely post the link to it here to get your opinions on the recording quality.

Thanks again, guys.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Installing an audio interface will involve opening the PC up.

An audio interface isn't always a soundcard :P

It is though, in general terms, an interface in which to connect/tweak your audio. Standard external ones usually come with some XLR and 1/4" jacks, phantom power, and gain knobs. The Mbox is a perfect example of an external audio interface (an overpriced one I might add).

You are very much so right about the soundcard though, and it's always going to be in the chain, unless you're recording with analog tape! I reiterate:

...your sound quality is only going to be as good as your gear's weakest link.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...