Does alot of production go into making vocals sound good in rock music?

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by Marquee Moon, Sep 1, 2019.

  1. Marquee Moon

    Marquee Moon Tele-Holic

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    I ask because I just got out of the studio. The vocals sounded great to my ears through his monitors, he was running some effects. Not any pitch correction, but some reverb and some eq that made it sound pretty bright. When we were done we arranged to do the mix, which wasnt too much. He sent me the songs so I could hear how the vocals turned out, and it was bone try, alot darker sounding and the backing vocals were too low. It was honestly a bit depressing, and I was not sure why he changed it. Maybe because we still need to do the actual mix.


    I guess part of it is my voice and singing didnt sound as good as I would like it to. I've never been too high on my singing, but in the studio I thought I sounded alot better. I figured it was because I wasnt using a garbage mic to sing through and I could just stand up and concentrate on my performance without worrying about doing the recording stuff like on my home demos.

    I'm in my 30s but I'm a classic rock guy. I need some reverb and compression on my vocals. I don't like music where it just sounds like some dude straight singing in a vocal booth in a studio. Thats what I don't like about how alot of modern hip hop is produced, and I don't think it should be applied to rock music.



    This basically what I'm going for. Can you hear how its bright, with reverb how it just cuts through the mix? Obviously Joe wasn't a great singer technically, but he was good enough for rock n roll, and the way they produced the vocals made it sound good in spite of his limited range and technique.

    Another part of me though wonders if I'm just being dishonest with myself, and I should just take some vocal lessons of something to sound better. I think it's a bit of both. I do need to improve, but production is important to make good sounding records.

     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
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  2. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Lots of magic available to enhance vocals- eq, compression, doubling, echo, harmonizing, pitch correction.... but it also helps to have a good or at least interesting sounding voice that conveys emotion. Actors make good singers because they know how to access and emote feelings.
     
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  3. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    Final mixing is important. Studio guys really eff it up sometimes. For some reason they think what sounds good loud, through kazillion $ monitors and subs, and right in your face in a studio control room is what's good out in the real world. DUH! I think you have to take the music home, play it in various formats: in the car, on the stereo etc.... make notes.... then go back and sit down with him and make changes.
    I even have some cd's by stars that have a terrible mix. The song will boom at you in places and muddy elsewhere. Don't even get me started about sound engineers and TV shows or music shows....!
     
  4. dcos

    dcos TDPRI Member

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    A lot depends on what you are trying to sing. If you're doing covers, trying to sound like the original, you may never get there because you're just not a's good as they were. However, if you're doing your own originals you can use your own style and abilities and make it sound decent. There's lots of famous artists who had limited vocal ability but made it as singers that way. Bob Dylan comes to mind.

    As far as the mix you didn't like, you should make the guy do it over if he changed it from what you wanted. It could be a difference between his studio monitors and what you're listening through also.
     
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  5. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Ad Free Member

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    In big-time record making, vocals are processed beyond belief. Yes, hold on for the final mix — you may have have gotten just a rough advance mix — and, with luck, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Listen to it on a wide variety of sound systems! But if you're not satisfied, remember you're the client, and the engineer is working for you. It's within your right to rattle his cage if you have specific beefs re the final product.
     
  6. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's

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    I’ve got better at mixing voices over the years but it’s still one of the toughest things to do.

    Good vocal mixing, I’ve found, is about lots of steps, each done subtly. How much and how many depends on the type of sound. A simple vocal track might use:

    Editing
    EQ
    Compression
    Chorus, echo or doubling for giving it body, to taste
    Saturation or distortion if you want that
    Reverb

    A lot of the time what ruins a mix is the vocals being too quiet or “sitting on top”. Effects are part of blending it with the rest of the composition.

    Basically, it’s just like any other instrument except I suppose because we listen people’s voices all the time, over processing is easy to spot. And it’s all about getting a good recording to work with!
     
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  7. Marquee Moon

    Marquee Moon Tele-Holic

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    Thanks, this makes alot of sense to me. This was an issue aswell regarding the vocals sitting on top of the instruments. I want the guitars to kind of swell over the vocals if that makes sense. I don't like an upfront vocal sound for the type of music I'm doing.
     
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  8. Luthier Vandros

    Luthier Vandros Tele-Holic

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    Don't sweat anything at this stage. Engineers often use monitors that embellish certain frequencies to please their clients in the studio. Another thing to consider is that the mix will sound different on every platform it's played, so most engineers will mix to average these out. You can offer him your notes before and after it goes to mastering, so you've still got room to make changes.
     
  9. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I haven't used reverb for ages when mixing vocals.
    Delay is way more interesting and doesn't burry the vox in the mix.
    Depending on the singer I use various degrees of compression and I always eq them carefully so that they do stand out but are still a part of the mix
    A GOOD singer (not necessarily a singer with a killer voice but a singer who knows how to sing and work a mic) really does my job way easier.
    As with ALL lead instruments it is more a matter of how you mix all OTHER instruments than the lead instrument itself.
     
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  10. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

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    My understanding is that vocals "want" a lot of the same frequency space as guitars, and since both are vitally important to rock music, there's a bit of a balancing act there. I believe guitars and drums overlap a bit as well, and I can see how maybe bass would overlap with drums (and perhaps even guitars, at times).

    That being said, it all depends on the result you want. And even then, there are many ways to skin a cat.
     
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  11. Marquee Moon

    Marquee Moon Tele-Holic

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    what type of music do you produce?
     
  12. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Just shoot the guy an email and ask if he mixed the reference tracks he sent you any differently than the playbacks you were listening to on the tracking date, and tell him how you want them to sound in the mix.

    Something to look out for is that it's easy to mix vocals too low if you know the words. If the vocal is unintelligible, your brain will fill in the lyrics and you may not notice they're too low.
     
  13. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

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    been doing studio work & originals for awhile. This year..i put VOCALS first..make the layer cake...drums-P bass-then my rhythm...every amp & guitar for the song is chosen meticulously before go to studio..where will my wife's voice fit...have a ton of Marshall stuff..but this go round,,gain is down.(Supers & Reverb pro).Vocals are such a main part of a band being successful or even people wanting to listen..yeah wanna play guitar like a madman..but..purposefully have built this CD around vocals..its really making a difference...no more vox & guitars fighting..singer with voice fried..am giving the singer the "mix" and building around it
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
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  14. Luthier Vandros

    Luthier Vandros Tele-Holic

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    Listen to the beginning of Photograph by DL. You can hear Elliot click his tongue and the delay repeats bouncing afterwards. Mutt used no reverb in that record or Hysteria - only delay. What an eye opener.
     
  15. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Holic

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    It's very difficult to answer this without hearing the track in question, but on the link you've posted it is clear that, despite his technical limitations, Joe is giving all he's got in front of that mic. IMO a vocal track that works well in a mix comes first and foremost from the singer not holding back. It can be whispered but the singer has to not hide anything and stand naked with all his imperfections. When you've achieved that state, the production is just the icing on the cake.
    When I hear the last great Jason Molina sing, his vocal sounds as good on his first low-fi DIY recordings and demos than it does on his latter, professional material with Steve Albini. "At least the dark don't hide it" I guess...
     
  16. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I’m a big delay instead of verb on lead vocal kind of guy. But. It really all depends. Sometimes that can make the singer sound like they are in a completely different room than the rest of the instruments. Which can be kinda weird.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
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  17. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Everything,from traditional and modern Greek bouzouki popular music to funk , alternative and punk.
     
  18. Ben Harmless

    Ben Harmless Friend of Leo's

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    Here's the (a) secret: Rock music, like many other genres is actually mixed to a context. For me, I want my mixes to evoke hearing a band in a small club - sometimes a big band in a small club. I want intimacy, but also the dimension that comes from having all the complex stereo information you'd absorb in that setting.

    For me, it's typically delay over reverb, and even more than delay, I'll use a lot of vocal takes and use the extras as delay repeats, which to my ear is more interesting than modulating a delayed signal. I do often mess with the delayed takes with EQ and such. If I use reverb, it's usually for the early reflections.

    Also, compression and/or distortion. Depending on how i compress, I might not distort. Depending on how I distort, I might not compress. Joe's vocals in London Calling are a good example - they sound to me like they've got some classic and heavy compression/limiting on them based on the way you hear some of the breath sounds and the overall dynamic range.

    To my tastes, this stuff combines to mimic the experience of hearing vocals sung into a PA straining to stay above the wall of sound coming off the foot-high stage at 200-person club.

    Also worth practicing recording yourself singing at home to pick apart your own delivery.

    Nothing is written in stone, of course, and if you listen to The Oblivions, you'll hear recordings that I love that sound like they use little or no processing on anything and barely practiced at all - but in a really magical way.

    ...And not all mixes, or even all of my mixes are rock and roll.

    This is why it's an art.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
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  19. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

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    How many sets of monitors did his studio have? If only one, likely he hasn't referenced playback across multiple speaker types which would make it sound better on multiple systems. That is one thing a top end studio will do.

    Regarding vocals they spend an enormous amount of time on lead vocal and background vocals. Compression, EQ and most importantly, volume automation. Not to mention sidechain compression, and automated delay and reverb if required. These last few make the difference between amateur vs professional recordings. Then there is mastering, another whole level of polish.
     
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  20. InstituteOfNoise

    InstituteOfNoise Tele-Holic

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    I find it amazing that mixers and artists don't have more conversations on what the end result is supposed sound like. Many times I see the mixers or engineers just do their own take without respect to the artists vision. Granted many artists don't know or even care sometimes. I've gotten numerous records the past couple of years for remixing, because it just didn't meet expectations due to different visions. When I get clients who don't know the process I try to take the time to educate them along the way. Makes my job easier and their expectations get met, and probably become long time clients to me. Have conversations, give as much reference material to the mixer, engineer or producer. Depending on the relationship setup, they work for the artist, unless the producer controls everything and has last say. You don't see much of that anymore though.

    Now as far as vocal production/mixing, all the usual things already mentioned above. I mainly do Rock productions/mixing, but far from limited to that... I'll add I also change up the effects as the song dynamically builds. I may use mono reverbs or delays, less verb in verses, then when choruses or build sections hit, I'll switch out to stereo reverbs and delays, sometime stacking reverbs/delays to create depth front to back as well as side to side. All automated and many times the effects themselves include eq and/or compression. And speaking of compression, many times I stack compressors on a vocal chain, to make the vocal more forward and present in the mix. Incremental, not hitting hard, to get a desired sound.
     
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