Recording vocals / mics set up....Newb questions

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by Craig Williams, May 8, 2021.

  1. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams Tele-Meister

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    Pretty new to recording mics. I have a Behringer XM8500 (SM58 knock off but damn good mic) and an XML990 I recently purchased. Both I realize not the top of the tree but both seem to be well respected workhorse budget mics. I am recording into a Zoom R8 recorder.


    I have used the Behringer mic before and was pleased with the vocals. Also used it to mic up my amp and was actually amazed at the results. So I thought if that sounded ok could only be better with a Condensor mic, enter the XML....Just not very happy with the results. Kinda sounds a bit thin to me and seem to be getting a bit of distortion even at mid gain. Lower than the volumes of the Behringer. I have it set up around 12" away from my face, face of the mic pointed down slightly towards my neck. Pop filter in front. Phantom power on.


    1) Firstly when recording vocals should I be using two tracks? I currently use two, one panned full left, other full right. Gain about midway


    2) The gain set to 50% reasonable, 50 - 75%, I am hearing some distortion, but the peak meter not blinking and the input meter levels not even midway compared to other instruments I am

    recording. Is that an indication something is wrong or I have set something wrong?


    3) As far as I know, and probably wrong....you set the gain on mic or instrument inputs to be just under peaking when pushed. Is that correct?


    4) I can select mic/line or guitar inputs. I assume I should be using the MIC / LINE inputs


    I have never used a Condenser mic before, maybe I am missing something fundamental? All of my input EQ's are set flat.


    Any help appreciated
     
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  2. Sparky2

    Sparky2 Friend of Leo's

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    1) Firstly when recording vocals should I be using two tracks? I currently use two, one panned full left, other full right. Gain about midway
    That is a technique.
    On paper, it seems like it should deliver a more full, stereophonic product in the end.

    One other technique is to record one performance to a given track, and then have the singer re-record the exact same performance to another, separate track. (Taking care to endeavor to re-create every single nuance of the first run.)
    Because there will always be slight, subtle differences in the performances, you end up with a fatter, more chorus-like outcome.
    This was a very popular technique with Black Sabbath producer Roger Bain.
    Listen to Ozzy Osborne's vocals on the album Paranoid.
    Awesome.


    2) The gain set to 50% reasonable, 50 - 75%, I am hearing some distortion, but the peak meter not blinking and the input meter levels not even midway compared to other instruments I am recording. Is that an indication something is wrong or I have set something wrong?
    The gain on the PA head or mixer you mean? Or the Input Volume slider on the Zoom R8 multi-track recorder, for your individual vocal track?
    If you hear distortion in the vocal Play-back, slide it down a bit until that stops.
    And then try it again.
    Record clean, and then adjust individual track volumes in the mix-down.


    3) As far as I know, and probably wrong....you set the gain on mic or instrument inputs to be just under peaking when pushed. Is that correct?
    That's the general rule, but you really have to treat each track with its own set of considerations.
    My vocals and the vocals of my band's girl singer are definitely not recorded the same.
    She projects louder, and at distinctively different timbres and frequencies than mine.


    4) I can select mic/line or guitar inputs. I assume I should be using the MIC / LINE inputs
    Yes, MIC/LINE is the correct input.

    :)
     
  3. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams Tele-Meister

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  4. Sparky2

    Sparky2 Friend of Leo's

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    Okay, I understand now.

    I would experiment with the Input Gain knobs set for 50% (or the twelve o'clock position), and see if you get distortion.

    That R8 has a little light near each Gain knob to let you know that input is active, and another (probably red) Peak Light to let you know when the Input is saturated.

    Test the vocal mic input prior to pressing REC (I will generally sing or say, "test, test"), and roll the Gain knob up until the Peak Light flickers on, and then back it down an 1/8th turn. That's a good starting point.

    The Track Sliders are for your mixdown volume adjustments, and for your Playback monitoring use.

    :)
     
  5. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams Tele-Meister

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    The gain on 50% seems ok, no distortion. Even with the gain on 75% the peak light isn't coming on but there is a some distortion. Not much but enough to be noticeable. But the input levels on the meter seem fairly low compared to how loud I can record drums or guitar without distortion. Is it normal to use EQ on the mics if the mic sounds a bit thin? I just thought the Condenser mic would sound so much broader and lush
     
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  6. Sparky2

    Sparky2 Friend of Leo's

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    It depends upon the condenser mic.

    I hate to say that there's a direct correlation between dollars spent and the lush awesomeness of the sound, but it's probably true.

    My band shared the stage with a bluegrass combo, and we set their condenser on a simple mic stand, and those guys played and sang in a semi-circle around that one mic. (They didn't want to plug their guitars, banjo, and mandolin into our PA, and they didn't want individual vocal mics, like Shure 58s for instance.)
    I didn't understand it until I climbed off the stage and heard them perform.

    My GOD they sounded fantastic.

    I asked later, and their condenser mic was a Neumann. Probably around $700 at the time.

    Back to recording;
    EQ tweaks are normal, and anything you can do to adjust each track to get it to sound like you want, you should do.

    :)
     
  7. '64 Tele

    '64 Tele Tele-Holic

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    I'll mention the obvious, as it hasn't been mentioned......
    Do you have phantom power to your condenser mic??
     
  8. Len058

    Len058 Tele-Meister

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    I think the condenser needs to be close to the source and pointed directly at the source, no angle.
     
  9. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Tele-Afflicted

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    Vocal microphoning basics: I set up my vocalistas thus: I put up a music stand with a foam sheet in front of the vocalist, high enough that the artist's head is level and not turned down, closing off the larynx. I set up the mic slightly above nose level but pointing at the mouth. Try to think of the vocalist as singing through a mechanical, cone-shaped megaphone. The cone shape describes the zone where popping is most prevalent. Stay out of that blast zone if possible, unless you are doing whispering or very quiet work. You can demonstrate it by singing with your hand in front of your mouth. Move it around until you do feel blasts on your hand when you his plosives (Ps) Use a pop filter as well. With this set up, my starting distance is between one and two hands. Change as necessary. Remember that the presence effect (turn-up of bass frequencies as you get closer to the mic) is different for each mic. Use your ears to adjust the presence.
    No. Use one panned to the middle and recorded to one track. Two mics with two tracks has too many opportunities for phase cancellation.
    Yes, use a mic input. YOU are the final controller of distortion. You must do what is necessary to prevent it. I've got clients who can rage at a mic and I won't get distortion anywhere up the chain. I've got one particular client who, with his normal speaking voice, pushes the chain into distortion way before any meter seems above the mid-point and way before any overdrive light goes off. And we are talking about recording with a $3000 Neuman mic and a $3000 preamp. In digital recording their isn't the need to run the levels hot like there was with analog. We were always fighting the noise floor back in analog days and we don't fight it now. These days the main consideration is NO DISTORTION (unless, of course, someone actually LIKES digital distortion. Trust your ears. remember that a spike in one small frequency band will often get past the meters and the O/D lights but is enough to cause distortion. Trust your ears when it comes to distortion.

    All the best,

    Bob
     
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  10. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    Single channel panned down the centre.

    With the condenser, try getting in real close and listen for the proximity effect fattening things up. You should also hear more detail (eg, slight lip smacking, breathiness, etc). Close is ideal for a breathy quiet style of singing. Lean back from the mic when you want to belt it out. I would normally get in a bit closer than the 12 inches you mention so as to bring out the richness in my baritone, but it depends very much on the singer as well.

    I haven't used that particular mic, but a lot of these budget condenser mics are overly toppy to my ear. You may be able to tame that to some extent with EQ in the mixing phase. Bringing down the top end has the effect of boosting mids and bass in terms of the relative frequency balance.
     
  11. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    This is excellent advice. I also agree about The risk of phase cancellation if you’re using two mic’s.

    As someone else mentioned, check the condenser for phantom power. As an aside, I bought an in-line booster for a passive ribbon mic but now I use it for my dynamic mic (SM57) as well. It really helps with headroom to get a clear, hiss-free recording.

    Good luck.
     
  12. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    If you fall into the Condenser Mic Abyss, I recommend the AKG C1000s.
    If you don't have phantom power, you can put an Alkaline 9v battery in it.

    Your Board will need a Bass Cut and a -20 db switch.

    If your board has phantom but, doesn't have those roll off switches, make sure your mic does.

    Another Solid choice is the Sennheiser 412 or/and the Shure SM7.
    Both are Dynamic and work great.

    Just remember, it is all about the Song and, the strength of the Performance.

    -ST
     
  13. Ed Driscoll

    Ed Driscoll Tele-Afflicted

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    I can't stress how important this is -- there's no reason to try to get close to red-lining the VU meter when recording in digital, particularly if you're recording at 24-bits.

    In his classic "Why do your recordings sound like ass?" monster-mega thread at the Reaper forum (which can be found here in PDF form and is highly recommended for everyone doing home recording, no matter what DAW you're using), the audio engineer whose handle is "Yep" wrote:

     
  14. 1955

    1955 Doctor of Teleocity

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    This isn’t exactly what you asked, but you said you were new, so I wished somebody would’ve told me what I’ll share with you when I was recording 20 years ago. I don’t do it anymore, but maybe one thing or two might help.

    Main thing, keep at it, but don’t take it too seriously. A poor recording of a great song with a confidently delivered vocal beats lipstick on a pig every time.

    When recording demos at home, I would hold a pop screen in my left hand and the condenser in the right. I tried to get close to the mic when singing low volume, pull back for belting, turn to the right slightly and quickly when singing a “p” or “b” sound. Just experiment with mic technique and try different things. I used a preamp and compressor before going into the board. EQ, it’s always better to take away than boost, but the natural sound without too much EQ is what I liked. Post production limiting, hand riding the fader, noise gating, compression, etc. are all useful. The more reverb you put on, the farther away it will be in the mix. I mixed vocal in the center. The arrangement of the song, in my opinion, needs to support the vocal, and the instruments laying back during the lead vocal parts and having space in the arrangement is important.

    In a professional studio and live soundchecks in general, warming up is very important. Don’t blow your voice out belting while they get levels.

    Singing on a recording, things to remember are to have confidence, pick the right key for your voice, practice it before recording, it’s better to be real with mistakes that you can replicate live than trying for perfection or showing off range, don’t spend too much time on the recording/mixing, etc., spend it on making a good, simple song with a strong melody and singing what you can comfortably sing, don’t overdub a bunch of leads to cover up a poor main lead vocal, don’t have long phrases joined together quickly or overdubbed hooks in the song that will make it hard for you to take a breath or sing it live.

    Good luck to you.
     
  15. FortyEight

    FortyEight Tele-Afflicted

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    I have three mics. Two are borrowed. (MXL990 , SM58, SM57) One of the mics a friend borrowed to me was an MXL990. I'm assuming we're talking about the same mic but either you or I have the first 3 letters mixed up. I believe it to be an MXL990. And if that is the case... I didn't like it. It seemed to do my acoustic guitar OK. But I really didn't like it for vocals at all. I found the same thing you did. Thin and when trying to get it hotter, distorted. I'm actually not all that super against some distortion, but it's gotta sound right. And yeah, I just didnt' like what I was hearing from that mic for vocals.

    It's funny cuz it's more expensive then a 58 or 57. But so far for me, the mic that gives me the best results is a 58. I like it better than a 57 for vocals. I like the 57 better for amps.

    I put the MXL990 back in the box after one song and don't really feel like I want to try it again. I think the other two I got just do a better job.

    I almost always do my vocals like Sparky2 said. Doubled, but different takes. Plus I do lots of harmonies so there are many times multiple vocal tracks on my songs. I sometimes will double the harmonies too. But yeah, different takes of them. Not just doubling the same. Anytime I try to double the same of anything, it doesn't make it sound fuller, it makes it sound crappy to me. I just had this issue with a song and my drummers tracks. He sent me 16 tracks. All which were 8 tracks doubled. I couldn't get it to sound what I thought was good until I just muted the doubled tracks down to 8.

    I'm still a novice recording engineer. And I'm still learning. But these are my thoughts. My advice is to try the behringer for vocals. If it is close to a sure 58, then I think that's a good option. Buying a real 58 or 57 might be even better but maybe not.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2021
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