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December 14, 2017, 02:39:20 AM
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Read August 14, 2017, 01:20:14 AM #0
Cazrolina

Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Evening all,

Need to ask you clever folks for your advice, this time re recording vocals.
Hopefully im getting some recording snuck in next week (first time in AGES!!) but I don't reeeeeally know what I'm doing with the equipment.

I need tips on how to improve/boost the volume of  recordings. I've got a sontronics stc3x mic and scarlet focusrite2 and have been turning up the gain a bit on the focusrite to get a bit more volume before recording. But I think I probably shouldn't have to be doing this, nor should I have to belt it out as much when singing...? The mic is supposed to be fine for spoken voice... hmmm.

any thoughts/pointers...??

I had a little bit of previous advice from Jon, in a review of a WIP, but can anyone elaborate a little on how to do the below? (I'm using GarageBand. Hoping to start with logic next month.)

Any help, general ideas, or taking the p*ss out of my usual "learner driving", gladly appreciated Smiley


Some tips to unleash the voice I feel is hiding behind the recording:
- Try recording the vocals three times, one in the centre with a high shelf EQ from say 5K to make it more present and put a little more compression on it as you have in the recording.  The other two, pan one about 60% L and one about 60% R, not as much high self EQ (so not as present), and 4-6 dB lower in volume (to start).  This will add a cool chorus effect and bring that sultry voice even more to the front.
- Like above, some more compression
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 01:27:40 AM by Cazrolina »

 
Read August 14, 2017, 07:15:28 AM #1
Boydie

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Hiya

My initial reaction is to say turn everything else down to increase the volume of the vocal

Here are some useful "rules of thumb" to help you

In the "old days" when we were recording to tape it was important to record as "hot" (loud) as possible to ensure the source being recorded was much louder than the background tape noise (hiss)

Nowadays in the digital the opposite it almost true - if you record at quieter levels you will tend to get a cleaner signal - e.g. Cranking up the input preamps on you audio interface (the Focusrite "gain") can introduce noise

The biggest enemy to avoid in the digital world is "clipping" - where you record too hot (loud) so that the audio actually distorts or gets compromised in some way (e.g. Glitches), which when recorded is (virtually) impossible to get rid of

It is therefore much better to err on the side of caution and record at lower levels

When recording you can only change the recording level via the audio interface preamp controls (the gain knob on your focusrite) - the faders in your daw will NOT affect the recorded level, only the monitoring/playback level

When you record your vocal (or any instrument) I would aim for a level between -10 and -6dbs on your meter (roughly half to 2/3 of your meter) making sure that when you sing your loudest bit it doesn't go into the red

Some record through a compressor to control peaks but I would strongly advise against, especially for someone less familiar with recording

Once it is recorded you can experiment with compressors, riding the vocal (to use automation to bring the quiet sections up and the louder bits down)

I would say that "riding the vocal" is the secret "magic ingredient" to loud punchy vocals as you can effectively sculpt your vocal performance to ensure the loud bits aren't too loud and the quiet bits get turned up (e.g. "Breathy" sections or ends of words, which really does increase the emotional impact of the vocal)

When it comes to mixing I would aim to keep your whole mix peaking at around -6dbs on your master meters (it will keep going up as you add more instruments so you may find yourself turning things down as you go - try to keep your master fader at ZERO and turn each instrument or bus down to control the level (meter) on your master bus

If everything is sounding too quiet simply turn up your monitoring (e.g. the output or headphone control on your focusrite)

Once you have your final mix bouncing around -6dbs we can look at some rudimentary "mastering" techniques to boost the overall volume of your mix so that the volume matches commercial releases - but I would suggest getting your workflow sorted for recording and mixing first

Hope this helps





To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic
 
Read August 14, 2017, 02:49:57 PM #2
Viscount Cramer & His Orchestra

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

I'm a bit surprised that you're having to turn the gain up on the interface...I would have thought you would have been getting it pretty loud with that set-up. But what the hell do I know!

Hope you don't mind me chiming in...I have no real weight behind me and hope that somebody who knows more will either agree or shoot me down in flames and give you the correct info.

I would record the vocal dry - without any effects - at least until you are more sure of what you are doing.

Jonlint probably knows a damn sight more than me about it and may be spot on with his advice on getting the sound that he thinks you ought to go for but I would save the experimentation for later and just record without effects at first.

So, am I right or am I wrong?


Take it easy.

You can check my stuff out here. Mini-album getting bigger slowly. Free download if you're poor.

Easy Life - Viscount Cramer
 
Read August 14, 2017, 04:03:14 PM #3
Boydie

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Quote
I would record the vocal dry - without any effects - at least until you are more sure of what you are doing.

Jonlint probably knows a damn sight more than me about it and may be spot on with his advice on getting the sound that he thinks you ought to go for but I would save the experimentation for later and just record without effects at first.

So, am I right or am I wrong?

I would say you are 100% right

IMHO it is much better to record dry so that you can add the right amount (and right type) of reverb at the mixing stage - it also keeps your options open if you change your mind at any point in the future - even years later!!! - eg if you get a new amazing reverb plugin you want to use

If you like hearing reverb whilst you record it is possible to add reverb to the "monitor mix" without actually recording it so you can get the best of both worlds!


To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic
 
Read August 14, 2017, 08:51:48 PM #4
Cazrolina

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Well. I'd say that this advice helps, Boydie. Smiley!! Thanks so very much for taking the time to send this. Exactly the detail i needed. And very much appreciated. 

Now that i know this, it all makes so much more sense. Just turn the other levels down. (Durr Smiley 
I experienced a bit of 'clipping' when i was recording the last time, and rerecorded a take after reducing my own volume, gain and distance from the mic etc.  Its a learning curve, and I'm recording blind, so to speak, but I'm getting there. Golden nugget by golden nugget, lol.

I'm recording dry, but am chuffed to say i worked out how to include reverb in the headphone/monitor mix (by accident - lol).

Every time i see the thread "when did you finish your first song" it makes me chuckle n roll eyes at myself... Workflow for recording is impossible lately, but my babysitter is now back in the uk, my eldest starts school soon and I'm taking the studio equipment to my parents this weekend.
 - I can FINALLY catch up on some recording. Hoo-bloomin-ray. Cant wait to get properly going. And Ive started 3 tracks in the meantime. Got the fever....

The "riding the vocal" advice is brilliant too.

Thanks again, ever so.
Cheers
C
 
Read August 14, 2017, 09:18:13 PM #5
Cazrolina

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

I'm a bit surprised that you're having to turn the gain up on the interface...I would have thought you would have been getting it pretty loud with that set-up. But what the hell do I know!

Hope you don't mind me chiming in...I have no real weight behind me and hope that somebody who knows more will either agree or shoot me down in flames and give you the correct info.

I would record the vocal dry - without any effects - at least until you are more sure of what you are doing.

Jonlint probably knows a damn sight more than me about it and may be spot on with his advice on getting the sound that he thinks you ought to go for but I would save the experimentation for later and just record without effects at first.

So, am I right or am I wrong?

Hey Viscount. 

Thanks heaps for the pointers. Chime away.

Dry - yes. On songs for others i haven't struggled as much, but on my own songs i have. Perhaps because my songs have more tracks (and prob use loads more processing/memory than they should). But theres only one way to find out.....
---Runs off to start tinkering with output levels on multiple WIPs.

Speak soon!

Cheers
C
 
Read December 02, 2017, 09:31:31 AM #6
Cawproductions

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Hi Caz.

This is my tip,

Record your vocal in dry as most have said.
Then either record some doubles as tight as you can. or use the same WAV.
So you now have 3 tracks,
1 is your main centered vocal, the other 2 pan out left and right.
Then nudge the timing of your double tracks, one backward and the other forward just slightly and enough so it doesnt sound like its phasing too much. Drop these two way down in the mix and just have it peaking out behind your main vocal. This will add subtle space to your main vocal. You can also eq these double tracks to give more "Air" or to be smooth.

Add compression and EQ to your main vocal to suit and then mix them in, If you want tight punchy vocals, Then fast compression with fast release times on your compressor is what you need.
Or, nice smooth leveled out style, slow attack speed with a long release time....

Just a case of messing with settings.

Hope this helps and doesn't sound like tech BS.

Andy

 
Read December 02, 2017, 04:17:32 PM #7
Ramshackles

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Nowadays in the digital the opposite it almost true - if you record at quieter levels you will tend to get a cleaner signal - e.g. Cranking up the input preamps on you audio interface (the Focusrite "gain") can introduce noise

Not strictly true.

Turn the gain up as much as you can without clipping your audio interface - Make your meter peak at 0 VU (which is +4 dBu or -20 dBFS). This will maximise your signal to noise ratio, Ensuring your vocal is as loud and clear as possible without clipping or having unwanted distortion.

Explanation

In general, your audio interface has 2 stages.

The microphone preamp. This is an analogue only stage which is designed to accept microphone level signal (Generally between -60 to -40 dBu) and output 'Line level' signals (much more tightly defined at +4dBu*).

The analogue-digital converter. Designed to be optimal when provided signals of +4dBu.

So in order to make sure we have the best possible signal going into our computer, we need make sure our preamp (or audio interface if it is an all in one bundle) is outputting an analogue level of +4dBu. If your interface has a meter, it will be showing this analogue signal usually on a VU scale. So to get the best possible signal you need to:

- Crank your preamp gain as much as possible (in order to maximise the signal to noise ratio)
- Don't crank it so much that your meter ever exceeds 0 VU**

Analogue vs Digital levels
Digital audio signals are measured differently (argh!). They use a scale called dBFS.
0VU == +4dBU == -20 dBFS. (This isnt a hard standard - some digital equipment allows you to shift the analogue output level of 0 VU to -18 or even -14dBFS ). Most of the time when we look in our DAW, we are once again being shown the analogue *output* level of dbU.

My final tips.

- Record your vocals in mono. (Unless using 2 mics!  Huh)
- Practice mic technique to keep that meter as stable as possible around 0 VU.


*This is true for the pro audio world, but in the hi fi world line level is often defined as -10dBV
**Depending on your preamp & meter it might be perfectly OK for some short signals to exceed this without incurring digital clipping - consult your manual.

« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 04:19:11 PM by Ramshackles »

 
Read December 02, 2017, 07:02:46 PM #8
Cawproductions

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Hi Ram,

I cant agree more with a lot of this and like the tech detail.

But lets take it back to Caz's original question, Yeh theres a lot of science here but most peeps will be looking for something simple like 3/4 on the scale as an input max.

As a very general rule of thumb which encompasses both yourself and Boydies thoughts, I would say,
if you are recording section by section, audition the part and keep an eye on the max rec levels, 3/4  should be good. Then you have a good recording level and a good signal to noise ratio.

Just to be clear I dont disagree with anyone here.

Always another way..

Plenty of people to offer different methods.....all not wrong

Good times
Andy



 
Read December 02, 2017, 10:12:26 PM #9
Boydie

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

That is a great explanation of the theory and at a pro level that is invaluable advice

I was thinking more on the "consumer" level where audio interfaces do not have meters - often just a red clipping light or even a green/red light/ring

In light of many consumer audio interfaces not having VU meters I still stand by the general principle for those recording at home to not crank the pre-amps on their audio interfaces to get as hot a signal as possible but to aim for a recorded level of -10dbs - as opposed to the old tape days where the mantra was to record as hot as possible to hide the tape hiss

As always, the best thing to do is to experiment with different approaches to find what works best for your particular setup



To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic
 
Read December 03, 2017, 09:49:38 AM #10
Ramshackles

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Yes, didn't mean to discredit anything that has gone before me (really hard to convey intent/expression on the internet!)
Reducing gain at the expense of more noise is preferable to clipping which is way harsher on the ears!
But noise does still exist in all preamps so it is balancing act. My initial reaction when asked about too quiet vocals is always 'have you got the preamp cranked enough'. With even the cheapest equipment available today there is no reason that you can't record all your tracks (guitar, box, drums, whatever) to the same final level of ~0VU meaning everything in your DAW has roughly the same level.
 
Read December 04, 2017, 11:07:46 PM #11
Cazrolina

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Andy, Boydie, Ramshackles,

This is fabulously invaluable information and I really appreciate the time you have all taken to provide and discuss this - and at a level that my brain has just about grasped on to. (I think.)
Thanks a million.


My recording set-up means I am a rather simple red light/green light girl re the audio interface.

QUESTION: So are we saying that my best option is to move the volume slider on the DAW from 0 to +6.0db before recording, then attempting to stay at the perfect +4.0db level by singing a steady volume vocal audition whilst tweaking gain to find the optimal setting for hitting this level.?
- If it sounds like I've got the wrong end of a stick with this please just let me know.  Roll Eyes

In my home recording session last week I've unfortunately gone either past or under the +4.0db spot on all 3 of the songs that I worked on. I recorded with the DAW volume slider at 0db then moved it up/down to find the 2/3 ish level afterwards. I can imagine you're all taking a breath at this, LOL.  I can also feel some new vocal takes coming on.  (When I can. Sigh... Roll on January!)

Always learning. Smiley

Thank GOODNESS for you wonderfully helpful and knowledgeable people.
Caz
 
Read December 05, 2017, 08:19:36 AM #12
Boydie

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???

Hiya

There are a couple of things at play here

To keep things really simple with your setup I would suggest the following...

You can ONLY change the level that is being recorded by the gain/preamp knob on your interface - so in your DAW put your fader to 0dbs AND LEAVE IT THERE FOR ALL RECORDING

When you start recording you need to check the meter on your "armed track" (i.e. The track that is set to record) as most DAWs will show the level coming in when a track is armed (but the fader will still not affect this volume level - that can only be done by the gain/preamp knob on your audio interface)

Make a test recording and then adjust the gain/preamp knob on your interface until the meter on your track is reading around -10dbs (lower is fine with a few peaks (the loud bits) getting to -10dbs would perfect) - DAWs do vary but this is usually about halfway up (or just over) the meter

What you absolutely want to avoid "going in to the red" - as anything that goes above 0dbs can result in horrible unwanted noises (referred to as "clipping")

If you record at these levels you can do a double check that the red light on your DAW is not flashing

You may hear people mention using effects or compression as they record to help get a better sound but at this stage in your recording I would absolutely recommend avoiding that and just concentrate on getting a clean recorded sound - which effectively means recording at around -10dbs and avoiding clipping - achieve these 2 things and you can then use your DAW to sculpt or increase volume levels for mixing

If the recording clips then there is little that can be done other than re-record

Once you have your clean recording and you disarm your track the track meter should now show your recorded level and the fader will affect the volume - if you do clip the signal within your DAW (your next big "thing" to learn is "gain staging") you can always trace the issue and fix it - whereas if you clip when recording you are stuck with it

For now I would forget ALL other values/figures apart from recording at around -10dbs and never going "into the red" when recording



To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic
 
Read December 05, 2017, 10:36:04 AM #13
Ramshackles

Re: Pumping up vocal volume. Any tips???


QUESTION: So are we saying that my best option is to move the volume slider on the DAW from 0 to +6.0db before recording, then attempting to stay at the perfect +4.0db level by singing a steady volume vocal audition whilst tweaking gain to find the optimal setting for hitting this level.?
- If it sounds like I've got the wrong end of a stick with this please just let me know.  Roll Eyes
In addition to what Boydie said, here is what I do when faced with a preamp with just a red light indicator:

- Sing a short phrase from the loudest part of the song, as loud as I would sing it in reality (Or even a bit louder Cheesy)
- Turn the preamp gain up until the red light is on when singing that loud phrase
- Now slowly back off the preamp gain until the red light never goes on when singing that loud phrase

You are now set at maximum possible gain. After recording, if you still have problems with volume, you at least know it wasnt your recording levels.


I'd also note that the level you will get when playing back your raw recording will *always* be less than what you hear on commercial/mastered recordings. The volume (and perceived volume) is almost always boosted (through compression and limiters - not by just pushing up the fader) after recording.
 
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