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Old 07-13-2009, 06:15 PM   #1
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Vocal effects..when is it too much?

So I'm working the vocal sections of our band's recordings and I have some questions for you guys.

I don't have a strong voice. I can sing on key ( a little pitchy sometimes), and on time and everything, but I don't really have one of THOSE voices. The other guy in the band has one of those voices that you never forget: full, distinct, full of character, etc. Mine is more of a backup voice, but I sing most of our songs.

So my resolution? a sort of vocal effect. I found that running my voice through my Peavey Classic 30 with a little bit of dirt and reverb makes my voice stand out more in the mix, hides some boringness in my voice, and so on. It sounds like it's coming from an old radio or something, but not TOO extensively. Maybe I'll post up a sound clip or something for an example..

Anyways, I've started using it on most songs, and it's quite effective for the sound of our songs and our band. The problem is, I don't know how much is too much. I've always been one that believes that slight uses of effects are more effective, and not as cheesey. This doesn't sound cheesey to me, and it still lets the songs really sound distinct and "right".

The Killers did it on their first two CDs, and I loved it.

Anyways, long story short, I want to know when too much is too much.

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Old 07-13-2009, 06:51 PM   #2
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An obvious question.... If you've got a guy with one of THOSE voices, and you're more of a backup kinda guy, why are you not using him more for vocals?
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Old 07-13-2009, 06:57 PM   #3
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I did a show with a band recently (Casey Driessen).. The singer wanted that same sort of sound on his voice... a little dirty, a little filtered etc.. So, what he used was the Shure Green Bullet mic. It's designed to be a harmonica mic, but it sounded incredible on his voice. (You can hear a little demo of the effect on the song "Conversations wtih Death" on his myspace: casey driessen on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads ).

As far as your actual question... it really depends on the song, and the voice etc (But I'm sure you already know that). If you're looking to get a lot more color out of your voice, without it getting to be too much, try having channels with both clean and effected vocals, and layering them. Layer it so that the clear voice is most present, but have some of the distorted (I'd recommend overcompressing it too) laying just below the surface. For some added effect, you can even switch up the two via automation during different parts of the song.

For an example of this sort of thing, check out my portfolio in my sig and listen to the demo song called Dog Named Blue... I had a second vocal track (recorded off a piece of sheet of aluminum in a baffle actually which gave it some dirt to it already), I distorted the track a little with the mic pre, and ran it through a compressor with a super high ratio (it was actually the "nuke" feature on an 1176) and got about 14-16db of gain reduction. It was gorgeous. I set it just under the regular vocal to give it some body, and at about 2 minutes after the solo, I brought it into full focus.

So yeah, I'm a big fan of vocal effects, but they have to be used on the right voice, and sometimes at the right time. I would say consider varying up the effect based on the song (lighter songs, lighter/no distortion and vice versa). Another popular vocal effect is delay. You're probably not used to "hearing" vocal delay like you do on guitars, but it's usually because the delay will get muted at the end of a phrase so you don't get the tail. Using a delay and automating the delay channel to fade out at the end of a phrase can also bring back some body to a voice.
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OiBoyz View Post
An obvious question.... If you've got a guy with one of THOSE voices, and you're more of a backup kinda guy, why are you not using him more for vocals?
Because I'm the cute one.

Actually, we switch songs off, but normally if I write it and it's a pretty personal song, I'll sing it, and vice versa. The other thing is my voice is "harder". He's got a pretty voice that normally doesn't fit some of my writing styles.

Also, he's leaving the country. This is kind of his last hoorrah with the band for a while, and we need to cope without him. I'd be kind of mad if I showed up to a concert and all the songs were sung by someone else.
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:24 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustin View Post
I did a show with a band recently (Casey Driessen).. The singer wanted that same sort of sound on his voice... a little dirty, a little filtered etc.. So, what he used was the Shure Green Bullet mic. It's designed to be a harmonica mic, but it sounded incredible on his voice. (You can hear a little demo of the effect on the song "Conversations wtih Death" on his myspace: casey driessen on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads ).

As far as your actual question... it really depends on the song, and the voice etc (But I'm sure you already know that). If you're looking to get a lot more color out of your voice, without it getting to be too much, try having channels with both clean and effected vocals, and layering them. Layer it so that the clear voice is most present, but have some of the distorted (I'd recommend overcompressing it too) laying just below the surface. For some added effect, you can even switch up the two via automation during different parts of the song.

For an example of this sort of thing, check out my portfolio in my sig and listen to the demo song called Dog Named Blue... I had a second vocal track (recorded off a piece of sheet of aluminum in a baffle actually which gave it some dirt to it already), I distorted the track a little with the mic pre, and ran it through a compressor with a super high ratio (it was actually the "nuke" feature on an 1176) and got about 14-16db of gain reduction. It was gorgeous. I set it just under the regular vocal to give it some body, and at about 2 minutes after the solo, I brought it into full focus.

So yeah, I'm a big fan of vocal effects, but they have to be used on the right voice, and sometimes at the right time. I would say consider varying up the effect based on the song (lighter songs, lighter/no distortion and vice versa). Another popular vocal effect is delay. You're probably not used to "hearing" vocal delay like you do on guitars, but it's usually because the delay will get muted at the end of a phrase so you don't get the tail. Using a delay and automating the delay channel to fade out at the end of a phrase can also bring back some body to a voice.
That song you showed is similar to the effect I'm using on my voice. I'm running through an extremely cheap Carvin microphone into the Peavey 30 with some gain on the voice and the highs dialed down and some reverb on it.

The effects definitely fit the songs...

I'll try some delays as well. I wanted to toy with that anyways. I don't really like the delay effects that are on my recording software, though, so I might run my voice through my DD-7 instead.

Anybody else got some input? I'm curious, as I am wanting to be artistic, but I also want to be able to sell CDs that people will listen to more than once, and not get sick of "that one band with the weird voice effects."
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:48 PM   #6
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Alright, so I've uploaded some examples of the songs on my personal music myspace page, here:

Jordan Davis on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads

Examples include:
you take me away, pack your bags, electric music, my only satisfaction.

I have some older stuff for examples, and quick recordings I did on there, also, in case you guys wanted to check it out.

There's two versions of my only satisfaction, choose the one without capitalization, with drums in it.

So let me know what you think of the vocal effects. Some of the playing is rough, and sounds are rough, and the mixes are really rough. This is where we're at in the recording process.

Are the vocal effects too much, or what?
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:49 PM   #7
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I use an MXR Carbon Copy analog delay on my vocals quite regularly..

I do something similar to what you're describing. I have my main vocal track, which has some compression with a fast attack, and some delay. I then simply double that track without the delay, then add some distortion and EQ tweaks to make it sound lo-fi and saturated, I then completely squash it with compression, like Gustin mentioned, and blend the two voices to my liking. I've always loved the results.

This band called Tokyo Police Club used an interesting technique with the vocals on their first EP. They had the vocalist singing into a condensor mic (a U87 i think) which recorded a dry track. That track was then sent back out and into a tube amp, cranked for some dirt, then miced with a Shure SM 7 and recorded again. They blended to two. I know people use that process for guitars. I think it's called re-amping.
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:58 PM   #8
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I use an MXR Carbon Copy analog delay on my vocals quite regularly..

I do something similar to what you're describing. I have my main vocal track, which has some compression with a fast attack, and some delay. I then simply double that track without the delay, then add some distortion and EQ tweaks to make it sound lo-fi and saturated, I then completely squash it with compression, like Gustin mentioned, and blend the two voices to my liking. I've always loved the results.

This band called Tokyo Police Club used an interesting technique with the vocals on their first EP. They had the vocalist singing into a condensor mic (a U87 i think) which recorded a dry track. That track was then sent back out and into a tube amp, cranked for some dirt, then miced with a Shure SM 7 and recorded again. They blended to two. I know people use that process for guitars. I think it's called re-amping.
That's the process I used with my acoustic guitar on electric music on my myspace page I linked above.

Maybe I should try layering a dry signal as well with it next time...I'm getting some good ideas guys. Keep 'em coming, as well as some input on the recordings if you can.

BTW, how's the Big Muff treating you?
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Old 07-13-2009, 10:15 PM   #9
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I REALLY do not like using too many effects other than reverb and maybe just a tad bit of chorus on vocals. That's just me. If you listen to R&B, to artists like T-Pain or Fishsticks West, the opinion is that there's never enough.
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Old 07-13-2009, 10:53 PM   #10
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Listening to you take me away. I definitely like the sound, but you've lost a little of the definition and clarity (it's particularly noticeable in the verses). For that song I'd definitely do a blending for the verses, but the chorus sounds pretty cool with distortion.. I'd just mix the levels a little hotter. It's a cool song, btw.

Listening to pack your bags. Not sure it fits so well on this song. The verses aren't very strong with the effect... and it's hard to tell on the chorus as the vocals are pretty buried in the mix. Gut reaction tells me that clearer would be better on this one though. It'll contrast a little better and blend better on the pre-chorus.

One thing I noticed on You Take Me Away and Electric Music specifically is that the distorted vocals are fighting with the harmonies as the harmonies seem a good deal cleaner. You'll either need to add some effect to all the vocals, or compensate in your mix.



Just remembered this... for some fun vintage-y effect, you can try the Izotope Vinyl plugin to varying degrees of success as well.. iZotope Vinyl - Authentic Lo-Fi Vinyl Simulation for Pro Tools, VST, MAS, Audio Unit, and DirectX audio applications You can use it very subtley or abuse the heck out of it.
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Old 07-14-2009, 11:29 AM   #11
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Listening to you take me away. I definitely like the sound, but you've lost a little of the definition and clarity (it's particularly noticeable in the verses). For that song I'd definitely do a blending for the verses, but the chorus sounds pretty cool with distortion.. I'd just mix the levels a little hotter. It's a cool song, btw.

Listening to pack your bags. Not sure it fits so well on this song. The verses aren't very strong with the effect... and it's hard to tell on the chorus as the vocals are pretty buried in the mix. Gut reaction tells me that clearer would be better on this one though. It'll contrast a little better and blend better on the pre-chorus.

One thing I noticed on You Take Me Away and Electric Music specifically is that the distorted vocals are fighting with the harmonies as the harmonies seem a good deal cleaner. You'll either need to add some effect to all the vocals, or compensate in your mix.



Just remembered this... for some fun vintage-y effect, you can try the Izotope Vinyl plugin to varying degrees of success as well.. iZotope Vinyl - Authentic Lo-Fi Vinyl Simulation for Pro Tools, VST, MAS, Audio Unit, and DirectX audio applications You can use it very subtley or abuse the heck out of it.
Yeah, dealing with the harmonies with the vocal effects is a big pain in the ***. I don't know if it's because of the limited amount of frequencies being stressed on the EQ or what, but if the voice is even a tiny bit off pitch it's extremely noticeable. I got away with it clean and having the pitches waver...it sound like there was a chorus on the voice or something.

Thanks for the input on those, and I'm glad you liked the song!

I'm going to go back through again today after work and try splitting the vocal signal through the amp and direct and blend it on the computer. Hopefully I can pull it off...I'm hitting the ceiling with my RAM capabilities...

I'll check out that effect if I get the time. As I said earlier, I have had nothing but bad experiences with the majority of the effects that you can download. They just stick out a ton in my opinion. I have a hard time using them subtly and effectively. I much prefer getting a natural sound by recording techniques instead, it seems easier for me to capture the sound I hear in my head.

BTW, the mixes are part of the problem as well. I didn't really get a chance to do any good leveling, and I'm not using studio monitors at the moment, just pumping through a fairly transparent power amp into our really old Sunn PA speakers that have 2x12, 2x10, and 2 tweeters. The drums are WAY too loud on pack your bags, and I'm going to fix that and try re-EQing it.
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