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Working with vocalists

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Postby nikkita » 02 May 2010, 00:38

Finding a vocalist...
If you're looking to work with a vocalist, but aren't sure where to start, there's several resources available to you...

Voice Acting Alliance:
http://www.voiceactingalliance.com/board/
Primarily, these are hobby voice actors who specialize in animation/charater voices. However, there are some who can bring special details to your production. A majority of them are not familiar working with music, but if you look hard enough you'll be able to find one you can work with easily. There are an abundance of females on this forum.

Voice Acting Club:
http://voiceacting.proboards.com/index.cgi?
Again, these are hobby voice actors who specialize in animation, but you are more likely to find male voice actors.

Voices.com/voices123.com
These sites are for paid work... you can try your luck at finding some talent who can work for free, however, a lot of professional talent work through this website and will gladly provide you with a reasonable quote.

Myspace.com
There's many vocalists, songwriters, and indie bands on this website. If you hear a vocalist you like, ask if they are interested.

Youtube.com
There's also many vocalists on this website if you browse enough -- usually they showcase their talent singing cover songs.

Working with a vocalist...
1. Always be sure you understand what you want. In some situations you will find a creative and talented vocalist who can both write and diversify his/her style to give you what you need. However, it is up to you as the producer to direct and communicate with the vocalist as thoroughly as possible. Do you want singing? Do you want MCing? Do you want a scenario from a movie? Do you have the lyrics ready? Do you need them written?

If you're expecting them to write for you, it's good to have a general "vibe" of the song, first -- if you can create for them a small loop or melody, or give a reference track of something you like -- do that. Collect keywords and phrases you like to hear to help create the concept.

However, in the end, find out what you need from the vocalist. There's many who will happily help out with writing lyrics if you ask, but it's not a good idea to automatically "expect" this.

2. If you don't like something they have done for you, you need to let them know and demonstrate what you want.

3. Be respectful -- it might be exciting to have that vocalist work and write for you, but remember they aren't just a VST. If you want that, then stay with Fruity Speech synthesizer. While some people are happy to do it "for fun", if you progress to the next level where you're receiving pay for your work, then always give credit and money where it is due. After all, part of their voice and writing helped to make your track special, right?

4. Have understanding for differences in voice... Some vocalists don't mind to "imitate" a voice... however, if you select a voice, find one who is close to what you want, otherwise, be more understanding of their limitation. Not every vocalist can sing with a metal voice, or rap like Tupac or DMX... not every voice sounds like another. Use it to your artistic advantage to have a unique voice that helps your track stand out.

5. Be patient, be reasonable... maybe it takes 1 attempt before you get something you like, or maybe it takes 20 attempts. However, if you're no closer to getting what you want then it's possibly time to sit back and think "is this person the right voice for what I want?" or "am I being unreasonable?"

6. Don't assume everyone has a professional set up. Not everyone has access to it, so it's always wise to ask them first so you're not surprised with vocals recorded on a headset or something.
sic transit gloria mundi
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Postby Radiant » 02 May 2010, 01:08

Thanks for the post, bet it'd help quite a few pondering on this subject.

Mind if I ask you a question concerning recording vocals by yourself? I'd like to record my own vocals and could use some tips on what gear to get. If you could, send me a PM please.
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Postby nikkita » 02 May 2010, 01:51

Radiant:Thanks for the post, bet it'd help quite a few pondering on this subject.

Mind if I ask you a question concerning recording vocals by yourself? I'd like to record my own vocals and could use some tips on what gear to get. If you could, send me a PM please.


It really depends on exactly what you want out of it -- if you plan to make something out of it, I'd recommend investing a couple hundred dollars in to a proper condenser, pre-amp set up. If you just plan short samples with heavy effects and where quality does not matter, I'd recommend a USB condenser.

Blue Snowball, Behringer C1... those kind of mics are decent for basic use/podcasting quality and can be purchased for less than $100.

My set-up for the longest time was the following:

Studio Projects C-1 microphone, Presonus Audiobox USB... my audiobox kicked it after a couple years, so I'm recording through my Korg Zero4 mixer.

Rode, AKG, Blue, and Neumann are also amazing brands with typically good quality stuff. Neumann tends to be more "top of the line", and their entry level mic starts at about $1000. However, Rode and AKG stuff you can find for $100 - $200 range for an entry level mic. Try to look for a mic that also has a -10 to -20db padding option, which will give you awesome additional gain/input support for recording louder stuff, in addition to your pre-amp/external interface. My only "negative" with the Audiobox by Presonus was that it was really loud, and not so good gain/input control (with my Korg, I can record "screams" without clipping for example but it's a 1700 dollar piece of equipment that also isn't really meant solely for recording)

I prefer USB soundcards/pre-amps, especially if you want to be more portable with a laptop -- laptops, etc are noisy as hell. Otherwise, if you go the traditional/analog route, you'll end up with noise from the electrical circuits of your home, the hard-drive spinning, the fan, etc...
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Postby Radiant » 02 May 2010, 02:03

Thanks for your reply.

I'll be getting an RME HDSPe AIO soundcard before purchasing the microphone, and I was thinking of getting this breakout cable with it, it supports XLR : http://www.thomann.de/gb/rme_bo968_aese ... tkabel.htm

I don't require the highest quality, I want to record vocals to put into my hardstyle tracks, so they'll most likely be heavily processed when in use.

What about this microphone? http://www.thomann.de/gb/shure_sm58.htm

And do I need a pre-amp? Or just phantom power?
If yes, is this one any good? http://www.thomann.de/gb/art_tube_mp.htm
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Postby nikkita » 02 May 2010, 17:32

A few of my friends use the Shure SM58 for online stuff, and they seem to love it quite a bit. Shure is a decent quality product as well -- not my top pick, but good none the less. I've never used it, though, so I wouldn't be able to give a proper review.

A pre-amp provides the +48V required to power the condenser/mic. Any mic that says "+48V required" or anything to that effect will require a pre-amp.

Again, imo, I found analog pre-amps to give me more hassle than it was worth. I had the ART tube, as well as a Behringer and within 1 year three of them kicked out on me. If it wasn't that, I ended up having problems with it overheating, and have even gone as far as wiring a dedicated circuit in my house for my studio stuff, that still didn't fix it. Things as small as power-lines running parallel gave a problem, etc. Plus, living in an older house, meh. I just gave up and eventually went digital -- in which the USB interface was also a soundcard which was pretty neat. :3

Be sure if you are planning to use a soundcard -- for recording without any noise or quality issues, try to put it in a breakout box. Otherwise, you may or may not be disappointed with an inevitable "HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM" noise that will be near impossible to get rid of.
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Postby martincek » 02 May 2010, 19:27

dynamic microphones (such as sm58) are more suitable for live performances rather than for vocal recording. condensator microphones is the way to go
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Postby nikkita » 02 May 2010, 19:45

martincek:dynamic microphones (such as sm58) are more suitable for live performances rather than for vocal recording. condensator microphones is the way to go


The Shure SM57/8 is one of the few exceptions as it has been used as a studio mic for groups like Bono, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.

What matters is what works -- and what works for your voice... the Shure SM58 is a good quality microphone for the time being, and if he doesn't care for tone of the voice and if vocals are going to be used just as samples/modified, then it will do the job just fine. However, if he's looking to take more care about his recordings, then it would be worth it to look for something that works with the tone and feel of the voice (ie: some mics bring out the warmth of a voice, while others can make it sound dead and tinny)
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Postby ReLeX » 02 May 2010, 21:10

Very nice to get some professional topic going on here :) Thanks nikkita for this aswesome topic _O_

You already answered me many questions (L)
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Postby Radiant » 03 May 2010, 01:45

nikkita:
martincek:dynamic microphones (such as sm58) are more suitable for live performances rather than for vocal recording. condensator microphones is the way to go


The Shure SM57/8 is one of the few exceptions as it has been used as a studio mic for groups like Bono, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.

What matters is what works -- and what works for your voice... the Shure SM58 is a good quality microphone for the time being, and if he doesn't care for tone of the voice and if vocals are going to be used just as samples/modified, then it will do the job just fine. However, if he's looking to take more care about his recordings, then it would be worth it to look for something that works with the tone and feel of the voice (ie: some mics bring out the warmth of a voice, while others can make it sound dead and tinny)

Yeah, my voice won't be the center of attention like singer/songwriters have, it'll be accompanied with loads of effects and will most likely be pitch corrected or something similar to get a dark sound from it.

So you're saying the ART Tube is unreliable and it will give you a background humming noise, that doesn't sound appealing to me at all. Do you perhaps have any suggestions for a cheap pre-amp that suits my needs and still provides good (enough) quality?
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Postby nikkita » 03 May 2010, 02:02

Well, again -- it really depends on your situation at home... I've simply found those cheaper pre-amps to be unreliable, at least for me. I know some other people who have used it without problem, as well as other people with the same problems that I have.

IMO, I'd go with a USB/firewire pre-amp -- the interface I have is also an external soundcard, and you can plug your studio monitors in to it as well.

http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=243007

I used this for a couple years. My only complaint was that there wasn't very good gain support -- but the recording quality was perfect. I recorded "Another Day in my life", "Promises", "Project Hardcore", and "Angel of the Sun", "Bloodlust", and part of "Abduction" with this (I switched to my Korg Zero 4 for the really loud screaming) with my Studio Projects C-1 mic, and Presonus Audiobox.

The price is also pretty fair -- and it comes with a copy of Cubase LE. You might be spending a bit more than the other one (I got my Audiobox for $120 CAD), but at least you'll be prepared. :)

Another thing I'd recommend, is go to the store itself if you can... if there's a music store that sells this equipment near you, and ask advice from someone who is familiar with this. There could very well be more products out there that could suit what you're looking for.
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Postby neoking » 06 May 2010, 04:47

nikkita:Well, again -- it really depends on your situation at home... I've simply found those cheaper pre-amps to be unreliable, at least for me. I know some other people who have used it without problem, as well as other people with the same problems that I have.

IMO, I'd go with a USB/firewire pre-amp -- the interface I have is also an external soundcard, and you can plug your studio monitors in to it as well.

http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=243007

I used this for a couple years. My only complaint was that there wasn't very good gain support -- but the recording quality was perfect. I recorded "Another Day in my life", "Promises", "Project Hardcore", and "Angel of the Sun", "Bloodlust", and part of "Abduction" with this (I switched to my Korg Zero 4 for the really loud screaming) with my Studio Projects C-1 mic, and Presonus Audiobox.

The price is also pretty fair -- and it comes with a copy of Cubase LE. You might be spending a bit more than the other one (I got my Audiobox for $120 CAD), but at least you'll be prepared. :)

Another thing I'd recommend, is go to the store itself if you can... if there's a music store that sells this equipment near you, and ask advice from someone who is familiar with this. There could very well be more products out there that could suit what you're looking for.


:O Didnt know that was your voice in Abduction!
Im pretty sure you lost your voice for a while after that one :p
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Postby VOL-E » 06 May 2010, 23:25

I don't think that she lost her voice, effects do the trick :)
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Postby nikkita » 07 May 2010, 00:37

VOL-E, I actually did lose my voice... I used to do death metal vocals, so I can still scream with the best of em ;) But it's tough to do that kind of scream because it just overloads the mic too much.

But I had to re-record that stupid scream 800 times, I was getting frustrated because for some reason whenever they tried to increase the volume it would be too distorted and fuzzy...
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Postby Radiant » 07 May 2010, 09:11

nikkita:VOL-E, I actually did lose my voice... I used to do death metal vocals, so I can still scream with the best of em ;) But it's tough to do that kind of scream because it just overloads the mic too much.

But I had to re-record that stupid scream 800 times, I was getting frustrated because for some reason whenever they tried to increase the volume it would be too distorted and fuzzy...

Think the results worth it though, didn't know you were in that track either.

Thanks for the advice, I'll make sure to use it as my guide when I decide to purchase these things.
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Postby Noxit » 16 May 2010, 11:46

Cant you be my vocalist in a track of me, since youre a vocalist on this forum lol. _O_
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