Vocal Sound


Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Vocal Sound

Both sound mike selection. My favorite microphones to record vocals are large life ram condensers with two two mikes to large life ram condensers. You know, the u forty seven is a classic. I don't have one of those I most often use either a micro tech f l u m ninety two point one s or a sound deluxe e forty nine, both of which are sort of anointment inspired microphones on this particular record. I ended up using the wonder cm seven fete, which is not to microphone um and it's but it has a really nice sounding capsule. It's it's also am seven capsule and it's sort of ah cousin of the norman you forty seven um however I will I will state that I think more so than any other instrument. The vocal sound is really determined by the singer. The character of their voice is going to come through regardless of which microphone to use on them. It certainly is important to select a great microphone for that singer, but I don't tend to sweat the vocal production as much as I do the other stuff bec...

ause they know that person's character is going to come through no matter what some singers are not comfortable. With you know a microphone on a stand in a studio they need to have that live feeling and they sort of insist on a handheld microphone so they can run around the room and, you know, pass the mic to the crowd or cut the mic and go who are you know, whatever sort of silly microphone techniques that have and I do encourage them to at least experiment with using your normal studio microphone even if I have to give him an unplugged a dynamic mike to hang onto just for comfort sometimes I give people a guitar with no strings on it to sort of hang on to just say I have something that grip there a guitar player who's also the singer you know you really want to make a singer comfortable so but for me my my favorite is the large I frankie nets around with ah, a lot of people don't like recording really loud singers on mike's like that because they can bottom out so they'll choose a microphone like like a sure asam seven which is also a good choice but again not not my favorite I like I sort of like the sound of mike bottoming out I tend to record vocals pretty hot and so a subtly broken sound is good to me for this type of stuff that I'm recording one way that you can help sort of protect your mike from bottoming out and it also helps to deal with with close is and civil linz is I think I have a photo of this okay, so this is the mike that he used on dave and this little white thing in the middle the microphone is actually a big pen I but I just cut down with a razor blade and then that that black thing connected to it is like a hair elastic I think a big big hair elastic so what I've done is positioned the pen sort of in the center the microphone so that the stuffed aimed at the middle of the capsule is being sort of dispersed a little bit and that enables the microphone to handle louder pressure levels and harsh things like like bees and peace that stuff tends to get dispersed a little bit more and it also helps with sibilant sounds like really like heavy s is another thing you do with bees and p s and s is is too aim the microphone so that the singer is not seeing directly straight on into it you could tip it down or you can twisted to the side. I find that if you're if you're using a pop filter on vocals which I usually am the singer will to you off the pop filter more than they'll cue off the microphone itself so you can sort of hide your diagonal mike position behind the pop filter and it won't affect the way in which they sing into the mike will still be aiming at the pot filler usually and not the microphone. The angle of the microphone sort of causes the wind from a voice too sort of deflect off of it rather than just go right at it and custom bottom out um so yeah that's the way you can handle bees and peace the other way yeah, the other way to handle that stuff is with the first thing that I do um after a microphone cramp in any vocal sound is too hi past the vocal, a lot of microphone preempt will have a high pass filter built into it, and the purpose of a high pass filter in most mike cramps is is two or three fold number one if there's any kind of sixty cycle hum if you're in the north america or fifty cycle home ifyou're in europe, it'll help remove that electrical hum fromthe signal. It also helps remove rumble from him handling noise if your microphone is you know if you got a shaky floor or if you have a mike that's not shock mounted, you might get cem cem handling noise or some no rumble for many, many sources that that high pass filter could help remove that rumble high pass filter also can help remove the plo sieves from a vocal sound like the bees and the peace that stuff if you have if you happen to have a microphone print that has this or you have an outboard cue that has a a high pass filter that has various frequencies available or if you have any cute that you could do sort of a broad a low shelf, you can remove the low frequencies maybe a little higher than the fifty or sixty hertz button that's typically on your microphone preempt and I find myself, you know, typically hi passing vocal some around one hundred twenty hertz find by below below that there's not really in most cases, especially with aggressive music that's not really a lot of useful stuff below one hundred twenty hertz and as we talk about mixing it's low end is particularly difficult to deal with and the fewer sources that your low end is coming from, the more cohesive your mix will be. So if you can remove that super low stuff from the vocal sound at the beginning, you were better off in the rest of your signal chain. The other reason to do this first before compression is that low frequency stuff tends to drive a compressor, and especially if you're going to be removing a bunch of bottom end at the mix phase, you might wanna consider actually doing it at the tracking face, especially if you're using a compressor during vocal tracking because it won't drive compression so much you know, it would sound terrible if you had a bunch of bees and peace, compressed them and then removed the low frequencies after the fact because you'll steal, you'll still hear that compression on the bees and peace, despite the fact that that signal is not in the chain, which could make a kind of sound kind of flattery and also with vocally q and I don't typically do this at the tracking stage, I might do a little bit of sculpting in the mid range and the air band teo give a vocal more presence or to sort of set the sound stages as to how upfront I want the vocal to be. We're talking about more about that in mixing, um and then when it comes to compression, I usually compressor vocal on the way and some people don't, and it really has a lot to do with the singer and how they perform. Um, if a, sometimes you don't want a compress the vocal on the way in simply because or ashley depends on how you're monitoring the vocal in the singer's headphones. But certain certain singers well love to hear a polished version of their voice coming back in their headphones, and it gives them additional confidence, and it feels more forgiving other singers want. A very raw sound of their vocal un compressed unnie cute in their headphones so that they're better able to compensate for how they're singing what they're my position is and so forth and so on most of the stuff that I record, I am doing some compression on the way and I try not to pay myself into a corner, but I do like to have a more consistent vocal sound going into my recorder, and what I like to do is actually used to compressors. We'll start with one compressor set superfast and my compressor of choice for that is usually empirical labs distress, sir, but you can do it with just about anything that's capable of super fast attacking released times and low ratio is what I'll do is I'll set might have stressor usually around a two to one compression ratio and is attack and released times as fast as he'll go and then just just kind of grabbed the peaks. So, um, as you know, as a singer saying, just find their their loudest passages and just take a few deep be off that I'll follow that fast compressor with a another compressor this may be a more typical vocal compressor like in l a to a style some sort of operable compressor or maybe like a vary mu to type compressor something's a little bit more flattering to the vocal tone and then I'll set that mohr reasonable slower attack and release times and a higher ratio like you typically would for vocal and I find that the first compressor the fast one just sort of brings the vocal down though the range the dynamic range of the vocal down a little bit so that the second compressor isn't isn't working so hard and this is actually gonna be an ongoing theme for me from here on out to the rest of the course, especially in mixing, I find that treating, treating a signal with several layers of gentle processing ends up being much more transparent than treating it with one layer of heavy processing and that applies to reverb to compression and two equalising and other effects. So um so yeah, so now we have a nice toe nice compressed signal and we have to decide actually, no it before I move onto over david, you want to say one more thing about compression if if you're recording a singer who's very dynamic, you know they have some quiet vocals and some loud locals within one song you you need to give some thought to how you're going to treat those and dave here he's got some I don't know if he did so much in this song, but some of the other songs from this session he has some quiet stuff and some loud stuff and I need to make a decision as to how to handle that. Now we're going to track the quiet stuff in one past with one set of settings on the gear and the loud stuff in another path with some other settings. I think what I ended up doing ephemeral correctly was I actually coming out of the microphone pre amp I molted the signal which on my patch bay I have some patch points, reckon patch pasha signal into a mult which I guess means multiple and then from the adjacent patch points I can go out of those and now have two outputs of the same single sort of like just like ah wai jacket or like a a b box where you can split the signal into multiple paths and then I had like a loud path. So I had a set of some compression set up for loud path and I had another set of compression setup for quiet path. And then I recorded those on the two tracks and then in the mix I think I was toddling between between allowed track and a quiet track. You can also do that with two microphones, and I think a lot of people do that when he might have ah one mike they prefer for loud, passionate jizz and another mike they prefer for quiet passengers for this thing I just used one mike and split the signal if I remember correctly um okay, so also for dave he's, quick on compression just one from paterson and brian, how much are you compressing at the tracking stage? Um probably, you know, maybe like, at the most eight to ten decibels um, at least not at all. Um, I liketo have the focal sort of, you know, squashed a little bit, so it feels good in the context of my my monitor mix, I don't personally, I don't like tio I'm not doing a ton of mixing on the fly, so I'm not my monitor mix doesn't usually have compression on anything unless the drums, for example, are like really all over the place that might put some compression on the monitor mix on the kicking snare, but for the most part, I have, like my monitor mix real true to how it was tracked, so let you can't keep the vocal feeling in the right range I might, you know, monitor the boat a little bit louder, so that's always audible but little compression just to sort of make it sit into the mix better a swell is toe push me in the right direction, I will compress it again at the mix stage and talk about that more in the mixing portion, but just quickly at my mix stage I don't tend to compress there's multiple vocal tracks I don't tend to compress those multiple vocal tracks individually I tend to set up vocal bus compression so as various layers of vocals coming out backing vocals, vocal doubles, whatnot that bus compressor on the vocal will sort of act two auto mix the vocals and keep the vocals as a whole at a consistent level but if I haven't compressed the vocals a little bit on the way in then sometimes as I'm doing bus compression of many vocal layers of the mixed age no one word might pop out from backing mobile track and a different word would pop out from a lead vocal track so I'd like to have kind of a kiss consistent level on the way in and also vocal vocal automation is super important at the mix stage too so that you don't have to over compress the vocals who is a mix of several layers of subtle compression and a bunch of automation on the vocals in order to get them to sit the rights bottle time great okay so over dr um you know sometimes overdrive is awesome on vocals other times it's not depends on how aggressive the band is and what sort of sound that you that you're looking for um I will say this about aggression in um and vocals and are actually overall a lot of times I've found that the more naturally aggressive abandons the less aggressive I want my recording techniques to be, you know, sometimes it's like the I don't say wimpy music but mohr sort of standard stuff that is better suited to aggress of engineering techniques and the stuff that's like really loud and wild and crazy. If you're too aggressive with your production techniques, it just turns into a mess. So you gotta be careful when, when using overdrive at the engineering stage of things on any instrument for nice hooves, we didn't wantto drive it a little bit and I chose to do overdrive on this session at my my final compressor, which was a believer can't kenetech l a to a x, which is a sort of modeled after the universal audio ellie too but built in kentucky and has got some some extra extra features to kind of dilute in. I chose to do my my overdrive at the that sort of the last stage of my signal just because of the dynamic swing of days vocals for a singer who's very consistent in volume you can do that at your mic preempt, but the danger with that especially if it's a lightly distorted signal is that you know loud loud syllables of theirs distort more than quiet syllables of theirs and you get sort of uneven distortion to to the town but if you do any kind of overdrive later in the single chain once you've compressed the vocal than you're already working with um with a vocal that's more consistent in level than it is right at the microphone so I just sort of road that too to a compressor of mine kind of hard at the end of the stage and I got some nice overdrive there I think I may have also done a hair of overdrive in the mix but I can't remember that the ultimate choice on um for you gotta like workout with comics and patching a couple things you saw your friend out there for both of us okay screen stuff while your wishes really I I'm it's up to you visit melodic or is it or is it like no nobody can hear you body your plans that's just not like super no no I like taking the one into the other because the truth like like there's like there's a line where there's it's that voice and then I can go right into the screen and I could do that if you like but I don't know if it's gonna mess you up no I just put a lot of okay okay that I contract that we could do one uh from the calm like more melodic clean into the scream and then I can come back and just finish the melodic under this come with me alright I stopped a passable cool your job thank you. Now I say, way check. Is that what what can we do it like that is a tricky, that's, lame ass man? Well, well, the power still power lass universe integrated in the farm between all those you have enough, you, yeo hwa. Yeah, so that's. That is a good example of a reason. Use a pop filter you see, like just spit flying out of days mouth that, I think filter. I have he's made by pete's place audio, and you can actually put in your dishwasher. So it's like it's, all it's, all metal, so it's ah, cool, cool pop filter.

Class Description

In this two-day course, prolific producer Kurt Ballou will take you behind-the-scenes of GodCity Studios to show you exactly how the magic happens. This all-access studio pass will immerse you in every aspect of Kurt’s distinctive sound — from choosing and setting up gear, to tracking and mixing.

Kurt will show you the basic and advanced techniques he uses in his studio every day, and teach you how to apply them to your own recording — regardless of whether you’re working in a studio or at home with a DIY setup. Using anecdotes from his years behind the board, Kurt will also teach you his best practices for working with bands to extract the best and most inventive sounds.


Keith Foster

First off, even though I'm neither a beginner nor a recording professional, this class is absolutely worth the money you spend on it - especially if you plan on making heavy music. There are enough tips, tricks and guidance in here to get your money's worth many times over. That said, as an indie artist who goes to a studio to record drum tracks, then does the rest ina home studio I found some of the things disheartening. Much of the class follows a "I do this thing using item / amp / microphone / plugin (X), it's pretty cool" vibe, and it sounds cool.... until you check the price. As an example, the 'stereo buss processing' section sounds fun to try, except for the part where the three pieces of gear cost about $8K. As a result I found myself figuring out how to incorporate the essence of what he was saying without the gear budget to do so. Maybe I'm not the intended audience but a little more concept and less gearhead would have been even better. That said you should totally get it, it's a low price for so many hours of great content.