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Studio Pass with Joey Sturgis

Lesson 21 of 29

Vocal Recording Prep

Joey Sturgis

Studio Pass with Joey Sturgis

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

21. Vocal Recording Prep

Lesson Info

Vocal Recording Prep

Well, it's, introduce our vocalist. Tell him your name and what you do. My name's. Steve, I've saying in a couple different hardcore metal bands, the last band I was in was a band called open fire. You can check us out on bandcamp. I also played bass guitar in some other bands and he's gonna help us out today because what we're going to be talking about is local production. And when you're talking about vocal production, you kind of need vocals. All right, so let's, start with what really matters. The first thing I want to make a parent is that five percent of the whole vocal production is pretty much the microphone and what the producer does. But I would say ninety five percent of it is the actual person standing in front of the microphones. So, uh, it all starts with a good vocalist, and you can only polish a turd so far. If you've got someone who's, not the greatest vocalist in the world, they probably won't sound like the greatest vocalist in the world. Um, but that's all right, uh...

, be prepared. So what? I want toe stress about this, and I'm gonna tell you a story is this is this is something that happens to a lot of people, uh, in bands that are active you know touring and things like that so when a band goes on a tour they're out on the road for like a month or two months at a time and they're singing every single night pretty much the same time every night and then when they get off tour they want to take a break and a lot of times it'll be bands will be set up so that they have this long tour schedule then they have a break and then they start an album and this seems to happen to me all the time but the bands get off tour they have a break and they stopped singing the six weeks before they come into the studio and then when they come in uh their voices crack and break and and they have all these problems so it's really important to communicate with your clients and tell them you know hey before you get in here I want to make sure that you guys are doing vocals every single day even if you're not on the road even if you're not playing shows get in your car drive somewhere and sing to some cds or something like that because the the voice is a muscle so if you don't use it it starts toe become weak also big thing do not change your habits the day start recording get a lot of people come in saying I'm going to quit smoking I'm going to start drinking tea I'm going to eat healthy I won't do any of dairy anymore they do all these weird things they like psych himself out and I get in the studio and do all this stuff and then they wonder why they selling crap it's because you changed all of your daily habits? Um that's not a good idea nothing that you do is going to make you sing better than just practicing your your craft and, you know, getting good at it. Um the other thing is I see a lot of people trying to cram stuff down their throat and hope that it makes their voice cleaner like honey and all these little things um I hate to break it to you, but you can't get anything on your vocal cords because if you could you would choke. Um so even though you're swallowing all this stuff it's not touching your vocal cords at all um your voice boxes behind all of that so there's really nothing you can do other than, you know, just learning how to sing. Speaking of learning how to sing, um dozens of screaming I want to mention that because, well, it's a cross is a genius when it comes to the vocal techniques and vocal cords in general and I just want to recommend anyone who is trying to figure out you know, not only how to sing better if if you're a singer and you want to learn how to sing better or screamer, you could also, if you're a producer, I think it's good to get into melissa cross, because then you could learn how the vocal chords actually work and know what kind of suggestions to give your clients when they're having troubled hitting high notes are doing certain types of vocals. Um, you you know what to tell them to do in the studio because you've learned from melissa cross. Now this last point, I would have killed to have my four hundred dollars, audio technica on those takes let's talk about this. So this is a cool story that I have to tell, um, I was working on an album and the band decided to do parts of this album in different studios. We did a lot of it in my studio, but then we would travel and go to different studios to do certain things, and this was a really cool opportunity because it was one of the first times I got to go to a really awesome studio and experiment with more gear than I had in my own arsenal, so we go to the studio and they have pretty much anything that you could ever dream of, and they're like asking me hey, what kind of vocal mike do you want to use today? And I'm looking at the engineer and I'm like well, what do you have? And he shows me their collection and it's basically every mike you could ever dream of and I was like, well what do you guys use it? It was a studio where lincoln park had recorded before and I knew that before we went in so I was like, what kind of mike did you guys use on lincoln park and he's like, oh, we use this one it's a u forty seven so I'm like cool let's use that that sounds awesome let's just hear what it sounds like so we set it all up and and uh while he's you know, putting it on the stand I'm looking online to see how much it's worth and these things are rare I think they were made around the world war two era and uh they're like fifteen thousand dollars apiece so the crazy microphone and hey sets it all up and we record you know, we get the vocalist and there and he starts singing through the mic and I'm like, oh yeah sounds pretty cool you know, I'm just in the moment trying to get everything ready to go and the vocalist is on, you know, he's on a strict schedule so he comes in, he sings a song and he leaves and you only have, like, a short window of time to just capture all that stuff. So we did what we could, and then three weeks later, I go back to my studio and I open the files and I start listening to all the stuff that we recorded and I'm like this sounds like crap. Um, and it did it sounded like an old microphone and that's what? It was it's, an old microphone. You can see a picture of it on the right there, and, uh, I was just saying myself, man, I would've killed to have I mean, that takes were great. The song was awesome. The takes were magical, one of the best songs the band has ever done, and I would've killed to have my four hundred dollar microphone on that track. So the point is, you know, it's, not your gear, it's your ear coming back to that so let's talk a little bit about actually setting up the mike and how to do that properly. So the first thing is you have to understand how a microphone works and microphone has a capsule and sound the way sound works as it travels through the air, and it hits that capsule in the capsule moves, and it converts that into electrical energy. Now certain sounds that come out of your mouth have more or less amounts of air than others do and so we've come up with what we call a pop filter which you can place in front of them the microphone which stops some of those gust of winds those gusts of wind too from hitting the capsule and causing it to make like pops and clicks and other kind of sounds that we don't like. I prefer to use a metal style pop filter I don't like the cloth ones I feel like the cloth ones kind of dark in the sound a little bit I could be wrong but that's just what I think I like the metal ones because to me they sound more clear and they're easier to set up and they also don't get you know you can clean them off when somebody spits all over and gets kind of gross the metal ones are a lot easier to clean um and it also helps to reduce the proximity effect which can happen you can overload you're actually like your vocal impressive for your pre emp or even the microphone itself could be overloaded if you don't have the pot filter. So I'm gonna show you how the metal pop culture actually works and then we'll go out and demonstrate it, but first let's just take a look at this graphic so we've got the singer and then the pop filter between the singer and the the microphone and then the microphone what happens is the gust of wind comes out of the mouth and hits the pop filter, and then each little tiny hole on the pop filter is angled at forty five degrees down, so the when a gust of wind comes through the pop filter it actually it actually goes underneath the microphone and avoids hitting the capsule, which helps to prevent from getting this, uh, big like bass sound that that you don't want, so it redirects the air downward, so at this time, I guess we'll actually go out and show what that looks like. Yeah, so let's let's do it awesome let's get this lower, actually. So what? Uh, one of the first things when you're working with someone for the first time, you want to adjust it to their height? Obviously you want to get their mouth in line with the capsule and you might get somebody who moves around a little bit like toe bounce up and down stuff, so you just try to find the happy point I like to keep about a hand distance from the microphone to the pop filter do like a hand distance away like this and then also another hand distance between the pop filter and you so I don't want you getting up really close to the pop culture and touching it with your mouth one that's gross and two that will actually eliminate the purpose of the popular so you need a little space for the air to travel from his mouth like to the pop filter and then once it comes through here it will actually go like this it'll start going down do we have a lighter doesn't even have a lighter because I can show you I can demonstrate this cool so I'm just going to turn it like this real quick to say quincy so if I go see it doesn't you see that so that's basically what it's doing is it's preventing the the air from from hitting this capsule too too harshly you go um now there's I mean there's a lot of different microphones that you can use um I like that I think we have the eighty forty, thirty three I really loved that microphone it's it's a fairly inexpensive microphone um it works great but you're goingto sometimes get uh you get certain vocalists whose sound kind of weird through that so you might try like maybe an sm seven b um this is a pretty popular microphone was used to record the black album by metallica and also thriller so it's ah it's not like once again it's not about a gear it's just about how you interact and how you use the gear so how like the vocalist interacts with the different kind of mike's I would say just try different mikes and see what they sound like hook him all up do a couple of vocal passages do you like the way it sounds I mean in the end that's all that matters is the final product it doesn't matter how you get there so I will occasionally I'll try like two or three different microphones but I end up using the eighty forty, thirty three pretty often um now another important thing is the headphone bleed if you've got a vocalist who comes in and has his headphones cranked up so loud that it's starting to come back through the microphone that could be really difficult to I work with and edit in the mix so I love it when someone comes in and they have in years um there's a lot of touring musicians now who have the years and then they put him in and it just you can't hear it through the microphone at all and it's awesome but if you're working with someone who doesn't have any in years you've got to go with the headphones now there's two two to three different types of headphones you've got the kind that he's wearing right now which is called closed back the reason why it's called closed back is on the back of it it's closed off and so the sound doesn't come out of here but when you have it like that it will actually change the sound of the of the music in your ears because it creates a environment around your ear um now if you got semi open there's holes and it allows it sounded kind of naturally spray out those are really bad news for vocals because it naturally we'll bleed and then open back of course is not going to be good either um there are some techniques that you can use if you get someone who doesn't like to use headphones at all, you can actually put speakers here and then what you would do is you record uh the sound of the song coming out of the speakers and going into the microphone with just the vocals just standing there and then what you would do is take that and flip the phase and then when you record the actual vocal take, you don't flip the phase and then what it does is it cancels out the speakers going to the microphone so that's actually how the black album was recorded because james hetfield said, I don't want to wear headphones I just want to sing in the room and so he had to figure out how to do it and that's how they did it. Um now you're okay with using headphones, right? Yeah, so we've got the mic set at the right height we've got the pop filter where we want it and he's got the headphones and I think pretty much that's the set up is pretty simple now we're kind of in a big room so you're probably gonna get a little bit of ambience in the actual signal which is okay for today but if I was attempting to actually record vocals you know, on an actual album I would probably build a cage around you toe stop some of the reflections and the ambiance from getting into that might cause if you make a loud noise in here actually kind of damp in here but a lot of rooms have a lot of reverberation and these symbols and snare drum and things that will make noise as well as you seeing different notes you khun get some resonances in there. So do we have any questions for this so far you guys because you go back over that process that you said the flipping fays with speakers and yeah, sure um so if you have a speaker in the room here and that speaker is is playing sound and this sounds traveling and it's going to the microphone if you actually just record that sound and then flip the phase of it then combine it with the signal of him singing in front of the mic with with the sound still coming through the air then you will cancel out the speaker but the new thing that's there which is his voice will stay does that make sense? Yeah, yeah, I think so. It's kind of ah confusing concept at first but once you try it it makes sense because face when you reverse the phase of one signal and combine it with the original it completely cancels out so if you do that twice, we do it once with him just standing there and then once with him actually singing only thing that's different in the two takes is him singing so then when you do face reverse it cancels out the, uh the speaker we had one question from on online. Joey, um why do you have the mic set up upside down? And does that matter? Um I just prefer to do it like that it does not matter. Um the capsule is a circle, so doesn't matter if you do it this way or that way. I imagine if it's filtering air with pop filter to it's not going to catch his month. Yeah, it kind of just makes more sense because we know that we want we know that this pot filter is going to throw the air down like this, so just we just have nothing there now if we if we did have the microphone flipped around, I think the air would come down, but it would hit the front of the microphone and could reflect off, but I don't know how much that really matters, but I just prefer it like this. I think it's, easier to manage, and also, you know, you can get to the cable really easy, and you can change the switches and stuff as necessary. So I just like that. Awesome, sweet. So let's talk about the next step, which is it's goingto come out of the microphone and then go into the pre amp. So then we'll go look at the pre empt now, cool, all right, s o, all I'm doing is, uh, loading up a new input here on cuba. So so I can actually see the signal coming in, and I might actually need you to say some stuff into the microphone, just so I can hear the signal coming through.

Class Description

Joey Sturgis is the producer behind some of the biggest names in metalcore, including Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, and I See Stars. His style is one of the most sought after sounds of the last decade and in Studio Pass he’ll show you how he produces it.

There is no magic bullet to Joey’s sound. It’s simply the combination of a million little decisions that add up to something incredible. In this class – for the first time ever – Joey will demonstrate his entire process: pre-pro, engineering, mixing and mastering, from A-Z. 

You’ll learn:

  • Writing and arrangement tips that take a song from good to great
  • Recording, editing, and mixing tips for guitars, vocals, bass, drums, and synths
  • How to get stuff to sound loud, super clean, and tight

Joey is a hands-on engineer – he’ll talk about how he works with bands to develop their writing and ideas so they are working with the best possible raw material. He’ll show you the specific signal chain he uses for mixing guitars, vocals, bass, drums, and synths. And he’ll give extra focus to vocal tracking, editing, tuning, compression, and effects.

If you want to transform your recording and engineering process, don’t miss your opportunity to learn from chart-topping metalcore producer, Joey Sturgis.

Class Materials

bonus material with enrollment


What is Vocal Production

Autotune Pitch Correction Modes and Tools

Understanding Pitch Graphing

Timing and Quantization

Vocal Mixing

Separating Lead & Background in Mixing

Mixing Harmonies & Adv Production Technique

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I have been following Joey's work since the early Prada days... This is one of the best discussions any producer has ever contributed to digital audio. I love the amount of transparency. He simply reveals everything and guides you on a very wise path on how to become a in-the-box producer like him! Turns out, the answer is -- a ton of hard work! Plus, this has to be the best use-case on his own awesome and super-affordable plugins. I have watched almost every popular producer/engineer workshops and have also sat-in on Eddie Kramer, Alan Parsons and Quincy Jones producer workshops and believe it or not... This is the best one yet.

Adam Train

I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of the bands Joey records. The only reason I bought this class was because I enjoyed the Periphery one so much. Joey takes modern production techniques to the absolutely extreme. He takes punch-ins and editing to a level where it's not even funny any more. If you're looking for tips on recording and mixing in general, this class is not for you. If you're looking for editing tips to see how far you can possibly push the strive for perfection, this is pretty spot on. If you're a beginner, don't take this class to heart - Joey's workflow is borderline psychopathic - go and get the Periphery session instead. If you've been recording for a while and you're looking to see how far editing can take you, it's worth a look.

a Creativelive Student

Easily one of the best investments I've made. There is so much information here that you'll have to watch it multiple times to really catch everything. Looked up to Joey Sturgis for a long time and this is literally a dream come true to get a behind the scenes look into his talent. He delivered the material in a very understandable fashion and was extremely clear with all his examples. I love creative live =)