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AT3035 - best recording techniques?


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  • AT3035 - best recording techniques?

    For recording female vocals into a Yamaha AW1600 using an AT3035 microphone, how can I get the best quality recording using this equipment? We are doing our own recording, but someone else will be mixing the tracks and I want to send them the best recording that we can get with this.

    Thank you!



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    My cover band


  • #2


    That's a tough one to answer because no one besides yourself has a clue to how good all the tracks sound and the quality of the performance.


    Normally you would semi mix the backing tracks up to where they sound pretty decent before adding the vocals so the singer has something to shoot at. If the backing tracks are raw, it may cause the singer to fit their part into the mix pushing the inaccurate dynamics. If the singer is experienced and has sung the music allot live they should be able to disregard the poor mix and just sing the music as it should be sung.


    I just completed some work for a band where the female vocalist sang scratch vocals using a hand held condenser while the band was tracking. I mixed those tracks the best I could using non destructive techniques dealing with the instrument bleedover into the vocal track. I then had the singer come over a few weeks later and retrack the vocals. I simply muted the original vocals and had the singer redo the parts.


    The higher quality vocals allowed me to mix the instruments at a higher quality, whereas before they were limited to the quality of the scratch vocals.


    My advice would be to get your backing instruments mixed first, then use that mix to add vocals. You could just do the best with what you have but the instrument mix can only be as good as the vocals before you have masking. Miced vocals and miced instruments like drums are normally the weakest links in a recording.


    A guitar or bass can have the high sound quality but you wind up having to remove that sound quality mixing and dumb it down to the poorest track to get the mix to sound balanced. There are some tricks to getting a poor quality track sounding better, but even the best plugins made can't fix a poor quality track. Even then there's the bigger factor of how well the music was performed. I can't count the times I went with a poorer sounding track over a high quality one because the performance was superior.


    So in summary, what you shoot for is both a great performance and high quality acoustics tracking. If you get that, the tracks practically mix themselves. Any use of plugins is a trade off. You trade some initial sound quality for the desired effect. If you use a plug in and it strips say 20% of the bad sound quality and leaves 80% of the good it will mix OK, but having 100% good from the start is going to be that much better. Plug in can then be used to enhance the music artistically instead of performing RX on poorly recorded tracks.


    This is the dilemma and where most get it wrong. The experience and techniques used to track well "and capture a good performance" is not only the most critical, its also the most difficult. Some think they can just pump a track onto a recorder and fix all the issues the track has afterwards mixing. Then they wonder why the mix sounds anemic.

    I realize I haven't directly answered your question and have been dancing around the direct issue of how to get the vocals to sound great tracking. As I said its got allot of other factors involved, starting with tracking and getting a good mix to track vocals to what you already have.

    There are a few tricks you can try. If the mic is connected directly to the recorder, and the singer is only going to hear super dry vocals tracking. If that singer is used to singing through a PA live they are likely used to hearing their voice with echo or reverb as part of their singing technique to sustain their voice and judge singing dynamics. Reverb can even keep their pitch in tune because the singer focuses on keeping the room resonance smooth as they increase and decrease dynamics. Parts sung dry by less experienced singers often have pitch variations that need to be corrected with autotune later and this makes the voice sound synthetic.


    So what can be done, is to add effects to the vocal mic the singer hears when singing, but what's recorded is a dry signal with no effects. This can be accomplished in several different ways with a stand alone recorder like you have. I used to loop the output of the recorder through a rack unit like an alesis reverb echo effects unit and have it come back to an aux channel input. Set the effects mix for 100% wet so I didn't create a feedback loop, then gradually turn the additional input up till it had some reverb happening when the singer recorded the dry track. (its basically and effects send loop without the effects being recorded)


    Another way can be to split the mic cable and have one side go through an echo unit into one channel, and the other straight in. You then set the echo effects for 100% wet and balance the two channels levels fo you have a comfortable blend, monitor the one channel and record the other. You may have to record both tracks for the singer to hear the reverb, but that depends on the recorder. Most should allow you to monitor and input without tracking it.


    There's still a third option. Splitting a mic can cause some signal loss because the effects unit tows the mics impedance down. You can't use this technique with a condenser mic needing phantom power either. If you had a preamp with two lines out then you could split the signal after preamplification without and issue with the phantom power and impedance loading. Even a cheap preamp should have an XLR and a 1/4" output. You run the XLR directly to the interface, and run the 1/4" output through the effects, to a second channel.


    Then a 4th option is to use a mixer. Run the mic into a good mixer, then tap the mics input just after the first gain stage. Set the effects up in the mixers effects loop (or use its built in effects) to get the mic sounding good. You use the mixers headphone jack for the singer. Then you take the output from the interface and run it into two channels of the mixer and adjust it up so the singer has something to sing to.


    There are other variations as well. You could use two mics. One for dry vocals and one with effects on it. I did this with a matching pair of condensers with the band I just finished. I ran one condenser mic through a preamp directly in dry. The second one I connected to a phantom power supply to power the mic, then ran it through a space echo tape/reverb unit.


    The space echo has an excelent warm preamp and I could use the mix knob to add some reverb and echo for the singer to get the vocals sounding like she's used to them singing live. In my case I recorded both thr dry and effects track and used the effects track in the mix where I wanted some of that effect blended in.


    Then of course you can just have the singer sing dry. Like I said, if you get a good mix happening they can deal with a super close sounding vocal. I do suggest you keep the kick and bass mono center, then pan the other instruments left and right leaving a hole in the middle where the vocals fit. Make sure the instruments that are panned left and right don't distract the singers focus from the center. Keep things like lead parts and fills, cranked down a but and leave the rhythm turned up a bit. You want the singer to have a good groove with the music's timing and stay focused center without distractions left and right.

    You want the vocal gain set so they use proper mic techniques. If they are backing away being afraid to belt out the notes, its likely the mic gain is too high and the vocals are masking the backing instruments so tweak it down. If they are overly focused on singing loud and are getting ragged out, having no ability to sing softer notes, tweak the gain up a little. I'd do the gain setting on trial takes and not when doing the final recording because those gain changes will be there recorded on the track. You don't want to have to deal with that when mixing, believe me.