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Vocal Compression?


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okay, im in no way a competent engineer. haha. i record my own stuff on a Roland BR1180 usually, but i dont have it anymore, so now im using Audacity on a windows machine with an M-Audio Fast Track USB interface. best setup? no. but its cool for demoing.

 

anyway, im recording vocals over a song io wrote. now, im not even using a condenser, im using an Audix OM2 dynamic. its all ive got!!

 

but anyway, whats a good ratio for vocal compression? any magic tips to make my vocals sound halfway decent and not dead? maybe a little reverb?

 

thanks!

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it's very difficult to get a vocal to sound right when it's your vocal. double tracking, try whispering/singing softly on the second track. i just use the pre-programmed compression, it's labeled heavy, mid, or light vocal compression. i don't know nothing about mix down.

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but anyway, whats a good ratio for vocal compression? any magic tips to make my vocals sound halfway decent and not dead? maybe a little reverb?


thanks!

 

There's not really any such thing as a standard good ratio for vocal compression given the wide range of singers, genres of music, and microphones. Dynamics tend to to react less to transient peaks than condensers, so bear this in mind. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, either.

 

I have no idea what kind of music you are doing or what your voice sounds like, so my generic advice would be to start at a low compression ratio of 2:1, tweak the threshold so that you can see it firing at, say, 2-4dB of compression, and fix the attack to a relatively quick setting and see if that evens everything out and makes your vocals more present. Use that as a STARTING POINT and then tweak and listen and tweak and listen and tweak and listen and...well, you get the idea. Mess with the threshold control and the attack control, listening, listening, listening very carefully. Record some passes and see what's working for you. Make sure that you don't hear overt pumping and breathing (unless you want that). You really have to listen. Or did I mention that already? :D

 

See, the thing with compression, reverb, EQ, and other things is that although there are some general guidelines and settings, they all require that you put in the hours and sit there and really listen. And if you are not listening intently and hearing what you are doing, your recordings will suffer.

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thanks for the advice guys~!

 

What Ken said - start with a 2:1 ratio, and don't slam it hard - and don't use too short of a release time. Adjust to taste.




PS Don't forget the fader / automation - that's some of the best "compression" you can get right there - ride those faders
:)

 

woah, i never really thought of that. great idea! wow im late to the game arent i :freak:

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thanks for the advice guys~!




woah, i never really thought of that. great idea! wow im late to the game arent i
:freak:

 

It used to be sometimes referred to as "gain riding", at least when we were all recording analog. What we would sometimes do is when recording vocal takes, we'd have the lyric sheet in front of us and we'd know the song really well. When recording, while the vocalist hit high notes, we'd turn the fader down. When the vocalist moved in with really low notes, we'd turn the fader up. Obviously, this means that you need to know the song really well. The advantage of this, though, would be that the vocal would already be "compressed". Then, of course, tape would compress it slightly. And then you could ride the fader some more during mixdown if you needed to, so you really wouldn't have to squish the vocal that much with a hardware compressor unless you WANTED to.

 

But you can do this with Volume Automation as well, and the advantage is that if you screw up, you can simply hit UNDO. I'll automate the vocals, then bring in a compressor just to kind of impart a certain sound and compress it a little, but I tend to go really easy on the compressor most of the time, often around 3-4dB maximum compression if I want a natural sort of sound. For rock vocals, I tend to squish the vocals more, mostly because it does sound really good that way sometimes.

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Not only can you use the faders (real hardware controllers, or on screen virtual faders) to write in or touch your automation moves, but you can also use the mouse to edit the track's volume / vector display. That can be really useful for several things. For example heavy compression can accentuate sibilance and breath noises; you can use the faders to not only ride the gain, but also to dip or drop it completely to reduce or eliminate those problem areas. And if the problem area requires more precision than you can manage with the fader, that's a good point to switch over to the mouse for fine tuning.

 

I normally prefer the "feel" and (IMO) musicality of mixing with hardware faders, but I also spend a lot of time with a mouse in one hand and hitting keyboard shortcuts with the other...

 

IMO, both have their uses. :)

 

Back to compression - riding the fader and compression are both useful, and each technique has its own set of advantages. Compression can be useful for not only dynamics control, but also envelope shaping - reducing or accentuating the perceived attack of the singer's notes, etc. It's also useful for bringing out intimacy or "breathiness" in a singer. Riding the faders can accomplish the control of the dynamics, but it's less appropriate for those other tasks; however, when done really well, it can sound more natural or transparent than many compressors can in terms of dynamics control.

 

As with hardware faders and the mouse, sometimes the best approach is a combination of the two. :idea::)

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for vocal compression i usually start with low ratio,2:1 or 3:1 very fast attack, 0.5 sec release... and tweak according to whats needed.

 

that motown article seems interesting about compressing the hell out of a double track adding treble to it and leaving the other uncompressed. not sure it would work well in all circumstances but could be worth a try.

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Compression can be useful for not only dynamics control, but also envelope shaping - reducing or accentuating the perceived attack of the singer's notes, etc. It's also useful for bringing out intimacy or "breathiness" in a singer. Riding the faders can accomplish the control of the dynamics, but it's less appropriate for those other tasks;

 

Largely because it's a pain in the rear and largely time-consuming!!! :D

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While I totally believe in doing it the "Right" way, I believe there is some merit it the wrong way too. this stuff I've done that sounded the worst, or easily most amature, were vocals not compressed enough. After listening to multi-platinum producer John "Mutt" Lange's latest release in Nickleback's Dark Horse, he's either gone completely insane/senile now, or maybe there's something to using a lot of vocal compression. Those vocals are totally squashed - not just the whole CD - you can hear the compressors POPPING into action on the vocals. I'll admit, I hate the sound of this new release compared to their last one, BUT they are selling millions of CDs and I'm just a wannabee. Now, granted that is not the way to make a crystal clear recording, or win awards for artistic quality, it IS a way toward multi-platinum. It depends on what you want your end result to be. Any more, I start at 4, 8, 12:1 and above, sometimes playing with INFINITY to get that commercial sounding vocals - if that is the desired end result. Just some thoughts.

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While I totally believe in doing it the "Right" way, I believe there is some merit it the wrong way too. this stuff I've done that sounded the worst, or easily most amature, were vocals not compressed enough.

 

This statement implies that vocals always need to be compressed. I've done sessions with really gifted, professional singers who either need no or very little compression. They knew how to sing for a recording and knew how work the microphone and knew how to sing, knew how to pronounce words correctly while singing, knew when to back off.

 

There is no substitute for this.

 

It's amazing, really, how easy a great musician can make a recording engineer look. If I needed to add compression, it was very little. If I needed any more than this, it was for coloration and nothing else. I could gain ride the vocals if necessary...but it often was not necessary.

 

The (hard) knee-jerk reaction (sorry, that's one of the worst puns I've ever done) for recording vocals is to simply sing into a mic and then think that the compressor's going to do the rest.

 

~~~~~~~

 

Note: I am not saying that I will not squish the living snot out of a vocal. I have and I will. But that's a whole lot different than what I'm saying above.

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Always a SLOW attack and a QUICK release.

 

I adjust the release to the tempo of the song, but the slow attack is critical for a pristine vocal. It depends on the type of compressor your using, but for years I've LOved 10:1, but other settings are cool too, it just depends on the musical content and what your going for.

 

An LA-2A is considered one of the BEST compressors for a vocal, and they do not even have a fast attack adjustment, they're real slow.

 

I use my attack knob more as an EQ, if it's set at a slow attack 50ms+, start turning it slowly becoming shorter and shorter and start listening to it as an EQ. If a vocal has a lot of sibilance, I will start shortening the attack and it starts shaving off the sibilance.

 

It always amazes me, that 25 years after I first started using them, I'm still learning new things about them all the time. They only have about 3 knobs, but I think I will always be learning new ways to use them ... or not use them.

 

 

Russ

Nashville

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I use my attack knob more as an
EQ
, if it's set at a slow attack
50ms+
, start turning it slowly becoming shorter and shorter and start listening to it as an EQ. If a vocal has a lot of sibilance, I will start shortening the attack and it starts shaving off the sibilance.

 

Yeah, that's how I approach vocals too, although I conceptualize it more as a waveform-shaping thing in this case...but obviously, as you point out, you are affecting the EQ as well. But it works well. And that's why it's always important to listen....listen....listen....listen....

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If compression makes an artist sound like Nickleback, I think I'll avoid it.
:)

 

doesn't it depend on your final objective? home tinkering, limited audience release, or mega-multi platinum sales. I don't enjoy that much crunch either, but you hear it a lot on Mutt's other little albums: Back in Black, Def Leopard, Shania Twain etc etc etc... $$, $$$ and more $$$$$ :D

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