Tip for vocal recording

For singers who cant work with headphone

I’ve recorded several singers who just couldn’t stay on key when they tried to sing over playback while using headphones. i’m sure any n-tracker who has done much recording has run into this too. I have always dealt with this by letting the singer listen to the music playback on the monitors and placing the the mic and singer way off to the side of the monitors.

I just ran across a tip that gives another approach to solving this problem, and it seemed worth passing it along to fellow N-trackers. The tip was in tapeop magazine (found thanks to TomS) in an article written by Garrett Haines:

"Know how to flip the phase of one of your monitor speakers. And know where to put the vocal mic where the sounds cancel. The trick is to let the singer use the monitor speakers while they track. It is possible to do this without feedback, provided one speaker is out of phase with the other and the vocal mic is placed where the two signals cancel. If you’re having trouble pulling this off, try panning all of the sounds to noon, which will help ensure each speaker is getting the same information from every channel. Otherwise, you might not get complete cancellation."

If all sounds are panned to center, and the mic is properly placed, cancellation will also minimize the amount of the background instrumentation picked up. In Ntrack version 4.x you can invert the phase of one channel on the master track to accomplish this (click on the little wave-form icon in the EQ panel). One more trick for the toolbox…

Flipping phases is unnecessary here. The trick is to use cardioid microphone and just aiming the loudspeakers away from the microphone - ears are more or less omni anyway…

Usually it isn’t the head phones that screw them up… they don’t hear enough of themselves. If after dropping the backing tracks and raising the vocals in the cans doesn’t work, my next step is to usually have the singer take one ear piece off and place it behind their head. Works 98% of the time. I have also pumped in a MIDI track of a piano or flute playing the melpody for folks to follow low in the mix to give their ear some cues. Some folks don’t sing on key and lock onto some weird harmonic and a guide track can help a lot. The best thing is to get a vocalist who is experienced in the studio adn this stuff usually doesn’t matter because they know what they want to hear and can tell you how to set them up in the monitors.

Obviously Varakeef, you would want to use a unidirectional mic (e.g. cardiod) and point it away from the sound source. Even then, there is still some bleed from the monitors into the vocal track. The idea presented here is to use phase reversal of one sound source and find points where cancellation minimized the bleed.

Bubba, I know that you’ve recorded lots of singers, but I’m not always working with the best. Having one headphone cup on and one off has worked for most. I’ve had some success with open-back headphones (thats my personal preference). Also, it sometimes helps for the singer to stop up one ear, so that he/she can hear himself better (my wife who is an audiologist, calls this ‘the occlusion effect’). Maybe my experiences are unique, but some folks just can’t seem to cope with listening with one ear. Maybe it’s just psychological. Hence, my interest in Haines’ idea.

Neat trick. Guess a knowledge of physics comes in handy every once in a while, eh? :)