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Recording a vocal trio.

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Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Peevy » Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:11 am

Any recommendations on how to record a vocal trio (2 female & 1 male) and one acoustic guitar with DI?

Music is folky/easy listening. The male vocalist is also the guitarist.

There won’t be any overdubbing, so recorded as is.

I’m considering:

a) Arranging them in a semicircle with an ORTF pair (small diaphragm condensers) to capture the group, with spot mics on each vocalist and guitar. Also take a DI from the guitar in case it’s useful.

Or

b) Forget the stereo pair and go for close mics. Have them sing facing one another in a triangle so the backs of the mics have some rejection to spill.

They take turns each on who’s the main vocal/harmonies. They’ll need eye contact too.

Should I attempt stereo guitar, maybe mid-side so I can dump the side mic if required? … or would that be pointless if the guitarist is singing at the same time?

Also wondering about mixing/panning. If the singing guitarist is in the middle, it means that the main vocalist is off to one side. If the singing guitarist is off to one side it might sound lop-sided. (The male singing guitarist is usually singing harmony rather than main vox.)

It’s being recorded in a good(ish) dry room so artificial reverb will be the order of the day.

Any thoughts on the best approach?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:00 am

Arrange them as they would normally perform. Close mic everyone. If their vocals sound good with dynamic mics like SM7s or 441s, so much the better. Use a fig 8 on the guitar to work the rejection from the guitarists voice and the others. The back of that will pick up some ambience. Pan the guitar centrally. Pan the vocals as an arc. Use artificial ambience. Try to stop the guitarist moving too much on that mic. Watch for them looking down and coming off mic on the vocal. They might be better sitting. You can try a stereo pair out in front of them, blumlein or mid side probably, but in a dry good ish room it may not add much. It will spread the guitar but the primary guitar sound will be front and centre. I'd guess this mic might not get used or be v quiet.

The performance is far more important than the technique you use.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:55 pm

Two things:

What mics do you have or have access to?

Are they used to being recorded or using mics when performing?
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:24 pm

Hm. I record a vocal trio frequently and solo singer guitarist likewise but so far I've not been asked to put the two together. I usually record the trio (it's the group I sing with) arranged in a triangle facing in with each of us close miked with a cardioid so we get good separation and also can watch each other and hear each other, which makes for a good performance.

My first shot at introducing the guitarist would be to keep the triangle arrangement. I wouldn't bother with the DI but put a couple of SDCs on the guitar and a cardioid on the voice and see how that sounded and tweak the arrangement from there.

I agree with Jack, the performance is paramount so the performers need to be in an arrangement where they feel they can feel comfortable and maintain musical contact with each other. I think Mike's questions are also good ones.

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Peevy » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:36 pm

Many thanks for the replies.

Hi Mike. Yes, they do use microphones when they sing live, but have very little recording experience. My mics are:

Neumann U87 ai
Lewitt LCT 940
Shure SM7B
SE Electronics Z5600a ll
Neumann TLM 103
Neumann TLM 102
Schoeps CMC6 mk 4 cardioid capsules (stereo pair)
Schoeps mk 8 capsule for mid side
Sennheiser MKH 8040 (stereo pair)
Beyerdynamic MC 930 (stereo pair)
Rode NT5 (stereo pair)
Avantone CR-14 (ribbon microphone)
Cascade X-15 (stereo ribbon microphone)
CAD M179
Sennheiser E865 (condenser vocal)
Shure SM58s & 57s

I think I’m tending towards the triangle format as in Concertina Chap’s suggestion (I know this is your genre CC and was hoping you’d reply to my query). Even though it’s not the way they would perform in front of an audience, I think it may be the best option for eyeline and spill management. How close to one another would you place the singers?

With the singing guitarist (SM7B on his vocal I think?), what would the best option for micing his guitar? Crossed pair, mid-side, spaced pair?

Thanks again.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:53 pm

You have some tasty mics there so no problem on that front.

It's good news that they're used to mics as if they weren't I'd be a bit wary of individual close miking. That will also help with, though not eliminate, guitar spill into the vocal mics. If the guitar has a decent pickup then I'd DI it to help with separation, but be prepared to do work in post to get it to sit nicely with the vocals and not sound as though it's been tacked on.

So the triangle it is... :)
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:58 pm

I'd mic the guitar (probably with an SDC or two) as well as DI. DI acoustic can work but unless you have some serious tech (Fishman Aura or a Tone Dexter preamp) it's unlikely to sound as good as a well placed mic or two.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:14 pm

It will never sound as good. The spill will be minimal in a dry room with a close mic. There's no reason to use the DI in my opinion, and every reason not to. Equally I wouldn't stereo mic the guitar. It's rarely useful and just an added complication in terms of the rejection.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:28 pm

I have a Tone Dexter and it does a remarkable job of sounding like the miked version. It does take a fair bit of effort the get there and I haven't got it sounding as good on all my guitars.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mfuyoxbevrghisw/Tone%20Dexter%20Preamp%20Test%202.mp3?dl=0

One side is a mono mix of lead and rhythm guitars recorded via a Calrec SDC, the other is the same 'performance' recorded through the Tone Dexter.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:46 pm

It’s mostly been said.

I’d go for close miking with two mics on the guitar. Depending on the room size main issue will be separation between the guitar vocals and guitar mics. Figure of eight patterns can be you saviour here, pointing the null at the opposing source or, for the guitar vocalist, using the SM7 up close.

There’s no problem recording the guitar DI as a safety net, but you won’t use it unless you’ve failed in other respects!

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Peevy » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:10 pm

Many thanks to all of you for the replies.

I’ll try the trio in a close miced, triangle shaped arrangement first and record the DI guitar anyway in case it proves to be useful.

I can also put some baffles up to help with separation.

It may transpire that the guitarist is comfortable playing in the guitar part first, then overdub the trio vocals, but only if they feel really ok with that. If that were the case, then we’d be relying on the vocals being tracked through headphones, which could be tricky for them. Best to keep it simple!
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:16 pm

Jack Ruston wrote:Equally I wouldn't stereo mic the guitar. It's rarely useful and just an added complication in terms of the rejection.

You're likely right in this context.

Peevy wrote:It may transpire that the guitarist is comfortable playing in the guitar part first, then overdub the trio vocals, but only if they feel really ok with that. If that were the case, then we’d be relying on the vocals being tracked through headphones, which could be tricky for them. Best to keep it simple!

Completely agree with that last sentence. I only record the guitar part separate from the vocals if that's what the artist wants (for all that it offers in terms of minimising spill it goes much against the grain for folkies). Using headphones to multi track is a skill in its own right, however you can teach it. I quite like recording the basic track straight and then beefing up any choruses with some double tracking. That's usually perceived as quite non-threatening by the performers and can be very effective if they're good at improvising harmonies.

CC

PS lovely set of mics, BTW! We've got some overlap but I'm quite jealous.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Peevy » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:01 am

Thanks CC.

Can you point me to where I can hear your trio singing group? I can use it as a reference track! :D
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Jack Ruston » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:47 am

If you record the guitar separately you will lose the interplay between the guitar and vocals. You can make it sound 'right' but you will remove a musical element that should be there. There are some reasons why you might do this....if the guitar player can't get through a take without distracting mistakes, or if the guitar itself requires certain chords to be dropped in for intonation reasons. That's part dependent and it's reasonably common. Don't let spill be one of those reasons. It's not worth losing 'music' in exchange for control that simply isn't needed.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby The Elf » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:10 am

Adding even the tiniest HPF-ed DI of the guitar to a mic'ed version can make a huge difference in rescuing it in the mix. I'd take a DI *every* time it's offered.

And some of actually often *prefer* the sound of a DI-ed guitar anyway... ;)
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Sam Inglis » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:06 am

I'm going to go against the grain here and ask why anyone thinks separation is necessary or desirable in this context. Presumably the performances are being recorded live and there is no plan for individual singers to drop in or redo their takes? In which case surely the aim is to capture the entire performance as a single entity, not a bunch of separate tracks that will need work to fit them together into a coherent mix?

Yes if you are after an ultra-modern sound along the lines of Pentatonix or something then you'll have to mic each singer close and record them to their own tracks. But if what you want is an accurate representation of what this group's performances sound like, wouldn't that be better achieved by putting a stereo pair in front of them in a nice sounding space?
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:25 am

In theory Sam is right, but that has a lot to do with how professional and well balanced the trio are. Using just a stereo pair will limit your options to tweak the balance or EQ individual elements.

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby The Elf » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:32 pm

Give yourself as many options as practical. There's nothing wrong with close mic's, a stereo pair and a DI. The stereo pair may be all you need, but it doesn't hurt to have assistance if you need it.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Watchmaker » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:53 pm

I'm with Sam on this one. Not knowing the desired outcome or the skill of the performers, limits the (limited) value of my thinking, but a well placed stereo pair may be all that's needed.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Peevy » Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:09 pm

Thanks again everyone.

Yes Sam and Jack (and just read Watchmaker). I agree that the ideal would be a straightforward stereo pair and capture as is. But I’m sure we’ve all had situations where the artists think they want ‘au natural’, but the reality is very different and in the end they prefer the flexibility of being able to have the occasional note tuned here and there, the close, intimate sound of individual micing and the other wonders of music tech. This group is in the ‘good amateur’ range of the spectrum.

Elf, yes, I’ve done that before often by adding a tickle of DI into the guitar miced capture to bloom the bottom end a touch. And yes, I’ve come across inexperienced in recording ac guitarists who initially prefer their DI’d guitar sound even after hearing a miced version. It takes a while for them to tune into the detail of the mics and get what it’s all about before they invariably end up preferring the miced version. (I think it’s because they grow fond of hearing their guitar DI’d through a PA system and kind of expect that it’s going to sound like that)

I think basically it’s the guitar spill into the three vocal mics that’s the challenge. I’ve recorded many solo singer/guitarists playing and singing at the same time and just gone with it.

As suggested by Bob and Jack, I’ll keep the figure of eight nulls thing in mind for the singing guitarist when I try various combinations with them. It’s something I’ve always meant to try, but never gotten around to. It could work in this case if they are side by side with the nulls angled to reject the two singers side on to the guitarist.

Will keep thinking and taking advice! :)
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