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Recording a vocal trio.

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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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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby The Elf » Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:10 pm

Peevy wrote: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.
An even some of us experienced engineers! :lol: ;)
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:10 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Using just a stereo pair will limit your options to tweak the balance...

I get where you're coming from Bob, but I have to disagree on this point. it's very easy to get a singer to take a step back or forward to adjust the overall balance from a stereo array, if necessary when listening to a rehearsal.

It doesn't have to be a static move either; it's quite possible to ask a vocalist to step in or out for the verse, chorus, single line, or whatever... Or even to turn their head off-mic for a specific word or syllable. Masking tape on the floor helps to mark the desired physical positions, of course, to ensure consistency. :-)

I'm with Sam and Jack, basically. Far too much emphasis is placed on 'separation' and 'fixing' balance issues in post-production, when often 'separation' really isn't a concern at all, and a much better musical performance can often be obtained by 'fixing' any balance issues in the studio before hitting the big red button!

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:24 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:it's very easy to get a singer to take a step back or forward to adjust the overall balance from a stereo array, if necessary when listening to a rehearsal.
H

Agreed, but subject to the group’s ability to control balance within any one particular song. If they have inconsistent balance you have no options to fix in post. Apparently they’re good amateur, so this technique might be workable.

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:13 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:... If they have inconsistent balance you have no options to fix in post.

Of course... And in a situation with an ensemble of unknown capability I'd rig close mics as well as a main stereo array to provide a plan-B option. And I would record a guitar DI too, for the same reason.

I guess the point I was making was that there are still options to adjust the fine balance when using a simple stereo array, and engineers shouldn't fear that way of working, especially if the performance may result better end result! it's just that any balance tweaking has to be done at the session rather than afterwards -- and it requires on the spot decision making and confidence, as well as interacting with and directing the artists, all of which can be daunting, of course.

Perhaps I see and hear far too many sessions where the mix engineer has played it ultra safe, avoided interacting and managing the recording session, and sought technical perfection in subsequent mixroom isolation, only to deliver sterile and uninvolving recordings...

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Jack Ruston » Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:28 pm

Peevy - you mention tuning fixes...You may or may not be able to get away with that. It depends. There will obviously be spill, and you might well hear that rubbing in a weird way. Or it might be fine. But don't worry. At the end of the day you can't sing it for them. Yes, you're helping them out if you can fix one little issue somewhere in the recording, but if there are consistent problems, you do them more favours to explain, gently, that that's just where they are with things at the moment....They can take that on board and work on it, or not. There are two fundamental things you can do to help them give a good performance -

1. Get them to perform it together - as you have already decided to do - because they will make the sort of real-time adjustments that make the voices sit together, both in terms of pitch and level.

2. DO NOT GIVE THEM HEADPHONES! - Headphones are a vocal handicap. There are those who sing equally well with or without, and obviously they are often a necessary evil. But for most singers, you can pretty much guarantee that they'll sing better, more naturally, dynamically, with more control and far better pitching without headphones. In this situation they're unlikely to be required, and I would rejoice in that significant advantage.

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:57 pm

Peevy wrote:Can you point me to where I can hear your trio singing group? I can use it as a reference track! :D

That's nice of you to ask :)

Our web site is here. Go to the Music tab for some recordings. Alternatively we have both our EPs on Bandcamp here. There is other material I've recorded at the Mr Punch website in the sig block below.

When it comes to whose advice to value here, please remember that I regard myself as very much one of the junior members and have lots to learn. Sam Inglis and Bob Bickerton are both folkies with experience coming out their ears. Jack Ruston really knows his stuff and Hugh, of course, knows everything. If they disagree just remember what Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her Earthsea books: Infinite are the arguments of mages!

Cheers,

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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:05 pm

I love this forum :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Peevy » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:29 pm

Thank you again everyone for your input.

I tend to think the balance might not be up to par to rely totally on one stereo pair. It’s something I’ll judge when they come to the studio, but if they are in the habit when they’re playing live of using PA with the ac guitar DI’d, I’m assuming they can have the guitar as loud/quiet as they want. So it may show up balance issues in a stereo pair recording situation with the guitar (perhaps picked) volume being a quiet(ish) source compared to the three vocals. It could compromise their singing too in that they hold back too much to compensate for the natural guitar volume.

Jack, I’m not one who holds back if things aren’t up to par. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve sent artists away with homework! :D … constructive criticism I hasten to add and have always found people appreciate the honesty and consequent improvement. You’re right though, it’s about picking the right moment to prompt things in the right directions. I think we should all have honorary psychology degrees gifted to us! I’ll avoid headphones. I agree in this type of project, they’re more bother than they’re worth.
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Peevy » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:35 pm

CC I posted over the top of you. I shall visit and download! :D … and am an avid reader of this forum and know all the huge (and Hugh) talent that is here and take all advice with gratitude.

Sam S. I love this forum too! :D
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Re: Recording a vocal trio.

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:47 pm

:thumbup:

FWIW I work (or am avoiding work as a happily retired gent :D ) at the grass roots end of the sound engineering spectrum. If the inputs are available I would stick the close mics up as well as the stereo pair if you have the channels/tracks available, you don't have to use them, remember you can't add them later but you can easily mute them on mix down.
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