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recording a capella


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I'm recording an a capella outfit at the moment.

 

For example, at the moment I've been recording 5 singers with two mics. Later, I'll do it properly (i.e. one singer per track) but at the moment it's two mics: a Neumann TLM103 and an AKG SolidTube. The boys (bass, contrabass and tenor) mostly through the Nuemann and the girls (alto and soprano) mostly through the SolidTube. I say "mostly" because obviously there's some leakage.

 

So when it comes to creating the final mix I've got two tracks, each with compression at a ration of 6:1 (or thereabouts), each with a limiter, each with some reverb.

 

I'm fairly sure that has helped matters. However, I've also done the following and I'm not sure if it's a good idea:

I rolled off the lows at approx 80Hz for the boys and 100Hz for the girls

I rolled off the highs at 15kHz for both.

Finally, I added a really small amount of chorus to give it some umpf

 

Are there any "standard" tricks that people could recommend that should be applied in any case to the vocals? What do the pros do?

Kind of "Oh, everyone knows you have to apply some...."- type of thing.

 

Thanks for any advice

mac dual 1GHz MDD, 1,25GB RAM OS10.3.5

Logic Audio Platinum 6

Opcode Studio 4

Audiowerk 2

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The low roll offs don't hurt anything with vox (although I would tend to roll guys out at a bit higher freq. than girls), but why would you band pass highs? Also, I'm not understanding about the effects, are you adding reverb/chorus etc after the fact? I wouldn't print any of that.

 

If you've got a good sounding room, you might not need anything in the way of effects. Some light compression is okay but with multiple voices on each mic, I probably wouldn't even do that. Let them mix themselves if they're good and if they aren't, then a mic for each voice with appropriate compression etc.

 

I'd experiment way more with mic placement than worry about reverb and such.

 

Good luck with your recording.

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If this is truly an acapella group, you should record them as a group. Preferably with a figure 8 pattern mic or omni to allow them to stand in positions around the mic(s) and play to them. Acapella is about balance. Not some balance you create in the mix. The balance the vocalists create in performance. Recording one at a time only ensures a stilted, bland performance.

 

I also question why you would compress the heck out of the tracks? :confused: You just took the other half of the performance out of the recording.

 

Is this group good? If so, get out of their way and let them do what they do well. Sing.

 

Just my 2 pfennig .

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

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Why don't you treat the recording like an old time bluegrass group. One mice, or, at most, two in a figure eight, as Neil suggested, and let the group work the mic.

Do a base recording & let them listen to it. From there, their position, distance to the mic or volume can then be adjusted. It may take a couple of run throughs but they should get the idea pretty quickly, especially once they hear how a great mix can come together without the need for a mixer to work the channels.

 

Our Joint

 

"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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Exactly what the former posters said. One or two mics at the most depending on the amount of singers. I've worked a lot with the Jordanaires ( 4 guys) and one mic was what they insisted on, although we did overdubs for later stereo placement in the mix.

 

Maybe it is because the membrame of the one mic gets hit simultaneously and helps with some blending, I don't know. These guys blended acoustically enough already as it was, :thu:

 

Don't use the 1 voice, 1 track route. It's a dead end street, afaic. Mix your singers at the source and don't use any effect while printing the track other than the usual low roll off.

 

steelandre.

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Many thanks for the replies.

 

I forgot to say that I'd experimented with three rough areas of the frequency spectrum:

I boosted ~200-300 Hz for some "rumble"

I reduced ~3000Hz for, well, because it sounded good

I boosted ~5000 Hz for presence

I reduced at ~7000 again, because it sounded good

I boosted at 10-15,000 for top-end

 

But with the same singers, it sounded good on some songs and bad on others. Strange. They are not professional singers but they have been together for a number of years and have done over 30 gigs in various lineups.

 

The mics I have are:

Neumann TLM103

AKG SOlidTube

Sennheiser 421

Shure SM57

Beyerdynamic Opus99 (kick drum mic)

 

I also panned, not heavy, but enough to be noticed. On my sequencer (Logic) it works from -64 to +64. I panned at somewhere between 25-33.

 

I will try reducing the compression. 6:1 is maybe too much as you say. And I'll not band pass the highs. I noticed when I got home and played it on the stereo it sounded a bit dull.

mac dual 1GHz MDD, 1,25GB RAM OS10.3.5

Logic Audio Platinum 6

Opcode Studio 4

Audiowerk 2

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Have you been to any of their shows
Yes, I have. my wife's in the group. I reckon I've seen 30 or so shows over the past few years.

 

My problem is: I'm inexperienced. I have a relatively good ear but it's not as good as someone who has been doing this for ages.

 

Anyway, the upshot is: they seem very pleased with the result. So many thanks for all the hints and tips form everyone which I implemented.

 

Incidentally, I you were going to go for a stereo pair of mics for such a job as this would you go for two of the same mics or two different mics? What do people think of the AKG 414's? Worth getting two of them?

mac dual 1GHz MDD, 1,25GB RAM OS10.3.5

Logic Audio Platinum 6

Opcode Studio 4

Audiowerk 2

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If you want to simplify things check out the Sony ECM999 mic. It's a MS stereo mic and sounds really good. I used it to record the UNC choir last year with nice results. If you are hesitant with the dual mic setup, check out this mic.

 

Just another observation. There are many ways to mic this type of group and if they like what you've done so far then you're doing all right.

 

Chris Groegler

Sound Designer,

Red Storm Entertainment

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Originally posted by karambos:

...Yes, I have. my wife's in the group. I reckon I've seen 30 or so shows over the past few years.

 

My problem is: I'm inexperienced. I have a relatively good ear but it's not as good as someone who has been doing this for ages.

 

Anyway, the upshot is: they seem very pleased with the result. So many thanks for all the hints and tips form everyone which I implemented.

 

...[/QB]

K,

 

So you have an idea of what they sound like live; and so far the work you've done is satisfacotry. The kink in the works is, even though they're happy (now), as soon as someone with a more attuned ear listens to the track(s) and start nit picking it apart, you go from hero to goat.

 

Why not pick up a recording or two of a acapella group (after 6? take 5? I can't recall) to get a feel of what the ( :) ahem) "pros" are doing?

 

Also, what's your gauge on how good this group is?

Also, do you take any stereo feeds off the sound consoles when they do live shows?

 

NYC Drew

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the group are definitely not professional. It's a pure hobby thing.

 

I haven't as yet, taken any feeds of the console at live shows. Thankyou for the idea! I'll do that next time.

mac dual 1GHz MDD, 1,25GB RAM OS10.3.5

Logic Audio Platinum 6

Opcode Studio 4

Audiowerk 2

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I haven't recorded any a-cappella groups but the advice I'm hearing sounds right. Get out of the way. Don't just "eq" because "it sounds better" to YOU.

 

Going with your statement that you are inexperienced this is a lesson in perhaps what is the most difficult thing for new engineers to understand. With all of the knobs and gear and effects you want to just DO something. Fight that urge at all costs! Serve the music instead of using the music to experiment with your engineering skills. Don't do anything without a clear and specific reason.

 

We assume that if Roger Nichols or Bob Clearmountain were sitting in our chair they'd be doing something to make the track sound better when in fact a "world class" engineer would have done most of his work at the mic beforehand.

 

Try this...

 

Use the advice given above and mic the group. X-Y, Figure eight, mono Omni... whatever. Just capture them doing what they do. When that's done here's the really hard part... inhale...

 

Don't do ANYTHING else! Make CD copies and live with it for a few days. If the singers blend well you may find that there's nothing much left to be done.

 

If there is some low end rumble, roll off some of the lows . If it sound's too much "in your face" add a little (very little) short reverb to the track. Please don't kill the dynamics with 6:1 compression.

 

When I was an "inexperienced" engineer I'd spend hours turning knobs and stuff and I was never really happy with the results. What woke me up was when a buddy of mine put a cassette boom box in a corner of his basement and recorded his groups rehearsal. It sounded great! A simple stereo recording. Made me feel like crap and it made me re-evaluate everything I was doing. :(

 

Often less is more. Remember, this recording is not about "Wow! He did a great job fixing our recording didn't he?!!" It's about "Man, that sounds just like us! He captured us nicely!"

 

Good luck man.

 

Lawrence

 

The Audio Cave

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