Join the real-world school of music recording. Every Monday, superstar audio engineer/producer Larry Crane introduces a new solution for a common recording challenge.
- [Instructor] One thing I deal with when I'm mixing other folks' sessions is poorly recorded vocals. There are a number of things that can go wrong while tracking, and vocals with close reflections can be one of the hardest to work with. Sometimes home recordists will sing at a desk, near a wall, or even get nasty reflections from their own computer monitor. For these examples, I had the vocalist sing a typical vocal six inches from a mic, out in a room with a little bit of treatment to make it not too reflective or roomy sounding.
And then we had her sing up against a glass door, kind of a crazy idea, but it's indicative of the kind of problems that happen in some home recording scenarios and such. And then we put a mic in the corner of an iso booth and had her sing into the corner with the treated walls and weird reflections coming back at her from that corner. So we're going to listen to these examples against the music track, and then we're going to also listen to them soloed. When you hear them against the track, the differences can seem kind of subtle.
(mellow rock music) ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] So that's our so-called good vocal. Here's one near the glass door. ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And then here's the one in the corner of the iso room. ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] These all might seem passable in the moment, let's hear what they sound like soloed.
Here's the good vocal. ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] Here's the vocals near the glass door. ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And then here are the vocals in the corner. ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And in the one in the corner here, you hear some low reflections.
The corner spot's always going to be kind of like that with low end building up and reflecting around. And also, you hear more of a dead room, but the reverberance that you do hear is in those lower frequencies. Listen again and listen for that. ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And that sort of information can be a little masking later in the mix. For the one against the glass here, listen to this again. ♪ Photos tell the truth ♪ ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] You notice the S's are kind of ringing out.
They're a little more reflective, because the glass is a very bright, reflective surface. So that's causing some problems. And there's other problems, and we're going to examine those here in spectral view. We're in Isotope RX. And the first example I want to play for you is hearing kind of the real top end, I think we're like 1300 hertz to 11 kilohertz, like, real high top end. And between the different examples here, it's very, there's a lot of changes.
This is the good vocal. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And then the vocal near the glass. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And then the vocal in the corner. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] Notice the differences, they're subtle. Once again, the so-called good vocal. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] The glass. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And the corner.
♪ In broken ways ♪ What we're losing there is some of the articulation, the clarity, these reflections are accenting some frequencies and canceling others, as they do comb filtering in the actual physical space as it reaches the mic. And it's changing what's going on in our perception. Let's go back here and hear the lower frequencies now. This is the good vocal. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] This is the vocal near the glass.
♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And then the vocal in the corner. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] And what you hear, you hear some reflections against the glass, being bright, it's reflecting some of those frequencies back too, making it be a hard surface. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] It's adding an overtone to the words there. And in here, with the corner, it's adding a darker, kind of muddier overtone. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] Kind of a nasally tone.
Compare that to the good vocal. ♪ In broken ways ♪ - [Instructor] Really subtle stuff (laughs). Sometimes kind of hard to hear. But those are the things that start to mask a vocal and make it harder to fit in the mix, make it connect less with the listener as well, even. When close reflections like this are prevalent in tracking, it also, and we found this during recording these examples, made it much harder for the singer to stay on-pitch, actually, because she's hearing these reflections right in her fundamental zone, which were messing up her perception of how she was singing.
We found that really interesting, it was more difficult than singing out into the room. It might be subtle, you know, once again, but they can make the vocal so much harder to mix, it's harder to sing against, like I just said, and when you're tracking, just make sure, put the vocalist in a situation where they're projecting out into a room and you're not going to get these really close reflections like that, that will muck up the clarity. The further the walls are from the singer, the better it will sound.
And make sure the music stands and lyric sheets and monitor screens are not close-in, and make sure nothing's reflecting back on the singer, and you're going to have a better lead vocal.