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Author Topic: Live Vocals  (Read 1603 times)

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Offline way2lon

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Live Vocals
« on: December 15, 2013, 08:08:57 AM »
I have a question that has puzzled me for years and yet I have not bothered to try to find the answer. I know a little about vocal recording in the studio and try to get the best I can depending on the sound I am looking for. I experiment in hundreds of ways and have been doing for over 7 years of home studio recording and I still do not have the 'sound' I want. (Perhaps it's something to do with my singing  :-\ )
Anyway, I use distance from the mic as a way of getting the sound I want. If I want 'ambience' I stand about 12" from the mic to get some room ambience in there. If I want'in your face' I will move closer to the mic but never closer than 6". I have tried getting really close (1") but my vocals end up 'muddy'.
My question is this:
Why is it that whatever live concert I go to, and I go to a few, the singer is almost swallowing the microphone and yet the vocals sound good?
REAL STUPIDITY BEATS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE EVERY TIME

Offline Old Goat

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Re: Live Vocals
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2013, 11:16:44 AM »
It may be the mic. I record vocals with an AT 4050 on omni, about 6" away from me. Live, I use a good ole 58 about an inch from me.


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Offline way2lon

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Re: Live Vocals
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2013, 11:52:09 AM »
Thanks OG. Yes, I have to admit you don't see too many studio condenser mics on stage. But I have a 58 and it still sounds 'muddy' if I get too close in the studio.
Different acoustics maybe????
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Offline Glenn

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Re: Live Vocals
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2013, 02:40:31 PM »
Thanks OG. Yes, I have to admit you don't see too many studio condenser mics on stage. But I have a 58 and it still sounds 'muddy' if I get too close in the studio.
Different acoustics maybe? ???

Hey Way2
 
Great question you're asking there, about 'Live' stage vocals.
 
I've done 'live' stage sound for artists over the years, professional artists and newcomers to the stage.
 
there's a few factors and reasons why 'it is the way it is' lol.
 
You're right on track in using the mic and 'mic to source' distances to determine the amount of room ambience that goes into your home studio recordings.
 
Studios typically use large diaphram condensers to catch a vocal performance IN THE STUDIO.
 
yet, as you mention, when it comes to stage performance, it's a whole new ball game.
 
You would think that a condenser mic on stage would be good to use, if it's good in the studio.
However, condensers don't do well in Live performances on stage for one main reason.
 
They catch ALL the sound! which is what we want in a 'controlled' space in the studio, where there are little or no rogue frequencies bouncing around ...
 
but on stage.. there are so many frequencies that would enter all the mics on stage, that if they were all condensers, the 'FEEDBACK' would be almost uncontrollable!   Ever heard a bad batch of feedback from a singers mic on stage, - poor engineering at the mixing console!  :(    A condenser mic picks up sounds from all around, and therefore, would pick up sound from the amplifiers, from the stage floor monitors in front of the vocalist, from the big Mains on either side of the stage left and right, etc. 
 
Now, as you mentioned, if you 'eat the mic' when in the studio, you will get more 'intimacy' and also some proximity effect (boosted bass signal) from some mics (not all though) and this low end boost is sometimes sought after, especially for intimate performances, when speaking etc.  When I'm playing "DJ" - recording my shows, or "live" I use this proximity effect to my advantage, to give a deeper, warmer sound to my voice.  This is common practice.  But the mic is EQ'd so as not to over emphasize the bottom end. It's tailored to the voice itself, and the type of mic used. Once you have the settings, that's it.. you can count on that setting to work everytime, when in the controlled conditions of the studio when using a condenser.
 
Now, on stage, in live performance, a different choice of mics comes into play.
When the guy at the mixing board brings up the vocal mic, he wants to ONLY hear the vocals, and a condenser won't discriminate - it just hears sound from all around.
 
Therefore, a Dynamic mic is often the choice!  Like a Shure SM58, one of the most common and popular stage mics at an affordable price, for vocalists and bands.
 
The key, is in the mixing - sound engineering - the bottom end must be rolled off somewhat to compensate for the "proximity" effect... usually around 200Hz or 300Hz rolled off by as much as 6dB (depending on the voice and mic) .... this allows the vocalist to get right on that mic, so that NO AMBIENCE is picked up whatsoever.. the mic gain signal can then be turned way down, because the singer is so close to the mic, and therefore the mic only hears what is directly in front of the mic.  The bass frequencies have been trimmed to keep the sound clean and crisp.. no muddiness. It's just compensation.
 
So to recap.
Dynamic mics reject sound from the back and sometimes the sides to alleviate feedback.  They need to be EQ'd differently than in the studio in order to create the same amount of presence.
 
If you follow what I call the "6dB Rule" you can measure ahead of time, the amount of signal coming into the mic, any mic - condensers or Dynamics, Ribbons etc etc.   
This is the rule:  for every doubling of the distance from the source a mic is, a 6dB drop in signal will be the result. 
So if you usually sing at 6 inches from the mic, and you want the signal to be half as loud - then double the distance, to 12 inches and you will get a 6dB drop in signal, but you will likely get more room ambience depending on the room you are in.  An acoustically 'dead' room will not introduce that sense of ambience, therefore you can double the distance again and still not get much ambience.. it depends on the mic and the room.
 
I tend to think of signal as 'energy' - if I want something to sound twice as loud as before, I increase the signal by 6dB.. if I want it to sound about half as loud, I decrease the signal by 6dB, which is often as simple as doubling or halving the distance from the mic.  OR you could simply turn the mixer gain for that mic up by 6dB or down by 6dB to get the same effect without altering the room ambience.
 
So, moving the mic from 1 inch to 2 inches = a 6dB decrease in signal (half as loud to the ear)
200 feet to 100 feet = a 6dB increase in signal (twice as loud to the ear)
it works no matter what the distance or type of mic... it's the nature of sound and is known scientifically as the 'inverse square law'  8)
 
This also applies outside, when I record nature. If I want the sound of a bird to be twice as loud, I increase the mic record level by 6dB OR I have to get twice as close to the bird, which cuts down on background noise and ambience, .. once this rule is firmly embedded, you can make quick decisions as to what is needed, more gain, or moving the mic.
 
I hope that helps.
what a great question you brought up..
 
Happy Recording
Glenn
 
 
 
« Last Edit: December 15, 2013, 03:04:53 PM by Glenn »
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Offline YrralMallik

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Re: Live Vocals
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2013, 03:37:47 PM »
I found when I did my Karaoke night that about an inch away is the best sound for the system I was using.
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Offline Glenn

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Re: Live Vocals
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2013, 04:50:37 PM »
I found when I did my Karaoke night that about an inch away is the best sound for the system I was using.

yep, those who sing 6 inches or more from the stage mic, often need the volume turned way up, causing feedback issues.
 8)
Old Eastern saying "Man who run in front of car, - get tired .... man who run behind car, get exhausted"
I like to ride IN cars, it's less tiring and less exhausting :)