"fixing" vocals?

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one-man recording to insanity
Member Since: Mar 16, 2009

I'm soooo discouraged right now. I've spent a ton of time on a song, and I just can't get the vocals right. I want to mix them a bit lower, but I know people will complain they're too quiet. Well, frankly, my vocals sound obtrusive on this song, and I just can't figure out how to fix them. I may eventually have to decide it's just my performance and redo it or give up entirely.

One thing is the volume fluctuates a lot on the vocal track, particularly for the chorus. If there was some way to "soften" the peaks, I think that would help. I've tried messing with the settings for hard limiting and stuff, using some wave editors, but I frankly don't know what I'm doing. I've tried lots of different reverb options, and I'm not sure it helps.

I mostly go on feel, and I've had great luck so far, but with the vocals on this song, I just can't get it right. I'm sure there must be some tricks I could use; worse vocal performances have been given and made to sound better, I think. There must be a way here, too.

As usual, my request for help is not well worded. Sorry about that. Honestly, it's just my lack of experience and knowledge in recording, like most things!

Would be great if anyone had ideas. It's not the end of the world if I have to redo it, obviously, but I'm worried I'll just keep having the same difficulties.

Edit: For clarity? Hate to add to an already long-winded post, but I thought some background might help. The song I'm doing was just meant to be a lark, a rather loud rock song for fun as something a little different from the rest of my album. Anyway, recording the vocals, chorus especially, it's meant to be sung loudly. However, this is hard to do when I'm only hearing the music through headphones and essentially yelling into silence. If I turn the headphones up much more, I get distortion in them.

So the point is that my vocals are kinda strained. If I were singing it with a band, or hell, even just along with the tracks in my car at high volume, I'd be able to do it a lot better. Anyway, this, and my lack of recording technique, and my neuroses, all add up to a few sleepless nights of fatigued recording. :) Again, sorry to add to an already long post. I would love to figure out a way to fix these vocals and just finish this damn song in a manner that sounds acceptable.

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Since: Jul 02, 2003

Mar 28, 2009 03:28 am

Without hearing it, it's really tough to say, but a compressor might help to even things out, as well as using volume envelopes on the clip.


Typo Szar
Since: Jul 04, 2002

Mar 28, 2009 12:46 pm

The problem u described about variations in volume is basically the definition u read about compressors so im guessing that would be where to start in trying to remedy the situation

anyhow, where u say ur having problems singing becoz the volume isnt the same as a live situation, well i know almost every rock vocalist has that problem and from wat ive heard there isnt a pair of headphones or a headphone amp that can really give u the kick of singing live. Also its coz even if u had headphones that loud, in ur brain ur still thinking "im in a room alone... yelling". I would say if that wat u feels is ruining ur track, then no plug-ins can fix that. All vocalist have that problem and the only answer is to keep practicing until u can deliver a live performance in a recording situation, its a sucky answer i know but every vocalist goes through it.

one-man recording to insanity
Since: Mar 16, 2009

Mar 28, 2009 01:09 pm

Haha, no, it's okay, it's not a sucky answer! It helps to know that my problem isn't just endemic to me. I had to laugh at that description, because that's exactly what it's like. I always wonder if the neighbors can hear me screaming in the basement. I do think practicing has helped.

And I think you guys are right that a compressor would really help, too. Are there software compressors I could use? I don't think Cool Edit Pro has one built-in, and I'm not sure how/if it works with plugins. But maybe I could just edit the tracks outside of the program with a compressor.

Thanks guys.

Since: Jul 02, 2003

Mar 28, 2009 02:02 pm

CEP should have a compressor, I think the one in CEP is called dynamics processor if I remember right.

Crux is right about practice while singing in a studio environment. You need to be able to throw self conscienceness out the door and just keep at it. A tip that might help is taking a little time and getting the mix you're listening too and your vocal at about the right level in relation to each other. If you're hearing your vocal louder than the mix, you'll tend to quiet down while singing, vocal too low in your mix and you'll be overdoing it the other way. You need a good balance in what you're hearing to give a good performance.


I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Mar 28, 2009 03:27 pm

CEP does have a built-in compressor but I hated it when I used it. The presets were all just WAAY out of control, way too harsh and aggressive. And I could never figure out the visual scheme of parameter control, so I could never correlate normal compressor controls to the graph-and-line type interface.

Try the Classic Series Compressor:


And here's 77 different dynamics plugins at kvraudio.com, a lot of which are compressors (there are some limiters, maximizers and stuff in here too, but they're all compressors at heart):


Read up about compression and learn what all of these parameters do:
- threshold
- ratio
- knee
- attack
- release
- gain

Since: Dec 07, 2006

Mar 31, 2009 11:08 pm

In addition to using compression, another thing you can do is record all of the verses (or softer vocals) first. Then reset your preamp to allow a louder signal for the chorus and record all of the choruses (or louder vocals). You will be tracking the song out of order, but this way, you can record all of the similar parts together. I have found this helpful to keep the same feel from verse to verse without having to belt a loud chorus in between and possibly change your vocal dynamics. Just a thought.

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Apr 01, 2009 08:02 am

I'm no vocalist what-so-ever, but after doing some recordings, the prescription is always the same (and everyone has mostly touched on this at different angles). Normalize, Compress, Envelope, and EQ.

But the key to any of this is to record 5-6 different tracks to create one. Record the verses on one track, the chorus' on another, and experiment on the rest. The point is, you can control the plugins or volumes or envelopes on certain aspects of the vocals without them affecting the entire track. More tracks give you more leverage.

Hate to add to an already long-winded post, but I thought some background might help. The song I'm doing was just meant to be a lark, a rather loud rock song for fun as something a little different from the rest of my album

Something else to consider, by your own admittance, is that you're doing something you don't regularly do. Perhaps you should be contempt to record... and record again... until it finally comes out naturally without you "trying" so hard (i.e.. crawl before you walk scenario).

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