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Country Vocals Lessons: Secrets to Successful Recording - Part 2

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Country Vocals

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Hey, okay, so we're back in the recording
studio here in
the The Holler in Nashville.
And I wanted to do a pretty broad spectrum
look at recording vocals in the studio.
And give you a chance to learn about and
then to actually hear some
of the pieces of gear and
processing that you might use
on a vocal in the studio.
We spent some time with the microphone,
and talked about
the different kinds of studio microphones,
and power supplies, and pick-up patterns.
And now we're gonna go the next step,
because from the microphone,
when you're recording, that sound,
that signal, goes through
a series of pieces of gear to
get to the recording medium.
Back in the old days, it was tape,
we would record on tape.
Some old school wonderful analog
studios still record on tape,
but we're in a digital age now.
So most of our audio is recorded in
computers or at least digital tape
machines, actually most digital
tape machines are defunct now.
It's pretty much all
computer based [LAUGH].
So in our new age we're landing
on some computer hard drive
that's what our storage medium,
our recording medium is.
It starts at your voice goes
through the microphone, but
then it goes through
a series of pieces of gear.
And we call that the chain, the vocal
chain, or the chain of pieces of gear
that the sound goes through in order
to get to, ultimately its destination.
Which is the recording medium or
in my case, the computer hard drive.
So, each of those pieces of gear
can effect the sound of your vocal.
And this lesson is an attempt to kind of
equip you with, at least, a little bit
of information that you can then continue
to explore, get more information about.
So that you can, in many ways,
become your own engineer.
So that you can communicate with
the engineer that's recording you or
even record your own vocals and
get the sound that you want.
So we're gonna talk about
the vocal chain and
the various kinds of effects and
pieces of gear that can be part of
the sound that ultimately ends up
in the recording on your voice.
Okay, we're gonna start with just a naked,
unadulterated voice.
I've chosen a track here
that's got kind of a slow
groove to it so that you can hear
lots of space in between the vocal.
Cuz some of the effects we're
gonna play with are best heard
with lots of space in between the phrases.
And I'm gonna start,
this is the track that we're using.
It's a really
sparse track,
that's just very small drum kit, and
electric bass, and a vocal.
So there's a lot of space in the track
to also hear the effects that we're
gonna play with.
But we're gonna start by soloing, or
bringing up, just the vocal by itself.
This is just the vocal.
This is just the sound coming from
the microphone, and
the first pieces of gear that
it hits after it goes from
the microphone down the cable,
is this piece of gear right here.
This is a preamp, this is a Hardy preamp.
I like this preamp because
it's very transparent.
It doesn't color the sound
of the instruments or
the audio that's coming through it.
What this preamp does is it
raises the volume essentially.
It raises the level of the electronic
signal that's coming from the microphone
through the cable to a level that it
can be recorded, it has to be amped up.
So this is called the preamp,
the amplification of the sound,
this preamp will supply power.
This plus 48 volts right here, so
we talked about microphones that are
condenser mics that need a power supply.
This preamp with supply phantom power to
a condenser mic that doesn't
have its own power supply.
The N49 that we worked with has
its own external power supply, so
we don't need to use the fan and power on
this preamp to record that microphone.
And then this also has a high
gain button where it will boost,
I believe it's an additional 10 db,
whatever signal is coming in.
I like to use the setting, especially on
vocals because I like to be able to really
hear like the texture of the vocal,
and have the vocal feel like it's
very present and in your face.
So I use this setting
on this preamp a lot.
And then this is the gain knob,
which allows you to increase or
decrease the volume of the signal
coming from the microphone.
So you would wanna set this so
that it's not hitting up here into
the red when signal comes into this,
if it gets up into this zone here and
turns red, it'll go from green to red.
If it's in the red, you know it's too
loud, it's gonna start to distort.
So the first piece of gear that
it would hit would be the preamp,
and there are many
different kinds of preamps.
Preamps generally will have
some slight color to them,
like they will slightly color the sound,
give a particular sound.
Different kinds of preamps will give
a different kind of color to the audio
that's coming through.
One of the reasons, like I said,
I like this one is that it doesn't have
a lot of color, it's pretty transparent.
So I find it's easier to get the true
real naked sound of someone's voice.
From the preamp,
I'm going into a compressor,
which is this piece of gear right here.
This is a Tube-Tech, it's an analog
vintage piece of gear that's compression.
And what that does is it limits
the volume above a certain threshold.
So that if you've got a vocal that's very,
very quiet in some spots and
then really belting, really lots of volume
so it's got a really wide dynamic range.
The compressor allows you to
reduce the highest volume and
raise the lowest volume
to put a more even range
of dynamics in the audio
that you're recording.
Both of these pieces of gear you
wouldn't just use on vocals.
You might use them on guitars and
if you're micing a guitar amp,
run it through a preamp.
Lots of instruments
will go through a compressor to make
the dynamic range more contained.
So those are kinda the two key pieces
of gear that you would expect to
run through in recording a vocal.
Your preamp from the microphone,
to the preamp and then into a compressor.
Then it's arriving in the computer, and
actually coming into
my recording software,
which is Pro Tools, so
that's the next part of the chain.