F*#k the vocal booth
cronos
Joined: 10/20/2011 10:25 pm
Posts: 63
I will be the first one to admit that I don't have the most mainstream singing voice. Some people don't really get it, while others absolutely love it...and it's those "others" that keep buying my records, coming out to my band's shows, and allowing me to continue doing what I love to do. That being said, one key that I have found to tracking vocals in the studio is making sure that you're working with an engineer/producer that is willing to take risks and break the rules. Sure, there are lots of expensive microphones, pre-amps, plug-ins, etc. out there, and each engineer has been trained to shoot for the purest sonic quality possible, but in my experience the most important thing when tracking vocals is the comfort of the singer and getting him/her to lay it all out on the line. So...

Being more of a live singer myself that feeds off of the energy that my band puts out behind me on stage, when my engineer first threw me into an isolated vocal booth to track vocals, I was like what the f*#k am I supposed to do in here?? I was uncomfortable and the results clearly showed in my performance when we listened back to tape. Somewhere down the line, I then remembered hearing a rumor about how Bono used to track his vox in the early U2 days - he would just set up a SM-58 in the control room, crank up the monitors, and sing to the track the same way that he would while playing a live show. So I gave it a shot and it was the best decision that I ever made.

From a vocalist's perspective you can really feel the track, and as a result you lay down a better performance with all of the energy of a live show in tact. Of course you have to make sure to minimize bleeding from the monitors, but it's a worthwhile sacrifice to make if it means truly capturing the sound that you hear in your own head.

So that's my trick of the trade. Anyone else want to share?
StevenLaFashia
Joined: 12/20/2011 07:13 pm
Posts: 1
Such a great post Bryan. I have done vocals so many different ways in the past and cutting vocals as you mentioned above was really liberating. Truth be told, the bleed from the monitors was minimal and not really a problem at mix time.

You hit it on the head... it is all about performance and the artist being comfortable. Sound quality is always secondary. That being said, a 58 into a great pre into a great compressor sounds pretty darn good!
cronos
Joined: 10/20/2011 10:25 pm
Posts: 63
Thanks Steve! I couldn't agree more. And PS - I learned most of what I know from you.
poconosoundman
Joined: 10/20/2011 09:54 pm
Posts: 2
OK, for those who want to use a "live" vocal mic when recording, here's an old trick people have done with the SM57, and I am sure it would work with an SM58.

Screw off the ball, then screw apart the mic capsule from the rest of the mic. Disconnect the wires. In the bottom part of the "handle" there is a small transformer. Smash this up and throw it away. Some people like to boil the handle until the insides get all gooey. This makes it easier to remove the transformer.

After you smash out the transformer, (which is great therapy, by the way) connect the wires from the mic capsule directly to the XLR connector. (pins 2 & 3)

The mic will now work, but have considerably less output and a more extended low end. You can also tweak the sound by plugging the mic into a Direct Box. Try it with a Radial, something with a Jensen transformer, an FET DI box like a Countryman, or something more esoteric like an Avalon. Heck, try out an old Whirlwind IMP2 too.

Since the SM58 is reasonably inexpensive at around $100.00, it's worth a try.

I do know that some guy named Eddie Vedder (whoever he is) recorded vocals with an SM57 modded this way.
cronos
Joined: 10/20/2011 10:25 pm
Posts: 63
Wow, that is a really cool idea poconosoundman - thanks for sharing! I gotta find myself an old SM57/58 to give this a shot.

I swear by the Beta 58 myself - do you think this would work with that too?

Who is this "Eddie Vedder" that you mention? haha.