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Hardcore punk vocals?

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by Thomas, Feb 12, 2007.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Member

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    I've been working with a hardcore band for a few years now, and eventually figured out how to get a decent mix on just about every dodgy system I've had them on- but one thing that's always eluded me is the voices- naturally, the singer is shouting at the very top limit his voice can handle- so the signal peaks immediately. How can I get around this and still keep him in the mix? I've run the voices on a seperate bus a few times which gives me more clarity, and more power if I assgin them to both a subgroup and the main mix (using different output sources here...) but either way the signal is still pretty bad.

    I'm considering getting a few older shure sm58 radio mics for them and cutting the transmitter gains down really hard because that way I can reduce the 'regularity' of the peaking.

    Any ideas? 'Singing' further away from the mic isn't really an option. What do the big bands in the industry use? Hatebreed use sm58's if I'm not mistaken...

    Thanks!
     
  2. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    I think the main problem with hardcore rock bands is having in inadequate PA system. If the band is insisting on keeping their amps on 11, then you're simply going to need a louder system. To avoid your lead singer peaking so much, you might insert a compressor on him/her - then at least you can control the peaking point. I wouldn't recommend a wireless mic because while it performs the same exact function as a compressor, it won't sound nearly as good.
     
  3. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    Compression. That is the best way. I work as an engineer in a very busy club that offers live music 4-6 nights a week, mostly national touring acts. I have worked many, many shows with screamers - including a guy that uses a powered megaphone to scream into the microphone, and there is only one way to control this.

    Get a good compressor and learn how to use it. Plug it into the insert on the vocal channel and let it do it's job. Many people only use compressors on the entire mix, which is about useless. I usually compress every vocal channel, and other problematic instruments (horns, etc...).

    Also, always use a good mic. I use SM58's for screamers. It is dependable and robust enough to handle the strain night after night.
     
  4. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Stick 'em on an audix D3 drum mic...ha! That'd handle the pressure...

    No, just make sure that the mic isn't being overdriven at the source. Open up the mic and make sure that the membrane looks like it's in good condition. I'd actually reccomend an Audix dynamic vocal mic over the Shure. Something like an OM-5.

    And compress it. Compress the s*** out of it.

    And make sure that your system has plenty of headroom for volume over their amps, as already mentioned.
     
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  5. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    Compression, compression, compression, and, did I mention compression. Either insert the compressor (like a dbx 1066 in the lead vocal channel, or across a buss if there are multiple screamers. Beware though, if you add too much compression, you'll just end up pushing the system harder, and make it feed back. You'll have to play around with the threshold and ratio, but leave it on a quick attack.
     
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  6. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    With all of the different settings for tuning the sound to get the maximum response that you want, the 1066 or 166XL (if you don't have the money for a 1066) would be the perfect unit for screamers. And it's got two units in one rackspace (designed for stereo, but not stereo linked unless you want it to be), so you can program two separate screamers on separate settings.
     
  7. Andy_Leviss

    Andy_Leviss Active Member Premium Member

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    Before you start dealing with compression, get back to the basics, as you started leaning in your initial post--mic selection. The reason there are so many different vocal mics out there is that there are so many different voices out there. If you can get your hands on some to try, try any mic you can get your hand on, and see what sounds best with this singer's voice. Just changing to a better suited element can entirely change the way a singer sounds, before you even worry about processing.

    Yes, processing is important, but if the sound is nasty before it even hits the preamp, processing won't help.

    Unfortunately, I don't have much experience with hardcore, so I can't really recommend a particular brand/model, but if you do some research you can find out what other bands of that style are using easily enough, with all the tour profiles in magazines these days (bear in mind that endorsement deals often mean you need to take those gear lists with a grain of salt or two).

    Whatever you do, NEVER send a channel to both a group (which in turn feeds the main) and directly to the main mix. I know you mentioned trying this, and this will almost always give you distortion. Repeat after me. Double-bussing is a no-no.
     
  8. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    With vocals like this, get a compressor. Any professional with experience will tell you the same thing. You can try any mic made and you will get the same thing. The proximity effect that you get on the mic is what the singer (and I use the term singer loosely) is looking for. You could get them to sing into a AKG 112 or a Beta 52 and you would get the same thing.

    Compression is a standard tool that should be in every FOH set up. It is not a nice thing to have, it is a required piece of equipment for any professional rig. If you are playing in front of people that are paying money to be there, use a compressor.
     
  9. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    Another thing to consider is the EQ. Chances are, your vocalists are clenching the wind screen like a tennis ball which over emphasizes the midrange. Then they jam the mic right in their mouth which gets you into the proximity effect (bass boost on the order of 6 to 9 dB).

    In addition to a TON of compression like everyone else recommended previously, AND paying very close attention to the gain structure at sound check, get busy with the EQ section:
    - Dump all the lows, grab that bottom knob that's good for 60 or 80 and just turn it off.
    - Grab 250 or 300 and take that a fair way out too, maybe -9 dB or so, but make sure you don't go too far and make their speaking voice unnatural.
    - Twist out some 1k to 1.5k untill you stop hearing saw blades and start hearing something more like belt sanders.
    - Use the 10k or 12k at the top to help with feedback.

    That's assuming you've got a dual sweep mid (British) EQ at your disposal. On something like a Mackie, or worse, where you've only got a single sweep mid, concentrate on dumping the bottom and the low mid. There's a lot of sonic energy in the low end that's eating into your power budget in the amp racks. Quite frankly it's not contributing to the typical hardcore sound so you might as well dump it and gain some headroom.

    P.S. Stay away from old 58 radio mics. I may just be superstitious but the old VHF models seemed like feedback machines to me.
     
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  10. Thomas

    Thomas Member

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    Thanks, that all makes good sense.
    As far as the old 58 raido mic goes- if you get in there with the (supplied) screwdriver and adjust the transmitter gain you can work wonders with that particular piece of equipment- the same goes for the beltpacks of the same era.

    The club we're playing in next doesn't have any decent gear- 'nice' looking speakers which don't sound anywhere near as 'nice', dodgy amps that smell almost as bad as the resident technician (!), a desk with one or two blown channels, and no outboard gear save for a lonely x-over. I'm taking my own graphics and running one over the voices and the other over the instruments, and I'll take a compressor and run that as an insert on the main singer as well.

    But back to the mic- any idea how a shure sh55 will work? It takes a lot more gain to get the same volume as a 58, which also means it takes a lot more shouting to get distortion- or so my theory goes. The sh55 will certainly change the aesthetic, but I'm more concerned about the aural effect than the visual at this stage.

    And to Andy Leviss: Why is double bussing bad? I've felt the kakness of the sound when you're adding busses on one system, so I understand that completely, but consider a situation where there is a completely seperate system on each bus?

    Comments?
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2007
  11. Andy_Leviss

    Andy_Leviss Active Member Premium Member

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    Well, first, let's define double bussing, since I'm still a bit confused by how you're describing what you do.

    If you route the vocals directly to, for example, group 1, and directly to the main L/R bus, but don't ever route group 1 to the main L/R, then you're not double bussing, and you're fine.

    What is a problem is if you route it to group 1 and L/R, but then also route group 1 to L/R. Then your vocal signal is hitting L/R twice, once from the channel directly and once via group 1. That's what I mean by double bussing*.

    The short, non-technical version of why this is bad is that you're simply sending way too much signal to the L/R bus, causing it to distort. The slightly longer version is that the summing amp on the L/R bus (or any bus, for that matter) is designed to clip at a level beyond the normal operating parameters of the console. On some consoles, it's actually even possible to clip the summing amp just by having too many channels at too high a gain setting (ie, if most of your channel faders are all the way near the top of their travel, and you're hitting their inputs fairly hard). By double-bussing, you'll almost always overload that summing amp, and cause it to clip, which isn't a particularly pretty thing.

    Make sense?

    I will offer that there are always exceptions to most rules. For example, there's an advanced studio trick, occasionally used live, where you mix the drums down to a group, and then compress the living bejeezes out of that group, and mix the super-squeezed version back in with the original signal, to get a punchier drum sound. When this is done, however, you need to be very careful about gain structure, and you'll compensate for the extra signal being added back in by pulling back the unprocessed drum group.


    *-Not to be confused with what Mackie calls "double bussing", which is just adding a series of parallel output jacks on the group bus outputs (so that 1-8, 9-16, and 17-24 are really just three sets of parallel outputs for 1-8).
     
  12. Thomas

    Thomas Member

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    Ok cool, we're on the same page. I agree wholeheartedly- putting vocals into main and 1/2 and then sending 1/2 to main as well is very dodgy.
    What I'm doing is putting vocals into main, and when, and if, neccessary putting them into 1/2 as well- two systems, constructive intereference (let's ignore the physics for a second) and I get a big, and most importantly, clear sound.

    Are we good?
     
  13. anticowboyism

    anticowboyism Member

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    Wireless mics do not perform the same exact function as a compressor! What are you talking about? I assume you're referring to the companding that is part of the RF transmission phase, but really it is not the same thing at all. [/End rant]

    What Thomas needs is a real compressor to insert on the vocal channels. Run it at about 3:1, take the threshold down to where you're seeing about -6 to -8db of gain reduction, and then bring the output level of the compressor up about 6db. Double buss the vocals to get over the mix and you'll be there. Oh yeah, stick with the SM58 hardwired. Everyone uses them for a reason.

    If you set up the gain structure properly, there's no danger in double bussing. I do it all the time. By true double bussing, I mean assign the vocal group to also feed the main L+R. So the Main output is getting vocals directly from the vocal channel, and also from the vocal group.

    Make sure you set your gain properly! Assign the double bussing, the groups and main faders should be at nominal. Uninsert the compression. Leave the vocal channel gain all the way down. Bring up the vocal fader to nominal. As the singer is screaming, slowly bring up the gain on the vocal channel until it is loud enough. Double check you are not seeing any clip lights. Insert the compressor. Set it as described above. Listen to the vocal in the mix and eq as necessary.

    This is how I've mixed for many loud bands including Rollins and Violent Femmes.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2007
    Thomas likes this.
  14. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    The discussion of what to do on the input side is spot on, just make sure the PA system has the grunt to project the sound over the on stage sound. Be aware that the on stage amps sound is probably bleeding into the vocal mics.

    Some of the well know heavy metal bands had large amp stacks on stage to give the impression of the wall of sound, and then have di's amp simulators and smaller amps mic'd all feeding the actual FOH PA for the actual sound.

    Most of the isssues come down to , amps too loud on stage *i KNOW getting the band to turn down is near impossible, and lack of power on the Pa system. You are looking at needing a strong system in the mids to really punch the vocals thru

    Fun fun Fun ;-)

    Sharyn
     
  15. soundman1024

    soundman1024 Active Member

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    Personally I would use a Shure SM58. I wouldn't avoid wireless, but would set up a wired mic first.

    Another potential issue with double-bussing is phase cancellation. Anytime sound travels two distances that aren't equal it will be delayed. For some frequencies this delay would be no issue beneficial even, for others it would cause cancellation. If this actually does happen it would be more likely on the higher end of the frequency spectrum, but I doubt it would happen in practice. I just wanted to throw out that it is possible.

    Serious limiting or high ratio compression as advised seems wise to me too. Most importantly in my mind it will protect the equipment from sudden spikes screaming results in. You could consider having a singing mic and a screaming mic. I've always thought that would be the best way to handle it, but it seems that is in the realm of practical but not happening. I don't see someone too willing to swap mics in the middle of a show.
     

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