After the gang vocal session and the first draft mixes being sent to the band it was unanimous that we all felt the lead vocals were lacking something, this was also the feedback we had received from our lecturer and peers. So we finally got back in the studio on Saturday to re-record all the vocals and to redo the guitar for one song.
There would be no point in redoing the vocals without changing our approach so we booked a full 8 hour day for vocals so we could spend a bit more time getting them right, the production team discussed different ways we could encourage Paul to get a more passionate performance which included things like hanging up flags, talking more about what the songs were about, tying his hands to make him feel constricted and even making him run up and down the stairs. After talking to Paul about all these ideas he believed he was emotionally invested enough in the songs but just needed more confidence and to change the tone of his voice, he said he’d been doing a bit of research on singing and working on singing lower more from his gut and with a bit more grit.
At the start of the session we all had a very encouraging chat with Paul, basically aimed at giving him the tools he needed to project his voice a bit harder. I have done some vocal training when I was younger so I used this knowledge to explain to him what was important and what wasn’t from the things he’d learnt online. I focussed on breathing and projection telling him that getting a bit throaty is not a bad thing and it is better to get throaty than nasally for this particular style and the overall desired effect. During this chat, we found out that Paul had done kick boxing when he was younger and understood physical training and knew how to tense his stomach I used the concept of bench pressing weights to explain singing with guts to him. You breathe in as you lower the bar and you breathe out as you push the bar up, each line you sing is like pushing the bar up. This seemed to make sense to him and I think it helped a lot.
The Set Up
We set up the mics for the guitar amp and the vocals all at once, We choose to use the same set up on the guitar amp as we were just going to change one of the riffs a little bit but we still wanted the same overall tone. But with the vocals, we really wanted a different sound. Honestly The AKG D5 was a really bad choice for Paul’s vocals and just made him sound thin and small I had chosen it because it had worked really well with a singer who sounded a lot like Marilyn Manson and it just made his voice cut right through the mix, I also quite liked it on my own voice.
AKG - D5
AKG - D5 Frequency Response
Shure SM7B Frequency Response
This was a very important lesson for me there are different tools for different jobs. After this I did a lot of research on the different Dynamic Mics available to us, their frequency response and also read a bunch of forums and decided on either the Shure SM7B or the Electro Voice RE20 I sent all this info to the other team members both of whom opted for the SM7B. We thought we would try the SM7B first and if we didn't like it we would try the Electro Voice. Once Paul started singing a warm up into the SM7B we were all blown away with how much better it suited his voice. It was such a massive improvement and sounded great by itself when we added in the C414 we did not like the combination at all. I went into the live room and moved it closer, further away and all of us still thought it didn’t add to the sound of the SM7B, we discussed trying another large frame condenser but decided against it and just stuck with the SM7B as the one and only mic.
Checking for comb filtering. A metre is about this much, right?
Fixing up the guitar on one song was pretty seamless we were set up, happy with the sound, no phasing and after discussing how the riff had changed slightly we got it done in pretty quickly and then moved onto the vocals. We decided to keep the amp and mics set up, just in case we needed to fix any other guitar parts.
Once we started recording Paul seemed much more comfortable with just a mic, no pop filter and the big black foam cover, we told him he could attack it if he wanted as it was not an overly sensitive mic, this really helped as throughout the session Paul grabbed the mic stand and really rocked out like he was giving a live performance, he was even dancing and we couldn’t hear any of that in the mic which we surely would have with a condenser in the room. This really added to the performance he gave and I really believe that the sterile nature of having a pop filter on a mic and saying “stand still in this position, don’t touch the mic stand, don’t tap your leg etc” really took a lot of the vibe out of his performance last time and it really made sense in this instance that our objective was to capture a performance not to sterilize it.
Just a couple of boys, hanging out
We listened very closely to every single line that went to tape and we kept pushing until it sounded right. Some songs were done in a few takes and others took a bit more work. One song in particular really needed just a bit more panache so we asked Paul to come and have a listen without saying anything about it and he said it sounded very pedestrian without us needing to tell him, then he just went back in and smashed it. All in all, we captured a lot more passion and fury in this session and I’m really glad we came back in and re did it so we can have something we are all proud of.
The Pack Down
Pack up was quick and easy with only 4 microphones we were packed up and had all the equipment back to the tech team early which allowed us time to have a chat and dance around the control room singing to Sisters of Mercy.
Why? Cause thats how we roll...
As a team we really have learnt a lot and grown from this whole experience I think the band worked really hard every step of the way and were really prepared for the sessions. We achieved our objectives on each session, so we were right on target and because we had allowed for contingency in our plan we still had time to do an extra session and get things just right.
This project has really helped me to learn how important planning is in the recording industry. Especially when working with a professional band, who know what they want and all have lives outside of the band. In the real world time is money, so it’s important to be punctual and efficient so that your client sees the value in what you do.