Every art has its own "palette of colors" to work from when creating something new. While the visual arts quite literally have a palette of colors, music has various instruments, brands, amps, bows, etc. But what about audio and recording? Anyone who has done even a little bit of recording knows how often audio can take on an artistic perspective instead of a straight sciences approach. By choosing the right equipment, settings, placement, etc. we can drastically change the outcome of a production.
The most important of these decisions comes from choosing the right microphone. While mic placement is also paramount, if you start with the wrong microphone for a particular sound no fiddling with mic placement will get you to your goal. By either limiting our mic selection or greatly expanding it, we can create an array of audible color palettes to suit the mood of just about any type of music.
In this tutorial we will look at one of the most difficult sound sources to choose a mic for, the vocals. So if you were ever unsure of what mic to use, read on!
Probably one of the trickiest sound sources to record is a vocal. With such a wide variety of singing styles and voices, no one mic will fit every situation. However, certain situations or characteristics of a voice will help you better choose the right mic from the start. Here are a few situations you will commonly run into.
Pop and RnB
Vocals in this style are usually the most important aspect of a song. While some RnB songs might leave plenty of breathing room for the vocals to sit and stick out, many pop songs have dense mixes which requires the vocals to cut through.
In these situations a large diaphragm condenser microphone will be your safest bet. Why? These microphones have very low self noise and have an extended top end that allows the diction in the voice to be heard. More particularly, the type of capsule design inside the microphone can have a huge impact on the resulting sound of the microphone and voice.
The two most common capsule designs are based of older Neumann designs called the K47 and K67. The K47 had a very natural open sound that did not hype up the high end but still had a detailed and clear sound. The K67 on the other hand has hyped of top end that was originally meant to be part of a pre-emphasis de-emphasis system to give a similar result. However, most k67 capsule types now and days do not have the de-emphasis portion in the design resulting in bright cutting microphones; this boost usually occurs between 6-10 kHz.
Here are some rules of thumb for Pop and RnB Style vocals:
- Always use a LDC style microphone since clarity is paramount to the genre.
- For more open tracks a K47 capsule microphone will give you detail without being over hyped.
- Dense tracks should use a K67 without the de-emphasis circuit in order to cut through the resulting mix better. You can also use a generally brighter LDC even if it is not K67 style.
Live music use of expansion?
Hi ... I always thought expansion in live music meant that you basically tracked the program signals that were below a certain threshold and boosted them so that the signal (say a vocal via a microphone) has a more uniform volume level through the song.
I just read a spec that said "an expander reduces the volume of a signal in low level passages", which is the exact opposite of what I believed.
Is it a misprint?