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Rapper's voice didn't record well

Discussion in 'Studio Techniques' started by sonnykeyes, Dec 14, 2013.

  1. sonnykeyes

    sonnykeyes Senior member

    I've been recording voiceovers and singers for 8 years using my trusty TLM103, and everyone sounds pretty great over that time...until I recorded my first rap the other day.

    My friend is a terrific Caribbean-style rapper, and I've done two sessions with him now, but each time his voice sounds like he's singing into the wrong side of the mic! (He wasn't) I'd really like to salvage his rap, because it's wonderful, but I've tried all kinds of EQ and compression and nothing takes out that boomy strangled sound.

    Can anyone suggest a strategy for me to 'find' the good part of his vocal and save it? Thanks for any suggestions!
  3. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    You need to find the problem. Sing or speak into the mic yourself, I guess you know the sound. Is the mic still ok? Is the preamp ok?

    Of course the mic should support the voice and the TLM may be the wrong mic for him, but you described the sound as dramatically different to your other recordings. Sounds like a technical failure.

    Maybe you can post a sound snippet? Here are a lot of people who know mics and recording problems very well.
  4. sonnykeyes

    sonnykeyes Senior member

    Thanks, Peter, and of course that's logical...clearly the TLM is wrong for him, I've done several sessions in between his two sessions and since the last one, and there's no technical failure, that's just how he sounds! I wondered if anyone here had strategies they had used in the past when confronted with something like this. Right now I'm going back to his original, unaffected track and trying to fight with it using iZotope's Alloy2.

    As you suggested, here's a snippet:

    I think he just raps in the back of his throat and that's the way it is!
  5. Eli

    Eli Senior member

    Just a stab in the dark here, based on that snippet you posted. It sounds like something might be overdriven at some point in the gain staging. Is that possible? He clearly sings loud, and the signal is hot. Was he going through any compression? Is it possible some stage in the signal path was too hot?
  6. Markdvc

    Markdvc Administrator Staff Member

    I agree with Eli, it sounds like something (possibly the preamp) was being driven very hard. I have a TLM 103 and find it to be a very reliable microphone, I have used it with some very loud singers without any problems.

    kind regards

  7. sonnykeyes

    sonnykeyes Senior member

    Thanks, guys, I also thought it sounded overdriven, even as I was laying it down, but the signal was nowhere near pinning, and the input chain was exactly the same as what I've used with every other (even loud!) singer and voice actor. Maybe there's some internal limiting in the Yamaha DM1000 that I've just never overdriven it enough before to reach. Anyway, it's done now, and I'm all ears (albeit, apparently faulty ones!) if anyone has suggestions on how to ameliorate the problem!
  8. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    The sound is not compressed or distorted due to the level, even if the level got reduced for the sound snippet. Look at the Crest factor:


    The waveform looks strange for vocals:


    Normally I would say that there is some effect in the chain. Distortion, phaser, whatever. But sonnykeys knows his chain well, he would have told us about an effect. Overlooked, probably?

    What else could cause such a "comb" below the zero-line, especially at lower levels? Vibration of the microphone cage? Broken electronics somewhere?

    I know similar pictures from parts of acustic guitar recordings, there they come from the natural phasing of the instrument but are less evenly distributed. Here it looks almost like a woodwind instrument and, in a certain way, this voice sounds like an oboe.

    I remember a story from Mike Stavrou, as he told about a singer who started to scream but barely raised the VU level. This could be what we have here: the texture of the singer's throat and mouth when he applies his singing technique, intentional or not. It may just be the way he sings.

    Assuming that there is no technical cause for this sound (I am still not sure about that), where is the problem and into which direction would you like to go? Did the singer sound very different without the mic, as you heard him in the room? Did you listen closely at his mouth as you chose the mic? If this sound is real, you got a very special voice here.

    I tried a couple of things on the snippet but could not make it "better" whatever this means. The sound ist very stable and sometimes it squeaks in a funny way. EQing to reduce the "distortion" made it muddy and took away the originality, it would rather need emphasis in the heights. A dynamic EQ or multiband compressor at 500 Hz and 3k makes the sound a little more common. I also tried to increase the dynamics. But all this made the sound just different, not better.

    I am not a great artist when it comes to EQing and repairing recordings, but I think we have the situation where a young elephant should be forced to sound like a mainstream rapper. Maybe you could remove some harmonic parts with Izotope's Iris but afterwards, would it still be this voice?

    So far I understand there is no possibility to make another recording session and try different mics and positions, correct?

    If this is the case (and if there is really no technical problem) I have just one idea:

    You got to accept this voice as a special sound. If you cannot fit the voice to a given music, you still have the chance to fit the music to the voice. There are almost no fundamentals in the voice, they could come from a bass for example. Bass and kick supporting the sound and rhythm of already recorded lyrics may be a problem for traditional Rap. On the other hand, the singer is special, the song may be worth to try a special arrangement.
  9. sonnykeyes

    sonnykeyes Senior member

    Peter, I can't thank you enough for your thoughtful analysis and logical advice! I had also come to the conclusion that, in the absence of any differences in the input chain from any other recordings I have done, this is just the way this singer sounds. It occurred to me that if I can't make his voice sound 'better' (as you say, 'whatever this means') in the arrangement, maybe I should try to make it sound deliberately 'bad', so I'm going to experiment now with distortion effects and see if I can find a sound that fits well with the rest of my arrangement. Thanks again for all your insight!

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