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Recording Vocal Tracks on a computer

halkunhalkun Registered User regular
edited December 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
Ok...

As a gift I decided to make a CD of me singing to some Karaoke backtracks I have floating around for a friend. Now I've sung Karaoke before, and even recorded what I've done, but when I try it here at home it sounds really really wrong...

My vocals are just... I don't know... bland?

You can tell it's just me singing into a mike with this elaborate back track in the "background" I was wondering how do I get my voice "in there" so it sounds like I'm with the band? I've tried some tricks like recording my vocals twice and playing the double-me. That works somewhat, but still I can't get something that sounds mixed.

My set up is this. I have the back track converted into a .wav file and loaded into Audacity. I have headphones in the headphone jack and a mic in the mic jack in the fron of the computer. (I don't have anything plugged into the back. I often just use the internal speaker for sound.) I playback the backtrack into my headphones and sing. I tried to get it so I can hear myself in the headphones, but that's proving to be impossible. There is a half-second delay if I have Audacity do it. I just pop an ear out so I can hear myself. Also my mic records really quiet and I have to amplify on playback. As an experiment, I have a fender amp for my bass that I tried to use as an amplifier, but that was really hissy. So that didn't work

When I record, I have Audacity do an automatic playback of the backtrack at the same time so I can only hear the music in the headphones. This gets the clean vocal.

In the end it all sounds so disconnected though. How do I make it sound all "together"?

Better yet, how to I loop my voice back into my headphones. You think there is a way I can use the audio jacks in the back of my computer for something like that?

As a note, I'm not using any special sound card. I just have the AC97 that's the the motherboard. I have an Audigy in the other computer, but I don't think I have the PCI slots for adding it to this one. Would there be an advantage to adding another audio card?

Thanks guys.

halkun on

Posts

  • woodnwanonowwoodnwanonow Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    i think your soundcard and microphone are key here...a shitty microphone gives shitty sound...
    i work a little with recording on a digital 8 track, and had the same problem with some mics i stole from my school(they had been lying in the basement for a couple of years i think).
    and the sound was awfull...

    what you could do is working with an eq and try to balance the sound, and mixing it in with the backtrack, like turning up on the deep tone, and down on the high...
    also try to add some vocal-effects, like reverb and chours..
    and also with cheap mic's the sound tends to get very thin and squealy, so if you have any possibility to add gain, do it and it will drasticly improve the sound..twist and turn those knobs

    or you could buy a descent condensator mic for about 100$ and a mic pre-amp, that would make it sound really professional:P

    woodnwanonow on
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  • EggyToastEggyToast Jersey CityRegistered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Without spending any money, throw some reverb on your voice. Just a little, for starters. That should make it sound less like you're just talking into a mic in a room.

    EggyToast on
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  • GihgehlsGihgehls Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    compression/expansion can do wonders for flat vocals

    Gihgehls on
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  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I seem to have new problems.

    I'm borrowing a $50 mic from a friend and have it plugged through a guitar amp and into my system. It sounds a lot better and have a few analogue knobs I can play with to make my voice sound better.

    Now, I used to do Karaoke all the time at this one place in the city over. I even made recordings and I sound pretty cool. I was actually a favorite there. (I could do a killer Kermit the Frog, and sang a lot of Japanese songs from a largish CD+G collection I have.)

    Now the Karaoke place shut down, I'm using these Karaoke Tracks and doing a quick setup at home to record the covers. I've borrowed a $50 mic from a friend, and have it running through by guitar amp. From that it's going into my computer's mic in. I also got the loopback to work so I can hear my own voice with the song, but yet be able to record a clean vocal into it's own track. I've loaded the karaoke track up in Audacity and gave the song a few goes...

    I sound awful!

    My voice on playback sounds funny. I was trying to prevent that by listening to my own voice in the headphones but it's not helping. It still sounds different. Nasal-ish. Now I know I have a nasal voice in the first place, but this is pretty bad. It sounds nothing like my previous Karaoke recordings.

    The other issue is the most bizarre. My vocals are *lagging*. It's like they are starting a split second after they are supposed to. The weird thing is, I'm singing them fine, and when I sing with myself, I'm still on-beat, but is most definitely lagging by that split second amount on playback. I've even sung along with the vocals on the original MP3, and when I just play back my voice, it lagged. I don't understand where the lag is coming from. If I try and "correct" it then other parts don't sync up right.

    Can I have a little help here? Is there some kind of setup I'm missing. I don't sound like this on my Karaoke tapes.... What's wrong now :(

    halkun on
  • virgilsammsvirgilsamms Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    The lag (latency) is caused by a combination of your soundcard and pc setup. It is the time between when you sing and when the digital data makes it onto the hard drive I believe. You can fix this afterwards by shifting the vocal track slightly relative to the backing track so that it sounds in sync. Some sound recording packages give you the option to correct for latency also which will do that automatically. Or just get a proper A/D converter interface which will drastically reduce the latency.

    The comparatively flat sounding voice may be due to the fact that most Karaoke machines are laden with overblown vocal effects like reverb that tend to make anyone sound good. Recorded vocals with no effects tend to float above the music like you've described. I'd suggest playing with reverb and short delay (~100-200ms?) to make it blend better. You'll probably need to reduce how much the effect is mixed in so you don't sound like you're in a large bathroom constructed entirely of aluminium.

    virgilsamms on
  • Marty81Marty81 Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    You want to run a few filters on your recorded wav (save the original waveform as well, so you can go back to it later if you want to re-engineer it!). First, run a noise reduction filter. This gets rid of the background hiss/screeching. You might want to use a de-esser as well, if your recording makes you sound like you have a lisp. Then you can do some graphics equalization if you want. Sound too tinny, for example? Raise the bass. Play around with it. Here's a decent guide to which frequencies are best to enhance for certain instruments (including voice):

    http://www.ethanwiner.com/equalizers.html

    Finally, hit it with a little bit of reverb/delay/echo.

    Marty81 on
  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    A few more experiments.....

    It' me...

    I'm not singing on beat. It turns out I'm so used to singing along that I'm not starting anything on time. I tried a few experiments where one track was me saying "one-two-three-four" using a click track header to time myself.

    Quieting that and singing above the beat counts confirmed that I can't stay in beat. I have a real hard time sticking to the beat because I'm don't know how to "prep" before my cue..

    I have an idea.

    Should I post my shitty tracks and have someone help lend an ear? (Thanks for the EQ link, that's going into my quickly expanding toolbox)

    halkun on
  • mooshoeporkmooshoepork Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    yes. do it lol.

    mooshoepork on
  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Yes, that "lol" is really motivating me here....

    halkun on
  • mooshoeporkmooshoepork Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    When recording have you tried listening to the song on an ipod singing? That's what I do.

    mooshoepork on
  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I have the ability to lay multiple tracks. I have the actual MP3 with the original singer synced to another track of just the back vocals. I can mute the original vocal by switching tracks. (The back channel is the same).

    Even when I sing along with the original singer and play back my voice with the original "muted" it's even worse. I never start on beat. I think I'm listening to the other singer as an audio clue when I should be listening a split second before the beat.

    halkun on
  • Sharp10rSharp10r Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    How are you singing? I know I did this while sitting at my desk with my mic setup for my podcast and it sounded bland because I wasn't into it. In college my a capella group had a similar issue, it's hard to get that "sparkle" in a sterile environment. Is this an issue for you?

    Sharp10r on
  • Sharp10rSharp10r Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Just saw your new post- I'm pretty sure you're dealing with the lag issue mentioned above. It's probably so subtle that when you record counting, you don't perceive the difference, but with a vocal line its apparent.

    Sharp10r on
  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    No, it's me... I don't know how to hear a beat. It's really strange...

    I *thought* I could sing... It's almost amusing how bad it is. My pitches are all over the board. If I try, I can almost sync with the music, but I can't keep the beat and wander off after a few measures. The issue is I don't have any audio clues. By the time I hear the beat, it's too late to start a note.

    halkun on
  • OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2007
    Sure, post something up.

    I don't think anyone here is really enough of a douche bag to insult you. If they are we'll insult them and, well, if there's anything I learned from playing war games, there is indeed a measure of power in #s.

    Organichu on
  • Sharp10rSharp10r Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Hmm...is this on one song, or have you tried multiples?
    Edit: Yeah, and here on H/A they actually CAN'T insult you. (Though, constructive criticism should be expected!)

    Sharp10r on
  • GihgehlsGihgehls Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I master CDs for my friends' bands in my spare time and I would be happy to take a look at what you already have recorded. If you want to send your vocals and the backing track seperately that would be best.

    Gihgehls on
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  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I decided to post a rough version of what I have. I figure it like this:

    I'm not a professional singer.

    Hell, I bet I'm even tone deaf.

    But, at very least, I'm trying to broaden my horizons a little.

    I think I fixed my "lag" issue. Turns out I simply didn't have my inputs balanced so I could hear my voice properly. I still sing off key is some places and miss the beat sometimes. But I can only get better. I warn you now, my voice is nasal as hell. It's somewhere between "Kermit the Frog" and "Sponge Bob". Just letting you know now.

    Nothing has been done to the vocal track except a little normalizing and noise removal.

    For all those who want to make fun, well I'll wait for you to spend a dollar, download the Karaoke from JoCo's website, and see how you sound. At least I'm trying :P

    Oh yea, the zipfile with the mp3 in it is here.

    (Why do I have a feeling this is a bad idea.....)

    halkun on
  • mooshoeporkmooshoepork Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Not bad...Try singing from lower, doesn't sound like you have enough feel behind it. Still okay dude! don't be too hard on yourself.

    edit: lower...like from your stomach muscles.

    mooshoepork on
  • KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Yeah, it kind of sounds like you're just speaking on pitch, more than singing. Try making sure you have enough breath support, and stand when you're singing. Also you've got a weird accent while singing, which is probably from the same thing, you have to make sure that your "aaahs" are "Aaaah" and not "ehhhh" or something like that. Diaphragmatic breathing should help that.


    Your rhythm isn't too bad here, but if you're having problems try tapping something somewhere with the beat. Remember that on a recording you don't have to look normal, as long as you sound good. When I record I normally go crazy with my hands, throwing them all over the place to get the acting over-emphasized so that it comes through without sounding bland.

    You know what, unless anyone objects, I'm going to record my ideas and link them here, so you can understand what I'm talking about.

    Ok, here's a quick file that might help. It's not the most focused monologue I've ever done, nor is my singing the best I've ever sounded, but it's got a few quick things that might help. It's about one meg, I tried to compress it as best I could.

    Linky

    Khavall on
  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I have a new test sample with another song. There is a lyric flub screw up and this is only one double-recording take to try some new balances. I think it's a much better improvement.

    Here it is!

    halkun on
  • KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I don't know, it still sounds a little strained, especially in the chrous, it sounds a little closed off, like you're not quite getting the open sound that you should get. Does it ever hurt when you've been singing a lot?

    Also I think what I thought was vowels not being open enough was caused partially because you close to consonants a little too fast. Instead of "Borrrrrrrrn" try "Booooooorn". Of course I may just be hearing that now because I was playing for one voice teacher who for one of her students this was like, the big thing the semester, so it might not be as bad as I am hearing.

    Also you're not really following through on the pitches as much as you should. Make sure that you when you hit notes at the end of phrases you stay on pitch to the end, that's part of what's causing me to think that you're "speaking on pitch" more.

    I mean, I know I'm picking on a bunch of stuff, but it doesn't sound bad per se, as much as... like Kareoke. I know that when you're recording basically Kareoke that's fine, but if you're worried about quality it kind of sounds like a bunch of little stuff. You've also got intonation errors, but I think that's really only fixable with a bunch of ear training if you can't hear it when you sing.

    Basically, you still sound good for "Hey I'll sing", but these are just a few suggestion to push it to the next level. Singing and speaking sound entirely different if you actually listen to the way things are pronounced while singing. The inflection is normally the same, and the line of dynamics/articulation, but the pronunciation and sound production are almost entirely different.

    Khavall on
  • GihgehlsGihgehls Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Is the original vocal still on these tracks? I detect some sort of doubling on your voice.

    Gihgehls on
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  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    3:00 AM in a small apartment complex.. I was exited after a party. At work here I put it out of real speakers. That makes things a little more obvious to me now. I've decided to add a step to my workflow to send my output though my house speakers for a "final". It sounded better in headphones....

    halkun on
  • halkunhalkun Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Gihgehls wrote: »
    Is the original vocal still on these tracks? I detect some sort of doubling on your voice.

    The doubling is my voice. There is a tiny harminoizing chorus by JoCo that is still there, but I'm overpowering it.

    halkun on
  • TarantioTarantio Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    First off, listen to Khavall. He knows his stuff.

    Vowels are always extremely important. You want to be singing a pure vowel- A E I O U should be Ahh Eh Ee O Ooh- and if there's a soft consonant sound, like an r or an n after the vowel, you should really be singing only the vowel until the very end of the syllable. In choral singing, we're trained to put the last consonant sound of a word on the beginning of the next word, so "I am at rest" becomes "I ah ma trest." This sounds funny just speaking, but in rhythm with the song it just sounds good. My choir director refers to that particular technique as "Transylvanian." You can't emphasize it as much for solo stuff, but the purpose is the same.

    If want to reduce your nasality, you could try focusing your resonance further back in your head. This is a bit difficult to describe in clear terms, but when my singing gets nasal, it's because I was thinking "forward." It's most ideal to kinda focus it straight up, but you can just try to focus as if you were projecting the sound out of the back of your head. That was my voice instructor's advice, and doing it removed the nasal quality I was getting. It's not always easy to understand exactly where it is you're resonating, but with practice you can feel it. Right now it sounds like it's focused pretty close to the front of your face.

    Breathing should diaphragmatic, which basically means that the only thing that moves when your inhale is your stomach. You chest and shoulders should be relaxed, and shouldn't lift. Pretty much everything should be relaxed, but that's another lesson I guess.

    If you want to sound less bland, you could try going for more expression in the singing. Change you dynamics around, creshendo the long notes, that sort of thing.

    You really don't have a bad sound, all in all. Keep it up.

    Tarantio on
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