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RICHARD HUTCHINS

Vocals sound too quiet when I d things by the book!

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Hi all

Back again after an absence where ( Cakewalk) things seemed to go well! I'm learning all the time, and am trying to rely on google and you tube to sort stuff out instead of bothering the forum. But on this I am struggling; I am recording a song and trying to avoid clipping which my earlier recordings suffered from due to my novice status. 

So...I record the various tracks and get the signal on these to around -18db on the VU, all okay so far. I use my Steinberg interface to adjust the gain. But my vocals are almost imperceptible when I record them at this level, maybe peaking at -12db, average 18. To get them sounding ok in the overall mix I have to up the faders and then it just distorts. But following the guidance on gain staging etc. the vocals sound remote, buried in the mix and not acceptable.

I know I am doing something very wrong but what?

 

Also I'm sure I posted this sort of query a couple of months ago but cant find it so sorry to repeat myself. 

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First thought: You probably could use a compressor on the vocal tracks to even out the peaks. This should reduce distortion but may not be a "one fix all" solution, and indeed shouldn't be.

You need to identify where the distortion is coming from.

-12db is a fine level for a recorded track, and there is nothing that should prevent you from being able to mix a nice, balanced result with clarity in all parts, except perhaps lack of experience. Persevere! We can help.

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Recording the track with headroom as you are doing is the best way to avoid clipping.  After recording you can normalize the clips to make them louder for mixing.

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Yes I think I may start over, and try to get it right stage by stage, the other tracks are fine but its the vocals that are a problem. Maybe a clean sheet needed.

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Please post these types of questions in  " production techniques" .  We all get to learn from them that way.

 

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Posted (edited)

I’m making a video about levels. 
Right off the top I would say probably your VST backing tracks are going to be louder if your vocals are only- 12. 
 

But what my video is about is peak level only tells you part of the story. It’s actually the loudness LUFS or RMS that tell the truth. 

Edited by John Vere
Deleted video to edit

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On 4/24/2021 at 7:45 PM, RICHARD HUTCHINS said:

Yes I think I may start over, and try to get it right stage by stage, the other tracks are fine but its the vocals that are a problem. Maybe a clean sheet needed.

I think you should consider whether the other tracks aren't fine and the vocals actually are. -18 to -12 is a good benchmark for the raw recording level of everything, not just vocals. It sounds to me as if everything else is too loud.

This assumes that other sounds are coming from recorded instruments and not plug in synths  and so on, but a similar principle applies.

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It's a typical beginner's mistake to only think about turning something up to make it more audible and never think about turning everything else around it down.

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On 4/24/2021 at 12:39 PM, RICHARD HUTCHINS said:

...So...I record the various tracks and get the signal on these to around -18db on the VU, all okay so far. I use my Steinberg interface to adjust the gain. But my vocals are almost imperceptible when I record them at this level, maybe peaking at -12db, average 18. ...

Just to be clear, are you looking at a VU meter or the Peak/RMS meters of the track? 

I ask because the "standard" calibration of a a VU is that 0VU is equal to -18dBFS RMS.  For recording, it's routine to target -18dBFS average with -12dBFS or -6dBFS peaks, but you're in a for a world of weak signals if you target -18dB on the VU meter.  Let us know for sure. 

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I hope Richard is OK, he usually stays involved in his threads. If he come back I made him this tutorial. Well I was going to make it anyways but here it is. 

 

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Hi Guys,

Yes I'm back! Thanks John for your concern but I snatched a week away from Hutchins Towers  as me and my wife were going 100% stir crazy in Lockdown! No signal where we were staying.. which is a mixed blessing; mostly but not always a good thing.

Anyhow, I just picked up the thread, and thanks again to you all for posting. I will look at your video now John.

As to the other questions, I use a Steinberg UR22 interface Tezza. The readings I am talking about are in the meters on each track, I did a screenshot as the track was playing. ( I know, its a mess!)

I went through this song and started over trying to get the signals to peak -12 and average -18, but as I said, when I came to do the same for the vocals they almost disappeared in terms of relative volume. I am therefore starting over  as from today, to see if I can fix this. All those parts to play again(sigh)

 

If my learning curve gets any steeper I'll need crampons. 😉

screen shot song.png

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Watch the video before you delete anything. I give you 4 ways to fix this. Good luck 

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Cheers John, watching it now. It will then take a depressingly long period of time to sink in! Straight away I learnt that the faders and the gain control at the top are not the same! Gives you an idea of my level of knowledge. Onwards and upwards though..

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Looking at the screen shot the blue track is showing 2.4 peak level. Is that the vocal? 

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8 minutes ago, John Vere said:

Looking at the screen shot the blue track is showing 2.4 peak level. Is that the vocal? 

Yes, very much a guide vocal but obviously its not right at all in terms of volume

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If this is the vocal track your refering as to being too quiet then there's a bit of a mystery because -2.9 is dangerously close to clipping.  

It would be nice to see a little more detail in the screen shot like all the track settings, faders and outputs etc. Drag out the track inspector part so it shows all the details and select ALL I think your on Custom which hides important stuff. .   And at this point there's not a lot of other tracks playing. A shot at the busiest part of the song would be nice. 

But right off, the one track with piano is showing -5.0  peak  and the drums are also -2.0 which is also loud.   When you said you were recording at -18.0 I was thinking you were a bit to low as I aim for around -10.0  for instruments and -8.0 for vocals. The video I made is about turning up levels but I'm thinking you need to defiantly turn the instruments down if they are all peaking between -5 and -2 db.

In my video I demonstrate using the Gain to turn things up,,, just do the opposite and turn down your instruments so they are closer to -8.0 or even -10.0 

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Here's a screen shot of a typical finished song. I choose one that I have absolutely no sub busses on for clarity. You can see that most faders are at unity with the exception of the guitars which have automation and are turned down. Things like the bass and drums I have used the gain control to lower them so peaks are around -10.0 and you see the vocals at around -8.0 . Not shown is the Pro Channel where there will be some EQ and compression. 1420674527_Screenshot(110).thumb.png.a344caeef9c66acee07f6925191eeff7.png

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49 minutes ago, John Vere said:

Here's a screen shot of a typical finished song. I choose one that I have absolutely no sub busses on for clarity. You can see that most faders are at unity with the exception of the guitars which have automation and are turned down. Things like the bass and drums I have used the gain control to lower them so peaks are around -10.0 and you see the vocals at around -8.0 . Not shown is the Pro Channel where there will be some EQ and compression. 1420674527_Screenshot(110).thumb.png.a344caeef9c66acee07f6925191eeff7.png

Thanks for this John, it illustrates your points very well. I watched the video too, so I'm going to try and sort this tonight. I also downloaded the Loudness plugin.

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Posted (edited)

LoudMax- I just love this simple little guy. It seems to use low resources too. So you can add it to any track that you feel needs some processing. Mostly I like that it is a simple one control brick wall limiter. I even use it on the audio output of my movie editing software. It seems to be a colorless compressor and doesn't sound compressed at all when you push it. And so simple to set up. Just set the OUT to say -8.0db. Then the threshold you push until you hear the tracks volume increasing. You'll find the compressor kicks in at whatever the tracks peak level was. So say the track was originally peaking at  -10.0db and you want 2 db more, just set the threshold at -12.0 db The compressor will even the track out and the limiter will keep it under -8.0 db 

I've yet to see that it fail in this important task. If I set the "out" at my desired limit it shows this on the You Lean Loudness meter. I was mostly using the BT Brick wall but I was seeing different results often. I'd set the BT at -1.0 db on a master bus and both Wave Lab and You Lean were reporting -0.7db. 

https://loudmax.blogspot.com/2021/02/loudmax-plugin-v138-released.html  

The You Lean Loudness Meter- If you buy the Pro Version of this for $ 47.50 Can. you get that drag and drop feature which is a huge time saver. In seconds you know the total true peak level and most important the LUFS of any audio track.  Best money I ever spent on a plug in. 

 https://youlean.co/youlean-loudness-meter/  

Edited by John Vere

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