132: Make Your Singer Sound & Feel Like A Star – The Perfect Headphone Mix

132: Make Your Singer Sound & Feel Like A Star – The Perfect Headphone Mix

This episode is about going the extra mile to create the perfect headphone mix to make sure your vocalist feels as good as possible when its time to perform.


Book a free feedback call with Benedikt, the host of the show!

The performance matters more than anything. The best mic and vocal chain in the world doesn’t matter if the delivery doesn’t cut it. What you record has to resonate with the listener, there’s gotta be a vibe, it just has to feel right. So we need to make sure that a singer we’re recording can do his/her best job when it counts.

This is true for every instrument, by the way. But the vocals are such a personal, intimate thing and they are also the thing that listeners care about the most, so that we think it’s especially important to get a good performance here.

Besides making sure that the room has a vibe and the whole communication/psychology/coaching thing, there’s one major element that you as the engineer have control over: The headphone mix.

You want to make the artists you're recording and their songs sound as good as possible on their headphones, so that they feel like a star and perform like one.

So let’s go through what you can (and should) do to make that happen!

Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 132 - Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy

Malcom: the producer. Is the thing that makes the vocals move along, regardless to how good the singer is singing. if they're nailing it and you are not telling them that they're nailing it, you're gonna be there for hours and not get it done it like, it's all about the person in the chair. 

Benedikt: Hello and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I'm your host Benedictine. And I'm here with my friend and co-host Malcolm Owen flat. How are you buddy?

Malcom: Hey, man, I'm doing great. How are you?

Benedikt: I'm doing great. Two. This is the first time in the long time that I almost stumbled over my words when I did the, the little introduction there. I, I couldn't remember your name for a, for a short moment.

Malcom: uh, who is this

Benedikt: yeah. 

Malcom: He keeps showing up once a week.

Benedikt: yeah. Ex exactly. No, no, I know. I know who you are. so, and I'm glad to 

Malcom: Yeah, listeners. This was actually meant to be a solo podcast. I just started showing up and

Benedikt: Yep. At some point, Malcolm just, showed up and he, you know, yeah, never, never left after that. So

Malcom: I'm always online. You sign in. I'm already here. 

Benedikt: exactly. So, uh, how was your weekend? How, what did you do? Like 


Malcom: What did I do? Um, I, I kind of worked through it. Um, I, I was on a, on a show, but it was nice and chill, a good, good gig up in, uh, Souk, British Columbia, which is a beautiful place that I absolutely love to be Oceanside community. it's really awesome. There it's like a place I think about trying to move to all the time. So pretty solid weekend hanging out there. I gotta say. And it was sunny. I got too much sun, I would say, but gotta do that at least once in a summer. Um, uh, yeah, and, uh, and there was some music in my week. I, uh, I finished a few mixes and masters last week, so just kind of was communicating with the artists over the weekend. And we're gonna put the finishing touches on 'em this week. So things are moving along, just dandy in that department, too. How about.

Benedikt: Awesome. Yep. Same, pretty much. Same here spent a lot of time outside. Um, yeah, enjoying the, the end of summer, basically as always running stuff like that. And then, um, yeah, and then a lot of music stuff too. Of course I like after it's crazy. How, like a holiday, like vacation break always changes everything for me. And in terms of energy and excitement and everything like I, before I left, I didn't really feel very exhausted. But when I came back, I realized how exhausted I actually was because like this last week after the vacation, I just got so much done and I, I was like excited for things again. And I like, I don't know, like. Uh, it really changed things. So, uh, it felt great working on some mixes. I did a little more experimenting than usual just because I wanted to. And so this was a pretty good week and, and now it's, this week is gonna be a lot about the coaching program, adding new content for my people there. Um, preparing the launch finally for the mixes unpacked too, and stuff like that. So, yeah, I feel like I have a lot of energy and a lot of things to do. And, uh, I don't mind having a lot of things to do, which is a great feeling.

Malcom: Exciting

Benedikt: yeah.

Malcom: Yeah, it, a recharge followed by kind of a more relaxed week is the perfect combination. I think, cuz uh, otherwise if you like have a, a little relaxed period and then go back in and it's like heavy, you've kind of like forgotten your workflow and then it's like, uh, oh, I gotta overcompensate get back into this thing. But uh, yeah, if you can ease back into it, it's like you're, you've got the attitude and the, the bandwidth is perfect.

Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. Like there, there was a lot of like catching up and stuff as always, but it wasn't so overwhelming. And now I feel like I'm, I'm much faster than before. It almost felt, feels like I didn't lose time just because I get so much done. Now. It's always the, the thing with taking breaks, same during mixing, by the way, people, if you are sitting there for like hours and working on a song and you're afraid that you're gonna lose time by taking a break most often, this is not true. Just taking a break and then getting back into it is oftentimes like, like actually most of the time it's faster than just trying to push through it

Malcom: Yeah. 

Benedikt: and to see my experience. Yeah.

Malcom: I agree. 

Benedikt: Awesome. And today's episode is of course also about music and recording as always. it's about, going the extra mile basically to make your vocalist feel as good as possible when it's time to perform. So I call it this episode. I don't know if that's gonna be the title, but like make your singer feel like a star. And what I mean by that is. The performance, as we often said matters more than anything, at least in my opinion and the best mic and the best vocal chain and all the gear and all of that, doesn't really matter if the delivery just doesn't cut it. And so what you record has to resonate with the listener, there's gotta be a vibe. It just has to feel right. And we need to make sure that a singer we're recording can do his or her best job when it counts. And I think this is true for every instrument, by the way, not just for vocals, but I think this is why I, I, I made this episode or this outline about the, the vocals, because I feel like vocals are such a personal, intimate thing that they are, and they are also the thing that listeners, um, care about most I'd say so that I think it's especially important to get a good performance when, when recording vocals. yeah, we're gonna talk about. besides the typical things, I think we have talked about those two in the past that this is an episode on its own. Like besides the typical things, like getting the vibe and the room, right. Communicating, well, making sure that the artist has everything they need and all of that, there is one major element that you, as an engineer actually have control over. And that is the he phone mix. That is, I think, what makes, what can make or break a session almost. So like what can, um, make a person perform really well or do the exact opposite and you want to make this headphones mix and, uh, the song that they like their own voice, but also the song, the backing track that they're hearing, you want to make it sound as good as possible on the headphones so that they can feel like a star and perform like one, that's basically the topic of this episode. So let's go through. what you can and should do to make that happen. And I'm curious to hear your thoughts on that Malcolm, because you said something very interesting when we were talking about, about this before the episode, that was kind of a different perspective where you said, like, it's not only about what the artist wants to hear. It also matters what I hear when I'm engineering and for self recording bands, this really matters because you are, you are like the engineer producer and artist all in one. And like, so I'm really curious to hear about that too. So let's talk about that.

Malcom: for sure. Yeah. I would say that it usually takes longer to build my headphone mix than, than the singers, which is and I, I try to be really quick. So it doesn't, it it's like, I don't think that's something the singer rather ever like observes or like, oh, it's weird. but it like, it's probably like, and they don't even know I'm tweaking mine as they're getting warmed up often and stuff like that. But, uh, I, it's definitely something I care about and we'll, we'll dive into why I believe that. Um, for sure. And, and many, many other things that go into providing the ideal environment and atmosphere for, for the vocalist to kind of connect and shine. it is not an overrated topic. and you, you do hear people talk about this and say it's important, but I think because it's like, there's a lot of, uh, almost mindset to it. People discount it for some reason and it's, it's really, uh, not to be discounted. It's super, super important. actually, you know, maybe that is a good place to start because it talks about why I like, why I care about what I'm hearing. And that also explains why a singer would care about what they're hearing as well and, and what's going on around them. so ultimately, uh, even before the performance, being everything, the song is everything. Um, and the, and the context of the song and stuff like that. So that is kind of what my philosophy of needing to hear it. Exactly how I want to hear. boils down to, and when I say that, I mean that I, I'm kind of hoping for the vocal to sound kind of mixed and in the mix, which usually means it's quieter than the vocalist might want if, for what they're hearing. and I find other people in the room want it louder too, because everybody likes to have what they're focusing on louder. Right? If you're tracking guitars, your guitars are probably louder than they'll be in the finished product, cetera, et cetera. but with vocals, that's kind of the exception for me. I want it sitting where I think it will be sitting roughly. I want the effects on it that I think will be pretty close to what the effects will be. So we've got, you know, like a delay that's probably gonna be be there in the end. The Reverb's gonna be along the lines of what's gonna be there in the end. The compression is like a really good starting point. Um, and it, especially like the. The EQ curve of it, like, is, is it like a bright vocal? Is it a dark vocal? That's all gotta be pretty much figured out for me and in the song so that I can hear it and make decisions on their performance based against the song. If it doesn't sound like it fits in the song, it all kind of sounds lame to me and not inspired and, and I, I have a super hard time being like, oh, like, could you like go more emotional on that line? or I think you're overdoing it. And it's kind of like a watery vibrato thing. You're doing this, this go softer, dial back, whatever it is. or even stuff, that's a little more production based. You know what we should double up for this, this last line leading into the course and have a vocal double, let's just knock it off right now. All of those decisions become really clear to me if the, the mix is like quotation marks finished sounding. and so that's what I need to hear. And that's why I want to go through all of that work, but now flip it. And I'm the singer in the room. I also want that, but I, I think more importantly, a singer wants to hear themselves above all else. Right. So they can make sure that they're. Tone and pitch and timing and, and no weird mouth noises and stuff like that.

Benedikt: Yeah.

Malcom: are happening too. so with that in mind, the, and something that'll probably come up throughout this episode for me, and maybe this is the luxury with my system, but I think a lot of systems can do this now having two different headphones mixes or, or, or mixes, I should just say, is really important. So my mix is always different than what the singer is receiving. and I build those one for me and I build one for them. And that is huge to me. It, it very, very rarely works out that we both want to hear the same thing.

Benedikt: absolutely. This is super, super critical. And. Yeah. It's something that you said there about like you having to hear it in context more and the singer, like having to hear it themselves more than anything, probably this alone is a, is a, a perfect reason to, to have that separate. It's almost a must, I think. And I wanted to do to you to talk about this as a final thought, but I kind of push it to the beginning of the episode now, uh, because it makes sense everything we're gonna be talking about in this episode sort of, depends like whether you're able to do all of that depends on the interface, the gear that you have to an extent. So usually we're not like big on like gear and it's not the most important thing, but I think, you know, being able to do these things that we're gonna talk about requires you to have a solid interface, a fast computer, and maybe, DSP processing in your interface. If you wanna run plug-ins in real time, for example, I think like the, the, the, the thing about the different headphones mix is this is one of those things that. Are probably worth. Upgrading where it's like probably worth upgrading to a different interface. If you can't do that with yours, like if yours just has an output and a he phone output and they both spit out the same thing, then it's, then that might be a reason to upgrade to something else. And this is stuff like that is much more important than the actual specs or the quality of the, of the premiums or something like that. You know, a lot of people think they have to upgrade their interface because a, a more expensive interface sounds better, but that's actually not the point because all of the, current queue basically sounds good. I think the point is what you can do with the interface, like the options you have, the flexibility, the ins and outs, the different mixes and all of that. And maybe being able to run plugins and stuff like that. So that's actually, it's actually what it's about. So if you're wondering how to do the things that we're gonna explain. You might be limited by the interface you have, but also there might be workaround. So if you have a fast enough computer and a decent interface, you could do some of those things inside your door, instead of on the interface itself. Some of those, at least the only requirement that you really have to have is like, you have to have two different outputs of some sort could be a headphone out and a line out, and then you can connect the he phone M to the line out or something. But two different outputs is like the only requirement on the hardware side. Everything else could be done in the do if your computer is fast enough, so you can turn down the latency in all of that. so there's that there, there are workarounds, but maybe this is a good reason to upgrade and indefinitely a better one than just the Sonics. I just wanna say that. 

Malcom: Yeah. Yeah, that, that's a, a great point. And there's also a, a little bit of a technical proficiency requirement as well. You have to understand the routing matrix of your, your IO in, in your computer and be able to set that up and, and, you know, efficiently be able to run that in the session because having those two mixes is great and dandy, but. they're asking for a change and it takes you like 15 minutes to figure out how to make that happen for them. And you like make a mistake and you're like, oh, sorry, that just took it out. And like that stuff ruins a session. Um, so it takes practice, to kind of get proficient at it. And, um, I would encourage you to, once you have a system you like try and set that up into a template, so you can just kind of pull it in and not have to reroute it every time.

Benedikt: definitely. And practice that too. Like I have a really, really good interface. I have an RME that has a phenomenal, like mixing, um, software that comes with it that you can use to route things, but still. I prefer to when I was still recording, I still prefer to do most of what I do when it comes to monitoring actually in Cubase and not. So I, I wouldn't have to run both of those things at once. So I set up a total mix, like this is the interface software. I set that up once basically. And then in the session I did almost everything out of Cubase and I could do that because my computer is fast because the interface is like really solid and fast, and I can get really low latency even though I'm running through the do. Uh, but I prefer to do that because, yeah, because it's just so much faster to just focus on one piece of software and do the, the changes there instead of like going back and forth between the two, this just took me too long. And like, to even, even though I, I can work it at like, it's still not very efficient, so yeah, you definitely have to learn this stuff. You have to practice it and you have to come up with a workflow that works for you. For sure. And, uh, the one last thing I wanna add here, Digital mixers instead of like a, just quote, chest and interface can be a great solution for this too, like, or mixers in general, because with a mixer, even with an analog mixer, you can do a lot of the he phone routing and stuff like that, even before you ever hit the interface. So some of that stuff could be done without any latency on the mixer, and then you go to the computer. So there might be workarounds and it's different for every mixer and especially like digital mixers. Now they can give you, effects, compression, EQ, whatever you want before you even go to the converters and to the computer, which can be really cool. So the routing capabilities of those, they could, can be a great solution for what we're gonna talk about too. So if you have to, if you happen to have one of those in your gem space, it might be worth like checking that out and, and see how it sounds as an interface. And maybe you can then utilize the, the routing capabilities.

Malcom: Okay. The, this brings up a fascinating topic. Actually. It's kind of a bit of a rabbit hole that I didn't expect to go down. Uh, but there's, there was like these two intangible things that took me a long time to figure out. And I think it's part of why vocalists typically don't like recording and, or find it very uncomfortable when it's something that's new to them. You know, they throw on headphones and they're like, oh, this is not like singing on stage with the speaker in front of me or just with my acoustic guitar in my living room and whatever, it's, it's so different. Um, and I couldn't really figure out how to correct that. but then it was, there was, it kind of boils down to two things, at least partially. And these helps this situation. One is a pretty simple fix. It's providing a stereo mix rather than a mono. and a stereo mix, you know, means that you've got things spread left and right. And there's a space and your vocals probably gonna coming up center. So it kind of has a spot to live. It's not just kind of stacked on everything else that, that answers or solves a lot of, of this unnatural feeling right there. If possible, go with the stereo mix. I really, really think a vocalist will always prefer that. but then the other thing is this weird, feeling of your voice is no longer in your body. , um, and you're singing and it's almost like your voice is like right in front of you. And that is latency essentially latency and, uh, and phase with your headphones. And, that's caused by the, the delay to some extent as well. So you're hearing it through the headphones, but it's also in you and that. Kind of cancel out a little bit and have a, a bad phase polarity relationship. So improving the latency will bring it. And this is actually kind of how it feels. It, it feels like, uh, and you can test this if you throw up a vocal and you've got a pretty good latency, and then you throw on something that delays the signal in that channel, the more you delay it, the further it feels like your voice is moving away from you. It's fascinating. And then as you shorten it, it feels like your voice is re-entering your head

Benedikt: Yes.

Malcom: and then, the lower the lanes, you can get, the more, it's gonna feel like you're singing it like usual, um, which is really helpful. And especially if this is something you're not used to, and then you can always flick the, the polarity switch. And sometimes that. Gets it that little bit more solid feeling as well. but then I know there's people that go through huge, uh, lengths to make it so that their vocal monitoring is no latency. So they have a hardware, pre-computer vocal send, that just directs like the, the raw vocal essentially splits it right from the mic back to you. and, and that's like as low as you can get, there's downsides to that as well, I think, but it, like, they really value that is this like it's immediate. Um, that feels like now and there, there's definitely something to be said for that. And it's worth experimenting with, to see if you can improve that.

Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Absolutely. And all of what you just said is like part of the list that we're going, um, that we're gonna go through right now. And, The thing with a direct monitoring where you send a hardware, like, yeah. Signal through the hardware, to the headphones, without latency, without going to the computer and all of that, which is like serial latency. That is what the, the entry level interfaces oftentimes offer that they have a, a wet, dry kn or something on the front where you can like, uh, send the direct in signal, like back to your headphones. And then you can blend that with, with what's coming back from the computer, and this is kind of a workaround for them not having like the out, the necessary outputs and the, the mixing software and all that required. and you, you would think that this is enough and this is cool. And, and like basically many people listening to this might actually think that the he phone mix is basically about just being able to turn them up loud enough so that they can heal themselves. But the thing is, and this is why there's downsides to. It's it's about much more than that. It's not just about you being loud on the headphones and yes, it is about latency and phase and all that, but it's about how you actually sound on the headphones and how that makes you feel so that you can perform best. And this is where a lot of these, the cheaper interfaces sometimes don't really cut it because you're just limited with that. You can turn it up. Yes. But it still will sound pretty raw. And this might make some singers like, feel insecure because they wanna hear themselves, like, as they were on a record and they wanna, you know, all these things. So this is why I, I, I thought of the title, like making the, the singer feel like a star, because that doesn't happen if you just send the, the raw signal back to the headphones. And, um, so, so let's, let's go through that list real quick. I think at first to me, it starts with the very basics, which is like, make sure that there's no distracting things like hum noise, his clicks, pop, stuff like that. You know, just, just distracting stuff. Make sure that there's nothing like that on the headphones. This includes, um, setting the buffer size correctly. So there's no clicks and pops so that the, the computer can actually, uh, handle the, the low latency, making sure that the things like the stable connection, like adapters extension cables, stuff like that, you don't wanna have like one cycle in and out all the time of the headphones. This is a very common thing. You wanna have like stable connectors. You don't, because that stuff, even if you can fix it, when that starts to happen, even if it's just happens once it like makes a singer a little more, a little bit more insecure because they they're gonna start thinking about, will this happen again? Like, what was that? Is that, you know, this is just not good. These are the things that you absolutely wanna test and, and wanna avoid, uh, like, yeah, definitely. For every single session, this, this is the, the, the basics I'd say. and then next up is what you said, Malcolm, like no, or like minimal latency, uh, which is the, the delay between you hearing yourself from inside your body, basically. And, and what's coming out of the headphones and this doesn't have to be, as you said, an obvious echo, this doesn't have to be a huge gap that a gap that you can hear like a delay, this is a very short delay that you don't really notice as a delay can still be too much. If, the thing happens that you described where it feels like the vocal is sort of in front of you. so really try to get that to minimum and, and the way to do that is to. Either do it with the hardware thing that you sent back to your headphones. If that's the only thing you can do or buy, if you go through the computer and, uh, a mixing software, uh, that the interface comes with, or like, if you go through the do and use plugins there or whatever, um, you have to make sure that you set the what's called the buffer size inside your software to the lowest possible value, that your computer can basically handle because the lower you go with the buffer size, the lower the latency will be, but the more your CPU will have to work and you have to find the sweet spot there and you have to get that number too, as low as possible, and that will reduce your latency. And if your interface comes with processing power, built into it with like a, a CPU built into it, DSP chip, then it can oftentimes handle the routing and sometimes effects and all of that without causing additional like, um, Without CPU load on the computer. Yeah, exactly. And then you can oftentimes run effects and stuff that in real time without latency, just because the interface can, can deal with all of that. but, but it's all 

Malcom: I do wanna, yeah. I want to add here, cuz I, I mentioned how like the lower you get, the more direct you go, um, like that direct, monitoring's probably gonna be quicker than no matter how low you set your buffer size. Cause it's immediate from like it's analog. It never touches the computer and has to think, now people tend to hear advice like that or, or, or facts like that. And then think that that's obviously the thing they have to do. Um, I think Benny and I both don't do that. I think we both use our computers because there's more advantages to that. It's worth the slight latency to, to be able to monitor through our da. Um, so stay tuned and, and don't just start running out, trying to figure out how to do that. It's not necessarily the solution could be, but it's not 

Benedikt: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. All right. And then the other thing was check the face. You also mentioned that, which is, um, it sounds weird, but you can be outta phase with yourself basically. and you just it's worth, if something feels weird or if you, sometimes I had the situation where the singer asked me for, just asked me just to turn him up or her up on the headphones. And I did that and nothing really seemed to change or it didn't make the change that they were hoping for. And, uh, the reason for that was that if, if it's out of phase, even if you turn it up more, it won't get a lot louder. So, um, I just started, and I didn't do that for a long time, but I, I read it somewhere and then I just started flipping the phase, on the vocal channel, which on its own, like in the context of the mix doesn't change anything because there's no other thing that is like, there's no phase relationship with any other element in the mix, but it changes the phase relationship between what's coming out of the headphones and what the singer hears. And sometimes that did the trick. Like I flipped the phase and all of a sudden they were like, oh, now I can hear myself. And so that could, it's not often, but that can, can do the trick. So just check it, it's worth it and just use the, the position of the phase. Not that works better.

Malcom: Yeah, totally. I, I just built it into my setup. You know, we set again, we get a rough he phone volume, and then I say, I'm just gonna click a button a couple times. You just keep saying the same word and when it sounds fuller, just be like this one kind of thing. Uh, just let me know and, and then we'll leave it like that. And that kind of solves it. It's like it's already optimized then. Um, and that's what it, the that's kind of what they'll be listening for is it should just sound a little fuller and again, closer. It, it feels more attached to you. 

Benedikt: exactly. 

Malcom: cuz it, yeah,

Benedikt: So now we get into the things that are, so these were the basics. Just being able to like no face issues, no latency issues, stable connection, no noise, all of that. so now we get into like some other things that you might not have thought about before. So, or that a lot of people don't really think about. So the first thing is a well balanced mix. So the mix that they are hearing on their headphones, I think definitely is important and definitely changes how they perform. Like you wanna prepare a great he phone mix for them and you wanna do that in advance. So, um, I, I don't think you should, should I think you should put some work into that and make sure that they hear that what they hear is exciting and that, that it's like that they wanna record to that. And, they are, it gives them confidence and all of that. So I don't know, uh, how you feel about that Malcolm, but I think the rough 


Malcom: agree. 

Benedikt: Yeah.

Malcom: I think it's hugely important. The, I think it was CLA said that every time you click play, the client should be hearing like, like what sounds like a finished mix. And that is well, they're producing a record. and that is that's, that's so true. So like the only time things are out of whack is when it has to be so that somebody can track to it. But you know, you finish that guitar tracking, it gets ducked down to where roughly it should live. so it's constantly building a mix and you might throw it all out the window when you actually do a final mix, but along the way, it it's crucial that your mix is balanced. so it, and it's, yeah, there's no exception with vocals. you should have a, a great sounding mix for them to sing too. Um, I think I mentioned that I like, like, I, I want the mix to sound really finished for me. especially like, while I produce somebody else's vocals, I do start with that though. Like I I'll, you know, probably be in before the band have make sure things are sounding how I want them. I might kind of do some prem mixing, like, you know, getting drums more compressed and, and whatever. Um, just so things are leveled out. And then that is what, like, that's always my starting point. I send my mix to the vocalists and then generally all they want is the vocal louder than I want. Like, that's usually the, the real difference between my mix and their mix is just the vocal volume and the effects volume on the vocals as well. but really it's like, oh yeah, the, because I've done that pre-work of like making the instruments balanced. They just, they don't have to say anything about that. It's like, yep. That's great. Thanks.

Benedikt: yeah, totally, totally. And I think the most important thing about a great, um, headphones mix is not necessarily all the details. So I'm just saying that because I know there's gonna be listeners who will then spend way too much time perfecting every single detail about the mix. It's not about that. Like not every single automation move and every single. Thing has to be there, not even every plugin, but like the basics, like good balance volume balance, more than anything, uh, panning that makes sense. Um, com compression, if it like changes the feel, as you said with the drums, if you need the drums to pump a little, or if you just need some consistency and like add the compression, you need to achieve that. Get rid of like distracting frequencies with EQ, but don't, don't go crazy. Like you don't have to refine it. It it's just a well balanced mix basically. That's what you

Malcom: Yeah. There there's like a really easy to reach threshold of balanced that just needs to be hit. Um, it it's by no means finished. It's just gotta be like, oh yeah, this is like, that's that sounds about right.

Benedikt: yeah,

Malcom: good. It should, it should take no time at all. It's says grab the fader. There we go. 

I do understand that is easier said than done when you're getting started. Uh, but like that that's a skill to, to work on just to quickly balance a mix. 

Benedikt: Absolutely. And the cool thing is if you're a self recording artist, self recording band, and you primarily work on your own stuff, then your own genre, the instruments you use and all of that probably don't change as much as they do when you work with like different artists, which means you can build pre you can pretty easily build templates and track presets and like, you know, stuff like that for yourself that you can then use in your session. So you can get a pretty consistent, good sounding, rough mix every single time. If your whole setup doesn't change that much, which is a huge advantage. Like I would invest time in, into building these tracking, templates and presets that I can then use over and over again. that, that is, that is actually huge. I mean, you know, it's, it's just your band that your recording, so you really know what things are supposed to sound like, and you can build that in advance. So don't start over ever from scratch every single time you.

Malcom: yeah, for sure. great point. I, uh, I have another rabbit hole to go down. I think. Yeah. 

uh, not, not a big rabbit hole, but just a, a little bit of one. this, uh, this kind of like a, a more, we're getting more into the technique of building them a mix. Um, but I've done it both ways. And I think, when you first start trying to build a separate mix for your singer, so you say you're, uh, the guitars in your band, you're recording your vocalist. cuz you're not all just one person listening to this. but so some of you aren't the vocalist, but you do all the recording and this is kind of for you, your instinct and maybe lack of experience with doing two mixes might lead to you being like, all right, you've got your headphones on. I'm gonna turn up the ki the drums or the kick, even like the kick drum alone. Uh, you're really specific. You've got an output on every track and you're like, just tell me when it's a good volume. And they're like, okay, that sounds good. All right, now I'm gonna grab the snare. And then, okay. Let's bring in some Toms. How, how is that volume? Okay. Symbols. And it's like 30 minutes later. Drums are done. That's great. And now let's go to guitar is left guitar loud enough. And uh, every time I've done that and, and gone really detailed or, or even more vague and been like, okay, here's drums. Does that seem right? Here's guitars. Does that seem right? And build a mix for them? And they tell me when they're good, I then have listened to their mix and been like, oh, this is so bad. like, you can't sing to this. What do you, you're lying. You have no idea. You're just nervous. Um, you, they, I mean, how do I say this? You can't let them decide what the mix is, but you also have to let them decide what the mix 


So that 

leads me back to my previous point to you have to do the mix for them first, just throw on their headphones, build a mix and be like, here you go. And then you can tweak from there. Otherwise it's like a dog's breakfast every single time. Uh, it's crazy.

Benedikt: Absolutely. And then they will tell you if they want things louder and that's totally fine. Uh, but then they have a good starting point already and, and like any changes should be minor. And, but if you start from scratch and let them do the work, then, I mean, and, and you can't blame them. They don't know what they're doing. They, they assume that what they want is the right thing. But you, you should, yeah, you are in, in, in charge of that, you have the responsibility to, to, to, to make a good, he phone mix for them. So definitely. Yeah.

Malcom: Yeah. And even if you have the luxury of like a little self mixer, like if you get to work in a studio, sometimes you have like, oh, here's the one label drums. I can turn that up or down. You still have to just rough it in for them. And then you can be like, okay, you can tweak on your own. It's in your hands now. But, uh, yeah, you, you can't expect them to build a mix ever.



Benedikt: Yeah. And this is actually a 


Malcom: also way quicker. It's, it's just so much quicker to, to do it for them as well. I'll add that. 

Benedikt: Yep. No, no, all good. It's perfect. And I love it. And this is a great segue to the next point, actually, because, that there are things that a vocalist most of the time doesn't know, or like don't wanna think of doesn't wanna think about while recording that you should know when you track them. These are things like how the, the volume of their voice versus the volume of the backing track, for example, changes the way they perform, for example, and these are things that you have to, to, you have to make those decisions and not them because they don't even know that, or they don't wanna think about those things, but you can sort of guide them without them even knowing, by just changing their, like things in their headphones mix. And what I mean by that is. First of all the overall volume of the Hepher mix, this is something, I think people perform differently when they have like a quiet Hepher mix or a very loud Hepher mix. And then there's the, the volume relationship between themselves and the backing track. So for example, if I feel, let's say we have dialed in a, a good mix that everybody likes and they sing to that and works. And then there there's some part where they, I, I feel like the singer is just not putting enough energy into it. It's just a little too quiet. It's not just that the energy is not there. I want them to push a little more, the way to, to sometimes do that is to just lower their, own volume on the headphones makes a little bit so that they have to feel like they have to push harder in order for them to hear themselves. And that makes them sing louder sometimes. So that can be a trick like that or the other way around if they are just. if you feel like they should like calm down a little bit, and it's just too much energy for the part, turning them up more will cost them to sing a little quieter oftentimes. So you can do things like that. And this is, these are things that yeah. That you have to make, uh, you have to decide that, and there are like, uh, you have to know that this just changes the performance, basically. And, the fact that they are telling you that they want them to be as loud themselves to be as loud as possible. Doesn't mean that it's the best thing for the part of the song. Sometimes you actually don't wanna make them so super loud or the other way around.

Malcom: Yes. Yep. Totally, totally great. That's like advanced mode, like you're, you're, you're a lethal vocal tracker at that point. You're like, Ooh, I'm gonna manipulate you into singing. What I want 

without even having to say it.

Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Totally. It happens live too. Like I think most people who have ever performed live know that, that, uh, that situation when the monitoring is not great and you don't have any ears, but you rely on Theves on stage and it's just not loud enough. You can't hear yourself properly. What you automatically do is you start screaming more and then you oftentimes it happens that, you know, you, you break your voice or something, or like this can really ruin a show. Sometimes I've had this happen with my bands where our vocalists would just scream like crazy because he, he could hear himself properly. And that would like ruin his voice on the first day of the tour or something like that. You know that the way you hear yourself definitely changes the way you perform.

Malcom: Right. Yeah.

A hundred percent. Other instruments too.

Benedikt: Yeah, totally, totally. So the next thing, Malcolm, now we're getting into the whole, make them feel like a star type of thing, make them sound great in the headphones. And the, the two things that come to mind for me are compression and like effects you use. And I, I, these are two categories for me because when, when I say effects, I mean, things like, um, reverb, delay, stuff like that. And then there's compression, which is, yeah, it's separate for me. And can you explain why or do you do that? Like why, why compression compressing their voice and feeding them a compressed signal of themselves? Like why that is important or changes things?

Malcom: Yeah. I think the reason both compression. And things like be delay are used on a vocal is really just to make it more, make it sound like they expect it to sound. we've all been listening to finished records for our whole lives. So when we go to record our vocals on a song, we expect it to sound like that. so if we don't have compression or we don't have, you know, reverb or delay, it probably won't sound like that. It'll sound. Way more dynamic and way more raw, uh, and the wrong kind of raw . So it, uh, it, uh, it it's distracting. Um, it, it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Uh, so it, that really comes down to it. and then from flipping it onto what I like about having compression and reverb and delays figured out well, we're tracking is that it's also just speeding up my job, cuz it's like, it's gonna have to be there eventually. Why wouldn't it be there now? like I, I, I just wanted it to sound finished. So the compression, for, for the singer though, is like, they won't even really know it's happening. It'll just make them sing better

Benedikt: Yes.

Malcom: or, or, or it can, and it it's another thing that kind of changes how they sing as well.

Um, because it, it levels things out, so they might sing into it and kind of try and push through it. Um, some people do, or some people kind of actually do the opposite, cuz if vocal seems louder, so they sing softer and that's actually a little more problematic. I find I have to trick them more, but, um,

Benedikt: Yeah, it also solves the, sorry. No, no, go, go ahead. I thought you were finished.

Malcom: I, I am finished

Benedikt: Okay. Okay. So it also solves part of the volume problem because, it just, as you said, it, it evens out things. And then when, when they go from a louder part to a quieter part, they can still hear the quieter part. And if you don't compress things, they might be like, oh, like in this part, I can't see myself anymore. And you have to turn the vocal up it down and things like that. And with compression, they can, it should be consistent enough so that they, they are always audible, you know, like it just, that alone is worth it. And then it's, it's fascinating how much. The sound of compression, not, not even the consistency, but the sound of it, how much that is part of what we all know and love in, in, in our favorite records and how we are used to that. Even if we don't know it, a vocal that's uncompressed in most of like rock and pop music and all the sub genres just sounds like raw. It just sounds like a demo. It doesn't sound like a record. And as soon as it's compressed and oftentimes heavily compressed, it starts sound sounding like what we are used to from records. And it's fascinating, like how important that actually is. so it's, it's not just, it's about the consistency and the, the evening things out, but it's also really about how compressed vocals just sound like, and that we all like that. And it immediately will make them feel like a, like, they, they will feel like it's a better performance. They will like what they do more. If it sounds more like a record, I think.

Malcom: Agreed. I totally agree it. Yeah. Just, anything that distracts them from thinking about how it sounds really, you know, they, they shouldn't be concerned about it. They should be concerned about just doing the singing. Um, so getting it in that ballpark 

Benedikt: totally, totally. And how do you do that? Like how do you compress a vocal that, that you can then feed to their headphones? I think there is a couple of ways to do that. The first one would be hardware. If you happen to have like a hardware compressor, you can do it before you even go to the mic pre or like after night, not before the mic pre, but after the mic pre into the converter. 

Malcom: Yep. That's the, the least flexible of options. Um, right. Cause that's gonna be on everything after that. or like I have a UAD D interface so I can choose to monitor a compressor before my do. and I can make that so that it is actually recorded to my dot or not. And it's just something they hear. or I can do it in pro tools in my do where I, I have it on the track. It's monitoring compression, not printing anything at that case, in that case. And that that's probably the most flexible environment for me there. Cause I could technically have a duplicate that is not compressed that they're hearing or whatever. Um, there there's a lot of options there really. for me, 99% of the time, if I'm compressing their vocal, they're hearing it as well. Like I don't really, I've never really found a need to, uh, have that separated out for them, just for them or just for me, it's, it's kind of like, that's just part of the, the capture. it's more the effects like re even delay that might be different between what I hear and what they 

Benedikt: Yeah. So just explain really quick, what those methods mean. Like if you do, if you go through the hardware, it's like printed onto what, what you record, like you re it's part of the signal, you can't change it. It's just part of what you record. So it's not flexible. You have to know what you're doing. but it's gonna it's so it's gonna be on the recording. It's gonna be in everybody's headphone mix. Um, it's just part of the signal that's option, number one, tracking through hardware. The other thing that you mentioned with the Apollo interface is the thing that we said about, um, having an interface with built in DSP processing, where the interface can run plugins, not your computer, but the interface can run . Plugins and they are loan latency or like zero latency. And you can then monitor these plugins, but not record them, or you can do, or you can record them like hardware, or you can do both. You can split it and record a dry and a wet version, basically. That is, flexible, but you have to navigate like two. Software pieces. Like you have to navigate the doll and whatever comes with your interface. And then if you don't have an interface like that, or if you don't wanna deal with two different things, then you can do the third option, which is putting the compressor on the track that you're recording to. And then feeding that track to the headphones. That means you have to go through the computer, through the doll, through the plugin, back out to the vocalist, this always causes latency. And then, so that it, it, it depends on the interface you're using and the computer you have. yeah, this, this determines whether or not you are able to do that because it might cause too much latency or you might be able to actually do that. I always, almost always do that. And this is where. what would you set before Malcolm where you take the, the, the, the little, like added latency that you get from that you that's okay for you and you, you take that because of the advantages you have from like going through the do and having it all in one system and like being able to monitor your favorite plugin and all of that. So even though you could record with serial latency, you choose to have a little latency just because there's, uh, a lot of benefits to that approach. And that's what I do too. Like, 

Malcom: Yeah, it it's, uh, it's worth it. It's the I'm, I'm the quickest at making tweaks if they request any changes that way. it's the most flexible, it's very easy to set up and, and have, uh, repeatable setups like templates and stuff like that. It, um, yeah, for me, for me, the, the tiny little bit of latency 

Benedikt: Cool. 

Malcom: totally worth it.

Benedikt: Cool. Awesome. Then we get to effects like reverb and delay. I think part of it is also making it sound like a record, um, and like makes things sit better in the mix. That's part of it. So not the obvious effect, but like just making it feel more finished and, and putting it into the mix a little more and not so much on top of it. And so upfront and, and raw sounding. So that's part of it. But then also, the other part is like the actual sound and that depends on the genre and what they wanna hear and stuff. So, sometimes they want a very dry thing because that's just the aesthetic that you want. But other times they wanna hear more creative effects and it just feels better. It makes more sense for the part or, you know, and it's also personal preference. So this is why you set Malcolm that oftentimes you want to hear a different mix than them because they might want to hear more or less of those effects compared to what you are hearing. so, and this is by the way, something that you can do, there's a workaround for that. Usually even if you can't like, even if you're using. If you, even if you have to use the wet, dry up on your interface. So even if you have to use the direct hardware monitoring, because everything else is giving you latency, even if you have to use that, you can still use reverb and delay sometimes because you might not be able to use compression then, but you can do a blend of what comes back from the D with the direct thing from, from the preempt of your, on your interface. This can even be done with the Scarlet or something like that, where, uh, you do the direct monitoring hardware thing, but then you also activate you don't activate the monitoring on the channel in your D so you don't wanna hear that because then you hear it twice with latency, but you wanna activate the monitoring on an effects channel that you sent the vocal to that has just the reverb on, or just the delay on. And that will then have a little bit of latency, but it doesn't really matter that much because it's just the effect and that has a delay in and of itself. And you can then send that back. And blended with a direct signal on the interface. And that's a workaround that I often used when I still had like these entry level interfaces where I would give them the direct signal from the interface, plus only the reverb or delay signal from the do. And so that they could at least have some effects on the headphones. So this is a workaround. I hope that makes sense. And, and the people could

Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. It works because those signals are already later than the vocal would be anyway. So it 

doesn't matter that there's delay. Yeah, exactly. So it's like, it's not really important that if it's showing up late, it'll still sound approximately like it would. and, and isn't gonna cause any bad face stuff, so totally possible. That's a great, great tip. 

Benedikt: Yeah. So what, what 

Malcom: skipping like types of effects and stuff like that, by the way, because we're gonna have a follow up episode on this, where we discuss what we personally use in our, uh, our vocal tracking templates for, for recording and monitoring. Um, so that just, yeah, 

Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. I'm just curious to hear Malcolm, what is more often the case? Do they more often wanna hear more of those effects or less of those effects compared to what you wanna hear? Because you said that the difference is, is important to you.

Malcom: Yeah. Uh, I don't know if there's a normal actually. Um, and again, uh, I, I would say that I never ask them as a starting point, like, okay, I'm gonna turn it up. You tell me when I, I try to always have it roughed in. Um, so I've got them to record a scratch line. I've kind of done a mix to that. Just like dialed in what I want to hear on my side. And then I say, okay, how's this. and then if they request from there, I'll change it kind of thing. so, and, and again, often that works often. If you do a good job balancing your own mix, they'll like it. but it it's, I don't know if there's, yeah. I feel like sometimes people just want it dryer so they can really hear what's going on. Sometimes people want it more wet so that they're not really focused on what's going on, they're just singing. Um, so whatever, whatever they.

Benedikt: By the way, this is an example, at least I, I think so. And maybe you do it differently, Malcolm. I, I wouldn't be surprised if you did, but like, this is an example where, of where I think a traditional, like send return configuration with the effects makes total sense, because then you can easily distribute the, the reverb to the different, like, um, monitor out. So I'm just saying that because a lot of people are used to the workflow of just putting a reverb on the track and using the wet, dry blend there. So when you're doing this, when you wanna have separate mixes for different people in the room, or for yourself and the singer, I would do, I would set up the vocal track that you record to. And then I would set up an a, or like an effects track with the, the effects on them, or like, uh, one for the rear, one for the delay, whatever you have. And then you can use the sends in your door to make a second mix that like you use the fades to create your own mix and you use the sends to create a second mix that you send out of the, the output that goes to the headphones. And then you can create that second mix. Like you would do a monitor mix on a live console. You create that second mix that consists of the Dr. Of the, the, the dry signal plus the amount you want for them to hear, um, of the, the, the delay in the reverb and stuff like that. So this is much easier for me to do if I have the reverb on a separate track. If I have the reverb on the vocal track itself, everybody here is hearing the same thing. So in that case, I would have to create a duplicate of that track and make different decisions there, which is kind of weird. So this is the one case where I definitely think, it's better to use ascend return configuration with the effects than having the, the, the reverb on the, the vocal channel.

Malcom: I agree. Yep. Uh, that's uh, totally how I do it. Um, it also makes it easier to have templates, I think, uh, and options, um, which we'll get into, but you wanna be able to shoot out different things quickly.

Benedikt: Yeah. cool. All right. Now the next one, I'm curious to hear if you ever, uh, do that, like we we've talked about that. So the past, but like maybe things have changed. This is an optional thing I'd say, but I had, I had success with it. Sometimes it didn't work, but like times it's worked surprisingly well, and this is, trim. If you have something like that, trim making them saying into a real time, UNE plugin could be the actual UNE plugin or something else with the realtime, um, capability, 

Malcom: yeah, makes a good 

Benedikt: yeah. Yeah. What, what that does is, it. I don't mean like print that I don't mean record through that unless you really know what you're doing, but that's really risky. But I mean, like, putting that on, like setting it up so that you can monitor that, but not print it. If your set up allows for that. Some, some interfaces again, can run that on their own P uh, chips, or maybe you can set up a configuration in your dog where like, same with compression where you just put it on the track, but you don't record it, but they can hear it. and what that does is It's kind of, you know, when, when you sing a melody or like play a melody to somebody on the piano and you make them sing to that melody, or make them follow along with that melody, they are having a, uh, a much easier time hitting the notes than them having to do it on their own without any guidance. And the same thing happens when they hear themselves tuned, they sing the plugin, corrects it, they hear the corrected version on the headphones and they will automatically sort of follow along with that. They like a lot of times when people have intonation issues, this totally fixes it, they just hear a tuned version and they automatically sing better because they have this tuned guideline basically that they're listening to. It's like, it's, it's really weird, but also I think it makes perfect sense. Um, so this is a great little trick to get, to just get people to, to hit the notes better and more consistently.

Malcom: Yeah. I, I actually really like this trick. Um, it's, it's been useful a few times, so for me, I've got, uh, like auto tune in my. Apollo, my, my universal audio interface has a, like a DSP tuning plugin I can use. So that's been the one that I've used always again, monitoring, not recording it. It's just there for them to sing to. I, uh, the analogy I've always used is like, it's really easy to sing along to your favorite song on the radio, because there's like a guide vocal to sing to. And this is kind of doing that. it snaps your vocal to the note, and then you, you just automatically adjust. of course there's exceptions. I would say this is kind of a 50 50 of if they like it and I just totally trust trust them on it. And, and some people are actually really smart and use it as like a tool for situations are fighting hard. So we go, do you mind just engaging that again for me? The just turn the, the tuning back on while I try and hit this high note here, I think it'll help me. And then we're just talking in and out as a tool. So that's really cool as well. pretty new age, modern stuff. I can't believe it's possible.

Benedikt: Yeah, totally. And, and it obviously requires them. Uh, so not that you think that this enables you to be just that this allows you to be lazy or like not sing. Well, this actually requires people to be pretty close already because if you're too far off, it will correct it to, it will snap it to the wrong notes maybe. And then, um, things will definitely go sideways. So you, you have to be, close enough so that the tool will actually put it on the right note. And then, you know, so no excuse, you'd still have to be able to sing well

Malcom: side tip. If you struggle with hearing pitch, uh, this is a good little safety check. like if you think you've kind of got the vocal and comped it, or whatever, throw on auto tune and auto mode and just listen to the song and if any parts go wonky, look at those parts closer and see if maybe, maybe it isn't tracked well enough. Maybe it is. But if the, the tuner is reacting really weirdly, it's probably an issue that you should look.

Benedikt: agreed. A hundred percent. So the last one that I added, I think to this list, um, was, and we kind of touched on that already basically is, but it's important. It's just you as an engineer or producer or both pay attention and change the mix based on the parts or certain challenges. Um, things they're having a hard time with just pay attention, just be there, focus. Don't like scroll through Instagram while you're tracking vocals, just be present and, and, uh, yeah. Pay attention to what's going on because you might have to change things to solve a certain problem, or to make them feel better in a certain part. you don't just assume that the one mix you dialed in is gonna stay the same throughout the whole session. Just, just pay attention, be really there and react. If you need to react and change things, if you need to, I. So this can mean turning the vocal up or down in certain parts or activating deactivating, the auto tune as you sat Malcolm, um, muting delays or reverbs for certain parts and, and then unmuting them for others and stuff like that. Just, just really pay attention and work with them and give them also make them feel like you, you are there and you're, you're paying attention because this can be pretty distracting too. If they are in the other room or even in the same room next to you. And they feel like you, you don't really pay attention and you were on your phone or something like that, they will automatically perform worse.

Malcom: for sure. there's all sorts of things to, that can affect how they're singing. there could be modulated instruments that aren't necessarily very in tune that are causing them to sing O to tune, you know, uh, like, like, uh, especially thinking electronic music where they detune since to like, Do all sorts of weird things that, that can really make it hard to sing to. So, you know, mute those out for that section. or the other thing to watch for is timing. Um, if there's a Woody Woodly guitar solo going on under the last course, it might be a little hard for them to like lock into the groove of the song. and I mean, we all know that guitar solo should just be deleted anyways, but that's, soon you're keeping it, you know, we can mute it for the vocalist sake while they record. Um, so, so yeah, watch out for that stuff. That's a great idea. yeah, I only had a couple more things that I think we could burn through pretty quick. but, One thing that I've liked. Um, and I actually don't have this set up right now, but if possible, have a way that you can mirror their mix to whatever you're listening on. So if they're in another room, it's really great. If I can just click a button and hear out of the speakers, roughly what they're hearing. So it's like not my mix anymore. It's their mix. And just make sure nothing's weird and wonky, you know, like, oh, the delay is crazy loud. Are we sure we want that there let's turn that down. Um, stuff like that, uh, pretty, pretty handy. often I think for the self recording band people, they're just gonna be beside each other and could just grab, you know, the headphones and just throw 'em on and listen that way that like, that's the same thing, you know? yeah. did you have something you needed add there, there.

Benedikt: yeah. Yeah. I wanted to add that if you're, I don't know about pro tools or the other dos, but if you're in Cubase, please guys use the, or girls use the control room feature in Cubase and not just use the master out. You, you have to activate it, but Cubase has a control room that you have to activate if you wanna use it. And definitely do that because instead of using the standard sends and returns and using those as headphones mixes, it gives you Q mixes, which is the proper way to do it in Cubase. And the control room is like a monitor controller in Cubase. And what you can do is you set up the different queue. It's called Q mixes for the different people. it's works exactly like sends and returns. It's just an add. pair like not pair additional, um, certain number of, of, of mixes you can make. but anyway, you can create those and then you have buttons in the control room that do exactly what you just said on you. I, I have it on mix. If I have it on mix, I hear my mix, but if I hit C1, then out of my monitors, I hear the QX. Number one. If I had C five, I hear QIX number five. I can monitor all those mixes and I can put plugins on those mixes that are not in the session that are just on the monitoring. So I could use an instance of Sona works for every single person in the room with different headphones or stuff like that. So the control room of Cubase is really, really cool. And it's not active, active by default. So you might not even see it. You have to go to the settings and activate it and it's so worth it. This is, this solves all like most of the things that we talking about in this episode, you can do from the

Malcom: That's super cool. Yeah. They're so smart.

Benedikt: Yeah. for sure. 

Malcom: all right. yeah, so that, that, that's a handy one if possible. And it really just boils down to, again, checking that what they're hearing is actually something listenable. and then, uh, the next one would be, I just wanna touch on this quickly, but some people don't track with headphones. They just listen to the, the vocals coming outta the, the monitors in the studio. the, I think the trick to doing that is having a mono mix, like a mono speaker, one speaker in the room and it's phase inverted to your, uh, To your vocal so that it cancels out the music that , I can't remember. I'm just blabbering gibberish because it's something I never ever have done. but I know that like, apparently that's how Panera's vocals were recorded or something, you know, there's, there's these stories. Apparently people like it. I wouldn't be able to deal with a vocal listing beside me. And like, I need the vocalist in another room.

Benedikt: Yeah. So, so Metallica did this on a couple records. I think they, he was like standing in the control room with SM seven, pointing away from the monitors. They turned them up really loud and he was like screaming there. And like this, a couple of bands did this. So it works again. This is where dynamic mics come in really handy because they will reject the sound from the room better than condensers. all of that stuff, um, applies there. And then the trick with the phase, I, I sometimes do that still when I do gang vocals. So sometimes when I do in hardcore and in punk rock, you often have these gang shouts types of things, which is not really singing. You just, there's a group of people shouting into the microphone and, um, What, and this is, it's another genres too, but it's very common in, in the stuff that I do often. And, uh, sometimes we just wanna have more people in the room than we have headphones for, or like things like that. And then there will be exactly, like you said, there will be a mono speaker. The mic will be turned away from that speaker. it will be as quiet as possible, but still loud enough so that everybody can hear what's going on. And then if I still get, oftentimes this will work just as it is because the people are gonna be louder than that speaker anyway, and this doesn't really matter, but if it, if there's too much bleed, then what you can do. What I've done successfully is. After the recording is done. I leave the microphone in the exact same place. I play back the backing track again, at the exact same volume. And then I record that. I flip the phase and I sync it up exactly to the actual vocal performance. So align the two up the timing up perfectly. I flip the phase of the second one and it won't cancel perfectly because every single time . Sound travels through air things change, but most of the time, at least the low end and some of the more noticeable stuff just goes away. And so that way I can cancel out the bleed from the actual recording by just playing it again into the empty room, recording that, flipping the phase and blending it with the, the recording.

Malcom: Yep. Sounds like a pain in the ass.

Benedikt: Totally ....But sometimes, but sometimes I gotta do that. Um, but like most of the times I don't. So for example, for our own band, we just did gang shots for a couple of our record that we're working on. And, we, oh, no, that's actually a bad example. We used headphones, but I, I, I, anyway, I, I . Do that often where I just have the.

Malcom: yeah.

Benedikt: The speaker on and I don't do anything about it. It's just quiet enough so that it's not a problem. The mic is pointing away from it and you can get away with it. So it is an option to do that.

Malcom: It's totally an option. So consider it, I thought this should be mentioned at at least, next one. And I find that trained vocalist really like this is just slipping one headphone off. Um, maybe that's like just barely, but essentially what we're doing is just reattaching the room. We're actually in to us and, and hearing our, our voice, uh, acoustically a little bit more than through the monitor mix. and that for, for people that are really trained and, and used to like feeling how their body reacts to hitting certain notes and stuff like that, they, they need that. It seems so that can be, if somebody's just like having a really hard time, try that trick, it sometimes works. then last but not least, not least by a long shot. And I can't really believe this wasn't on our list, but setting up the room that they're singing in to be a good place to hang is essential. 

Benedikt: It was intentionally not on the list by the 

way, but like go on 

Malcom: Okay. Okay. Uh, like, you know, throw salt lamp in there, dim the lights, whatever dimmers are kind of dangerous in the studio actually, but, uh, uh, but, uh, like have just, you know, have it be right. Um, you know, we don't want them. I, I once had to record in a studio where a mouse entered the vocal booth, and I can tell you that vocalist was no longer relaxed once the moth most had gone in the booth. Uh like, wasn't great. Was embarrassing.

Benedikt: Yeah, for sure.

Malcom: um, so, you know, if, if you can, uh, make it a place, they wanna be that they're comfortable. Um, your body be tense is bad for singing. So, you know, we, we just need them to be in the, in the right zone.

Benedikt: A hundred percent, by the way, the reason why this was not on the list was because that's why I said in the beginning, there's a whole, this could be a whole other episode. There's this whole thing of like, communicating how you communicate with the artist, how the room is set up, how the whole, yeah, the whole vibe of the session, things like, um, give them, you know, the microphone you choose. Some people prefer to have a handheld instead of standing in front of the mic. There's so many other factors that go into how someone can like performs that. I thought we should, like this episode has been long anyways now. And I thought like, we should just focus on the headphone mix for this one. Um, as one part of it, and then maybe do another one at some point where we talk about all the other things, because you know, there's so many factors that go into this and you're totally right. The, the, the room vibe is one of the biggest ones. Actually. I think. yeah, but I just, when I made the outline, I just thought if we just gonna talk about all of the things that go into this it's we could talk for like three hours or so. So 


Malcom: You're not wrong. 

Benedikt: the mix. 

Malcom: Not wrong. Uh, okay. We'll we'll we'll leave it there then I think

Benedikt: yeah, yeah, exactly. It might, might be worth doing another one on that, on that sort of thing. I 

Malcom: it it is. It's a great idea because without getting too far into it, you, The producer is the thing that makes the vocals move along, regardless to how good the singer is singing. If they're nailing it and you are not telling them that they're nailing it, you're gonna be there for hours and not get it done. It like, it's all about the person in the chair. Um, and that's goes back to why the mix has to be in a way that I can hear that is correct and finished. Um, like there's, there's so much to the psychology of, of making a vocal session go well. so I think we should totally do an episode on that.

Benedikt: For sure. Yeah. Yeah. And it's so important that I even like, if you are in the, in the surf recording band academy or flagship, like online course, or if you're in my coaching program, at some point I have to change the names of those things because people always confuse it, but it's two different things. The one is an online course. The other one is my coaching. but in the academy, in the course, I have a whole module or like, um, a part of a whole module. It's a series of a couple of videos that is just about that. Just about making sure that people like that, that the room is a place that, that people wanna be in, that the vibe is right. That they have what they need. Like even things. Yeah, we don't have to get into this now, but, but like. Down to things like having all the supplies and, and like water and food and like whatever you need for the session to run smooth, you know, preparing well and making sure that everybody has what they need and feels great. Uh, this is so important that I, that there's an entire lesson in my, in the, in the academy online course. So yeah, let's do Def let's definitely do an episode on that too. soon.

Malcom: Yeah, absolutely.

Benedikt: Cool. All right. So I think, yeah, this was a little longer than I expected, but I think it was great and I hope it was helpful. And, I'm pretty sure that a couple of people thought it's all, it's all about, like making sure that the vocal is loud enough and hopefully now you know, that there's a lot more that goes into this. And I'll just say that it's very worth it to, to put in the work in advance to, um, prepare that mix to, uh, yeah. Do all the things we've been talking about because typically you have to practice it a little bit and you have to put into work once, but once you've. Once you have a setup that works. And once you know, all these things, your future sessions will go so much better and the performances will be better. So it's, it's, it's really worth it, putting the time into, um, getting these things right. And, uh, yeah. Yeah. Putting some effort into your head from mixes

Malcom: Totally. Yeah. It's uh, always show up early on vocal day.

Benedikt: oh yeah, exactly. All right. Anything else you have Malcolm? we wrap this 

Malcom: Oh man. I, I, I could totally keep on going. I, I just feel like I shouldn't cuz like it's gotta stop somewhere. Uh

Benedikt: yeah.

Malcom: I'll I'll save it for the, the, the, getting a vocal session to actually get done episode

Benedikt: All right. All right, cool. And let's wrap it up. Thank you for listening. Thank you for watching. If you're on YouTube, share this episode with your friends tag us. If you've shared an Instagram, it's at Malcolm Owen flood and at Benedictine, um, comment on YouTube. Entry our community surf recording, bad.com/community. And, uh, yeah, leave us a review by the way, we should do more housekeeping like that. We never say those things like, yeah, people please help us spread the word about this podcast. Share it. Leave reviews, comment. Uh, and, uh, yeah. Thank you for being listener.

Malcom: Yeah. Thank you. We'll see you next week for episode 133. Wow.

Benedikt: Crazy.

Absolutely crazy. bye. 


Malcom: bye.

TSRB Free Facebook Community:

take action and learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to 100% Mix-Ready, Pro-Quality tracks!

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    Cookie Consent Banner by Real Cookie Banner