Tracking Lead Vocals
The journey of recording our largest project yet continued on the 21st June with lead singer Paul coming in to lay down the vocals on all tracks. As explained in the previous reflections we spend our first 8hr session laying down the 10 scratch tracks, the second session tracking the drums and the third recording bass and guitars. We booked a 4 hr session on a Wednesday evening in Audient B where all the previous tracking had been performed which we believed would be ample time to get the takes we required. Once we got his lead vocals recorded all that would remain is one more 4 hr session to track the backing vocals (only appearing in 4 of the 10 tracks), and some gang vocals involving all three band members on a couple of tracks.
The set up was straightforward and as per the production plan we employed a close mic (Sennheiser 421) and a distant mic (AT2050 at approximately 1.5m). A music stand for Paul’s lyrics, pop filter, a coffee and some mints and we were ready to track after 30mins. We began with a song called ‘What you see is what you get’ which really sums up what the band is all about. The opening lyrics are: “I cant sing, and I cant play, I don’t give a F%#*, I’m up here anyway”! Permanent Revolution usually opens with this song so we thought it fitting to begin our tracking with this track it as it would get Paul in the correct place mentally.
The first few songs we sent through to the headphones without really paying much attention to providing a basic mix. This was a learning for us as Paul began to note that he didn’t like the guitar sound the way he did when we first recorded it. He was starting to make noises that he felt we would need to re-record these parts which we definitely did not want to do, but as we discovered it was simply that the room mics sounded a little tinny and were coming through to him at the same level as the close amp mic. Once we identified this oversight and adjusted the levels bringing the amp mic forward in his headphone mix the issue was rectified, he was happy again and for the upcoming tracks we spent 5mins getting the levels right.
We started getting a solid roll on and because Paul has no illusions about his vocal skills there were even a couple of tracks where we were happy with the first take. This is really in line with what the band wanted to achieve with this whole project, to sound just like they do live. Not seeking perfection, just looking for a scrappy street punk sound! Most of his vocal delivery is really almost spoken with few melodic elements, so as long as he got the words right little else could be done! There was a bit of punching in where we felt a line or verse could be better, but overall the session went smoothly and quickly. Paul was really concerned that he was not capturing the anger that he was looking for and we tried several techniques to improve this vibe but as mentioned most of the lyrics are spoken so there was little we could do. We encouraged him to really accentuate the start and end of certain words to achieve a nastier vibe which worked to a degree and Shay and I discussed how we might EQ and compress to give fuller sound post session.
Paul was quite tired by the close of the tracking and headed off home as soon as we finished, leaving Shay and I do pack down. We still had some time left so played around with a couple of tracks applying a heavy compression plug in and also added a 30ms delay on Paul’s vocals. We were really happy with the improvement this made to the sound as it really brought the vocals up in the mix, made them sound fuller and heavier so we agreed to apply these same settings to all the tracks when next in the studio.