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Trouble with Vowels/Dipthongs and possibly 1st Resonance

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Hi everyone. Been lurking here for a day or two. Unfortunately I've been stuck for a while on something. I'm hoping I can describe it (maybe post an example if needed) and get some feedback on what's going on. For some background, I've read tons of singing/vocal information online so feel free to use any terminology.

My problem seems to center around vowels and the first formant/chest voice. The reason I believe this is because when I record myself singing vowels, the waveform more often than not has higher peaks than it does low valleys. In other words, the ratio favors the high part of the wave.

I've tried everything from singing forward, back, head, vowel modification, tongue placement, larynx position, lip formation, velopharyngeal port closure, etc. and nothing seems to consistently get the waveform to be even.

I've also noticed that when I record professional singers the waveform is typically balanced.

What might I be doing incorrectly that would cause this distortion of tone? I'm all out of ideas! Thanks in advance for any advice anyone has.

P.s. As it may have some bearing, I am a 28 year old male.

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You record professional singers? That's got to be a neat job.

But you're right, a sound file of an example of you singing would be easier to appraise. From the books I have read on recording (trying beef up my own recording skills, ignore waveforms and mix with your ears.

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You record professional singers? That's got to be a neat job.

I wish! I worded that poorly. I meant that I take a recordings of a professional singer singing (for example on YouTube) by playing the video and then recording the audio in Audacity. When I do this the waveform always come out even cyclically above and below the 0 line.

I'll get together a recording of myself tomorrow so you can hear what I'm talking about. Maybe I'll add a recording of a professional at the end to give a comparison.

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Alright, I made a recording of what I'm talking about. The recording was made with my Audio-technica ATR20 cardioid mic. In it I first vocalize the word "night" and then the eh vowel as in "hair." I also recorded a YouTube recording of Beyonce singing Halo through the same mic:

http://soundcloud.com/allivee-1/singingdistortion

I grabbed a picture of the recording in audacity to show what I mean about the top of the waveform being disproportionate to the bottom:

I have a suspicion that this has something to do with my chest voice or velopharyngeal port or a combination of the two, but I can't figure this out.

Does anyone have suggestions? Thanks again for any help.

edit: I may have figured this out! :D It seems I'm not closing my velopharyngeal port correctly. So perhaps the best question here is: What are some good ways to maintain (or visualize) proper closure while singing? It seems I've always thought of this as "up and back" but perhaps in my case "straight back" feels more appropriate.

edit 2: Nope, that's not the problem. I'm still getting these unbalanced waves...

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cant hear the sample right now. but the sound wave looks like plain old dc offset to me. how are you recording your voice? describe the signal path please.

I'm not familiar with the technical terms for audio recording, but I'll do my best.

I hold a cardiod mic (Audiotechnica ATR-20) in hand, angled 45 degrees upwards towards my mouth. (I've tried varying the angle but it doesn't seem to help.) The mic has a long cable which I usually let sit on the floor. It has a regular sized output which fits into my laptop's normal mic jack. I then record using Audacity, use a noise remover and then a compressor. The distortion shows up before using those 2, though.

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yes, seems to me like phase incoherence or just plain dc offset add due your laptone mic jack not being designed to deal with a dynamic mic. try using this setup to mic another sound source. playback a record and use the mic to record the speaker output. btw are you processing the audio with any kind of eq plugin?

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Okay, all, your voice waveform is never going to match what you've ripped from youtube. If it's a good karaoke track or the original track, it has been auto-tuned and compressed and limited and essentially processed. Then encoded into mp3, which is a file compression format. Some data is lost, making the waveform even smoother.

And that is why the waveform is so smooth.

What you hear is deceiving.

There is nothing wrong with your voice with spikes and stuff in it. In fact, there should be spikes here and there. Usually at the 1st and 3rd harmonic. The reason your vocal waveform is not silky smooth is because you are not a digital product. I assume that you are human, possibly walking upright. Therefore, you are analog and not a digital product, though there's always someone that wants to prove me wrong. :lol:

I guarantee if you took your vocal track and put compression on it, and some eq, and whatever else, your's would begin to become smooth, through no special technique of your own, just through your awesome mixing abilities.

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I guarantee if you took your vocal track and put compression on it, and some eq, and whatever else, your's would begin to become smooth, through no special technique of your own, just through your awesome mixing abilities.

I know this is correct. But then again I perceive it as changing the voice too much. I use a compressor for volume control but I don't want to auto-tune myself.

I understand that peaks and valleys are natural, but why are mine so pronounced at times? I would think it's because of poor vocal technique. Is there something I'm missing on why it would not be because of that?

Just now I did some reading and perhaps this is what I'm missing:

"If you hear an echo, your room won't absorb higher frequencies well. If you don't hear an echo, increasing higher frequencies might be one of the first settings to customize."

My apartment does echo in many places, especially the room that I normally record in. Does this seem like the probable reason why I'm seeing exaggerated peaks or could it be a vocal technique problem?

Thanks for everyone's help so far! This has been chewing at me for some time now.

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Listenned to both samples. Its distortion introduced by the circuitry. The difference in sound pressure from the recording you made from your voice and the youtube recording is preventing the same problem form showing up.

Your voice is actually clipping on the pre-amp of your audio interface, and you will not be able to fix this because it does not have a gain ajust. The gain you set-up on windows is post conversion. Also, its worth noticing that the mic connection on notebooks aim to allow communication solutions to work, they are designed for speaking and low quality playback. Some have an eq boost on the 3khz range due to its purpose, and usually those eqs are low quality and not phase-linear.

BTW, it would be impossible to make this with your voice, the capsule of the dynamic mic eliminates DC offsets (its based on magnetic induction) and usually are coupled using an AC transformer to produce the ballanced signal.

A proper recording setup will fix the problem. There are cheap interfaces on the market that costs less than 200$ and can do a perfect job, with good quality pre-amps and phantom power. If it isnt a choice, try recording a few steps back from the mic, to reduce the sound-pressure and avoid the clipping.

Making the long story short, the effect you are seeing does not and CAN not have it source at your voice. Back to vocal technique, if you want some feedback, record a sample of you singing a song and we will be able to listen and comment!

GL

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