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Too much love will kill you(Queen) - Embouchure question

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Hi Folks.. 

I have put up a few versions of this song earlier which were not too impressive.  I am now beginning to get a lot more control on the passagio area, especially with a more "open" sound.  I have two areas that I would appreciate feedback

1.  Looking at my singing, I seem to be using more horizontal embouchure than vertical.  I only very recently started looking at my singing in the mirror.  Is there anything wrong in my embouchure.  I am looking for dark tones in the upper range.  Does a horizontal embouchure produce a "brighter" sound?  

2.  The second question is with respect to the mix and mic placement.  My wife says I sound much better in person than what I am able to get the mix in my recordings to sound.  This does not help me at all since we don't hear exactly our voice in the manner we sound to others.  What could I be doing wrong?  She says I sound very different in my recordings. Is this a function of the average quality of backing track or is it a mix issue?  Any pointers would be very helpful.  The mic I am using in this a Shure beta 58A.  I record in an untreated room.  

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I think we are all going to sound different live in a room than we do on any mic. In a room, you and others are hearing you in a room of reflections. Singing into a mic is a close proximity thing. Also, mics act as filters, of a sort. A dynamic mic, while able to handle high spl (sound pressure level, loud sounds) it does tend to filter off the highs. In fact, Shure mics like the 57 and 58 have kind of a box of full response in the mid and lose a lot on the low end, really fast, some in the high end.

Also, you will sound different if you use a large diaphragm condenser mic. It is more sensitive to subtle variations and has a broader response curve than a dynamic. When you mix and adjust eq, use a parametric form, narrow the Q and sweep back and forth. It can be better than just setting values some other guy has mentioned. You always have to mix by ear, not numbers. And it is totally okay to reduce a lot through EQ. For example, especially with your voice, do a high pass filter at about 80 Hz. This will roll of that and get rid of some room sound that you don't need because you are not producing sound down there. You can bring back room presence with reverb plug-ins.

And yes, it helps to remember that the average backing track is basically a pre-master stem. That is, while it is not run through a compressor or limiter, all the sounds have already been mixed by someone else who does not know your voice at all. I am so glad, really, that Robert linked in the backing track site that allows you to order the track WITHOUT backing vocals because they are often odd sounding, to me, and usually auto-tuned. You can do a few different things. You can notch the backing track with EQ by making a dip with a medium wide Q at about 2.5 kHz.

The other thing is to auto-duck. Put a compressor on the backing track and have it controlled by the signal from the vocal track. That is how I did "Highway Star." When the vocal is present, the compressor slightly reduces the backing track.

I think, in general, yes, the horizontal embouchre reveals brightness more than other formations. But I also think you have a bright voice, to begin with. You can achieve darkness buy what vowels you choose, even as a general shape, regardless of lyrics. You can also change mics. For example, I sound kind of bright with my Fame CM-1. But my MXL V67G darkens it a little bit. It was designed to mimick vintage tube mics, which would roll of the highs a little and create a "warmer" sound. And it is now my preferred mic for vocals. 

I still have my Sennheiser e835 dynamic and I have used it on vocals in the past but I would now use it mostly for mic'ing my Fender 85 Combo amp.

So, generally, unless you are just screaming bloody murder, a condenser mic is better for vocals. And some compression, and some eq.

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  • 3 weeks later...

You are already quite dark on the higher notes. I don't think you can make the sound darker than that without making it sound weird. The only possibility imo would be to modify to more classical vowels (UH -> OH, EH -> IH for example), but I think it would not really fit the song. You already sing darker than the original.

Your embouchure is very good imo, don't mess around with that. Nice delivery overall, btw.

As for the sound: I'm not an expert on mixing, but there are two things that of course have an effect on this:

1. reverb/EQ: acoustically in a room you usually have a bigger/different reverb and more low frequencies in the voice. Felipe once had two videos on his channel showing the "room vocals" and the "mixed vocals" of the same song (but I'm afraid he deleted the room vocal one). That was actually a very nice example. The problem is, if you leave a lot of "room acoustics" on your vocals it will sound very dull in the mix. Especially the low frequencies are often completely kicked out because of that (as Ron already described).

2. compression: The compression of the higher and louder notes in combination with the removal of the lower frequency room acoustics causes your voice to easily sound "thinner" and "more quiet" than it actually is in a room. If compression is too high it can lose "emotion" due to the perceived lower volume.

Those two together make "mixed vocals" often sound quite different compared to acoustic live vocals. Unfortunately you cannot completely prevent this as vocals without these two adjustments will sound "wrong" in a mix.

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