• Proximity effect
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Proximity effect
on: January 09, 2019, 14:42:13
A guitarist who’s bought a new guitar, will invest plenty of time to get acquainted with his new love.
Of course it’s part of the adventure. It’s purely necessary too. Not only is the guitar the new found love, it is his/her tool too. The guitarist experesses himself or herself through that guitar.

A friend of mine is a carpenter. Do you think he just buys any hammer? Don’t think so.

I therefore think that it’s a bit strange, that vocalist don’t have the same respect for their tool. Getting to know your mic is very much in line with getting to know the sweet spot on a guitar.

In doing so, you’ll get to know where (at what distance) you think the mic matches your voice the best. In doing so, you will notice that the character of the mic will change:
More bass/less diction and high when sung close by.
More definition and a little bit thinner when at 7’’/17 cm.

This is called the proximity effect. And this effect will be your friend and your enemy at the same time.
Are you struggling with a low note you are barely able to sing, lean a little bit closer for that one note. And you’ll be able to record it with self assurance.
Want to sound like Barry White? Sing it as close as you can get.
You’ll loose out on diction. Speech gets more difficult to follow and the mic may sound muddy.

Women seek for a distance that gives them a nice balanced sound. Their sound as a rule doesn’t  get better when they sing close to the mic and their sound may get in the way of the backing and drive the mixing people nuts.

What goes for voices, goes for instruments too.
Be careful around guitars, specially acoustic ones. But a nice fat bass drum sound? Experimental ways to place the mic make clear decisions possible within minutes.

Whatever your ‘distance of choice’, make sure to sing all your tracks at more or less the same distance. Unless you expect the novelty factors to benefit your overall recording.

I expect some guys to have recorded half hours length of YouTube thingies, but this is the basic minimum for the proximity effect to get you underway safely. And it only took a couple of minutes, right?

Kind regards, Gus



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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #1 on: January 09, 2019, 15:08:39
This is a fantastic write-up! It is a must read for anyone who is serious about capturing acoustic instruments, particularly, of course vocals, with a microphone.

Thanks for this, Gus. You now have me thinking that you have other experience based deep knowledge of this game we are in. We're going to have to coax more out of you as time goes by.  ;)

So...which microphones work best if one is having a hard time with this proximity effect....and what can one do in the mix if too much of it gets into the recording?

"The main thing is to have a gutsy approach....but use your head." Julia Child

 "In a world of robotic conformity, the only originality left in music is the imperfections" Eric Craptone

"Special thanks to Steve Gleason for making me who I am today." Leonard Scaper

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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #2 on: January 09, 2019, 20:11:50
A very vivid summing up @LePlongeur - particularly useful for those of us that have trouble even being aware of the mic when we close our eyes, press record and get all carried away.
Surely the topic should be in Songwriting Ingredients- folks looking for recording help might miss it here.

Robert


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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #3 on: January 09, 2019, 21:24:03
Good call @robertkc ....I moved it. 

 8)


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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #4 on: January 09, 2019, 22:03:50
Nice write up Gus. I am still experimenting with this myself.

Just to let you know what I have been doing lately...well I have been singing higher harmonies slightly further away from the mic than for the main melody. I have got a dual vocal sound now that seems to work, well to my ears anyway, where the harmonies are purposely thinner. Maybe controversial!

In my last song 'Lopsided Love' I have some mock dramatic sighs in the interlude when the protagonist recounts that he has been deserted by his true love! I found this worked best really close up to the mic, and thought I had made some progress here on this subject. I could easily point you in the direction of some songs on my SC where better proximity control could have made such a difference to the overall song's success.

So great to focus on this, thanks!
If you like novels with a musical theme, why not try 'Sixth Beatle - When Music Changed The World', easily found on Amazon and Google. It is amazing, although as the author I may be biased!


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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #5 on: January 09, 2019, 23:07:21
@MichaelA ....I can hear what you are doing in your recent material and it works very well, in my opinion.

Singing position for harmonies is key as it is always good to get things right on the capture, but lots can be done in the mix if you have something that has the right emotion but the wrong tone. I always automate a High Pass Filter for my harmonies to get them moving front to back. If you have a section where you got a little too close to the mic and that proximity effect sounds bad you can go after it hard with the HPF with some success.


Re: Proximity effect
Reply #6 on: January 10, 2019, 00:30:06
Hey nice work @LePlongeur! :)

Does anyone know what to do with high "operatic" or "classical" female vocals? I really struggle with that. In real classical recordings they record the room.   Well, when recording in a bedroom we don't have that luxury.

I put the Mic up above her head somehow usually and I'm never sure what Mic to use. The dynamic range is intense (a whisper to clipping in 1.2 seconds ) and it moves so much air that you can hear the woosh if she sings right at it.
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

November Sound is based on the Mother, Father & Son musical trio of Melissa, Bill & Will. I'm the father so anything I post will have my wife singing and/or my son playing percussion.


Re: Proximity effect
Reply #7 on: January 10, 2019, 00:41:23
How interesting!


I suspect I sing too close to the mic!  And I think I always sing the same distance from the mic, whether I'm doing lead or harms / BVs.. I do remember that one time my daughter did BVs (Cold Hands) struggling with mixing her vocals in as approached the task with more gusto than I would I think - I tend to be more restrained when recording BVs (I think!).. I'm not sure of course so I'll be observing how I approach my next few recordings...


I struggle when I'm mixing my vocals taming the "iciness" and do a fair amount of automation to try and balance things out.. Perhaps I should finally kinda try to learn how to use the tools at my disposal (like, eh compression) but that's another thread, right?


I shall be reading with interest... Thanks for posting @LePlongeur !!


K


Re: Proximity effect
Reply #8 on: January 10, 2019, 03:19:31
Quote from: Leonard Scaper


lots can be done in the mix if you have something that has the right emotion but the wrong tone. I always automate a High Pass Filter for my harmonies to get them moving front to back. If you have a section where you got a little too close to the mic and that proximity effect sounds bad you can go after it hard with the HPF with some success.

That`s the kind of  hands on tip I like @Leonard Scaper  - tried it on those Closer Than A Tattoo harmonies and, combined with a bit more compression, it sounds better  to me now.
Thank you - I`d give both yourself and @LePlongeur  Karma points if I knew how to do that ::thumb::

Robert


Re: Proximity effect
Reply #9 on: January 10, 2019, 03:55:53
Hi @robertkc   … to the left of your screen below the members name in their post you'll see a heart and the bracketed text [ one karma coin for you]  … you click that.   :)  … maybe a few times !  :)    I like even numbers.  :ok:


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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #10 on: January 10, 2019, 06:14:19
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 06:28:15 by LePlongeur »
How interesting!


I suspect I sing too close to the mic!  And I think I always sing the same distance from the mic, whether I'm doing lead or harms / BVs.. I do remember that one time my daughter did BVs (Cold Hands) struggling with mixing her vocals in as approached the task with more gusto than I would I think - I tend to be more restrained when recording BVs (I think!).. I'm not sure of course so I'll be observing how I approach my next few recordings...


I struggle when I'm mixing my vocals taming the "iciness" and do a fair amount of automation to try and balance things out.. Perhaps I should finally kinda try to learn how to use the tools at my disposal (like, eh compression) but that's another thread, right?


I shall be reading with interest... Thanks for posting @LePlongeur !!


K

You're welcome, @Zedd.
I am not the Mic professor, but i like to experiment with tools. To see what gives the most pleasing results.
If you think there's some icyness , there is icyness. That I would call it beautiful clarity doesn't alter things.

If you are in a position to borrow a mic you might try a ribbon mic. This is a very primitive sort of mic that approaches the slightly fatter/warmer sound the 50's were famous for. Doris Day, Jo Stafford, that sort of sound.

You'd be surprised at the results. There is always a slight coloring in the process. The question is, which coloring suits your taste. Be extra EXTRA careful with such a mic. since they are very fragile. Drop it or Whitney Houston-like hammer your fingers on it and it's gone.

If you are not happy with the results, I will talk to the Mic Prof himself to ask for his suggestions.
I think that BVs are not Boy Vriends but Backing Vocals? If not, would you mind telling me what you mean.

The changes you look for are subtle. If you change more than one at a time, you are not able to keep in sight which one of them produced the winning change. I hope I do make some sense. Subtleties in a foreign language, I love this kind of puzzle, but talking about it is difficult.

If you want to avoid coming to close to a mic, maybe you'll think of mounting a plop filter. You know, the simple circular things?

In short:
I'd try to figure out if a ribbon mic suits your taste better. It's a bit of a gamble.
If you are not happy, I'll ask the Mic Prof for advise.
Kind regards, Gus


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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #11 on: January 10, 2019, 06:31:44
Thank you @Leonard Scaper for putting this where I can find it. Hey, putting is with double t? Everyday I learn something. But it's not everyday I learn something useful. Thankking you comes naturally.
Kind regards, Gus


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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #12 on: January 10, 2019, 09:25:38
Hey nice work @LePlongeur! :)

Does anyone know what to do with high "operatic" or "classical" female vocals? I really struggle with that. In real classical recordings they record the room.   Well, when recording in a bedroom we don't have that luxury.

I put the Mic up above her head somehow usually and I'm never sure what Mic to use. The dynamic range is intense (a whisper to clipping in 1.2 seconds ) and it moves so much air that you can hear the woosh if she sings right at it.

My opinion, as I have only three experiences with very great volume singers:
You don't mention if the mic you're using now is your taste. In other words, is it a matter of how to position the mic?
You don't mention if the mic is hung from the ceiling.

If it's hanging from the ceiling, it's holding your wife voice hostage. She can only sing and has no control over the transfer of the dynamics.
Why don't you try and put the mic on a stand, in a 45 degree angle downwards.
Then she has to sing slightly upwards, and my guess is that (once she gets used to the idea) it will fit her singing like a glove.
She will get the control back this way. The louder notes or passages are compensated just enough by turning her face slightly to the left or the right side. And she knows when louder parts are coming, because she breaths in to make them possible.

If you listen to 'Martha' by Tim Buckley, you'll hear that even in the studio clipping is a hazzard that lies just around the corner. I.e. the console is clipping like crazy.
Reducing the sensitivity of the mic sometimes is the only solution. But there are consequences for the sound quality.

Peppino Gagliardi's TV appearance with the mic as i tried to describe.



Kind regards, Gus


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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #13 on: January 10, 2019, 14:48:06
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 14:50:52 by MrBouzouki »
As an alternative viewpoint on mic placement for female classical (musical theatre) singers here is Elaine Paige singing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"
Noticed the relaxed throat and that she is singing over the mic. That does fit with what my choir MD says about no tension around the throat area when singing.

Look how she actually drops the mic to fit her stature too.

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Re: Proximity effect
Reply #14 on: January 10, 2019, 14:56:50
Josh Groban singing bring him home - no 'plosives in evidence and no pop filter either.






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