distortion in vocals

Any tips on successfully recording a screamer? I’ve got this inexperienced singer in my studio, singing at the top of his lungs and I’m getting distortion spikes. It’s not level so much as it is transients. I’m using a condensor mic through a Neve 1272. Any native plug-in suggestions and/or tips would be most appreciated. Thanks

In which stage it gets distorted?

  1. Mic? - If here, your only option is to get him further away from the microphone or change the mic (SM7 should work)
  2. Preamp? - If here, just turn gain down. If gain is already all the way down, look solution from #1.
  3. A/D conversion? - Turn down output level of your preamp.
  4. Mixing? - This is the only stage any plugin can make difference. Any limiter or compressor with high ratio should do the job.

Anyway, only real solution is to give this poor guy a couple of singing lessons.

+1 for vocal training!!! i LOVE working with well trained vocalists :smiley:

Might be worth giving them a dummy hand held mic they can scream into and putting some distance between them and the live mic/s… air can be a wonderful compressor too and it’s FREE!! :wink:
I’ve done this a few times with various people for various reasons over the years and it can work a treat…

Besides having the vocalist further away from the mic try positioning the mic higher than his mouth. Have the body of the mic at his mouth level. So the vocal sound hits the body of the mic and not so much the diaphragm.
For a very powerful lead vocalist position the mic even higher, 6" to 8" above the mouth around the forehead. This technique is sometimes used for Gospel and Motown vocalist. Good luck :slight_smile:


Give him some Valium!

I’ve seen the dummy mic used too, I don’t suppose he can be coached at all? Its his style… blah blah…

and I’m getting distortion spikes. It’s not level so much as it is transients.

First place to start is at the mic. You say you are using a condenser mic (which you haven’t identified)…so the first place to look for distortion is at the mic’s own internal amplification. If you are in love with this mic and the mic is equipped with a pad, turn it on and see what happens at that point.

If that doesn’t fix it, follow the rest of Jarno’s list (before attempting to change out mics). If you still get distortion…then consider swapping out to a dynamic type microphone.
Or…you could consider turning his headphones up so loud, it forces him to sing at a lower level :laughing:

Lol. I was thinking its a real vst compressor plugin and trying to google.

Or it is truly a vst?? :0

^^^ coming in Cubase 8 :laughing:

Nope. The developers are going to busy working to satisfy this guy’s needs …




Distortion isn’t bad when it is musical. I have purposely distorted vocals and am in fact in the middle of a project where I have done it a lot.

Adding distortion to a cleanly tracked vocal (or most anything) can be quite pleasing to the ear.

Clipping is not. Careful attention to signal chain gain-staging is essential to prevent clipping the signal. Once it’s clipped, no amount of post can fix it.

I distorted it on the way in :smiling_imp:

But yeah, clipping can sound bad.

But yeah, clipping can sound bad.

Go Cows

You can also mask clipping by adding a distortion parallel.

Where is guitboy?

Here is a hard and fast rule for anyone working with audio in the digital environment … especially for those in the “there are no rules” camp:

Never, ever clip a signal anywhere in the recording chain. Never. Ever.

Do whatever you want during mixing, distort it with plugs, reamp it into a heavily raging/distorted amp, but record the signal CLEAN with NO clipping whatsoever.

Masking a clipped signal with distortion is like trying to polish something that can’t be polished, it only gets worse. You can’t unclip a signal once recorded.


I disagree. Snare drum sounds especially take to clipping very well, but we aren’t talking about snare drums here. Now vocals are an entirely different beast and what you are clipping is a big factor too. Clipping converters is much different than clipping a preamp.

If you are of the camp that you need to record clean then go from there, fine. When you have years of experience like someone like me (over 20) and you have a very strong idea what you and the client are after, you do what needs done. There hasn’t been one time in the past 10 years where I wish I didn’t do sonething I did during the tracking phase. I am also a destructive recorder. I go for the sound I want off the bat with decisiveness and I am not the only engineer that does. My mentors do the same.

The entire recording process has committed sound signatures beginning with your performance, mic, placement and signal chain as well as acoustic environment.

Do what best suits you and learn from your mistakes.

If it’s a transient that’s clipping/distorted, like p’s, first make sure it has a pop screen; then, I would just re-position the mic. The person above who suggested placing it above the singer is referring to a common method of mic placement


Give the vocalist singing lessons to cure the inadequacies of the recording engineer? You’re obviously very new to this audio recording game. :slight_smile:

Never heard so much naive nonsense.

First pad the mic and move it off axis from his turbine powered blasts.

Oh dear.