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Mixing Vocals: Using Echo and Delay


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So how do you go about this? I could do with some helpful pointers to what is practical and what works for you. It's not been an issue for me to date given the limitations of an analogue desk small enough to sit on stage and mixing for other bands has just been a matter of small adjustments to whatever echo was available until it sounded OK, tweaked throughout the set and on the rare occasions of repeat gigs marking the desk with bits of tape to recall last weeks settings. I'm old enough to have used a WEM Copycat 🤣 Now I can set up scenes as well as save 100 different gig settings it seems sensible to explore this a little and do things a bit better. I play with three singers: a man who hates any hint of echo but sounds better with it, a female singer who loves and demands it even in her monitors and a second woman who is happy to let me do whatever sounds best but doesn't like a lot in her monitor.

 

So you are in a typical pub with a female vocalist, pop/rock covers and it's packed so not a lot of natural reverb in the room and you have both reverb and delay available. Where do you start?

 

 

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I use 3 different A&H desks, all analogue.

I have a really good set up on one of the desks and we sometimes vary the delay length, using the 'tap' button, it gets the delay in time with the song

I started with a preset and then fiddled with the available parameters.

I really like how my most used desk sounds and need to see what I've done and copy it to the other desks.

 

If I was to go digital, I would probably try and set it up similar to my main desk. I don't seem to hear any need to change anything from venue to venue but with the digital desk you could probably set each singer up with what they want to hear, in the monitors or not. With my A&H desks it's everyone gets the FX or no one.

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21 hours ago, police squad said:

I started with a preset and then fiddled with the available parameters.

I have loads of presets available and started up with the most basic of them in place. I got terrible feedback issues and realised that all of them applied quite a lot of compression which isn't really helpful with my sort of pub gigs where the complete set up often has to be done in 30 mins, there's little time for a proper sound check and any mixing has to be done when I can get out in front on a wireless connection.

 

21 hours ago, police squad said:

I really like how my most used desk sounds and need to see what I've done and copy it to the other desks.

It would be great to hear what you have done here when you do copy the settings across.

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Agreed about compression. I dont really understand it but some kind of compression on the aux outs to limit any spikes, as was put somewhere in the IEM thread.

I'll have a look on Friday at my next gig, to see what I have set up.

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I remember using a delay on a female lead singer, 20mS sticks in my head but don't take that as any sort of guide. A little compression should not cause feedback unless it is too aggressive and the level is returned to uncompressed peak level. 

 

Saying that I am happy to learn from others.

On 13/03/2024 at 09:07, Phil Starr said:

a man who hates any hint of echo but sounds better with it

Most of us do. Can you send it wet to FoH and dry to his monitor?

Edited by Chienmortbb
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My personal starting points are usually a short-ish plate or hall reverb of around 1.2s - give or take - and then in addition to this a short delay with 180ms (or thereabouts) time with around 30% feedback. These are approximate settings and won't work on everything all the time (plus different fx units have their own sound too) so you'll no doubt find some vocals will lean towards sounding better with less of one / more of the other and vice-versa - adjust to suit the sends / returns to suit.

 

Good luck. 😃

 

 

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8 hours ago, VTypeV4 said:

My personal starting points are usually a short-ish plate or hall reverb of around 1.2s - give or take - and then in addition to this a short delay with 180ms (or thereabouts) time with around 30% feedback. These are approximate settings and won't work on everything all the time (plus different fx units have their own sound too) so you'll no doubt find some vocals will lean towards sounding better with less of one / more of the other and vice-versa - adjust to suit the sends / returns to suit.

 

Good luck. 😃

 

 

Thanks for this, I've been hoping you would come along, I've been stalking your long Yamaha mixer thread for years. I'll give that a try as a stating point

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4 hours ago, Phil Starr said:

Thanks for this, I've been hoping you would come along, I've been stalking your long Yamaha mixer thread for years. I'll give that a try as a stating point

 

Not a problem, Phil - always happy to help as you are on speaker queries.. 😃 I've used this starting point for many years now - as far back as when I was using analogue in the world live full time with an A&H GL3000 and a pair of Yamaha SPX90 multi effects units  which are all featured on said Yamaha 02R thread 😆..

 

Another trick that is use of a 'doubler' which essentially a very short delay (30-50ms) with low or even no feedback sometimes with a little pitch shift too albeit rarely greater than 15% sharp or flat. This can useful to 'fatten' a vocal and tends to work reasonably well in most situations especially on vocalists that 'don't like fx'.. Again, adjust to taste.

 

Keep us posted and let us know how you get on plus don't be afraid to tweak those settings; a longer reverb time might work better in a certain situation or maybe less feedback on the delay in another - have a bit of fun with the mix and enjoy the experimentation.

 

Cheers, Matt 👍

 

 

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Just in case people don't know @VTypeV4 has been a professional sound engineer for 24 years and counting. The sort of quiet experience that we should all listen to. I'm going to be busy every evening next week taking his advice and tweaking the results in the studio. It's worth visiting his long thread and seeing what he does. It's a real eye opener about how touring shows operate their sound and a festival of great mixers, not just the Yamaha he started out with. You will have mixer envy.

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Phil Starr said:

Just in case people don't know @VTypeV4 has been a professional sound engineer for 24 years and counting. The sort of quiet experience that we should all listen to. I'm going to be busy every evening next week taking his advice and tweaking the results in the studio. It's worth visiting his long thread and seeing what he does. It's a real eye opener about how touring shows operate their sound and a festival of great mixers, not just the Yamaha he started out with. You will have mixer envy.

 

 

Kind words, many thanks indeed for that. 🥰 I particularly liked that last sentence - definitely something I'm used to when on tour although I'm still proud of my collection of ever aging relics! ❤️

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It works!

 

My duo had our first gig using the settings recommended by @VTypeV4 last night. I'll copy them below to make it easier to follow but if you want the full story go back and read his full comments. We had the best vocal sound we've ever had and it's definitely moved us on a level.

 

We started with the settings below exactly as recommended starting with the reverb. I messsed around with some of the available reverbs and settled on a 'warm room' set to 1.2s as the sound that worked best with my voice but I guess every mixer will offer different options. The delay was set up at 180ms and 30% feedback which sounded a bit artificial at first listen, but then I was only talking into the mic and it worked much better once I tried singing. I started monitoring though headphones (Sennheiser HD595 so reasonable quality) and played around with more extreme settings to see what that sounded like. The recommended settings were sitting within the sweet spot. Once I'd played a bit I called in my duo partner who is the real vocalist and switched to my monitors (RCF Ayra 5's) His immediate response was 'it's a bit too much' and it was the delay he struggled with most. I pointed out that it would be far less noticeable when the instruments were added in and suitably mollified he carried on singing and relaxed eventually becoming engaged. It was a lot easier to fiddle and tweak with a real singer and you could hear changes but I kept returning to the original settings as the best compromise that worked in different songs and with both of our voices. By this stage Mike my vocalist had relaxed and was just enjoying the sound of his own voice suitably enhanced :)

 

The real benefits came when I stopped playing with the reverb and delay and concentrated on the mix of wet and dry signals. Mike's voice was better with a bit more reverb and less of the delay in his send s and my bv's benefitted with a bit more of everything but a greater proportion of delay to reverb.

 

Conclusion: if you are a live band and don't have a dedicated sound engineer sitting in the audience area then use these settings and concentrate on getting the mix of wet and dry signal right, then relax and concentrate on the music. this is set and forget territory. Many thanks to Matt for the advice 👍

 

 

On 16/03/2024 at 10:55, VTypeV4 said:

My personal starting points are usually a short-ish plate or hall reverb of around 1.2s - give or take - and then in addition to this a short delay with 180ms (or thereabouts) time with around 30% feedback. These are approximate settings and won't work on everything all the time (plus different fx units have their own sound too) so you'll no doubt find some vocals will lean towards sounding better with less of one / more of the other and vice-versa - adjust to suit the sends / returns to suit.

 

Good luck. 😃

 

 

 

On 17/03/2024 at 00:36, VTypeV4 said:

 

Another trick that is use of a 'doubler' which essentially a very short delay (30-50ms) with low or even no feedback sometimes with a little pitch shift too albeit rarely greater than 15% sharp or flat.

 

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Glad you had some joy and success with those suggestions, Phil - it's always great to see something both positive and conclusive come out of a thread. 🥰 Out of interest, what mixer are you using? 

 

Chienmortbb, let us know how you get on too, and, don't worry, we won't let any singers know what's happening! 😆

 

Depending on setups, I'd nearly always advise on use of a high-pass filter at 120 - 150 Hz (assuming a slope of at least 12dB / Oct) on the vocal channels and possibly the fx returns as no-one needs fx with a load of boomy 'plosives in them as it'll simply ruin your mix..

 

We'll talk about compressors another day.. 😆❤️

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I'm using an RCF M18, which they've stopped making. It's a fairly simple stagebox mixer but really set up well for pub bands like ours. Really simple to operate whilst you are actually playing with straightforward menus and really well worked out glitch free software. the built in router works too. I'm quite fond of stuff that works :)

Edited by Phil Starr
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20 hours ago, Phil Starr said:

 I'm quite fond of stuff that works :)

 

Ha, absolutely - me too! 🤣

 

I can't say that I've much experience of the stage box / ipad type mixers although I did try a Mackie DL16 for a short while. It was ok but I never really loved it as I simply couldn't get round it as smoothly or as quickly as I could a conventional mixer. I appreciate, they're great where space is at a premium plus they offer so much more than any equivalent analogue mixer of even three times the foot-print. 😃 Being honest, even my smallest Yamaha digital (DM1000) is a bit too chunky to hide behind the drummer..

 

Great that you have a solution that 'does what it says on the tin'.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, VTypeV4 said:

 

Ha, absolutely - me too! 🤣

 

I can't say that I've much experience of the stage box / ipad type mixers although I did try a Mackie DL16 for a short while. It was ok but I never really loved it as I simply couldn't get round it as smoothly or as quickly as I could a conventional mixer. I appreciate, they're great where space is at a premium plus they offer so much more than any equivalent analogue mixer of even three times the foot-print. 😃 Being honest, even my smallest Yamaha digital (DM1000) is a bit too chunky to hide behind the drummer..

 

Great that you have a solution that 'does what it says on the tin'.

 

Horses for courses, I wouldn't want to attempt to do what you do without physical controls :)

 

 In the dim and distant past I used to mix live shows and pre Covid I ran a few jam sessions with a Yamaha MG16. I'd love to sit down with the sort of mixers you are using. The M18 is smaller than the snake never mind the mixer and you are quite right about space being limited. I did think about looking out for an O2R at the time and I hesitated to buy something without physical controls for a while. I reckon in 15years+ of gigging we've had our own sound engineer maybe half a dozen times. Most gigs we are lucky to get 5 mins for a soundcheck so an iPad I can carry out front and place on a table beats running back to a mixer every time. Just being able to recall our best ever mix at every gig has transformed what we can do. Eq for the room and adjust the master volume and we are away.

 

I've tried to engineer our PA for the gigs we do. I play in two four piece covers bands and a duo. I've never played in anything bigger than a five piece band and drums are currently all electronic. 8 mic channels and 8 line inputs have been more than enough for me so far with at least a couple of channels going spare and usually a lot more. If need be I can mic up drums with a three mic technique but if a drummer brings along a full set of mics they are going to have to do their own mix and give me a stereo feed. So far that hasn't been an issue. I've sets of cables for each band, boxed and ready to go and we all use in-ears except the duo where the volume is lower. I've a 10" based PA for smaller venues, 15's for bigger gigs and subs if needed. I've used those about once a year. The 10's double as monitors for any deps who won't use in-ears.

 

Interesting what you say about HPF on the vocal channels. I've got 24db/8ve @80Hz on all the vocal channels and gently roll them off at 120Hz on top of that. Let me know if you think I can do better than that. So far getting the singers to co-operate with an extended session sorting their eq has been like pulling teeth so thats probably my next task.  The presets are problemmatic as they all come with compression. Most of our venues have such limited space, we are inevitably on top of each other and the PA so gain before feedback is low and any compression at all will end up with acoustic feedback being an issue.

Edited by Phil Starr
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On 25/03/2024 at 23:30, VTypeV4 said:

Chienmortbb, let us know how you get on too, and, don't worry, we won't let any singers know what's happening! 😆

I am still getting used to my new toy but i tried the nearest approximations to your suggested sessions last night. I had my phones on and listened to myself ( I do not claim to be the best but I can sing on key) I even liked the sound of my own voice, unreal. The settings are subtle, at first you are not sure there is much going on, until you switch to just the dry signal. I always run with an HPF of about 100, but will try a higher -3dB point later.

 

The AH CQ also has a male vocal preset and that really thickens up my voice. It does not make me a George Ezra or Rag n Bone man but it did help my Elvis impression.

 

Thanks for your  help it really is appreciated.

 

On the subject of physical mixers, at Panasonic I had access to a number, often using the one below.

WR-S4412.thumb.webp.8385317605b9934e86e395cb49d9f911.webp

 

I also had one of the DA7 desks, after Yamaha, one of the earliest digital desks but never really had the opportunity to use it in anger. At the time, the dynamics were superb from memory.

 

WR-DA7.thumb.jpg.bcd54d994d3fe3e2bff3d498a4810ce5.jpg

Edited by Chienmortbb
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9 hours ago, Phil Starr said:

So far getting the singers to co-operate with an extended session sorting their eq has been like pulling teeth so thats probably my next task. 

 

I'm enjoying thread and learning new tips from it 👍 For 15 years I ran the sound for my band from the stage whilst playing bass and doing harmonies. This doesn't give you much time to learn on the job! It was important to me to occasionaly set up the PA (and full band in a decent size room) and have "hands on time" to become really familiar with the mixer and any new mics / gear that had appeared. I eventually found a solution to getting the singers to co-operate......"Do you want to sound great or sh!te? 'Cos I can do both 🤣" Also getting them in front of the PA so they can hear themselves and the changes between the augmented and dry sounds helped.

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My two’penneth coming from being a Behringer XR18 user for many many years. 

 

Firstly, I don’t like delay on vocals. Secondly I love reverb on vocals. Three tricks I’ve learned from pro engineers: 1) use plate reverb in a live setting; 2) make use of pre-delay to separate the reverberated voice from the dry signal - makes the vocal sound fuller and warmer; 3) eq the reverb to only work on the mid-range so hard use of hpf and lpf to stop the reverb sounding muddy or shrill. 

 

I have a plate reverb on the XR18 that is pretty much ‘set and forget’ and use the send level to adjust how much of each voice has reverb added in the FOH mix. This is probably the wrong way to do it as wiser people than I seem to say that your sends should be at unity, but it works for me. 

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20 hours ago, JPJ said:

My two’penneth coming from being a Behringer XR18 user for many many years. 

 

Firstly, I don’t like delay on vocals. Secondly I love reverb on vocals. Three tricks I’ve learned from pro engineers: 1) use plate reverb in a live setting; 2) make use of pre-delay to separate the reverberated voice from the dry signal - makes the vocal sound fuller and warmer; 3) eq the reverb to only work on the mid-range so hard use of hpf and lpf to stop the reverb sounding muddy or shrill. 

 

I have a plate reverb on the XR18 that is pretty much ‘set and forget’ and use the send level to adjust how much of each voice has reverb added in the FOH mix. This is probably the wrong way to do it as wiser people than I seem to say that your sends should be at unity, but it works for me. 

Pretty much exactly how i use my XR18. Set up the plate reverb last year and i only ever touch the levels every now and then if someone gets a bit ‘shouty’ and drives it harder. 

We have one set up for FOH, and another for the IEM/Aux so they can have a bit more or less without messing with FOH. 

I do also have a delay set up, and i manuly raise the level to where it blends in well for one ro two songs. 

We tend to use the XR18 all the time, even when we rehearse so it gives me a good chance of getting things where they need to be. 

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This thread has certainly gathered some pace! ❤️

 

100% on the 'horses for courses' thing, Phil - I used to run a small / medium-ish PA setup with several Peavey boxes, some big horn loaded subs and what felt to be about 8 tons of Crown and JBL (QSC) power amps. All together, it was just short of 10K so mainly inside gigs but there was the odd out door session too so this was where the Mackie was tried and the chap I used to do the PA with loved it but when I was mixing, comig from 'full time analogue' to the Soundcraft XD and 02R, I was just never comfortable enough with it plus the 'verb was a little lacking. The PA was largely sold off about ten years ago as it was a direction I didn't really want to go in anymore but the other chap still has a couple of amps, some HiSys 4 boxes and the little Mackie DL. 

 

As for the HPF, It depends on the voice, mic, technique and how the system is setup - tune by ear although it might be more useful to do this during a song rather than the usual 'yeah yeah, hey one two' mic check. During the song, slowly nudge the HPF frequency higher and higher until you reach the 'I've gone too far' point then back it down to the sweet spot as I'm a great believer in keeping the mix clean by getting rid of components that may cloud it - sweeter in isolation may mean worse in the mix. 😃

 

Loving the vintage pics, Chienmortbb! 🥰

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I use reverb & delay on most vocals thesedays. My main mixer is an A&H SQ5 and my basic settings are as follows:

 

Plate reverb - 1.5-1.7 seconds, 50-70ms predelay, low cut at 700hz, high cut at 5khz and a slight dip at 2.5khz.

Delay - speed set by tap tempo, low feedback for 1 repeat, low cut at 220hz, high cut at 1khz.

 

I chop out all the FX lows and highs so nothing is boomy or harsh and fighting the vocals. Reverb predelay also helps with vocal clarity. And as has been mentioned above, I also don't put delay in wedges or IEMs if people don't want it, but I may still put a little in FOH.

 

I have set up a mute group for the plate reverb & delay. (If I'm playing bass & running sound, I have a footswitch for this, if I'm just doing sound I have a soft key) The FX mute is to kill their plate reverb & delay between songs, I don't like hearing singers talking with their main FX happening. Then to avoid them sounding too dry when they're talking I have one more subtle room reverb running all the time just to take the edge off. You don't notice it when the plate reverb & delay are engaged. The room reverb has a predelay the same as the plate reverb.

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