Fixing Muffled/Muddy Vocals

I need some help trying to figure out and fix why my vocals sound muffled (like I am singing into a pillow or something). Here is an example of what I am talking about:

I've listened to all of Ken's trainings about recording, but I cannot get a clean sound.

Any advice on recording/mixing to get vocals to sound more "professional" (preferable without resorting to doubling/panning, etc.)?

I am new to recording myself singing. I use Presonus Studio One to build my songs. It sounds "OK" in Presonus, but just awful when cut to a high-resolution mp3. Ken talks about getting vocals "forward in the mix", but I don't really know how to do that.

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    jonbouriaquejonbouriaque 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    Answer ✓
    What you're suggesting is possible, I guess, but the recording sounds ok by itself. I think it's more of a recording/mixing problem than a singing problem (hence the singer/songwriter channel). The recorded track sounds fine by itself, but when added to "the mix" it becomes muffled and muddy.

    Any MIXING tips for getting the sound to pop out?
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    sjonrokz4usjonrokz4u 2.0 PRO Posts: 1,287
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    Recording technique, it needs to be up in the mix and maybe do a little eq work. Singing thechnique, it sounds really unsupported and sung from your throat and head voice
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    WigsWigs Moderator, 2.0 PRO, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 5,042
    Answer ✓
    I've recently discovered mixing with flat monitors helps alot! I tend to agree with all the above but since you are speaking purely about your mix, you need to turn down the instruments, or turn up your vocals or look at what frequencies are being shared with your vocal and the instruments. Too much of the same frequency can get your vocal lost in the mix, I think that's what @sjonrokz4u might be alluding to regarding eqing. YouTube have heaps of good basic tutorials.
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    sjonrokz4usjonrokz4u 2.0 PRO Posts: 1,287
    Answer ✓
    As far as eqing there’s a thing called a low cut filter. You would want to apply that maybe around 90 to 100 hertz. As for my voice, I don’t feel as it’s very bright I put in a cut at around 250-300 and a boost around 2k but everyone’s voice is different


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    Chris82Chris82 2.0 PRO Posts: 594
    It sounds to me like your voice is getting partially "stuck" somewhere in your vocal tract. There might be a number of things causing this. Perhaps you're not getting your throat open enough or raising your soft palate enough. You want to create space so that sound has as much space as possible to move around before exiting your mouth. It could also be you're just not projecting or placing your voice correctly. You want to place your voice forward into the mask so that it projects outward. A trick for this that has helped me is to imagine a person you're singing to when you're singing. If you are just singing to yourself and not thinking of a person you tend to sound muffled but by pretending there is a person there that needs to hear you can help you gain a more forward placement.
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    jonbouriaquejonbouriaque 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    Thanks for the feedback. It's both encouraging and discouraging. The recording is from about 6 months ago, so, maybe my singing has improved (though I don't think so). I'm concerned that my singing technique is getting no better and there seems to be nothing I can do about it except repeat the same vocal exercises again and again. Been doing the course for over a year now and I still clearly don't understand what is meant by "chest" and "head" voices. @sjonrokz4u , by "up in the mix" do you mean, "make the vocal track louder"? I've tried turning up the vocals. The end result was "loud and muddy" instead of "muddy". Eq-ing would probably help if I knew what I was doing with the eq. Ken mentions turning down a specific "muddy" frequency range (I forget the freq.). I try different settings, but honestly cannot hear any difference.
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    FretlessTheBardFretlessTheBard 2.0 PRO Posts: 92
    edited March 2021
    On youtube there are a couple of channels with some really good mixing tutorials. Namely, Musician on a Mission and Pro Music Go are both really good and they have free resources you can download if you subscribe to (and then subsequently unsubscribe from) their newsletters.

    As previously alluded to, you make your vocals pop by EQing each instrument (including vocals) to occupy a different range of the frequency spectrum. Let's say your vocals are mostly around 200-350 hz; that's about a G3 to F4, only about an octave, but it's not unusual for a song to have a small vocal range. On the vocals you might leave the EQ flat or bump up the 200-350 hz range by maybe up to +3 dB. Then turn down the other instruments in this frequency range. Do tiny steps, like 0.5 dB at a time. Then repeat the process with the other instruments.

    You can also use a subtle reverb, vocal doubler, or delay to help the vocals pop. I'm not as familiar with these, but Ken talks about them a lot in his Isolated Vocals videos he's been doing on youtube. The most basic thing is reverb. There's a tendency to add too much, which can muddy your vocals. But if you add reverb in a subtle way with a warm sound, it can help your vocals blend with the rest of the tracks without getting lost in the mix.

    It's kind of hard to do until you train your ear for it. Let us know if you figure out anything we didn't mention. Good luck!
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    codeowlcodeowl 2.0 PRO Posts: 305
    edited March 2021

    Thanks for the feedback. It's both encouraging and discouraging. The recording is from about 6 months ago, so, maybe my singing has improved (though I don't think so). I'm concerned that my singing technique is getting no better and there seems to be nothing I can do about it except repeat the same vocal exercises again and again...


    Hey mate, I wasn't able to hear the soundcloud link as it says the URL is not valid. But my advice in regard to your statement above, is to take an analytical approach to your singing, and then come up with a list of things to focus on in your daily workouts. This will change them from repetitive tasks that don't seem to have much value, into a focused process you use to refine your technique and make your singing way better.

    So a great way to analyse your vocal is when doing the exercises as you can compare the characteristics of your sound to the characteristics of Kens sound. The way I do this is to use Reaper DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) on PC with the following gear:
    - RODE NT1-A Condenser Mic
    - Focusrite 2i4 (this takes input like Mic, Guitar, Keyboard Midi, etc.. and converts to USB that plugs into the PC)
    - SURE SRH1440 Open back headphones. (I find open back headphones way better than closed back for singing with)
    - Reaper DAW Software (this takes the sounds coming in the USB and allows you to record them, routing different inputs to different tracks etc...)
    - PC

    Then in Reaper I have a folder structure setup for each Vowel that contains a track for me in Head, a track for me in Chest, and the exercise backing track. At this point I have gone back to the Starter Exercises in Vol 1 to really focus on technique, and so I am comparing the characteristics of the sound I make to the characteristics of the sound Ken is making. Eg; the Ping/Brightness, the Vowel Mods, the enunciation of the Vowel (am I using good mask) the lightness and Support / Breath Control Ken is using. I have found if I focus on hearing this stuff you can actually identify it and compare these characteristics in what I am doing and what Ken is doing.
    The set up in Reaper makes this easy because:
    - You can play/record. Meaning you can play the exercise track with Ken on it, at the same time as recording your Head or Chest track.
    - You play back any mix of your track and the backing track at the same time, eg; adjust volume independently on both tracks and play them at once.
    - You can zone in on a section and just play it in isolation on one track or the other by clicking the [M] to mute the tracks you don't want to hear.

    This enables you to do some really detailed and focused analysis on your technique. When you hear areas that you are lacking the same characteristics Ken is demonstrating you can then research and identify what aspect of technique would fix this. For example:
    - If you have a froggy sound when going up to high. - Research & experiment with lowering your larynx.
    - If you have trouble reaching the high notes and you seem flat. - Research & experiment with lifting your soft palate to make reaching them without raising the larynx easier.
    - If your sound seems loud and forced. - You may be pushing to much air, research & experiment with support/breath control.
    - If you sound shaky when going up high or coming down off a high note. - Research & experiment with support.
    - Etc...

    You can do your research here in the forum and also in Kens vids, this way you will be learning and getting advice in line with Ken's methods. There is not much point going off on tangents with stuff you find else where, in an effort to try and replicate the same characteristics Ken is demonstrating. The best place to learn that is from him and his students :wink:.

    Then make a checklist of things you have identified and are focusing on refining in your technique. There may be different things for some vowels, or just the high end of your range or low end etc...
    Read through this checklist before starting your exercises each night and really focus on these aspects of technique.

    Then repeat the process:

    If you do this with commitment and attention to detail, you will totally improve.
    Here are some discussions that you may find helpful in your research on these topics:


    Breath Control:

    Ping/Brightness, and Ease of Moving Up in Pitch:

    Here is a tutorial on Folders feature in Reaper:

    I think as far as recording goes, if you have a half decent mic, you can do all sorts of stuff in Reaper (or any DAW) with compression, reverb, EQ, etc.. to make you and your instruments sound better than a flat recording. The above channel covers a stack of this for Reaper.

    As you mention that your practice doesn't seem to be developing your voice, I would urge you to focus on an analytical approach to learning Ken's technique as discussed above. I think you will find not only do you improve, but you are able to hear aspects of technique when you listen and watch singing and this will open up new opportunities for learning and experimenting. This will be great for re-watching the videos in the coarse as well. I found that I watched all of volume one, and then started singing, had a stack of problems I couldn't work out and basically failed the first time round. I think it is not until you try something and fail, that when you re-watch the vids, you start connecting better with stuff related to the area you failed in. Also there is a lot you can learn just from observing Ken in his vids. My second attempt at the course I have taken this analytical approach and have benefited greatly from it.

    And last of all, when you learn something, write it down. Writing down your understanding and updating it as you learn more will help you build your knowledge. Update your checklist as you learn more. I find if I don't refer to the checklist before starting practice, even though I know what it says already, I will get half way through the scale and then realize I am not doing something I should be focusing on.

    Good luck my friend, I think you can totally do this if you put your mind to it ;-)



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