Stories
recording and mixing of classical vocals by original formant forcing

This story is a translation of one of my german stories, describing strange events in the fields of audio technology.  Read it carefully and you will learn how to mix classical vocals, especially soprano voices (and how to sell professional studio products effectively).

Once upon a time, a well known company for studio equipment invented a great new recording device, which was capable of manipulating and enhancing the sound of the attached microphones in many ways.  The device consisted of various sections, which could be adjusted by several knobs and faders.  Apart from the highly linear preamplifier, each channel had a 5-bands autoadaptive compressor for optimizing the dynamics of the signal,  a 4-bands parametric equalizer to adjust the fundamental frequency curve and a three-stage softlimiter, to ommit any distorsion while increasing the loudness.  Furthermore, a versatile dynamic distorter/enhancer could be plugged into the signal path, acting as an exciter and causing signals to appear more present and punching. Finally, the device had an controlled tube stage, for compressing the signal and adding harmonics simultaneously, in order to create more ambience and warmth.  Doing that, the most current high linear, non-distorting and chrystal clean condenser microphones, do again sound similar to non-linear and distorted tube known from early 50tees. With that technique, it was possible to relevate the "good analog sound" from the old times.  All sections could be switched on seperately - or (to be more precise) they could be shunned, if one did not need a certain function for the current mix.

Well, one day a blonde woman, beeing educated in classical soprano, entered the music store and asked for equipment to record classical vocals with. The half time sales person, a long haired guy in old jeans, who mainly does mixes for metal rock bands, pointed her to the newest large diaphragm microphone and said: "A great voice does require a big microphone".  Additionally he advised the obove mentioned studio device to her: "Using that device, you can record and mix nearly everything possible. it is much more versatile and creates a much more interesting sound, than the known clean preamplifiers, which are all boring and sound cold". The blonde singer was satisfied and went home to explore her new recording equipment.

After endless hours of testing, she was a bit unsure how to adjust the device in particular, since there were so many knobs and functions.  She deciced to call the music store and ask for help.  In describing her needs, she emphasized, that her main interest was the maintainance of her true vocal sound.  Especially the so called "formants", which are the most important characteristics and criteria of a good voice, should be represented as most natural as possible.  After some seconds of thining , the long haired sales guy recommended to make use of a certain sound maintaince function at all the sections which might do manipulation to the sound.  The function was implemented to achieve the desired natural vocal sound by the so called "original formant forcing" -technique, shorly named "OFF".  The blonde, pressed all the recommended knobs and obtained the most clean and purest sound ever heard.  She was highly confident, did a big shout on the technical knowledge of the sales guy and the superb quality of that wonderful studio device.

That way, everybody was satisfied up to the end of their days: The long haired guy continued to earn thousands of dollars by recommending and selling very expensive studio devices, and went on mixing "dark death black metal music" , whereby insiders considered it more likely to be "black dark metal death music" instead, and that he simply might did not know the difference. The audio company produced many microcontroller based studio devices, beeing able to produce Luciano Pararotti's sound from out of every uneducated hobby singer and also performing a triple blinking, whenever sounds of a dedicated super hit had been detected at the input. The blonde herself turned her hair to black and had an incredible career as an opera singer and whenever one of her concerts had been recorded, she went down the stage, searched for the mixing console and recording devices and pressed all available knobs named "off", to optimize the sound.

Ashes to ashes, and clay to clay, if you don't waste your money, your music dealer may.

Read that article in german

J.S. July 2004

Studio 96