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Getting layered vocals a la Boston/the Cars/Queen

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  • Getting layered vocals a la Boston/the Cars/Queen

    How does one record and mix stuff like the 'ahs' in You're All I've Got Tonight?  Or stuff like that.

    Does Logic Pro X have any sort of a function that will do it?  I wanna be able to hit a Cars button and sound like the Cars on my background whoas.  Or just give me a step-by-step of how it should be sung, panned, mixed, compressed, blah blah blah...


  • #2

    In case you're not trolling, you learn to sing and you learn to arrange.

     

    -Dan.

    formerly known as IsildursBane

    Comment


    • WRGKMC
      WRGKMC commented
      Editing a comment

      Its about the vocal quality tracking first and foremost. In many cases you'll have several singers around a single high quality mic that will record from both sides, then you'll record the track with people singing all the parts at the same time to a mono track.

      Trying to build a good sounding chorus from separate tracks and especially from a single singer is much more difficult. First off, 4 tracks with the same voice are going to have the same vocal techniques and tonal qualities. When you have multiple people singing their parts well, the chorus usually sounds fuller because of the combinations of individual vocal tones, one being deep one being thin etc have less chance of masking each other. 

      Google "Frequnecy Masking" for more details on this topic.

      Whan you have the same voice singing all the parts, the pitches may be different but the actual bass and trebble qualities of the voice will have a voice match.

      Think of it like this. You have a photograph of a bassball team. With everyone standing shoulder to sholder, you can get everyone in the picture. Say the guy on the far left is the bass frequnecies, and the guy on the far right is the treble and the ones in between alld all your middle frequencies in between.,

      If you use the same voice over and over to get a chorus part, you're layering the same frequnecies over and over within the same range of frequencies. It begins to sould like a clutterd clusterfluck. In a photo its like a row of guys standing in front of each other in a photo, You may see the different faces if the heads are tilted this way and that, but its impossible to see the guys in back completely if at all. 

      If all you have is one vocalist, then you have to use techniques to make the parts sound like different singers that have different voices, chect cavities, vocal techniques and vocal chords. Even the eay a persons accent singing words makes a huge difference.  I'm not talking about stereo separation here either, even though that can help a little You do this to separate the parts within the frequency ranges without those vocals masking something else in the mic like the lead vocal or guitars, snare etc. 

      You may first want to remove bass and some highs from the higher harmony parts. This will make the person sound smaller. Then you can remove mids from the lower parts and that should make that part sound like a fat man singing the lowe parts.

      Remeber, Bass, Alto Tenor, Sorprano are the main vocal ranges most humans fall within, Only a few can hit more than two of those ranges so music arrangement is critical in giving the voice the proper ranges.

      Reverb is the next key item. Try adding more reverb to the higher parts and it should make those parts sound smaller. Then put all the vocals through a limiter to tighten them up and then maybe a second reverb with some pre delay. The pre delay helps ensure the punch is slightly delayed which is another key element. You want the main vocalist to come through first. If you use compression, use a fast attack and decay.

      Then with pre delay on the chorus, the reverb will ring out after the lead singer pronounces his words and is heard clearly. If you have every attack occuring at the same time and the reverb has no delay, its going to sound clusterd and washed out because everything is happening at the same microsecond. Space the reverb to happen 4~6~8ms later on the chorus and see how that works. You'll find the up front lead vocals belnd bettwe with the backwash of the chorus that way.

      And of course you have the tricks to applying compression with reverb. You can google up "The Exciting Reverb" used on all those old Motown hits. The trick ahs been used over and over and many of your rock songs still use that trick to some varying degree today. The main part of it is you combine a compressed voive with a wet reverb voice by copying the track and applying different effects to each. You can tweak the EQ for each as well.

      The compressed track will ensure all the words are heard and the reverb makes for that really big vocal sound. You can add echo in there too depending on the tune.

      Key is you want all that big chorus sound happening in a mono mix before you pan anything in stereo. if it doesnt sound full in mono its only going to sound worse in stereo.

      Using a good vocal plugin can help too. Something like "Voxengo Voxformer" can produce some great results for vocals. Tempo Delay is another free one you can download thats a wonderful vocal plugins.

      A good chorus plugin can do winders too, but you have to use it mildly. It can add movemeny and add space if you dial it up right, but you want to avoid the revolving leslie thing. Set the speed really slow and adjust it up so it fatens the vocal parts a little. Chorus will shift the picthes up and down slightly which helps separste the parts from each other.

      There a tone of other tricks you can use like using a pitch sgifter up on one voice a few cents and down on another but it there is no set formula. Its like a football game, you may have a plan and a stratogy but when it comes to actually carryiong out the play, its the guys who are the best who can get the job done and they leave others scratching their heads. They wing it as the go along ane get themselves there.

      A good part of it is haveing allot of hours in learning to get your audio tools what you want them to do. The other part is haveing a good idea in your minds eye of were you want to go with  the raw mix.

      The only other trick I can give you is import the song you want to copy, then bring each part up one at a time and try to match the Frequencies, effects, and placement in the mic. You're find allot of those songe were mostly mono on chorus parts and its only the cymbals and some guitars out there on the edges.


    • Max Zero
      Max Zero commented
      Editing a comment

      That was awesome, thanks!


    • witesol
      witesol commented
      Editing a comment
      I was sad when they took the Cars plug in away from version 5.4721

  • #3

    One common method that Queen would use was to get all three of them to sing each part, at least twice,so you'll get 3 diferent timbres, on each note.


    You have to be dead nuts on with both pitch and phrasing, if you expect this to work.


    Listen:


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56QJaEbb3_4&list=PLCED7491E0F834ECF&index= 3



    Good Luck,


    MG

    "Thank You, NASA!"

    Comment


    • WRGKMC
      WRGKMC commented
      Editing a comment

      You're getting into music theory there. When you study music theory, you learn about all the different harmony inversions. First you learn the rules, then you learn how to break the rules.

      Look at it this way. If you're a guitarist you play a chord and the notes within that chord can contain the melody and harmony notes, but you can change chords, and many of the notes in the next chord may be the same. An open G chord can have 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings open. An E minor chord has the 2nd and 3ed strings open like the G chord does. The D Chord has the 4th string open like a G, The C chord has the third string open like the G chord.

      You can have the melody change with the chords and the harmony stay on the same note, or the melody stay on the same note and the harmony change.

      The problem with a harmonizer is if you select a 3rd, 4th 5th etc, all the harmony notes will change the same interval as the melody changes.

      This may work for a few songs that are highly simplistic, but you'll find certain melodies, chord changes, it just doesn't work. Harmonizers don't change intervals on their own, so they are not nearly as useful as you may think. Yes you can add a harmony in short phrases where the changes are in unison, but the tine you spend jacking around with it can be very tedious.

      The melody has to be sung well too. Harmonizers work best off a solid simple sine wave. Unless you have a highly trained voice like an opera singer that can retain a true well refined pitch, a harmonizer flakes out easily.  Simple things like Esses, P's K's are not really tones, they are seen as white noise to a harmoniser and the program can't lock in on the note.

      If you sing rock tones you can have all kinds of harmonics that are ears have been condition to hear as fundamental notes, but the harmonizer is fooled into thinking they are 3eds, 5ths etc and the harmonizer will attempt to lock on to the harmonic instead of the fundamental tone.

      There not allot you can do about it, its just the nature of the beast. You can learn to train your voice to sing better through a harmonizer so it remains locked in, which is what most do if they are going to use them. Its better to use a hardware harmonizer while you're singing the main part because you can make split second decisions with the pitch of your voice to keep the harmony under control. Its very difficult to impossible to do this after the part has already been recorded in any kind of automated fashion because you'll have all the flaws in the melody that can set the harmonizer off and go wacky.

      Someone who has used a harmonizer live for a long time may develop a vocal technique, pushing a regulated amount of air, holding a pitch without vibrato, giving the right amount of pause between words, and hitting pitches dead on etc may be able to have a good deal of automated harmony happen using a pitch shifter as a plugin. The rest would require tedious editing of all the words that don't work to make it sound effective.

      Its allot like working with a photo editor and enlarging the image so you're working with individual pixels so when you make the image 100% again, the edges of the cut don't look jagged. You have to smooth edges of a photo crop, jack with the colors and all kinds of stuff to have a realistic crop. Same deal in audio, you have to expand the width and height of tracks in the audio view, remove noise, create silence between words, then you can attempt to create a harmony from the original.

      This is real artwork using a computer, don't doubt it. Some audio engineers spend entire days working on a single line of vocals carefully sculpting them to sound flawless. This is why everyone will tell a musician to get the vocals as good as you can from the start because the work only gets harder from there.

      Lastly, and most importantly, I need to mention is about pitch resonance and the physical characteristics of the voice. When a person sings, his chest resonates with the sound of his vocal chords, He lengthens or shortens the vocal chords and uses the chest cavity and mouth to get a resonant tone. A Harmonizer will shrink this resonance as the notes are pitched up until you sound like Alvin the Munchkin with a chest cavity the size of a peanut and the mouth the size of a mouse.

      Think of it this way. You have a speaker cabinet with a speaker in it. The speaker changes frequency and the cabinet size remains the same. That's what happens with a live voice singing harmonies.

      When you use a harmonizer, the cabinet size and the speaker size changes to get you different notes so you wind up with this unnatural harmony that lack bass and size in the background.

      This is why I wouldn't advise you to try and get more than a third, forth or fifth from a harmonizer. A 7th, 9th or octave is going to sound like munchkins and even the lower intervals are going to be recognized as an effect, not a real voice by any trained ear. Just using autotune to correct pitches of the main vocal is easily heard, no less the harmonies.

      There is one program I know of that attempts to manipulate the chest size, mouth size etc so you don't have that munchkin effect a normal harmonizer creates. I haven't tried it because it requires an ILok dongle for the license, but you can buy it and try it if you want. They may have a demo version you can try. The program is called AVox by Antares.

      http://www.antarestech.com/products/index.php

      Its got a plugin called Throat Evo that can be used to shape the size of the throat when you harmonize pitches. I have no idea if it works any good. I bought their Mic modeler years back and it was more a gimmick than anything else but you could try the demo version and see what you get.

       

       

       


    • Phil O'Keefe
      Phil O'Keefe commented
      Editing a comment

      MarkGifford-1 wrote:

      One common method that Queen would use was to get all three of them to sing each part, at least twice,so you'll get 3 diferent timbres, on each note.


      You have to be dead nuts on with both pitch and phrasing, if you expect this to work.


      Listen:


      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56QJaEbb3_4&list=PLCED7491E0F834ECF&index= 3



      Good Luck,


      MG




       


      To this excellent post I would add the importance of multiple layers. If I recall correctly, there are 72 vocal parts (done with several singers per track, as Mark described) on Good Times Roll... and probably similar track counts on You're All I've Got Tonight and the other super-thick BGV parts on that classic first Cars album.


    • WRGKMC
      WRGKMC commented
      Editing a comment

      Its the cumulative tonal variances and small vocal imperfections in the tracks that makes a chorus sound fat. The trick is not having any one imperfection stand out too much, otherwise it distracts your attention away from hearing that chorus as a single instrument.


  • #4

    You can record few same takes but with different voices and than use Melodyne to multiply this takes and set lines in harmony. With good editing in Melodyne it could sound very good... 

    Revolt!

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