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Double-tracking your Vox... Should you?


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Some of you know I'm a BIG fan of Oldies from the 1960's.

 

My favorite online radio is OFFSHORE MUSIC RADIO, out of the UK, which plays the hits Britons used to hear on "Pirate" and Offshore Radio stations like Radio Caroline and their ilk. Material which the BBC didn't deem fit (at the time) to play.

 

Their repertoire spans approximately 1955--1979. Here's a sample list. Thus, they play MANY hits from the early Sixties.

 

For whatever reason, many many pop hits from the early 1960's feature the lead Vox double-tracked.

 

Especially springing to mind are records by Bobby Vee, Lesley Gore, Steve Lawrence, Carole King, The Four Seasons, Little Eva, Skeeter Davis, The Orlons, the Shangri-La's, Jackie De Shannon, Paul Anka, Connie Francis, Neil Sedaka, Gene Pitney, etc.

 

That double-tracked lead is a VERY common sound amongst your early-60's teen idols and "Girl Group" artists. It seems to fall from favor--- for whatever reason--- around 1965...

 

It's funny: Some artists could match themselves, performance-wise, with tremendous precision... Other artists had problems, and you can hear two significantly different "takes" altogether brought together, a sound which the producers felt was "okay enough" to go ahead and release. We listeners honestly don't know how to hear some of these records any other way!

 

I once heard that double-tracking "makes a bad voice good and makes a good voice bad". :lol:

 

Is this your conviction as well? Do you ever double-track (not Digital Chorus, mind you) your lead vox? Why or why not?

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Sometimes I'll double or even triple track a lead vocal. Why? Because I like the sound for that particular song, or for a section of a particular song.

 

For me, it's an artistic / production decision.

 

You're absolutely right about the fact that some people are naturally good at it, and other people are not. I've had people come in who've never done it before in their lives who have just nailed it, while other, more experienced singers constantly struggle with it.

 

Double tracking doesn't always have to be equally matched in terms of levels. You can try one down 6dB or so, or two down a bit vs the primary and panned slightly off center, or one with effects and one dry... There are lots of possibilities. I suspect you've probably heard a lot more of it on records than you might have realized - even in post 1965 recordings. ;)

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I once heard that double-tracking "makes a bad voice good and makes a good voice bad".

 

Very astute saying and generally true for sure.

 

But then again do Avril Lavigne's vocal tracks sound "good" to you? Some voices just intrinsically "take" naturally to doubling better than others.

 

Those classic vintage vocal tracks from Stax/Volt, Motown, Muscle Shoals, etc. that set the standard were not double tracked.

 

If you have a really great singer in front of a great mic with a great pre then you have everything you need to make a great vocal track without double tracking. If you have a typical rock singer you can really fatten them up by double tracking. Use it when you need it, it's a great way to get results.

 

The one instance where it is something I'd use [almost] every time is when you're recording a lead vocal track where the singer is almost speaking, i.e. like David Bowie's China Girl -- doubling the vocal in a track like that is usually necessary in context of the song.

 

Doubling portions of the track and leaving others intentionally un-doubled can also create interesting drama. Ville Vallo from HIM is an example, on a couple tracks I've heard they alternate between super-fat triple-tracked sort of sounds and very thin, sometimes even minimalist parts. Sounds awesome. :)

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The stuff you refer to Ras, was obviously the beginnings of the technique. I think the technique just naturally grew more sophisticated and its implementation evolved. Someone mentioned Avril...

 

Listen to her 1st album produced by The Matrix. Her voice is MULTI tracked. Not doubled or tripled. More that that, and by a few singers. Males whispering, another female an octave up. You can't really hear it, but once I was clued into the technique by an article... yeah, I see. And actually Avril can sing. I've heard her live stuff and hey, she sounds like a lot of the singers I liked in the 70's and 80's punk scene.

 

Should you? Of course! Or, absolutely not! Or, maybe a little to punch up key phrases. Or, everything in between.

 

Another example was the way Graham Parker and Costello's 1st album used the technique. Blatant and obvious. That's fun and makes a statement in an in your face kind of way.

 

Or McCartney "Try to see in your way..." Perfect.

 

Then there's the Fall Out Boy, etc technique of triple tracking, tuning and detuning the multiples, and strategic use of Vocal Align...

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I often do--like the thickening of my none too thick voice, though when I do I don't try to conceal it--I like a few misalignments to roughen it up. When my band did our EP/Demo, I resisted the urge to double track some vocals.

 

To my mind the double- and triple-track king was Elliot Smith.

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I am not a talented singer... but enjoy singing nonetheless.

 

I'm generally not talented or patient enough to do "perfect" doubled takes of my singing... in fact I usually have trouble getting one take...

 

But I like the sound of doubled voices. So what I'm experimenting with is copying the original track, then pitch-shifting ever so slightly... maybe .005% or so. It really thickens the track, and of course since it's the original take, it perfectly matches... warts and all.

 

I've liked the outcome of this so much that I've started to play with doing the same thing to solo guitar tracks and with some interesting results.

 

Is this a common technique?

 

M

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And actually Avril can sing.

 

Hmm. I've seen no evidence of that and every local report is that she's utterly abysmal live... Unless you have lax standards for saying someone "can sing". For me Aretha can sing. So can Edgar Winter. Avril? I don't see it. I think she'd be hard put to win a karaoke contest.

 

What gives you full confidence it wasn't a canned track. She routinely lip-syncs, that's not in question...

 

That's just singing... As a performer her stage presence is as bad as the industry has to offer. Not to mention her ethic. she cancelled more dates on her last tour than some pioneers did in their entire careers. :)

 

Paris Hilton album scandal!

http://www.mtv.com/news/yhif/shiny_toy_guns/

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Hmm. I've seen no evidence of that and every local report is that she's utterly abysmal live... Unless you have lax standards for saying someone "can sing".

 

Sorry to offend.

 

My point was, Avril sounds like a lot of punk singers I remember. Joey Ramone could sing and Patti Smith too! I love Aretha and am in awe of her talents, and am literally, the worlds biggest Edgar fan. Those 2 without doubt are leagues away from little old Avril.

 

But relax a moment and try to grock my meaning. They could have treated Av like Patti Smith. And maybe they should've. But they didn't. Her first album is rife with double track techniques for the studying. The intent of this thread I believe.

 

So what's up with you?

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I do doubles of vocs for various reasons. all tried and true techniques.

makes the tone fuller and richer.

It's a trick to get it exact although the finished product is worth the effort. one really does'nt need an exact double though i strive for perfection like ozzy and his triple tracked vocs.

I'll do the first vocal with a less hot mic and close up and the second voc will be a hotter mic and i'll stand further away. :thu:

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That's really interesting about Avril. I've never noticed her early hits to be double tracked, although maybe I wasn't listening closely enough. I guess I could go listen to them on YouTube, but I really don't feel like doing that. :)

 

Jack Johnson seems to double-track his voice on every song, all the way through. At least every song I've ever heard from him.

 

I sometimes like to double track vocals to open up the chorus, to fatten it up a little. Three-part harmony seems to be my go-to technique, though. Seems to work well as a way to emphasize the hook.

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But relax a moment and try to grock my meaning. They could have treated Av like Patti Smith. And maybe they should've. But they didn't.

 

By all accounts Avril is unworkable. I don't think her handlers ever had any positive options. Patti Smith is a compelling individual with depth and artistic savvy.

 

I'm not arguing, just don't see it as valid. I think Avril is barely capable of what little she does let alone anything else. To be honest you're the first person I've ever heard express a positive opinion about her musical skills. She's a pariah in our market.

 

Pariah Carey. :)

 

She wasn't cancelling all those dates because of overcrowding...

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I know that it makes me sound way more impressive than I do otherwise. I do one main part with a light bit of multi-band compressor on it to get rid of my nasaly sound. Then a doubled one which I high pass up pretty high, compress a good bit more with RenVox, and route to a harmonizer bus. It sounds really good. It has lots of articulation and width and atmosphere, without having to be particularly high in volume. But you really have to nail the double pretty well to keep it from being too obvious since the double is spread out around the main.

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By all accounts Avril is unworkable. I don't think her handlers ever had any positive options. Patti Smith is a compelling individual with depth and artistic savvy.


I'm not arguing, just don't see it as valid. I think Avril is barely capable of what little she does let alone anything else. To be honest you're the first person I've ever heard express a positive opinion about her musical skills. She's a pariah in our market.


Pariah Carey.
:)

She wasn't cancelling all those dates because of overcrowding...

 

Well, whatever. Look, I'm not the president of the Avril Defender's League. It really doesn't matter. If someone wants to discuss Nickleback's guitar tracking technique, what does the fact that I don't like them have to do with anything? I could probably learn a trick or two from the Nickleback production crew. When I said Avril can sing, I meant she can carry a tune well enough. And she can. We're talking double tracking vocals here so the point is pertinent. And I admire The Matrix's work on that first CD, a lot. I could care less about her concert schedule truancy. I didn't mean to imply anything beyond what I said... :thu: I absolutely agree that Avril isn't near the artist as Patti Smith if she is even an artist at all. That's all beside the point.

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"It Might as Well Rain Until September" by Carole King in 1962, which was only a demo track not for release as she was the writer of the song, is so double tracked it sounds like two people singing. The engineers may have been slap dash leaving in too much double tracking, as it was only a demo for Bobby Vee to get the gist of the song. There are no master tapes of the song, being overplayed as it was only a demo. Only acetates exist.  For a demo they spent some money on it, with strings the lot. Unless the arrangement was for Bobby Vee, with him coming in just to do the new vocals. His version was different, but that was after they persuaded Carole King to have her version released, so another arrangement may have been put together for his version.  She disliked singing in public.

Another demo that was kept instead of the main star singing, was "It's Not unusual", by an unknown Tom Jones. He did the demo, with Sandie Shaw supposed to just add her vocals when she returned from touring. She insisted this unknown guy release the song as it was so good. 
Tom Jones has sent her a birthday card every year since.

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