Tricks to use on backup vocals

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The Gibbon
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Tricks to use on backup vocals

Post by The Gibbon » Sat Jul 26, 2003 11:24 pm

Maybe this isn't news to some folks but I was sure impressed. Recently while recording a band doing a cover. I foolishly recorded the 2 backup vocal parts at the same time using one mic...........what I got was a thin and certainly not very rocking backup. To correct for it I took the 8 breaths and using non-linear editing "Pro-Tools" cut the part in half....4 & 4....the reversed their order and sort of lined them up on another track and panned them wide and voila! ......I had a bad ass backup that sounded like a bunch of hellions doing their thing.......Anybody else want to put their 2 cents in?

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transmothra
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Re: Tricks to use on backup vocals

Post by transmothra » Sun Jul 27, 2003 12:37 am

whatchoo mean, reversed their order? reversed the phase? you could also put about 30-60ms of delay on one side. that'll fatten and spread it out REAL quicklike.
...do you believe that?

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The Gibbon
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Re: Tricks to use on backup vocals

Post by The Gibbon » Sun Jul 27, 2003 6:24 am

I should clarify....the song was ACDC..."Dirty Deeds" and the part was the 8 breaths in the back.....and if you looked at each breath as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, the track was cut between 4 & 5 and you reversed the order of the breaths now to 5-6-7-8-1-2-3-4 does that make more sence?

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stevemoss
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Re: Tricks to use on backup vocals

Post by stevemoss » Sun Jul 27, 2003 8:56 am

What it sounds like he did is to use eight occasions of the "done dirt cheap" crowd vocal as follows...

left
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
-----------------
5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4
right

...thanks to some of the fun you can have digitally.


Since I'm a one-man recording project, if I'm aiming for 'mass', I'll do whatever I can to vary the individual passes on the backing vocals so that when I sum the tracks it'll have a sound like it's not just one guy doing it all. One time, I'll sing it straight; one time, I'll scream it and put it lower in the mix; one time I'll hold my nose.

Making sure everything is not be perfectly in step or timbre certainly makes a difference. In a crowd, everyone has slightly different phrasing of the vocals and different vocal characteristics. Adding a slight flange or chorus to one of those vocal passes, or changing effects (EQ and compression settings, for example) can also help.

I don't think there's any 'right' way to do any of this stuff, though - just experiment and see what sounds best to you.

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apropos of nothing
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Re: Tricks to use on backup vocals

Post by apropos of nothing » Sun Jul 27, 2003 10:40 am

Couple of cheap and cheesy backing vocal tricks I've used recently:

Left a key word in the lyric (in this case "die") out of the main vocal track, and recorded it on the backing track. I was able to have the end of the vowel end slightly after the next phrase of the vocal had started, an effect I've always enjoyed since I fell in love with the sampled lady on the phone who told me what time it was, and was apparently able to start saying a second sentence before finishing the first one. Wish I could do that in real life.

I also puta vocoder backing vocal on that song. Really opens up the last verse, having a synthesiser "singing along". Since we started the recording with a demo built around a click, I took my demo vocal and did the vocoding on that, mixing it out to a .wav, and then put that into a soft-sampler to take to the studio. Since the vocal phrasings were slightly different I wasn't able to quite trigger it exactly on the nose, but since it was a backing vocal, the timing "slop" thickened the overall sound of the vocal nicely.

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Re: Tricks to use on backup vocals

Post by jimbo » Sun Jul 27, 2003 11:18 am

backing vox can be lots of fun - i try everything and anything.
triple, quadruple and quintuple (or whatever) tracking is always fun. especially when you have more than one vocalist on each track, different mics, mic positions and eq's, etc.. you can use octaves for different backup harmonies, so one guy (or gal) sings the high octave, another sings low. i like putting tremelo on backups sometimes. or fuzzed out board overdrive.

but alot of it has to do with the performance of the singer(s). what they do with their voices, how they project, or waver, or time it is super important, and most times can itself be the trick. in order to try and get performances like that during overdubs, i usually like to have the singer play an unplugged guitar while they sing (if they're a bassist, a bass; if a keyboard playa, an unlugged keyboard; a drummer, some pads or pillows on drums) - you get a different energy sometimes, and since they don't have to actually worry about hitting the right notes, they can allow the pure energy to take over as they concentrate on singing. the bleed thru the mics is minimal (light strings help), and in most cases is worth it for the added intensity. and that too is a nice trick to bring out some high frequency string action from that players recorded guitar part - sort of like how buddy holly did his guitar parts with a mic on the amp and another on the electric guitar itself.
just my two cents.
-jimbo (nice to be back) :D

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YOUR KONG
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Re: Tricks to use on backup vocals

Post by YOUR KONG » Mon Jul 28, 2003 6:08 am

This is sort of basic, but the "backing vocals" post reminded me - sometimes when I record a track of me singing harmony, I'll boost the mids and lows a tad. All of a sudden I sound sort of like Barry White.

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