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Blending in doubled vocals
Old 3 days ago
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Blending in doubled vocals

So I am recording and mixing a song for a band for a school assignment and I am just wondering what techniques people use to blend in a second layer of vocals so that it is as un-intrusive as possible while still working effectively as a doubled layer if that makes sense. I am having a play around ad my instinct is telling me to do fades on all the beginning and ends of the phrasing of the second layer so that its both precisely in time with the first take and also any consonants at the start of the phrase get pushed down in volume as the percussive elements of the voice tend to be more jarring when they are not perfectly in time. Am I on the right track with this approach? Is there anything else people do to keep the second layer in check? What about EQing tricks? Also if I send someone an MP3 would they listen to my work and give me some feedback (not sure if the band is ok with me posting publicly online but sending to a select few people for feedback is ok).
Old 3 days ago
  #2
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Originally Posted by The_Bunker View Post
So I am recording and mixing a song for a band for a school assignment and I am just wondering what techniques people use to blend in a second layer of vocals so that it is as un-intrusive as possible while still working effectively as a doubled layer if that makes sense. I am having a play around ad my instinct is telling me to do fades on all the beginning and ends of the phrasing of the second layer so that its both precisely in time with the first take and also any consonants at the start of the phrase get pushed down in volume as the percussive elements of the voice tend to be more jarring when they are not perfectly in time. Am I on the right track with this approach? Is there anything else people do to keep the second layer in check? What about EQing tricks? Also if I send someone an MP3 would they listen to my work and give me some feedback (not sure if the band is ok with me posting publicly online but sending to a select few people for feedback is ok).
Try taking away what the vocal is good at in the doubledd and emphasizing what is missing IE male vocal has a solid lower mid freq range cut the lows and push the higs then turn it all the way down so you can increase the level until you hear the difference. It should keep the raw natural sound but give it an edge. then turn it off and on to see if you really like the difference. the same can be done for reverb, volume, and compression. to give you that natural sound with studio efx processing gains....
Old 3 days ago
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Originally Posted by phaceless View Post
Try taking away what the vocal is good at in the doubledd and emphasizing what is missing IE male vocal has a solid lower mid freq range cut the lows and push the higs then turn it all the way down so you can increase the level until you hear the difference. It should keep the raw natural sound but give it an edge. then turn it off and on to see if you really like the difference. the same can be done for reverb, volume, and compression. to give you that natural sound with studio efx processing gains....
Cool, we'll try this now... What do you also think of my idea of using fades to control slight phrasing discrepancies?
Old 3 days ago
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Another thing I am finding myself doing is taking out all the breaths from the doubled part, as breaths seem to be the least in synch aspect of the performance I find and very distracting when they are obviously two different breath sounds.
Old 3 days ago
  #5
High pass the double vocal, add reverb and tuck it in to bed.
Old 3 days ago
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Originally Posted by DAS19 View Post
High pass the double vocal, add reverb and tuck it in to bed.
Roughly how high would you go with the highpass? We're talking male vocals here.
Old 3 days ago
  #7
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You do want it to be tight, but you shouldn't need to do fade-ins, or ducking the consonants on the double. (Fade-ins, rather than fixing a timing issue, simply make the double track sound less human, which isn't really the goal.) At the start of phrases only, you may sometimes need to nudge the timing a little, if the double comes in noticeably early or late - in which case, you may need to cut the consonant, move it, and do a super short cross-fade with the rest of the word.

But doubling doesn't need to be millisecond perfect to work - not least because it's not like layering hits with a super-fast transient; they're vocals, after all. After all, if the double take was sample-level identical (obviously an impossibility), it wouldn't work as a double at all, it would just increase the loudness. Poor analogy, perhaps, but worth bearing in mind that for it to thicken the sound, you do actually want the natural variations that occur - absent a noticeably awry start to the word.

And, yes, for held notes, you want the tails to be ... close. Again, not millisecond perfect - but you don't want to have one take where a held note lasts, say, 1/16th note different than the double. On some held notes, at the end of phrase, I will often have to fade the double. Unless the double is shorter - in which case I'll usually scrabble around for another take of that same word from somewhere else!

I'd almost always remove breaths entirely from the double. Yes for the lead, and how loud depends on what you're going for. But there's no upside, I don't think, to having those double-tracked.
Old 3 days ago
  #8
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Thanks Owen, that is a very thorough answer and explanation of your thought process. Appreciate your input. Would you mind listening to my edits and letting me know if you notice things such as fades in the context of the mix? I am trying to be subtle about it and don't really notice things sounding "less human" as you put it. But perhaps my ears are not as acutely tuned to such fine details as yours. I am pretty new to all this after all.
Old 2 days ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Bunker View Post
Thanks Owen, that is a very thorough answer and explanation of your thought process. Appreciate your input. Would you mind listening to my edits and letting me know if you notice things such as fades in the context of the mix? I am trying to be subtle about it and don't really notice things sounding "less human" as you put it. But perhaps my ears are not as acutely tuned to such fine details as yours. I am pretty new to all this after all.
Sure. Just post an example of the double-track and I'll listen next time I'm in the studio.

One way to look at it is this: very short fade-ins, very near the start of the vocal, are unlikely to be that noticeable - but, then again, that probably means the timing was tight enough that actually the original could probably have been left alone. I guess on open sounds, there's more lee-way; on consonant-led words, though, if the timing was off enough to need editing, then time correction rather than fading in is a more natural way to go.

I guess we'll see, though; if I can't detect any fade-ins, then perhaps it makes no difference. (A lot of things add up, though; so, although in a full mix no one could go "ah ha, I detect a fade-in on the double-tracked vocal", any more than anyone would notice whether the 6th rhythm guitar was using an amp sim or not, it still makes sense to use the best tool for the job, if not prohibitive to workflow.)
Old 2 days ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Bunker View Post
... breaths seem to be the least in synch aspect of the performance...
Hard consonants, too. When tracking doubles (and further layers) it can help to have the singer(s) de-emphasize hard consonants or even leave them out altogether. But if that horse has left the barn, you can manually duck them or chop them out.

Late edit: is horse and duck in the same sentence a mixed metaphor if duck is a verb, not a bird?
Old 2 days ago
  #11
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Look,

If your going to do doubles the pro way is:

1. Comp + how ever many dubs you want, there shouldn't be any discrepancies, make commit to his phrasing

2. Tune, do the lead and doubles at the same time, again, no discrepancies

3. Align, by hand or vocal align, lock em' up, again, no B.S

4, Cut all the breaths AND any sibilant nuances (esses, TUH!'s KCK! ect.) if your fade finger is itching you can scratch it here

Now you have doubles you can work with, but should you? I feel like a lot of people "Double" stuff because they think it's studio pixie dust that will shine their turds, and it just ends up being crap on crap

Dubs on a chorus? Always, during verses? Nah, that means you didn't record a good vocal,

I think the answer to your question is why are their phrasing discrepancies if you were doing doubles and why are you doing them in the first place?

Make this chump comes back in and tell him to sing it like he's got a pair, and charge him double for wasting your time, point out all his little F^%k ups

Break him!!!
Old 2 days ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Bunker View Post
Cool, we'll try this now... What do you also think of my idea of using fades to control slight phrasing discrepancies?
I second what owen said doubling is only doubling because of the differences in takes. if they are so different it disturbs the flow do a retake or cut it out.
Old 2 days ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post
Break him!!!
Testy!

As for Tip #2 -- just my experience -- if the lead vocal and the double are tight and you tune them both, the double will at least semi-vanish, especially on held notes. Which only makes sense.
Old 2 days ago
  #14
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Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post
Look,

I
Now you have doubles you can work with, but should you? I feel like a lot of people "Double" stuff because they think it's studio pixie dust that will shine their turds, and it just ends up being crap on crap

Dubs on a chorus? Always, during verses? Nah, that means you didn't record a good vocal,

I think the answer to your question is why are their phrasing discrepancies if you were doing doubles and why are you doing them in the first place?

Make this chump comes back in and tell him to sing it like he's got a pair, and charge him double for wasting your time, point out all his little F^%k ups

Break him!!!
Yes I think that people confuse doubling for ad libs a lot of times.
What are reasons to double a whole verse...? To add more of a tone or feeling that on its own would not give a crisp vocal? What does that even mean ....?are you trying to whisper and shout at the same time, be angry and happy at the same time...? Uhhhh headscratch ok double it.... anything else mix it.
Old 2 days ago
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Testy!

As for Tip #2 -- just my experience -- if the lead vocal and the double are tight and you tune them both, the double will at least semi-vanish, especially on held notes. Which only makes sense.
Yeah, it's like tuning a 12-string guitar--if you tune the top E and B pairs to a perfect unison, it stops sounding like a 12-string. You need a tiny pitch discrepancy to get the right sound.

One way to approach it with vocal layering would be to find the most pitch-accurate take, leave that alone, and tune the other(s).
Old 2 days ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
Yeah, it's like tuning a 12-string guitar--if you tune the top E and B pairs to a perfect unison, it stops sounding like a 12-string.
With my degree of tuning precision, it always sounds like a 12-string. Actually, somewhere between a 12-string and an autoharp that's been thrown down the stairs.

I keep meaning to do a really good 12-string tuning, but I can never seem to set aside that extra month.
Old 2 days ago
  #17
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Stepping beyond my own first-hand experience (not entirely unheard of here on the forums) I do know that some of the A-list producers will, for instance, auto-tune one set of 4 double-tracks, and leave the other 4 alone - or that kind of insanity.

But the A-list guys frequently have access to a whole bunch of stuff - equipment, singers, etc - that the rest of us do not, and we sometimes miss a trick. So, for instance, if you do a stack of vocals using the same singer and the same mic, in the same location in the same room, then you tend to get a build up of ... 's**t', I think is the technical term for it.

One thing you might want to think about (and try), if you're trying to find what works best for you - so a "let's see what this sounds like" way to spend 30 minutes, rather than "3 steps to a perfect mix" scenario - is to record your double-track using a different microphone. Like, if you use your best LDC for the lead vocal, try tracking the double-track through an SM58. Personally, I would never choose that as a vocal mic for anything I want to shine a light on, but since a lot of production stuff is about adding character, and since the good thing about an SM58 - specifically for this purpose - is that the singer can pretty much eat the mic (meaning much less room sound in the double), and it doesn't capture a lot of bass (which, generally, you don't want a lot of from your double-track, which you'll likely hi-pass more than the lead anyway), and since it has an organic low-fi-ness to the sound ... could make it an interesting, pre-EQ'd option for your double track.

That's the kind of thing where, if you find it works for you, you'll use it again and again - with confidence - and help you find a way towards building your own sound. (99 more tricks like that, that work for you, and you'll be well on your way.) And if you don't use it ... I guarantee you'll learn something as you try it out.

As a for instance, I've been playing (and recording) saxophone for 20-odd years. But it wasn't until a friend asked me to track something for him in my studio, in which I was having issues with sound/acoustics, that I thought: "okay, let's try out some stuff". And over the course of an hour or so, I just sent him a bunch of takes using different mics and different mouthpieces - which was when I discovered just how much of what I thought of as my default recorded sound was down to the small-diaphragm condensor mic I was used to working with, rather than an inherent part of my playing. That kind of open-minded experimentation is key towards a deeper understanding of how things work/sound - and, indirectly, towards getting a better mix.
Old 2 days ago
  #18
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For a double you might also trying adding a mic further away and off center of the primary so it is the same take but different. unless you're in a well treated room will need a high pass on that but it does tend to add a fullness to the vocal.
Old 2 days ago
  #19
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Some excellent suggestions made, especially manual alignment when needed.

There are also many free plugins you can use to get separation between the two. Most are time based effects which will place one in back of the other to create three dimensionality. The biggest problem you have with doubling vocals is masking. when you have two parts using the same frequencies from the same voice, and at relatively the same amplitude you'll have the words from one track being sung slightly louder during a line and it will hide the second voice in back of it. You wind up with a volume war of words with one track masking the other.

There are a couple of ways of minimizing that. One as someone mentioned is to EQ them differently. That can help a bit but because the original voices are so similar that only goes so far. You can use various reverbs. Keep one voice dry and the other wet. The wet one can have more midrange and it will sound like its in back of the first because sound passing through air removes bass and treble so you have the illusion of distance through EQ and reverb.

If you want to keep both vocals up front you can pan them left and right but you can wind up with a row boat effect. The ears drift to whatever side has the strongest vocals and its hard to stay focused on both or the center.

Autotune can make the problem with mono center and masking even worse because it removes the human element which allows people to har the differences between the two. Slight timing and pitch variations are what make the two sound fat together. Of course extreme variations aren't much good for anything. If you have to autotune, only do it to one vocal or whatever words/phrases are really bad.

Something that works great for keeping separation between two tight vocal parts is chorus. It will add depth because it uses a delay/reverb. it will provide pitch variance because of the LFO running inn the background bending the pitch of the notes. You don't need much in most cases. You want to create a shadow, not a washing machine sound.

There are two plugins I recommend you try. One is an old freebee called Classic Chorus. The stock presets are very good and is you minimize the speed way down to a slow sweep, and mix just a little in, you'll have instant three dimensionality. With my vocals I need all the help I can get and this one works miracles.

The second one is a stereo chorus. I'd put this one in an aux buss, then feed the two tracks to it with some stereo separation. Its even better when you have three tracks, a left, right and center. This plugin is called Duet Harmonizer. If you keep the center track dry, then feed the two hard panned tracks to the bus with this plugin its has both chorus and pitch shift. Normally you'd have one side pitched up between 3~6% and the other pitched down by and equal amount.

You can find both the duet and classic chorus here. Download Modulation effect - Free VST Plugins, virtual effect - Page 1 Like I said it doesn't take much. if you notice it working as an effect, you're using too much, simply use it as a ghost effect to add those human elements and give it depth and width.

What the pitch shift does is move higher pitches to one side, lower to the other and leaves the correct pitch in the center. This fattens thing up with both the chorus pitch movement and the Doppler effect you get based on intensity and movement of a sound source. You can do similar things by using a pitch shifter on two tracks panned hard left and right and use a pitch up on one and a pitch down on the other. Its simply a matter of experimenting with whatever tracks require for the best results. If you have singers with totally different voices you may not need much of any of these.
Old 2 days ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phaceless View Post
For a double you might also trying adding a mic further away and off center of the primary so it is the same take but different.
It's a good idea to have the mic (or more easily, the singer) in a different spot for each pass regardless of whether it's an additional mic or just the one. When you pile layer upon layer and record them with the exact same positioning, the slightly-different high harmonics of the various passes "beat" with one another, resulting in unpleasant hashy junk that you can't get rid of.
Old 10 hours ago
  #21
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Wow, this thread took off since the last time I looked at it! Thanks for all the great info on here everyone, I am gonna go over this a few times and digest it all. Its good to know my instincts were more or less right. I have definitely been aligning by hand and ducking anything with harsh sibilance or plosives and listening to make sure it still sounds natural. A lot of the EQ and reverb suggestions here are really good and I will definitely try these. As for busting the singer to come in again, I don't think so, it was a relaxed project, I am only a student and learning myself so noone is charging anyone any money here.

Also interesting Owen mentioned recording Sax cause funny enough that is the next thing I have to record and have never recorded Sax before. Any tips? I know not to mic the mouth of it and so on. I was thinking of throwing a dynamic near it and a LDC somewhere else in the room. Sound solid? I don't really have expensive ribbon mics or anything so that sorta thing is out of the question.

Owen where can I send you this track? Or can I PM it to you on this forum?
Old 2 hours ago
  #22
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Another question regarding this: can somebody post an example of more looser doubled vocals in professionally released songs? As with everything I am sure there is a spectrum and I am wondering what you can get away with? How people approach this creatively etc?
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