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Vocal editing workflow?
Old 19th August 2019
  #1
Gear Head
Vocal editing workflow?

Hey folks, I got curious about how pros edit vocals for music.

Over time I ended up with doing the following:
- Comping
- Clean up the comp with RX7. Usually de-click, others as needed.
- Broad gain adjustments. Basically I cut the comp in regions (I use Logic) and try to even out a bit the gain across phrases to avoid big input swings to the compressor when I mix
- Melodyne time: tuning, timing and fine gain adjustments. I adjust gain until I can hear clearly every syllable and there is none jumping out too much over the others in the same phrase.
- Commit the output from Melodyne and do final simple edits, such as cutting silence, fading regions, adjusting the gain of breaths and nasty sibilants, etc.

This to me mentally “closes” editing time and the track is ready for mixing. Overall it takes me 15 to 45 minutes per track, mostly depending on the tuning & timing work needed.

I might do further small edits while mixing. Like automating gain on long notes that go down in volume, further manual de-essing if plugins can’t do the job, etc.

What do you think?
A.
Old 19th August 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 

I think you should concentrate on recording them better. From what you've written it sounds like you are editing the life out of the vocal. Unless you are working with particularly bad vocalists in lousy rooms with less than stellar equipment, I can't see any reason to do 80 percent of what you describe.
Old 19th August 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by jammiedodger666 View Post
... , I can't see any reason to do 80 percent of what you describe.
Because 80% of the online tutorials do this?
Just kidding, I agree.
Old 19th August 2019
  #4
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by jammiedodger666 View Post
Unless you are working with particularly bad vocalists in lousy rooms with less than stellar equipment, I can't see any reason to do 80 percent of what you describe.
Thanks for the answer Jammie. Room is small but well treated. Equipment is not super high-end but shouldn’t be holding me back (vocal chain is u87->ez1073->UAD Apollo). So I have my answer.
Old 19th August 2019
  #5
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by BT64 View Post
Because 80% of the online tutorials do this?
Was this needed? Isn’t this the rookies’ forum?
Old 19th August 2019
  #6
Lives for gear
Let me rephrase it, do what is needed, not what others do.
Old 19th August 2019
  #7
To me it depends on the style of music you're working on. In Pop, nearly all the steps you outlined are necessary, even with a good vocalist and great recording chain. I work with singers of different abilities and the 45 minutes maximum you've described is my minimum for a very good session singer. On average, I'd spend 5-6 hours per vocal.

Of course the top mixers don't do any of this stuff themselves as they have assistants who further clean up the great tracks the original producers(or rather, their assistants) have already delivered.
Old 19th August 2019
  #8
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncovered Pitch View Post
To me it depends on the style of music you're working on. In Pop, nearly all the steps you outlined are necessary, even with a good vocalist and great recording chain. I work with singers of different abilities and the 45 minutes maximum you've described is my minimum for a very good session singer. On average, I'd spend 5-6 hours per vocal.

Of course the top mixers don't do any of this stuff themselves as they have assistants who further clean up the great tracks the original producers(or rather, their assistants) have already delivered.
Many thanks Alex. Yes I’m doing Pop music. I am trying to produce a young and (I believe) talented songwriter.

I realize she’s no Diana Krall when it comes to vocal technique, but I believe she’s good and I like her timbre a lot. Still I need most of the steps above to make it sound as I expect it to be - so your answer is very reassuring.

Thanks again,
A.
Old 19th August 2019
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea View Post
Many thanks Alex. Yes I’m doing Pop music. I am trying to produce a young and (I believe) talented songwriter.

I realize she’s no Diana Krall when it comes to vocal technique, but I believe she’s good and I like her timbre a lot. Still I need most of the steps above to make it sound as I expect it to be - so your answer is very reassuring.
You're welcome Andrea! In my experience there's often(not always) a correlation between an interesting timbre and weak vocal technique. It's almost like the lack of control is what's making the voice more unique. So the more unusual a voice is, the more you have to "suffer" as a producer.

So the trick is for the singer to have singing lessons to address the issues, but not so many that all the "kinks" in the voice are ironed out and they end up sounding like a musical theatre or opera singer!

To get to that level of technical expertise takes time though so it's not going to be an overnight transformation!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncovered Pitch View Post
You're welcome Andrea! In my experience there's often(not always) a correlation between an interesting timbre and weak vocal technique. It's almost like the lack of control is what's making the voice more unique. So the more unusual a voice is, the more you have to "suffer" as a producer.

So the trick is for the singer to have singing lessons to address the issues, but not so many that all the "kinks" in the voice are ironed out and they end up sounding like a musical theatre or opera singer!

To get to that level of technical expertise takes time though so it's not going to be an overnight transformation!
Brilliant, this is exactly what we’re planning to do! I’m looking for a good vocal coach, native English speaker (which in Paris is not that simple to find). If anybody have suggestions the drinks are on me

A.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Are you keeping your vocalist at a set distance from the mic? Preferably (IMO) no more than a few inches away? Do you have any other mics that you can try? A U87 can be quite unforgiving of "interesting" voices. You might be better off with an SM57.

Also... The thing you said to UP about needing all those steps to "make it sound" as you expect it to be, has me wondering. Are you trying to make your vocalist sound different from her natural voice? The processes you described are basically stripping the life out of the vocal. You are erasing any dynamics in the performance, as well as any neat little tuning discrepancies that might make her sound unique. But hey, it's your project so I won't try to sway you.

Still, the fact that some aspiring engineers believe it is absolutely necessary to process the life out of a vocal to make it right for pop, is a bit depressing. I guess we started moving in that direction the moment vocal technique/quality took a back-seat to interesting shoes in the search for pop stars.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by jammiedodger666 View Post
Are you keeping your vocalist at a set distance from the mic? Preferably (IMO) no more than a few inches away? Do you have any other mics that you can try? A U87 can be quite unforgiving of "interesting" voices. You might be better off with an SM57.

Also... The thing you said to UP about needing all those steps to "make it sound" as you expect it to be, has me wondering. Are you trying to make your vocalist sound different from her natural voice? The processes you described are basically stripping the life out of the vocal. You are erasing any dynamics in the performance, as well as any neat little tuning discrepancies that might make her sound unique. But hey, it's your project so I won't try to sway you.

Still, the fact that some aspiring engineers believe it is absolutely necessary to process the life out of a vocal to make it right for pop, is a bit depressing. I guess we started moving in that direction the moment vocal technique/quality took a back-seat to interesting shoes in the search for pop stars.
Thanks again for your reply Jammie!

The intent is not to make her sound different than she is, but there are things that are never perfect even comping the best parts out of 3-4 good takes. That couple of syllables that are too soft at the end of a chorus and become unintelligible. That low pitched note noticeably not immediately in tune. The tightness of background vocals with the main (for some reason I never manage to do the job quick with Vocalign)....I could clearly prevent some while tracking, but I’m just not experienced enough yet to hear them on the fly.

Btw it might well be that I’m overdoing it and I appreciate your warnings. I’ll send the tracks out for mixing and mastering once we’re done with production. I’ll send out also the raw takes and ask for advice to the engineer. ??

On the gear: yes we tried few other mics and pres (u67, R92, SM7b - into a Silver Bullet, an AEA TRP2 or direct into the Apollo trying out the various Union preamps). Ultimately the duo u87-ez1073 sounded best to my ears on most songs, with the exception of two songs where I picked the R92-TRP2 (both are very soft/intimate) and one where I picked the u67-SB in “API mode” (the most “shouted” one). We have another tracking session scheduled mid-September where I plan to try out a few more. She usually sings quite close to the mic, a bit off axis because her sibilants are killer and I keep struggling de-essing...

Andrea
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
Gear Nut
 

I think what you are doing is fine. Watch some of the Melodyne tutorials on YouTube and I think you might find some people don't even fully realize how much it can do.

I only have the first monophonic version, but I can still do a lot, especially in the areas of fine-tuning the timing, putting her phrasing "in the pocket" and stuff like that.

There are times when you want a voice to be very stylistic, and other times when you want it to be perfect.

Sometimes making it sound more natural takes work, too.

If there is one thing I see a lot of producers mention it is "do more takes" so you have more options for the comp. If you do this you might need less of the rest.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
Quote:
The intent is not to make her sound different than she is,
That can be the easiest to do or the hardest to do, depending on what your end goal is for the sound. A simple EQ may do it or a plethora of effects may be needed. It all depends on what you start with and the end result and of course, all the other tracks in the mix, as they effect the sound of the vocals and every other track in the mix.

CJ
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