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Scratch vocal, how & what do you do?
Old 19th January 2003
Scratch vocal, how & what do you do?

I thought about it while I was cutting tracks with a band today, everytime someone wants to sing a scratch vocal I always setup the same or similar gear. An SM58 into the console with whatever compressor I feel like or isn't being used. Sometimes I feel like I should use a "better" mic or preamp but everyone from the band is in the same room with the drums so isolation for punch-in's isn't possible. What do you normally do for the scratch?
Old 19th January 2003
There is only one
alphajerk's Avatar

whatever mic left that i think will work. same goes with preamp. they are usually shittier in the spectrum. i dont give a shit. most times i can get a better real vox anyway... although the scratch vox has made its way before.

of course that doesnt apply to all situations. many times the scratch vox is the REAL vox... then it gets the most appropriate mic for the situation.

i tried out the neu km105 to fill that spot for more optimistic concerns regarding great scratch vox's going down but didnt feel the mic was worth the money.

lately it has been my 4033... or a sm58. or a c4000. or a shure commando [those are the shit]... strap that bitch into my radius50 with compression, shazam.

Old 19th January 2003
Lives for gear
Knox's Avatar

I have 3 (4 if I use the lounge) iso rooms so I am usually ok. The problem I sometimes have is . . . I'm using all the good pre amps, to track the band and I find I end up using the board pres for reference vox . . . which they aren't terrible. I have been caught too many times with keeper scratch tracks to not put a good mic up. Plus . . . I LIKE to get a keeper if I can. Sadly, as you know, not many singers pull it off these days. Plus . . . the big room, gobo'd off sounds much better then the iso room.
Old 19th January 2003
Gear Guru
Drumsound's Avatar
57,58 or M88 usually. The Behringer composer tends to get used here. It's coming out of the rack soon for some new pres though.
Old 19th January 2003
Lives for gear
subspace's Avatar
I set up two SM57s, one on each side of a gobo, and record the singer on one of them. The other one gets recorded as a room mic, and if we decide to keep the scratch vocals, I can still punch-in for fixes by blending in some of the second 57 in those spots. Works pretty good so long as you put some distance between the drums and the vocal mic.
Started doing it this way after getting happy with drum sounds during tracking, then losing some of the vibe when we re-cut the vocals. It's usually a Trimix pre and a touch of 160XT on the vocal mic.
Old 19th January 2003
Lives for gear
Mike Jasper's Avatar
I record myself for the most part, so I use a handheld SM57. I only concentrate on rhythm, and always purposefully throw in a mistake or two so I won't be tempted to keep it.

This vocal is done to a guitar, bass and click track before I bring in my drummer. Everything is geared to rhythm.

When I get the drum tracks down, everything else is overdubbed for real. Once I get drums, bass and rhythm guitar down, then I lay down the vocals.

For me, the vocals must conform to the rhythm section. After that, everything else added must stay out of the way of the vocals.

Just a perspective from the self-recording view.

Old 19th January 2003
Lives for gear
sonic dogg's Avatar
I have a bathroom out in the hall from the mainroom....since its my house , lets call it the downstairs has a tiled shower hooked up to a deep tiled japanese soaking tub and glass doors for them....a low ceiling and an incredible 'slap'...short and sweet...i run a line in there so we can put down drums, bass and vocals all at once....generally we redo the vox but singing in there while tracking is inspiring cause of its natural it really helps the 'vibe' of the tracks for everyone even if we redo vocals later.......
Old 19th January 2003
Gear Maniac
scotty-o's Avatar

Since I have a small room and often track as much as I can in there at the same time, scratch vocals get a 58 or 57 into whatever pre is leftover. I'll just use the board comp and send it out to disk. That's if the singer needs to be out in the room with the rest of the band to play guitar or bass or whatever. I usually don't get a decent vocal from them anyway.
If it's a singer that doesn't play an instrument, I have another smaller room and I'll stick them there and put up a good mic and prioritize my pres and go for keeper vocals while tracking the rest of the band.
Old 20th January 2003
Lives for gear
davemc's Avatar

I am setup with a vocal booth and iso booths and try to record the vocals with the band for added vibe. So if they work they will not be scratch. Although 90% singers even for demo's straight away balk at the idea.. I have my normal vox chain u99/Isa430 setup.
I am getting the place redesigned, the first thing I said we can get back the room for the vox booth(2x2.5 meters). So I will then go sm58/Control24 pre. or maybe a M88 or beta87 because they reject more background noise... and move the vox chain to somewhere else..
Old 23rd January 2003
Gear Maniac

The first mic I grab for a scratch vocal is an SM 7.

It sounds great on most vocals. If the vocal ends up as a keeper, i got something to work with...
Old 23rd January 2003
Gear Maniac
cram's Avatar

I used to use a 58, and a TubeMP. Not anymore. After deciding too many times that the "scratch vocal" was a better performance than the "takes." I now set up for scratches just as I would for real. Now, a LOT of the scratches end up being the take.
Old 24th January 2003
Gear Head

I try to be so acomadating towards a band usually and capture everything just in case but this is the one thing i really give up on. Though possibly one of my favorite records ever(Glassjaw "Everything you wanted...") has a ton of scratch vocals used on it. I really dont want the singer to consider keeping a line cause I am a total fucking snob for vocal sounds and as much as I am all about the feel I hate people feeling like they created precious moments all the time caus e9 times out of 10 they are romanticising bull shit. I think maybe 3 or 4 times I have set up something other then aq 58 and if I did it was just cause i was curious how it would sound on a vocal(tried the TLM 170 the other week it was nothing I was excited about). These days witht he band I work with I am usually doing enough preprod with em that they know the songs without vocals so we arent recording scratch vocals anyway. I find if anything worth keeping from the scratch vocal track is usually said before or after the take anyway. in which case it usually sounds cooler in the room mics anway.
Old 24th January 2003
Gear Addict
CrazyBeast's Avatar

Originally posted by subspace
I set up two SM57s, one on each side of a gobo, and record the singer on one of them. The other one gets recorded as a room mic, and if we decide to keep the scratch vocals, I can still punch-in for fixes by blending in some of the second 57 in those spots. Works pretty good so long as you put some distance between the drums and the vocal mic.
Started doing it this way after getting happy with drum sounds during tracking, then losing some of the vibe when we re-cut the vocals. It's usually a Trimix pre and a touch of 160XT on the vocal mic.
Excellent idea! Wish I could say I thought of it myself...
Old 25th January 2003
7rojo7's Avatar

Once I erased the live take scratch vocals, at the suggestion of the producer. There was still the rough mix done from one of the overbub sessions before the vocal overbubs. At the end of the overbubs, before it went to the mixing studio, a decision was made to keep the rough mix as an album cut. The rough mix done in 5 passes of the song won out in critics choice as best cut on the album. The vocal is the most important part of the song. If you don't have a way to at least fix the live take, you're stuck doing ods when you should be doing something else. Scratch Karma is the hardest to face.
Old 25th January 2003
Lives for gear

jacking up the singer (slightly OT)

Yeah that's interesting and all that... how we all handle scratch vocals...

When it's a problem for the singer to recreate the vibe and peformance that was there on the scratch vox, you gotta do something to get them agitated. That's 'cos it's way more fun to sing with the rest of the band live as it's all going down. After the point of creation, it becomes more intellectual than emotional, and the vibe can go right out the fucking window.

One thing I ask in preproduction is if the band likes World's Scariest Police Videos type of shows, or When Animals Attack. Something good that has a kid falling into a gorilla grotto. Or it could be a car chase that ends with the "suspect" racing off a short pier (wait, that's pretty much all of them). I usually get a wierd look and a laugh after asking the question, but most people understand why I ask. Gotta get the adrenaline reactivated.
Old 26th January 2003
Here for the gear
rubykitty2000's Avatar

I've had alot of luck with the SM7 as a "scratch" vocal mic, even without headphones and a floor wedge pointing at the singer.

The KMS105 is excellent for this purpose too. Very tight pattern and not too much proximity effect. Plosives are a problem sometimes, however.

Yeah, gotta use the board pre's since the good ones are on drums and shit. But I can jam it into an 1176 later to soup it up.

Old 13th February 2003
Lives for gear
Mike Jasper's Avatar
Scratch Vocal placebo effect...

More and more, I try to make my scratch vocals ridiculous. That is, I stay with the rhythm and melody line, but I never use the real lyrics. I make up ridiculous shit.

Why? Because I believe that the deal with scratch vocals is that they're not always better, they're just familiar. You've been tracking and mixing the entire song with these vocals, and as soon as the real vocal take is done, invariably there will be slight differences in phrasing and such that appear wrong. They may be wrong, they may be right. Thing is, everybody gets used to hearing the song over and over with the scratch vocal, so that becomes the definitive version.

I'm not saying that sometimes the scratch vocal isn't the shit. But I doubt it's as often as people think. It's just that old familiarity thing.

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