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Help Me Rescue a Vocal Session....
Old 14th October 2013
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Help Me Rescue a Vocal Session....

Hey guys, I have a client in town from a fairly prominent west coast band. Not major label big, but big enough to move some units on release day. I just finished a vocal session that didn't go so smoothly. There are a lot of songs on this release that are just out of his immediate range, but that we don't have the option of transposing at this late in the game. He doesn't pretend to be a great singer, and is super down to earth, but I'm afraid we may not be able to get what we need from him in the next few sessions. I've already arranged for BGV's to be done by someone else, so he can just focus on the important parts. I don't want this vocal sounding all edited to hell and back, and I've been contemplating something like vocalign (having him do his parts, and then having a session singer come in and match them up).

This just sucks cause he is a super rad dude and is giving me everything he's got, and has a freakin' great attitude about all of it. But I need a much better performance from him for these songs....too much is riding on the record to just "let it slide".

Any advice or words of wisdom that helped you guys out through a session like this?
Old 14th October 2013
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
JeromeMason's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by rockcandy85 View Post
Hey guys, I have a client in town from a fairly prominent west coast band. Not major label big, but big enough to move some units on release day. I just finished a vocal session that didn't go so smoothly. There are a lot of songs on this release that are just out of his immediate range, but that we don't have the option of transposing at this late in the game. He doesn't pretend to be a great singer, and is super down to earth, but I'm afraid we may not be able to get what we need from him in the next few sessions. I've already arranged for BGV's to be done by someone else, so he can just focus on the important parts. I don't want this vocal sounding all edited to hell and back, and I've been contemplating something like vocalign (having him do his parts, and then having a session singer come in and match them up).

This just sucks cause he is a super rad dude and is giving me everything he's got, and has a freakin' great attitude about all of it. But I need a much better performance from him for these songs....too much is riding on the record to just "let it slide".

Any advice or words of wisdom that helped you guys out through a session like this?
So you've got a session that was tracked but it's tracked in the wrong range for the singer?

Either he can do it or he can't, if this is for a band then you have to consider what's best for the band. I'm sort of confused but if you're looking out for the bands future you might as well get it over with and let them know he can't sing the songs and someone else is going to have to do it.

If it's for him and only him, same rule applies. I only know of one way to correct vocals and that's pitch correction and that's only useful if the actual "performance" was there and the pitch wasn't. If the performance is there and it's just a bunch of pitch issues then correct it, everything is corrected to some degree these days and I've had to get down and dirty with some vocalist with Melodyne. If you do it right it won't have that sound you're talking about.

If he can't sing the parts and the performance isn't there then I would rather take a bullet to the head than 20 to the chest know what I mean? I've had to do this before, many times, best just to be professional, tell him how much you appreciate what he's giving and how much he's trying but in your professional opinion the record would suffer if you continued while wasting time and money.
Old 14th October 2013
  #3
If it's "just outside" his range, thought about doing the whole "varispeed" oldschool trick? (easy on an HD rig with VSO control; not too tricky natively with elastic audio varispeed).

Otherwise...go for delivery over exact pitch (eg it's better he his a note cleanly without fluttering or scoops than gets to pitch with lots of wobbles). Fairly easy to use melodyne or autotune to just yank the whole thing upwards then.

The Vocalign thing isn't going to be a "natural" vocal sound. You'd be better off melodying to death in most cases. Maybe get a session singer with a similar voice to cover the high notes and go between the 2?

Can you get away with double tracks/vocal stacks - what style is the music? If it's "polished" rock/pop, then almost certainly - and you could blend a session singer in for reinforcement (and vocaligned tightly).

Really difficult to get a "natural" sound given your starting point - so if we're talking exposed stuff, you might be fighting a losing battle.

Or - really old school - get a few vocal coaching lessons? that plus a bit of practice and you can get an extra few notes on the range...? If time allows...even if it means just having someone good there to warm him up properly and to provide on the spot help.
Old 14th October 2013
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
JeromeMason's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
If it's "just outside" his range, thought about doing the whole "varispeed" oldschool trick? (easy on an HD rig with VSO control; not too tricky natively with elastic audio varispeed).

Otherwise...go for delivery over exact pitch (eg it's better he his a note cleanly without fluttering or scoops than gets to pitch with lots of wobbles). Fairly easy to use melodyne or autotune to just yank the whole thing upwards then.

The Vocalign thing isn't going to be a "natural" vocal sound. You'd be better off melodying to death in most cases. Maybe get a session singer with a similar voice to cover the high notes and go between the 2?

Can you get away with double tracks/vocal stacks - what style is the music? If it's "polished" rock/pop, then almost certainly - and you could blend a session singer in for reinforcement (and vocaligned tightly).

Really difficult to get a "natural" sound given your starting point - so if we're talking exposed stuff, you might be fighting a losing battle.

Or - really old school - get a few vocal coaching lessons? that plus a bit of practice and you can get an extra few notes on the range...? If time allows...even if it means just having someone good there to warm him up properly and to provide on the spot help.
Lot of good advice there.......

If you've got time and the guy has potential vocal lessons can do wonders for some people. Especially if you get a good coach that can get to the core of the problem, it could be just something he's not doing correctly, or not warming up properly and can be fixed fairly quickly. If you've got the time and you believe he's got the potential that's the best route.

And like Pyscho said, don't do the Vocalign deal, I agree there.
Old 14th October 2013
  #5
Gear Nut
 

Thanks guys, lots of awesome advice. Its a super polished pop album, and I'm no stranger to autotuning most to all of my vocal sessions, but a lot of these takes get squirly and crackly towards the top of his range. I guess the best approach would be stacking the tracks till the problems are covered. THe "old school varispeed trick" sounds intriguing though....:-)
Old 14th October 2013
  #6
Lives for gear
 
GeneHall's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeromeMason View Post
Lot of good advice there.......

If you've got time and the guy has potential vocal lessons can do wonders for some people. Especially if you get a good coach that can get to the core of the problem, it could be just something he's not doing correctly, or not warming up properly and can be fixed fairly quickly. If you've got the time and you believe he's got the potential that's the best route.

And like Pyscho said, don't do the Vocalign deal, I agree there.
I'm not a fan of using technical recovery tactics pertaining to such matters.
It's also a shame that vocal coaching is considered old school. There is nothing old school about receiving training even on specific material, if the singer is not on a disciplined regime of vocal exercising. Much different than singing.
I find with most singers, limitations are more to do with environmental variables and life, stress, worry, the whole lot.
I don't run to auto tune even when demoing up Pop songs during pre Pre-production. Sharp singers have troubles hearing, flat singers are struggling to listen. Vocal coaches, in addition to bringing in technique strategies also bring in a support structure ( not all vox coaches qualify here..) that has a physiological effect that can help greatly, particularly under extreme duress or pressure to attain an outcome.
One of the best vocal coaches I saw would have singers speak the lyric, in cadence with performance, marking time free of colour such as falsetto et al.
And build up from there, structuring the balance between head and chest voice (Pop/rock singing), target where such matters as pelvic support are needed, and where perhaps head or throat embellishments are stepping stones to building tone and passing the right amount of air over the vocal chords to hit the note. Some limitations are in fact physical, but most are physiological.
For lots of Pop, a balance and head and chest voice can be achieved through training, running to auto tune is like working in a sausage factory and quotas must be met. But it ain't. It's people trying to create from an organic natural instrument and like anything physical and mental in unison, it takes a little help. By considering assisting with coaching, you might lend help to a change in this performers career that helps them turn a corner, extend their viability and enrich their life with knowledge and training to maintain a higher level of proficiency with their chosen craft. A lot comes down to how committed the singer is in the end, but the greatest asset any of you fine engineers possess is the realm of possibility you present to a given artist.
Good on you for digging in and looking for a solution. You in fact may uncover something that an artist can take away from his/her experience with and flourish for decades.
Harder we work, the luckier we get. Auto tune as a modern day emergency blanket has taken alot of the most appealing aspects of music away. Great gizmo to fix a cent or two, here and there, that gets leaned on way too much, be it for time constraints, or some other earthly matter. And I know some may feel really clever using it sublimely but I would argue it's more clever to give a singer every fighting chance to arm themselves to overcome challenges and develop. Guess a lot of factors contribute to what path is taken. I'm always prepared to be in it for the long haul with an artist and my hope is that I make responsive and responsible decisions with regards to the sensible and sensitive needs of, in particular singers. Hope it all goes well
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