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How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

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How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby alexis » Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:54 pm

Hello, and Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to everyone!

Since there's not a newbie forum, I'm afraid I need to ask in here ... apologies ahead of time.

I have a vocal track where the singer will usually start phrases low and scoop up to the actual melody note. "Elvis has left the building", so there's no changing the lead vocal line.

If you were about to record an overdub background singer in the studio, would you advise they start their harmony note at the beginning of the scoop, or rather at the end (where the true melody note begins)?

I've listened to some country tracks (where that kind of lead vocal is not uncommon) but haven't been able to figure that out definitively ... I think it's the latter case, but my cardboard ears got damaged in shipping from Sears & Roebucks, so I can't quite tell!


Thanks for any help/suggestions!
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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby BJG145 » Tue Dec 25, 2012 3:03 pm

alexis wrote:If you were about to record an overdub background singer in the studio, would you advise they start their harmony note at the beginning of the scoop, or rather at the end (where the true melody note begins)?
I'd probably start by listening to what they do naturally and see if it works. But I doubt if attempting to match another singer's bad habits is a good idea!
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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby alexis » Thu Dec 27, 2012 8:21 pm

BJG145 wrote:
alexis wrote:If you were about to record an overdub background singer in the studio, would you advise they start their harmony note at the beginning of the scoop, or rather at the end (where the true melody note begins)?
I'd probably start by listening to what they do naturally and see if it works. But I doubt if attempting to match another singer's bad habits is a good idea!

Good advice, thanks, BJG145!

None of the background singer notes are scooped, the real question is whether they should start their single background notes at the beginning of the lead vocal "scoop", or wait till the lead vocal settles in before starting the background note.

So far it seems the second option is working best - lead vox scoops as a solo, then the background vox joins it a moment later, after it has settled in.

Just wondering how other folks have handled this (those that happen to record singers of this quality!).

Thanks -
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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby Adam Inglis » Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:03 am

My 2 cents:
generally the BG vox should not have too much "character" i.e. not compete with the "star". So usually it works best that the BGVs hit the right note from the start. The wee bit of signposting that this creates usually adds some anticipation, but I guess in some cases it could clash, so, as always, use your ears...
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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby The Elf » Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:24 am

I agree with Adam. BVs are about blending with the mix and providing a solid foundation for the more 'artistic' lead vocal to sit over. Ideally I'd want the BVs to be under-performed, devoid of scoops, bends and with as little vibrato as possible.
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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby alexis » Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:30 pm

Boy, am I doing a poor job of wording my question!

I should have emphasized there's no question of the harmony vocals doing any scooping. Straight notes without vibrato only for them.

The question is the timing of entry of the BVs. If the lead vox starts its scoop at Time "A", then finds its steady note a moment later at Time "B" - I'm wondering about whether most people* would have the background harmony note begin at "A" or "B".

I've tried both, it sounds a little better when the harmony voice comes in at "B", but there's something I can't put my finger on that doesn't sound quite right. Maybe there are other standard options that people* try? ... For example, having the BV come in at "A" but at lower volume and fading up to full volume by "B"? Or ...

* ... understanding this is a question born out of working with "project studio-quality" singers, and that not many here are blessed with those challenges ...

Thanks once again for your consideration!
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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby Combo » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:58 pm

Start them off on the beat would be my first guess. You don't say if time A is on the beat or early or late. But a lot of people in that style tend to start the slide a little ahead of the beat, with a view to arriving in tune at the most impactful moment (T.Rex style).

If that is not working out, you could try BVs only on the later phrases of the lines.
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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby shufflebeat » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:01 pm

It's very difficult to give you a sensible answer without hearing what else is going on. The 'norms' (eugh!) of the style might suggest something reminiscent of previously successful devices.

As already alluded to BVs tend to be part of the supporting structure (a la Bob Marley or Motown) than 'free spirits', that's usually the job of the lead vocal but there could just as well be something in the lead vocal that might be worth making a feature of by nailing the BVs to it.

As always, if it sounds right - it's right.

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Re: How would you ask a background singer to accompany a "scoop up"-type lead vocal line?

Postby Bossman » Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:04 pm

there is only one answer to this.. whatever works with the music.
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