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Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

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Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby KevinGrem » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:34 pm

I recently finished recording ALL the vocals for a studio album. They are recorded in the perfect form that I want them.

Yet my producer keeps demanding that I send him 3 different vocal takes so he can layer them on top of each other.

Why? I can't figure out why that would be a good idea, considering that the 1 master vocal track that I gave him is absolutely perfectly the way I want it to be. I insist he uses that. But he keeps he insisting he needs 3 of them. We can't seem to agree and I don't know what to do.

It's really frustrating me and I just came here to get some input.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby blinddrew » Tue Oct 23, 2018 5:17 pm

Sounds like you and your producer need to sit down with your references again and really nail down what sound you're after. Bear in mind that some subtle vocal layering can do wonders in a mix, even if it sounds chorusy and phasey on its own.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby The Elf » Tue Oct 23, 2018 5:31 pm

I love doubled vocals, so I would almost always like the option if the artist can provide it. I can imagine other producers feeling the same, so nothing wrong with him asking.

But if you don't like doubling then that's a conversation you need to instigate. It could well be that you need to look elsewhere for someone who shares your aesthetic.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby The Bunk » Tue Oct 23, 2018 6:31 pm

I know there'd be a lot of "it depends" with this sort of thing, but what essentially would the producer be doing with each of the takes? Reason for asking is I've done a double-up on a cover version vocal I'm working on, mainly because there's two people singing on the original but with no harmonies. And I am getting what sounds distinctly like phasing issues, so I'm on the verge of binning the idea.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Oct 23, 2018 8:09 pm

I’d posit that vocal layering is largely genre dependent. I have never done it and don’t intend to, but then I’m working with folk and acoustic music with exposed lead vocal lines where minor differences in takes would be obvious and would sound phasey.

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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby The Elf » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:25 am

The whole point of doubling is to *get* that phasing between the vocals. Without it it would be pointless. Sounds gorgeous to me.

It's a fantastic effect IMHO, but it's not for everyone and it's not always appropriate.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby Dave B » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:27 am

Fundamentally, this isn't about vocal takes, it's about your relationship with your producer. A producer's job is to turn your ideas into the best possible songs that he can and you should pick the producer whose ideas of a great track are aligned with yours (or who will turn your music into something completely different - that works as well). Once that decision is made, it should be straightforward - the producer will ask for stuff that he thinks he needs.

It sounds like your relationship has hit a bump. This isn't about needing another couple of takes, it's about why you two disagree. It sounds like a coffee and a chat are needed. A producer should have carte blanche to change and alter almost anything - I've known recordings where almost all of the tracks have been replaced on the quiet. If more vocals are required, this could be a polite way of phrasing "please send me more options to construct a decent vocal track as your recordings may sound great to you, but I think they need more work". Or they could genuinely want to create a specific sound. Either way, it doesn't sound unreasonable.

But if this is the last straw in a series of arguments, then it sounds like you have deeper problems..
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby CS70 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:55 am

KevinGrem wrote:I recently finished recording ALL the vocals for a studio album. They are recorded in the perfect form that I want them.

Yet my producer keeps demanding that I send him 3 different vocal takes so he can layer them on top of each other.

Why? I can't figure out why that would be a good idea, considering that the 1 master vocal track that I gave him is absolutely perfectly the way I want it to be. I insist he uses that. But he keeps he insisting he needs 3 of them. We can't seem to agree and I don't know what to do.

It's really frustrating me and I just came here to get some input.

If you hire a producer, let him produce. If you want to produce yourself, don't hire one.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby MarkOne » Wed Oct 24, 2018 1:42 pm

I guess it really comes down to you. Double tracking is a really common technique to create an extra dimension for vocals,

John Lennon and Paul McCartney both loved the technique and it's all over Beatles productions.

I suspect every note Dave Grohl has sung was doubled :)


I assume your producer knows what he's doing and knows what your are going for, so obviously if he's asking for takes to double, then he sees a benefit. But as others have said, if you don't want that vibe, you need to discuss it with him.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby KevinGrem » Wed Oct 24, 2018 6:15 pm

I have already done tons of different takes and the ones that I gave him are a result of picking and choosing the absolute best ones.

He said he wants 3 of them so he can "choose the best ones". How does he not understand, I already went through a very, very long process to do this already!
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby CS70 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:46 pm

KevinGrem wrote:I have already done tons of different takes and the ones that I gave him are a result of picking and choosing the absolute best ones.

He said he wants 3 of them so he can "choose the best ones". How does he not understand, I already went through a very, very long process to do this already!

Kevin, your attitude makes little sense. A producer job is to decide what's best. If you want to decide it yourself, you're your own producer and you definitely don't need another one.
But to hire one and then don't do what he asks is just self-defeating.

He doesn't need to understand. You may have done a million takes but if he has one and wants three, you've gotta give him two more.

Just so you understand why he may ask: he may want different flavors. He may want to layer and mangle other takes to make double vocals or harmonies. He may want to double up individual words or phrases. He may want to use a different line to drive a reverb and then get a subtly different image. Or he may know you can do even better than you think.

Three's a gazillion things for which he may want additional vocal lines. If you're hiring him, either trust him or fire him. If it's the label's, ask for a different producer if you don't trust him.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby KevinGrem » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:07 pm

This is so frustrating.........
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:36 pm

I assume you are also the singer (it is irrelevant what instrument you play BTW)? You sang the vocals and recorded them? If so you are the worst qualified to objectively assess them for energy, performance and recording quality.

I am a live sound guy and pub rocker so I can't claim any proper knowledge here but I can relate a story. 20 years ago I was singer and guitarist in a pub band and we were recording a demo to take around the pubs to sell the band. It was in a mate's studio and he was engineering the session. When we got to putting the vocals down he bullied me into singing harder, as I might live, I had thought I was really going for it but I was holding back (for whatever reason, shyness or lack off studio experience maybe). I am still proud of the couple of tracks we recorded that evening but without his encouragement they would have sounded weak and lacking in energy, and, more to the point, I doubt I would have noticed.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby The Elf » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:47 pm

The guy is trying to do his best for you. If you find that frustrating then, as has been said above, you probably don't need a producer.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby Dave B » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:59 pm

KevinGrem wrote:This is so frustrating.........

Please don't think that we are being unsympathetic here - we are just trying to play devil's advocate and give you another perspective here. Trust me, I know how hard it is to get a decent album's worth of vocals together - been there several times, done that and we didn't have autotune or decent comp'ing tools either*.

At the moment, we can only help with the information we have :

* you are doing an album
* there is a producer involved
* you've sweated blood over the vocals
* the producer wants some more takes
* you're unhappy

It's not much to go on here. Are you close enough to be able to sit down for a beer / coffee / big fatty and have a natter? Is this a remote thing? Is there a label involved somewhere? Did you chose the producer? What style of music are we talking? Are you recording at home? In another studio? Are there costs involved? Is it just about the time and effort involved or is it about the art?

Originally you said he wanted more takes for layering - but now it's about selecting takes. Is this a new development? Which is right? Is he asking for subtle variations? Alternate delivery? Different melody?

In your shoes - and assuming I'd spent a lot of time recording and editing it already - I would have a chat and explain that you don't understand what it is he is after. Tell him that you have spent a considerable amount of time and energy into getting what you think is your best performance. Ask him to be honest - brutal even - and let you know what he doesn't like about the takes he has - you _need_ to know why he is requesting more and if he's trying to spare your feelings then you need to know that as well. It might be painful, but the truth might be that he doesn't feel that your existing takes are up to scratch. As mentioned here so many times, it can be _really_ hard - for all of us - to be completely objective about our performances. Which is why people have producers... They fall under the heading of "a necessary evil"

;)

* (actually, the last time we did but the engineer thought that my suggestion to record to the computer and then bounce the results to tape were some sort of witchcraft)
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby KevinGrem » Wed Oct 24, 2018 9:17 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:I assume you are also the singer (it is irrelevant what instrument you play BTW)? You sang the vocals and recorded them? If so you are the worst qualified to objectively assess them for energy, performance and recording quality.

You still don't get it. You're just like him.

It's not possible for me personally to come up with any vocals with better quality than then ones I came up with and gave to him.

If there is some way the vocals are not good enough, I cannot possibly recognize how. They are the best that I know of.

Any additional take will only be worse.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby blinddrew » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:03 pm

Hi Kevin, the folks here are trying to help (it's a very helpful community). You come across as being very emotionally tied to the recordings you've made, which is great from an artistic aspect but makes it very difficult to be objective. You say you can't see how you can get them better, but that's a key part of a producer's job, to get more out of the artist than they can initially envisage.
Dave's questions above are kind of key here as we don't have a lot to work with, but fundamentally this appears to be about your relationship with the producer and the fact that you're not aligned on your vision. That's a conversation that needs to happen.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:36 pm

KevinGrem wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:I assume you are also the singer (it is irrelevant what instrument you play BTW)? You sang the vocals and recorded them? If so you are the worst qualified to objectively assess them for energy, performance and recording quality.

You still don't get it. You're just like him.

It's not possible for me personally to come up with any vocals with better quality than then ones I came up with and gave to him.

If there is some way the vocals are not good enough, I cannot possibly recognize how. They are the best that I know of.

Any additional take will only be worse.

In that case, you pay him so you can tell him what to do. Simples.
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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:57 am

It’s been said very clearly...

You’ve chosen to work with a producer. Their job is to guide the process of making the record. If you like the results they achieve then you need to let yourself be guided. If you can’t do that, you need to stop working with the producer, and accept that you will lose the benefit of their experience in achieving the desired result. Effectively you’ve engaged someone to do a job, and now you’re telling them how to do it.

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Re: Vocal Layering/Doubling, need help and advice

Postby Mixedup » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:28 am

Jack Ruston wrote:It’s been said very clearly...

You’ve chosen to work with a producer. Their job is to guide the process of making the record. If you like the results they achieve then you need to let yourself be guided. If you can’t do that, you need to stop working with the producer, and accept that you will lose the benefit of their experience in achieving the desired result. Effectively you’ve engaged someone to do a job, and now you’re telling them how to do it.

J


^^This. You're an artist and their client. So at the outset it's fine to discuss the overall sound you want the project to deliver — a commissioning brief, if you like. Maybe discuss the sounds you like and have in mind, as heard on certain records they can reference. But you then need to give the producer complete control over the way they arrive at that final result.

So I'd say trust them; give them free rein, and if you think the vocals sound other than you'd wish at the end, then you should be able to discuss why, and maybe get a revised version done. But don't listen out for what you already think you won't like; confirmation bias will make you hate it whether it works or not, so try to be open-minded.

If you're not happy doing that, you need to rethink how you're approaching your project.
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