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BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

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BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby T.M.A. » Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:31 pm

Hey All!

New here and need some advice...

I'd like to hear from some people who have experience recording. Especially singers...

Am self producing a record right now and laying out all the songs to a click track. I have each song within 1-2 bpms, but I just can' t decide whether or not to take the songs faster or slower. It's a bit difficult because some of the songs have several tempo changes. I'm trying to go by what feels most comfortable for me to sing at, while just laying the songs out with vocals and guitar, but it's proving to be quite a task. I'm making a lot of scratch tracks... I'm getting closer, but just wanted to see if anybody has any standard procedure or tricks or cues that let them know when they've got the right tempo...


Thanks,

-T
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:53 pm

Keep in mind a few things:

1. What is comfortable now is gonna be too slow later. Especially with singing, muscle memory applies to breathing, throat, pronounciation and mouth shape and it'll get easier with time. If you can, wait until you have the entire song well rehearsed to decide the tempo of the recording.

Incidentally, that's why many times when you go to a live show the songs are faster than the recordings. :)

2. Keep in mind that timing depends also on the room you're singing/playing. Especially if it's a reverberant space, the "right" feel depends on when the sound gets back to your ears (even more so if you're talking a few BPM of difference). Especially for drums this is a big factor - drummers adapt to the room reflections without even thinking, so try to practice in the same room where you'll record.

3. If you can't/don't want to rehearse the song so much that it becomes natural before recording it (it is a strategy, even if often is employed when the material is written by others than the singer), you may record the various parts in bits and pieces. I'm not a big fan of the technique but it can be useful at times.

4. Finally, don't sweat it too much. Variations of a few BPMs among different performances are normal for the reasons above - and even within a song it's usually cool to accelerate a little for the more exciting parts - the good bands are the ones which get back down to the original tempo for the verses!

The reason for which it feels it makes a big difference now is most likely because you don't yet have the song pinned down.
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Thu Jan 02, 2020 1:24 pm

Just rehearse over and over with a guitar or something. You'll get a tempo locked in your head and when you come to set the click you'll feel straightaway if it's too fast or too slow.
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 02, 2020 1:57 pm

Think CS70 has covered everything that I'd have said, so just a +1 to that. :)
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Thu Jan 02, 2020 2:10 pm

even within a song it's usually cool to accelerate a little for the more exciting part

With a click? How many people actually have tempo changes programmed into their click these days? I would suggest only a very, very tiny minority.
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby James Perrett » Thu Jan 02, 2020 2:36 pm

Record it without a click to start with and then try matching the tempo to the recording. You can then either re-record with the click or just work to the original recording.
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 2:45 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:
even within a song it's usually cool to accelerate a little for the more exciting part

With a click? How many people actually have tempo changes programmed into their click these days? I would suggest only a very, very tiny minority.

Not all drummers play with a click live, so not all bands play with a click.. :)

See what you mean, I was thinking of live playing (vs. the recording, which nowadays yeah, I'd say it's most often with a click).
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Jan 02, 2020 7:57 pm

T.M.A. wrote:just wanted to see if anybody has any standard procedure or tricks or cues that let them know when they've got the right tempo...

There isn't one. Hence all the classic recordings which are a quarter-tone out (usually sharp) because at a late stage of production someone felt it wasn't 'exciting enough' and tweaked the tape speed up. Or the theatre productions where the dancers thinks the MD is slowing down the big numbers - he isn't, but the dance is getting easier with repetition so it FEELS like he is. (The classic riposte is 'But it's been on click since day one... :-) )
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby MOF » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:23 pm

1. What is comfortable now is gonna be too slow later. Especially with singing, muscle memory applies to breathing, throat, pronounciation and mouth shape and it'll get easier with time. If you can, wait until you have the entire song well rehearsed to decide the tempo of the recording.

Incidentally, that's why many times when you go to a live show the songs are faster than the recordings. :)

I would say it’s more down to adrenaline levels in a live environment.
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:58 pm

MOF wrote:
1. What is comfortable now is gonna be too slow later. Especially with singing, muscle memory applies to breathing, throat, pronounciation and mouth shape and it'll get easier with time. If you can, wait until you have the entire song well rehearsed to decide the tempo of the recording.

Incidentally, that's why many times when you go to a live show the songs are faster than the recordings. :)

I would say it’s more down to adrenaline levels in a live environment.

That may contribute, but it becomes easier (and faster) at rehearsals as well :D
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby T.M.A. » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:30 am

Geez... I'm overwhelmed with the respones! I want to quote everyone! Haha!

I'm just rehearsing the crap out of everything. These songs have been with me for a while, which could be why it's so difficult for me to pin the tempos down...

What I'm noticing when I'm singing along to these, is that there is a fine line where I feel like I'm fitting in all the words comfortably, but maybe the song is a little too slow in someplaces, but comfortable in others and, also, when I'm not quite fitting in every word -I have to work a little harder to "sing" and anunciate, perhaps, and somehow the song feels a little bit better, BUT, also a little too fast in some places -Like some of the phrases don't have quiiite enough room to breathe. This difference is only 1 bpm for me. For example 170- 171. Both versions feel right and wrong for different reasons...

I'm realizing that during a natural performance, one fluctuates tempos all the time and In a recording situation one has to just settle and deal with it, I suppose...?

Also, at this point, it's just me in my bedroom with a guitar and a simple recording setup. I don't really have an option for anything else at the moment... When drums and bass etc are added, I suspect they make things seem a little faster... or slower?

Like I said earlier, I'm self producing this thing. I'll be working with a remote drummer, sending him guitar, bass and vocals that I record myself (and a rough drum outline...) which he will then record over and which I WILL THEN RECORD EVERYTHING OVER AGAIN... So, I guess the real question is: Since nothing feels right 100% of the time all the way through (and it never will as long as I'm recording to a click) Do I want to send the drummer a slightly faster foundation, or a slightly slower foundation?

Thank you to all who have responded.

Many, many thanks.

I am reading them all and considering them all..

Thank You,
-T
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby CS70 » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:24 pm

About the rehearsing, can you say the lyrics without even concentrating about them? If you're still at the phase where you have to read, or sing piece by piece or you need to make an effort to remember what then next verse is (or any effort whatsoever in remembering the lyrics) you aren't yet at the point in which your current "comfortable" will begin to feel "slow" :)

T.M.A. wrote:What I'm noticing when I'm singing along to these, is that there is a fine line where I feel like I'm fitting in all the words comfortably, but maybe the song is a little too slow in someplaces, but comfortable in others

For this.. are you the author of the lyrics? If so, I suspect you've just gotta rework them.
Honestly, to me writing good lyrics - meaningful, with the right sound and that can actually be sung - is the hardest thing, much more than making new music. There's a lot of things that have to click at the same time, and you need them all!

There are of course variations, and practice can allow you to sing some stuff which initially feels hard, and sometimes you can learn a different way to emphasize or couple words to make things work, but the problem you're discussing hints to the fact that the lyrics aren't yet good enough.

In my band's last song, for example, I really had to work here and there to get the lyrics to a point where they could be sang, and even then some parts are at the limit and I had to develop and practice a specific interpretation to make sure they could come out clearly and in tempo.

If you're not the one who penned the lyrics, it's a good idea to work with the author to see if he can find alternative phrasing that better fit the song?

Best of luck!
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby MOF » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:46 pm

there is a fine line where I feel like I'm fitting in all the words comfortably, but maybe the song is a little too slow in someplaces
You can stay at the same tempo, but double time a percussion part, to make it feel faster, e.g. if the drums are in 8/8 time then play 16 beats of shaker in each bar.
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby T.M.A. » Sat Jan 04, 2020 4:59 am

MOF wrote:
there is a fine line where I feel like I'm fitting in all the words comfortably, but maybe the song is a little too slow in someplaces
You can stay at the same tempo, but double time a percussion part, to make it feel faster, e.g. if the drums are in 8/8 time then play 16 beats of shaker in each bar.

Dude, yeah. Really glad that you mentioned that. So true. My drummer was telling me that what will make the music feel much faster or slower than a one or two bpm difference would be how the other instruments are playing (in front of or behind the beat). I've also noticed that distortion makes things feel faster, as well...

As I spend more time with the songs -recording and practicing them -I'm discovering that there really is no need to make myself uncomfortable as a singer. There really is no reason to rush something. I'm leaning towards just giving myself enough room to fit in all the words and enunciate comfortably and even though the song might seem a little slow to me initially, I think it will be fine on the record...

Thank you to every one who has responded and please, if anyone else has more wisdom to dispense by all means please do so!
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Re: BPMs for recording...Singers? Taking songs faster or slower...

Postby T.M.A. » Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:41 pm

CS70 wrote:About the rehearsing, can you say the lyrics without even concentrating about them? If you're still at the phase where you have to read, or sing piece by piece or you need to make an effort to remember what then next verse is (or any effort whatsoever in remembering the lyrics) you aren't yet at the point in which your current "comfortable" will begin to feel "slow" :)

T.M.A. wrote:What I'm noticing when I'm singing along to these, is that there is a fine line where I feel like I'm fitting in all the words comfortably, but maybe the song is a little too slow in someplaces, but comfortable in others

For this.. are you the author of the lyrics? If so, I suspect you've just gotta rework them.
Honestly, to me writing good lyrics - meaningful, with the right sound and that can actually be sung - is the hardest thing, much more than making new music. There's a lot of things that have to click at the same time, and you need them all!

There are of course variations, and practice can allow you to sing some stuff which initially feels hard, and sometimes you can learn a different way to emphasize or couple words to make things work, but the problem you're discussing hints to the fact that the lyrics aren't yet good enough.

In my band's last song, for example, I really had to work here and there to get the lyrics to a point where they could be sang, and even then some parts are at the limit and I had to develop and practice a specific interpretation to make sure they could come out clearly and in tempo.

If you're not the one who penned the lyrics, it's a good idea to work with the author to see if he can find alternative phrasing that better fit the song?

Best of luck!

I don't think there's anything wrong with the lyrics. I wrote them myself along with all the rest of the song and they flowed very naturally... Things are just different when you're singing along to a song that is being laid out to a click track. Places where you might speed up or slow down naturally are now subject to the click track, so one has to adjust. And I think that is the main difficulty I'm facing with this whole process...

Some of the songs are over 6 minutes long and change tempos five or six times within the song, so this fact adds to the difficulty of the situation...

I'm wondering: When bass and drums are added, will they tend to make things feel faster or slower? I am noticing the lack of bass and drums as I lay these songs out...

Thanks for your very involved and considerate responses...

-T
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