Tracking lead vocals: We demonstrate why the element that demands most listeners’ attention also demands most of the producer’s...
The audio files available on this page accompany my article in SOS December 2015 about helping with the lead vocal production process for a power ballad called ‘Pray For The Rain’ by the band Nerve 9. Here are some explanatory notes to describe what to listen for in each case:
Here’s an example of a section of vocal take that I chose not to use as part of the final comp, because the degree of melodic ornamentation on the words “my pain” seemed overbearing for this point in the song. Compare this with the same section from the master take, which you can hear in the Ornamentation_Comp audio file.
Here’s a section of the final lead vocal master take for comparison with the Ornamentation_Unused audio file. Here the words “my pain” are more simply presented, and with less force so that the vocal tone has more grain and a sense of vulnerability.
This is another section of lead-vocal take we didn’t end up using in the final comp: a critical moment at the end of the first chorus. Here it felt that the “be there” was simply performed too strongly, whereas I was hoping for something that dovetailed more naturally with the lower-energy atmosphere of the following verse section. Compare this with the same section from the master take, which you can hear in the PerformanceForce_Comp audio file.
Here’s the same section of the final lead vocal as you can hear in the Ornamentation_Unused audio file, but this time from our comped master take. Notice how the final two words are much more restrained and tail off more gradually. (The editing artefact you can hear at 0:02 is inaudible within the final mix.)
Here’s a moment in one of the lead-vocal out-takes where the phrasing felt clearly unnatural to me, which is why it didn’t make the final comp — in natural speech you wouldn’t normally put stress on the second syllable of the word “baby”. To hear the same section from the master take, check out the PerformanceForce_Comp audio file.
While trying to remedy the phrasing problem identified in the Phrasing_Unused audio file, the singer Kelly came up with the solution of changing the word to “babe” instead, which we actually felt worked better than the original, feeling more sarcastic and in the spirit of the song as whole. In this audio example you can hear the final version, within the context of the comped master take.
Here’s Thomas Stevenson’s original mix of the song “Pray For The Rain” by his band Nerve 9, including the original lead vocal performance that I decided we should rerecord together.
This is a remix of the same song I did in which you can hear the complete new lead-vocal part I worked on via remote collaboration with Thomas and Kelly.
These files accompany the Session Notes article in the December 2014 issue of SOS