#1
Hi all,

Im having some trouble with backing vocals in my mixes. More often than not, I have to do my own backing vocals for my songs. Usually, what I am trying to do is add layers of vocals for chorus type sections of songs to make it sound thicker, wider, more crowdish but not so obvious to the listener.

Ive found that when I have my friend do the backing vocals (or my friend singing lead and me doing backing vox), the differences in our voices make it so much easier to get the desired effect and its generally very easy to make it sound good. However, my friend is rarely around, and ive found that when I do the backing vox myself, they just dont have that same effect. It seems like they blend together too much and they are either too loud or too quiet and just dont sound right/the same.

Ive tried a number of processing tehniques to try to separate them all, but i havent found anything yet that really gets me the effect of having different voices. Heres what ive tried:
-panning hard or panning lightly
-actually singing the backings vs coping original performance and panning/offsetting by a couple ms
-varied eq: cuts, boosts, heavy highpass/lowpass filters
-nudging the backings left and right, anywhere from 10-25ms each way
-using heavier pitch correction on the backings
-using pitch formanant shifts (either plus or minus 1 to 2 semitones) to alter the voice
-using stereo widers

If i sing a harmony of the original, that tends to help a decent amount with the separation; the problem is, its sometimes kind of hard to sing the proper harmonies for complicated vocal leads for me. I use Reaper as my daw, and there isnt really any good vst that does an intelligenct pitch shift in a key that i know of

The song im using as practice and as an example for the sort of vocal harmony/thickening im trying to accomplish is Ohio is for Lovers by Hawthorn Heights, particularly during the choruses

Thanks for any tips guys
Quote by suckmahnuts
Watterboy, I love you.

Quote by davrossss
You are now my favourite person on UG.....You write cool shit.

Quote by wannabestoner69


#2
I find this really helpful:
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Choir/

I think their site (Antares) has a trial you can chekc and see if it improves what you're already doing.
Some other things that I do to to fake "gang" vocals and probably you are already doing:

1) need to create the same space for the whole backing vocal "gang", so I usually create a special bus with a room IR on it, say something like IR "Studio A" or "medium room" so the fake dudes seem like are singing in one room together. I prefer room IR vs conventional reverb as this creates a sense of different acoustical space. If you don't have it, setup stereo mic array in your mixing room a feet back from your control position, solo the backing vocals and blast them through the speakers while tracking them on a new stereo track. Then mix that in to taste with the already recorded "dry" vocals.

2) EQ and compress each fake dude a little differently, sometimes just using different compressor/eq plugin helps

3) Track through different mics if you can and different chains (if you have them)

4) Pan differently

5) Get extra vocalists if you can

6) pitch shifting a touch with timing delay in a few ms(detune MDA VST does both) usually helps and adding a little "wobble" (with the "Leslie" or L/R panning to simulate person moving) to a few of the parts helps me as well. I use mda-vst for both of these tasks, freeware:
http://mda.smartelectronix.com/


That's about all I can think of
#3
We just sing each part separately, on a separate track and mix as needed for volume and pan. No techie tricks at all really. Lose all that pitch correction BS that is complicating the problem.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Dec 11, 2015,
#4
Another trick I forgot to mention - when you sing say second backing vocal, change your inflection a bit, try more nasal, a bit more bassy, whiny, etc. You can even do an extra pass and add small whispers, mixed in very very low...a trick I picked up from Michael Jackson
#5
Im wondering if im not doing enough layers of vocals. How many voices do you usually use for gang vocals? I have my center lead vocal- how many on each side should generally get the job done if it is just me doing all of them?
Quote by suckmahnuts
Watterboy, I love you.

Quote by davrossss
You are now my favourite person on UG.....You write cool shit.

Quote by wannabestoner69


#6
It totally depends on what you want to do. You can go from big thick sort of 20s style vocal harmonies, and pan those any number of ways, to just basic haas effect you did, doubling and nudging, for just more sort of thickness, also a light delay for that. From a couple voices panned singing the same thing, or an octave up, or a single harmony. I mean there are really a lot of options, and I don't know what you want. It sounds like what you want is overdub though. It sounds like you want distinctive separation, so for me, that's harmonies, potentially in another register.

Michael jackson is not a bad idea to listen to for full backing vocals. It's just him, but he does have a few diferent vocal characters in different registers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATC9Qygio5M

It sounds like you haven't been messing with reverb much, I'd also do some of that for sure.
#7
Quote by fingrpikingood
It totally depends on what you want to do. You can go from big thick sort of 20s style vocal harmonies, and pan those any number of ways, to just basic haas effect you did, doubling and nudging, for just more sort of thickness, also a light delay for that. From a couple voices panned singing the same thing, or an octave up, or a single harmony. I mean there are really a lot of options, and I don't know what you want. It sounds like what you want is overdub though. It sounds like you want distinctive separation, so for me, that's harmonies, potentially in another register.

Michael jackson is not a bad idea to listen to for full backing vocals. It's just him, but he does have a few diferent vocal characters in different registers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATC9Qygio5M

It sounds like you haven't been messing with reverb much, I'd also do some of that for sure.


I usually have my backing vocals sent to the same reverb bus that my lead vocal is being sent to
Quote by suckmahnuts
Watterboy, I love you.

Quote by davrossss
You are now my favourite person on UG.....You write cool shit.

Quote by wannabestoner69


#8
Quote by Watterboy
I usually have my backing vocals sent to the same reverb bus that my lead vocal is being sent to

Try a different one, you could try both. Or try more than one ov the main vox. I can't give you specifics, you could do whatever you want for whatever effect you want. You seem to know what effect you want, so you need to play with your options to know what they sound like so that you can access what you want. Obviously giving the different parts different verbs will make them more distinctive. You might get enough from just sending more or less to your buss, or you might want different reverbs. There are a lot of options there for reverbs too. There is a lot to learn in mixing.

I remember thinking "how hard could it be? Get decent gear, record your parts one on top of the other, no problem." But recording is a whole giant can of worms. There's a lot more to it than I expected.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Dec 13, 2015,
#9
I'd say about 3-4 different backing vocal takes and then I apply the widening/detune effect to them or the copies of them so in the end it is more like 8 parts...

That Antares widener does really well if you have 3 backing vocal track and you want to turn them into 16 (3timesx8 choir setting).
#10
Does that antares vst work with Reaper per chance? I tried the antares harmony engine but the vst wouldnt show up . Thanks for all the tips though guys. Ill have to try these out on my backings going forward
Quote by suckmahnuts
Watterboy, I love you.

Quote by davrossss
You are now my favourite person on UG.....You write cool shit.

Quote by wannabestoner69


#11
I don't know if this helps but it's a nice chance to talk about it. On the DVD of the making of Queens "Night At The Opera" Roger Taylor mentions that Queens vocals sound thicker because Roger, Brian and Freddie all sang together on each part. I don't mean Brian on a low 3rd, Freddie on the lead and Roger on the upper 5th, I mean they all sang the lower harmony together, then they all sang the lead together and then the upper harmony. In this way each part had three different voices on it. A total of nine voices but each harmony was comprised of Brian, Roger and Freddie. Roger also said that's why it' impossible to recreate a Queen harmony without the three of them singing together.

You might want to try this with your friend. You both sing the same harmony line together then another and another. Each harmony will be the unique blend of the two voices.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Dec 13, 2015,
#12
Quote by Watterboy
Does that antares vst work with Reaper per chance? I tried the antares harmony engine but the vst wouldnt show up . Thanks for all the tips though guys. Ill have to try these out on my backings going forward


Not sure, works on Studio One, that I can verify. I think you can d/load trial version and see if you like it, or "fake" what it does with the MDA-VST plugs detune option which has time and detune option, so if you create a copy of said vocal say 8 times (or easier - 8 send busses) and then detune and time shift a few ms each one and then pan them super wide from far left to far right you can fake it.


I think there was a Waves plugin that does something similar but I can't remember what it was called. It'll most likely be more expensive though.
#13
Quote by diabolical
Not sure, works on Studio One, that I can verify. I think you can d/load trial version and see if you like it, or "fake" what it does with the MDA-VST plugs detune option which has time and detune option, so if you create a copy of said vocal say 8 times (or easier - 8 send busses) and then detune and time shift a few ms each one and then pan them super wide from far left to far right you can fake it.


I think there was a Waves plugin that does something similar but I can't remember what it was called. It'll most likely be more expensive though.


I think you're referring to waves doubler. There are a few of them for different numbers of doubles.

These use principles similar to haas effect though, and so it's like an exact copy, which definitely can create fullness, but since everything is all based on an exact copy of the exact same piece of audio, it also doesn't quite have the separation that unique takes would have, or different voices. But it is still very common in pop music and stuff like that for sure.

I've never come across any VST plugin that didn't work with reaper. It also has VST3 support now.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Dec 14, 2015,
#14
Quote by Rickholly74
I don't know if this helps but it's a nice chance to talk about it. On the DVD of the making of Queens "Night At The Opera" Roger Taylor mentions that Queens vocals sound thicker because Roger, Brian and Freddie all sang together on each part. I don't mean Brian on a low 3rd, Freddie on the lead and Roger on the upper 5th, I mean they all sang the lower harmony together, then they all sang the lead together and then the upper harmony. In this way each part had three different voices on it. A total of nine voices but each harmony was comprised of Brian, Roger and Freddie. Roger also said that's why it' impossible to recreate a Queen harmony without the three of them singing together.


Interesting. I always found queen had a tell tale unique sort of harmonization, now I now at least partly why.
#15
Yes those Queen harmonies are unique and when I watched that DVD it was like a light bulb being turned on. So simple yet so effective with the right combination of voices. I haven't tried it yet myself but I have an upcoming project that has a lot of harmony and backgrounds and intend to give it a try. I am just waiting for my new recorder to come in (Tascam DP-24). I still like doing my tracking on my older Tascam 2488 then moving to the computer. The DP-24's are currently back ordered on Musicians Friend but at $350 I can wait and my 2488 still works great after 12 years and a lot of use.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Dec 14, 2015,
#16
It is Waves Doubler:


OP - as you can see you have the original voice and then you can create 4 detuned voices and move them on a stereo spectrum and do all kinds of things to them. When you have 3 backing vocal tracks and you pile the doubler on top on two of them things start sounding fuller and more realistic.

I also think there was a backing vocal plugin with real voice samples, like you would play a synth and a robo voice actually sings the text you plugged in, I've heard it on a few productions and when put in way in the back it could sound quite realistic mixed in with real voice.