Vocal Editing | Music Producer London
Vocal Editing | Music Producer London
You could say that the vocal is the most important element of a song. Pop songs on the radio have nigh on perfect vocals. The singers are incredible. Timing and tuning is usually as good as it is possible to be, and the vocals are well mixed, leaving us with something that has all of the required and desired elements and qualities. In my opinion, if the vocal isn’t up to standard, your song will not be presented in the best light possible. A poor vocal is what everyone will hear when your song is played, regardless of the hours you spent getting the strings or the kick drum to sound great.
So what makes a good vocal?
Ultimately, there are a couple of factors that make up a great sounding vocal. Firstly and foremost, it needs to be a good singer. Secondly, it needs to be well recorded. If you have both of these things, you’re well on your way to a polished sounding vocal. In addition, the editing that follows will be somewhat easier.
Let’s assume that you worked with a great vocalist, and that you as the music producer made sure that the vocals were well recorded. Although you’ve taken care of the two most important ingredients, it isn’t necessarily job done.
Most vocals, no matter how good or bad, will need some degree of editing. Even if that editing is just some basic comping, where the best lines from multiple takes are selected to make one really great lead vocal. As a music producer in London, when I’m recording a vocalist, I’ll have them record the same vocals over and over, so that I have options when I come to select the best vocal takes. It may be that the very best vocalists out there can produce incredible vocals take after take, where most, if not all of the vocals can be used in the final mix. I’ve heard that this was the case when Jordan Young was recording Beyonce.
Whatever your views on the ethics, vocal tuning has become one of the most widely used vocal processing tools by music producers in London and studios around the world. As well as great singers and great recordings, we also need a little help sometimes to tweak the tuning of the vocals. There are many options out there for music producers. Auto-Tune and Melodyne are two of the most widely used and industry standard pieces of software for vocal editing. Auto-Tune is usually my plugin of choice. It has a reputation for being able to make any singer sound incredible by simply slapping the plugin on the vocal chain. This isn’t the case though. Doing this may only make the vocal sound worse.
Where Auto-Tune excels is in a mode called ‘Graphical Mode’. It, like Melodyne, enables you to tweak a single word that is slightly out of pitch, without affecting any other part of the vocal. A truly great tool in any music producer’s arsenal.
Another potential stumbling block on the road to great sounding vocals is vocal alignment. Let’s say for argument’s sake that the music producer has layered 20 backing vocal parts and lead vocal doubles in the chorus, each of which is singing the same words at the same time. Essentially, what we want to achieve is to tighten the timing of these vocal parts. It’s impossible for a singer to record vocal takes that are identical, although I’ve heard some come close. It most cases, layering these vocals without aligning them will make the vocal sound somewhat messy.
So how can we align them? I work with music producers in London who physically chop the audio of the backing vocals to fit with the lead vocal. Done properly, this can produce pretty fabulous results. As always though, there are software programs that can assist us with this job too. VocALign is one of said programs, providing instant tight alignment of one audio signal to another. Simply capture a guide signal with the right timing, capture a dub signal to be aligned, press one button, and a new aligned dub is generated.
However you decide to edit your vocals, be sure to remember that a great sounding vocal is paramount to a great sounding record.