• Harmonies - balancing vocals
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Harmonies - balancing vocals
on: February 27, 2018, 17:34:47
Hey all!

Would love to hear your thoughts on balancing harmonies in a mix. I think I've nearly mastered it but would love to hear what you guys do to nail harmonies in a final mix and even when mastering the track.

Lauder out (mic drop)
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Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #1 on: February 28, 2018, 11:26:59
(picking up mic......feedback....sorry about that)

Good thing we use a trusty SM57 for this forum......  ;D

As a a solo recording songwriter I have mixed feelings about harmonies in general. I have done lots of them in my stuff over the years and when I get it right...as in right for that song......it really sounds and feels right. But sometimes I just get the feeling that harmonizing with myself is kind of....self-serving. In my early days (70's.... :) ) I played out in a three-piece and we pretty much specialized in harmonies......think Loggins and Messina, Pure Prairie League and early Eagles. In my mind I keep wanting to re-create that experience....but it doesn't work quite as well solo.

But....to the question at hand.....it can be pretty tricky to get harmonies to fit just right in the mix and I always struggle with it. I am not one for wide panned harmonies....I tend to keep them at less than 50/50 with one high and one low. I'll sometimes throw in a higher part and pan it way out in a passage.

As far as levels, I spend a lot of time volume automating them........syllable by syllable sometimes. I always EQ them pretty hard....particularly at the low and high ends with filters and they always get compressed harder than the lead vocal.

Excellent topic @lauder !

 8)

(places mic in stand with the care that even a lowly SM57 Shurely deserves.......than trips over mic cable sending mic and stand flying off stage)
"The main thing is to have a gutsy approach....but use your head." Julia Child

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Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #2 on: February 28, 2018, 15:04:06
(retrieves mic from crowd, wrestling many to the ground to get back on stage)

Interesting thoughts!

I always think it gives such good depth to a song, obviously only when needed. The issue is recreating this live, which is obviously going to be hard when I tend to put around 12 vocal parts in songs (around 20 in my latest... oops)

I have never tried doing each syllable individually, could putting everything in a bus, turning down the original track and then compressing heavily work?

What kind of EQ do you use @Leonard Scaper ?

(swings mic around by cord and out to the audience hitting a music-goer straight in his nose... police called... @lauder arrested for GBH)


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Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #3 on: February 28, 2018, 15:48:54
For fitting backing vocals in I think nothing works like automation. It is painstaking but the results sound so much more natural than wholesale compression. With skillful volume automation much less compression is needed.

That syllable by syllable thing is a bit of an exaggeration I guess.....but sometimes it feels like that. I have also done tunes with lots of backing vox and that can be fun....spreading them out and really getting them to work. The other VERY important part of getting backing vox to fit is what I like to call "slicing and dicing"......cutting things up and nudging them into place to fit perfectly with the rest of the vocals. That may be the single most important skill in mixing many vocal parts together. I love that feeling when I nudge a single word by 10 or 20 ms and it locks in with the track perfectly.

As for EQ gear.....I go in through a Trident channel strip that allows me to EQ and compress on the way in and I am not shy about doing so as that unit has a wonderful kind of "British" sound/character that I like. If I am tracking harmonies I crank down a bit on the low shelf and high shelf and then cut out some of the room mud at 200 - 300 Hz. Once I get things into "the box" I just use the stock EQ that is in protools as I think it sounds fine.

(brb.....need to bail out @lauder )


Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #4 on: February 28, 2018, 23:12:52
Quote
I always think it gives such good depth to a song, obviously only when needed. The issue is recreating this live, which is obviously going to be hard when I tend to put around 12 vocal parts in songs (around 20 in my latest... oops)
Well @lauder  you're going to have to hire a full choir for your live gigs!  :D

I used to want it to only be as if it were live. But, I got to listening to a lot of One Republic's new stuff and realized they overdub massive amounts of vocals and harmonies.....so who cares, you know?!??! If that's what pros do I'll do it to and if anyone ever wants to hire us for that kind of money I'll get a whole choir. It's never going to happen. ;)  So, I do what makes me happy.

So...yeah... I like putting in harmonies sometimes. Mostly stuff that @Leonard Scaper  mentioned regarding EQ and compression... but I haven't really developed a go to technique yet.
 
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

November Sound is based on the Mother, Father & Son musical trio of Melissa, Bill & Will. I'm the father so anything I post will have my wife singing and/or my son playing percussion.


Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #5 on: March 02, 2018, 18:02:55
« Last Edit: March 02, 2018, 18:08:03 by Bluedusksun »
Well this is a loaded topic. :)

I can honestly say that I am just starting to be happy with my results, so I guess I 'll share my two cents.

It's seems to vary from person to person, but I noticed some main things I do on all my vocals. EQ, Dessesing, Compression, Reverb, and Delay. I also do a lot of Sends and Bussing (I use Logic X) to a few specific plugins. I pretty much learned from scratch from youtube tutorials and the Logic Pro X Power Comprehensive Guide, so I'm sure I'm doing certain things counterproductively, but I'm no professional and am happy with the results (guess that's what really matters). You also pick up tips and tricks here and there.

I actually record so many takes over time that my project window ends up being like two different projects, the music and the vocals. I tend to work on each separately, then balance out the two at the end. I find with my voice (it's not so good) that if there are multiple tracks it tends to flesh out inconsistencies, kinda of a willy-nilly natural harmonization happens, but if done too excessively it sound robotic, so you have to find the balance yourself :). I am just starting to get into harmonies myself, due to the fact that I am becoming a better singer, so I actually am really interested in what others have to say about this topic. 

I learned the Pitchshifter mixing method too, where you triple one vocal take and dial up and down by a few cents on take 2 & 3. Then Pan 2 hard right and 3 hard left. It works well when you only have on take, but most of the time I usually skip the Pitchshifter step cause you end up with phase cancelation.

I tend to have one Main vocal, and two backing.

Don't know if this will help anyone, since it seems everyone uses Cubase here, but if anyone uses Logic Pro X maybe it will be helpful.



This guy has a couple of videos that I would say are worthwhile to watch. I also Like MusicTechHelpGuy as well. Long nights
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Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #6 on: March 05, 2018, 21:07:55
I'm kind of iffyish on harmonies as well, but i think that varies based on the style of music your into.

Honestly, and I may be the only one on this, but I really cant get a good take on mixing vocals until I make a CD and listen to it in my car. Something about the car speakers (for me anyway), give the best take on what needs changed or mixed better.


Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #7 on: March 06, 2018, 01:54:23
« Last Edit: March 06, 2018, 01:56:05 by Bluedusksun »
I'm kind of iffyish on harmonies as well, but i think that varies based on the style of music your into.

Honestly, and I may be the only one on this, but I really cant get a good take on mixing vocals until I make a CD and listen to it in my car. Something about the car speakers (for me anyway), give the best take on what needs changed or mixed better.

Honestly from what I've heard of your vocals, I'm actually really surprised to hear this. Maybe you are going about the process of recording vocals wrong. There really is some simple tricks that improve recording and vocalization by half, just half to learn through experience what is best for you.

I usually take four to five takes of each vocal, and bank on the natural harmonization that happens. After editing, I usually do this three or four more times til I am happy with the takes I recorded. Honestly half the battle is getting good takes.

I've never gone into the recording with the specific purpose of harmonizing with vocals, but I have flirted with the idea since my voice has been getting better.

It is usually a standard method of listening to a song on as many different mediums before mastering. The monitor speakers, the car speakers, headphones, crappy speakers, etc. etc. It will always sound a little better on one medium more than the other, the trick is to get everything ok sounding on as many platforms as possible. There is also the debate of mono vrs stereo, but since technology is the way it is you don't have to worry about that anymore so much.

I'm not really educated in music production, so take everything I say with a grain of salt, but there are many ways to go about making your music the best it can be, everything from research to equipment improves that.

~Rich


Re: Harmonies - balancing vocals
Reply #8 on: June 10, 2018, 22:44:50
As far as levels, I spend a lot of time volume automating them........syllable by syllable sometimes. I always EQ them pretty hard....particularly at the low and high ends with filters and they always get compressed harder than the lead vocal.
@Leonard Scaper , I'm glad to read that. Sometimes I think I'm a bit obsessive cause I automate volumes syllable by syllable of harmonies tracks. I always try to each harmonic pair is perfectly listened and I need an exhaustive work. Sometimes I also apply a stronger compression to this track but I don't always like that it has less dynamics than the main voice, I feel that they must go hand in hand... It is a dilemma because I don't want to fall into the robotic but it is hard for me to renounce the harmonic effects.

Very interesting topic :)
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