FreePreview: What Makes a Flawless Vocal
Something I kind of want to start with to explain that we touched on a little bit with your question earlier is what is a flawless vocal that's definitely subjective to the listener to the producer to the artists and obviously when you're working with an artist you have to represent what they want but as a producer you're also trying to do it the way that you feel is the correct way to get there you're you're setting the road to get to where they want to be and you might have to direct him a little bit well, you definitely have to direct him but you might want to kind of direct where their destination is also so for me something that I think a lot of people especially when you're first starting out learning to record or learning listening to music in general learning how things work in the mix is if you thought flawless vocal if I asked you what a flawless vocal was, a lot of people would come back me and come back at me and say it's a vocal that's perfectly in time and perfectly in pi...
tch and I think those things are really important but that's not really what makes a flawless vocal I feel like those that's actually just kind of the icing on the cake that's like the last thing you should be focusing on um not the last thing but it's it's a one of the less important things to be focusing on when you're getting vocal takes to me the most important things that you want to focus on when you're getting vocal takes what really makes a fall is vocal is a vocal what makes a flawless vocal to me? Let me let me start here what what really makes a flawless vocal to me is a vocal that moves me in the way that it's supposed to if it's a sad song I want a vocal that's going to make me cry if it's an angry song on a vocal that's going to make me punish the windshield when I'm driving fifty miles over the speed limit, you know, like, I'm I want to feel it, you know, if it's a happy song, I want to smile so that obviously the the emotion conveyed is one of the most important things because you've got a vocal that's perfectly pitch in time and it's supposed to make you angry, but it just kind of sounds flat and boring then it's not going to do anything records not going to sell no one's going to care about your vocals because you didn't represent things the way they're supposed to be and that's really on the producer, not the person singing because that's the whole point of your job is to make sure that you're getting the vocals from the singer to the listener in a way that that you're getting out of them. What whatthe listener wants to hear on dh that's on you, that's, that's always on you because no matter what the singer's doing, you have the option to get them to that place. And so that's really important that's part of vocals being flawless is having that correct emotion sounding the way you want. Another thing is, addiction is really important. Addiction is like something I always focus on, you know, are you mumbling? I mean, you know you might want a part that's supposed to be a little mumbly if the lyrics aren't really the focus or is just supposed to be emotional, like, you know, let's say you have like a super high vocal part over an epic bridge and a song you might not necessarily want to hear all the lyrics, it might be about the motion of the voice, so make sure you have, like the proper thing going on there. You don't have to focus too much on addiction in something like that, but be aware of it because one you don't want people the mistake words for other words, because then you just have you start to get ridiculous, you know, you write a song about a girl and people think it's about food because you got words mixed up you also something that people look over sometimes is vowel sounds you know you don't want to be making like o type sounds when you're trying to say you or something you know you don't want to get you want vocals to sound like what they're supposed to sound like and that's something you can't fix with auto tune there's no auto addiction there's no auto vowel you really got to get that right from the get go and that kind of touches on the question we had from the internet you know what? Can you do this in a small amount of time? What to focus on to me there's things you can edit afterwards and that's pitch and time and those air less concerning to me than addiction, the emotion and you also want the appropriate character you know, the voice I always treat person's voice kind of like a character in a movie or like, who is this person like you know, I know alex, we've floated the river with alex has eaten dinner with alex of plato thana shows with them we done all kinds of stuff when we're making an album I don't think alex wants floating the river alex on the album maybe probably not alex probably doesn't want like a mouthful of pizza alex, you know, way want we want like the character that alex is in the band we want his persona to come through on the record and that's really important like because you could have you know you could you could have a vocal it's supposed to be super loud and super emotional but if they're not being themselves or the voice of the band then it's it's not right so that's something always keep in mind is like who is this character you know is he's singing in a weird british accent in the verse then all of a sudden in the chorus he sounds american you know you gotta watch her you gotta watch that too because sometimes people developed kind of strange accents sometimes it works for them sometimes it makes no sense but you know, think about who the character is and make sure that's the person singing and on top of that again with that character because you know you could have someone singing super clear but they sound all you know, straight back stiff like, you know, stick in the wrong place type of type of vocal you wanna loosen up, loosen up her character but then they start to lose the diction so you kind of it can be this circle and you have tto have all elements and keep them all going, but what you don't want to do is you know, if they're fixing it themselves don't bring up things that they've already fixed basically like what happened with the dome you know, you gotta kind of work that as a producer and make sure you're not working backwards with the things you're saying so it could be kind of tricky and it's something that you develop as you go but keeping those things in mind that's really what makes a perfect vocal to me is just a vocal that that seems to me that I feel and I feel the emotion that I'm supposed to feel and that's how you get their, uh, it's focusing on those things because I mean there's I listen to some music and pitches and even that important you know, if you've got a scene going into a screen it sounds cooler if the pitch is a little often it just sounds crazy because it sounds like crazy as opposed teo you know, a perfect note and all of a sudden it's a scream is that that's cool too? But it's just it depends on the emotion you're trying to convey all that being said I think tuning and being able to adjust time is excellent and I think it's incredible because I can take a take that has all the perfect elements and doesn't have good pitch or doesn't have a good time with within a certain means and I can put it on time so I can take this take that's already perfect to me and make it more stomach kable and more listenable adjusting pitch and the time so flawless vocal you really gotta focus on those first three things another thing obviously that's important is you don't want like close is weird tease weird peas and stuff like you got any might if you won't really want to make a word punchy you khun make you know you could tell them really focus on that p really make it pop you know if you want the word pop to stick out say pop but if you want it could just be a normal word in a sense make sure you're not getting that stuff because that's another thing you can't fix later and that's something that's easy to look over um and what I'm going to show you is we go hear we're going basically it is going to track the verse and the chorus of this song and I want to focus on the lead vocals first and I'm going to show you how I take how I approached the recording of the vocals and how, um you could take multiple takes and basically build the ultimate take so if you do have this take where it's like oh my god he's saying that's so cool but he said pop, you know you're like, well, that sucks because you just ruined two lines and incredible but not really and you don't even have to punch in I'll show you how to compile vocal takes to make like I just said to make like ultra take the mega take the coolest takes you ever heard so let's do some takes and I'll try not to say take three thousand times uh and we will start at the beginning of the second verse of the song so let's find the lead in here alex it looks like I have a verse to marker but I actually let's try let's also the wheat all the stuff we recorded earlier let's try from the fill out of the first course see if that's comfortable if it's too long tell me and if you need anything else changed in your headphones just let me let you know cho live all the way down here so teo, this verse is a pretty good example to of why why compression is important because you could hear he gets real quiet and then he gets loud and but you can tell he's comfortable bye bye listing the locals and it's probably easier for you guys to tell how come comfortably is and how dynamic it really is a supposed to the people listening at home but I think people get it in general on biff I don't know if the cameras ever on this but as we do this verse will see that like there's parts that are doing like one d b or almost no compression and that's kind of what I what for me is like the ground it's the baseline it's okay, to have a few words not compressed as long as their equal or close to the things getting compressed. So some of those words you were saying we're like almost not compressing and somewhere doing like fourteen b b but us it just sounds like a nice equal, um, equal signal those that's pleasant to listen to you. So how how is that feeling? A little rise vocal volume, more vocal calls, just the dry vocal I was bleeding a little too long. Do you want to? Just from the guitar? Like, uh, yeah. That's fine. No. So make a market called first leading. Like I said before, as you start messing with the vocals while you're tracking your getting your cursor off it's always good to have a marker so you can just click it and go right back instead of, like, zooming in and being like, you know where where was I add? And also I feel is pretty important to start on beat. So if you didn't if you not like editing something exactly to the grid, don't start it on the grid, put it on the beat so it feels right, you know, every time he hears the song he needs to feel it, and if you start it like right after the first kick drum hit or you're cutting off a little piece instead of thinking about the vocal and just feeling the song, I'm feeling the vocal the singer is going to start thinking about like what? Every time it comes in wrong he's just going to go what and then it's going to throw off his vocal so it's small, but make sure the leader is a sounds cool sounds intentional. Um, usually I like to pick a leading that's, even number of bars, so it sounds like actual piece of music and not just some weird section now real quick, I'm going to set up my headphones so I can hear him while we're tracking, they'll make things make a little more sense for me so I could make more sense for you guys. So let me just listen, I have a separate volume control here on the front of my interface, just really loud right now give me one second and like I was saying before, the whole point of having a headphone mix and having your own mixes that you're comfortable as well, because obviously there's no point in you being uncomfortable because that just makes other people come way too out of my headphones all bring that down and the people on the internet you're always hearing what I'm hearing in my headphones are on the monitors the way we have things hooked up you're not able to hear alex's mix but it's really not important because the on ly person that the headphone mix is important too is the singer so unless you're singing along it's not that important it was one more time because my vocals were a little loud and I'm wearing my headphones funny because I'm trying not to mess up my hair I don't normally hang out in the studio with upside down that needs a deejay phones right now no, I'm feeling that now you definitely want to feel it because if you're not feeling it in your mix then you're not gonna be able to get the best takes so that was just a dry run I'm gonna delete that so we have the lead and now have a good good headphone mix I turned up the vocals a little bit if you're feeling like they're not right just let me know and let's just do the whole verse a couple more times honestly will probably do it like three or four more times and get good takes I heard a couple of things in there but I really just just do your thing than it sounded really good so let's uh we'll do a few more well listen back and we'll kind of hone it in from their own address any real problems but it's sounding awesome answer I'm not super concerned ready? Mm cool great that sounded really cool so I'm going to save that take on another playlist I already made one earlier and if you miss that in pro tools and I think most dear w's if you just go there's a point on the track that you can select and hit new on that'll make a new playlist already have one here you'll see me make more in a little bit but I'm gonna put that first take on a new playlist so I'm not deleting it when I'm recording again I don't want to put it on other tracks because once you start getting to like vocal number twenty, you don't want twenty tracks for each take for each vocal than you have two hundred tracks of vocals that you have no clue what anything is so playlets really good to keep things organized I always have like a label for my main playlist and I'll talk about that in a minute and it's for this one it sze vocals oh one as as I make new ones, they'll call it vocals oh point no one vocals one point two and so on so again, when you're really tracking vocals, you don't want to take this much time between takes you just kind of want to roll with it so it's yeah I think I noticed that first until is kind of a hard one for me to hit just right out of the gate, so I think this time when it's doing that lead in, I might just do a couple like, you know, until before the worst starts because that helps me to do it yet and that's a that's, a great technique if you ever have a guy who's coming in on a note that it's a little tough for them or some vowels like use and h is khun b tricky sometimes and and wise, actually, so if you've got a guy who's like like he's coming in on the why he he might have a tendency toe like if the first word was you, you might go you you know you don't want you don't want a vocal, it sounds like that. So a way to avoid that naturally, is what he's about to do, and he just mentioned is just sing a little something beforehand doesn't have to be part of the song is going to sound weird, but it's basically just a warm up real quick and it gets your voice in motion. Then when you hit what's going to be the real take, it doesn't sound like you're punching in so great technique excellent call alex let's do this take two cool that's sounding good, did you you were hesitating a little bit on soul divides I cut the lyrics messed up in my head I was thinking first first the rest of it sounded great coming in until sounded way better so I'm going to save the state because there were some really good parts let's do a couple more just get some more full take so I have some stuff to work with ready ah on humus teo teo wait let's do another I feel like towards the end gilmore character into the the o's and still here and that last one just like just do it like just don't feel like you're like not running through the fence okay run to the finish line right into the course and I am I am backing out the bit when okay does that you know that's fine it's good that it's cool sounds cool just it gives it a cool natural sound but really just like just do it so so it leaves in the course all right with full emotion and again I'm making another playlist one point three ready no you wow I like that at the end a lot. Um I know this is going to go on playlist for something to make a little marker here right where that I'm going to sip some of this honey I have here yes that wear you out little yeah, just a little bit, yeah um I'm going to make this marker oh four and it uh that'll remind me that as I'm going through him again that teko forehand that really cool oh and as for the honey thing aside from being stomachache it's a great way like you know you don't want to rely on it but if you're like you said like stamina or getting to a point where like just taking a little break isn't helping or you need teo or if your voice wasn't really sounding the way you want a singer or the singer's voice isn't sounding the way you want as a producer honey is a really cool way to not in take like you know medicine or weird but weird things in your body but also kind of coach throat a little bit and especially for the quieter kind of first section of the song I feel like it more kind of breathy whispery parts that helps kind of add cem depth or something with a bit of glue to the local stabilizes those quiet part because you're hitting sound parts to kind of breaking them up yeah it's like it's almost as if the hunter who's it back together and just compliment from online prague says that boy khun sang thank you all right let's do uh where my take four so I mark that one part because that was my favorite oh let's do one more um one more full take ready no way cool take I really liked the beginning, mark that point five and you're saying flashed out? Yeah, flashed out. Okay, can we do it one more time? We'll do the whole thing because we're getting some good takes here but really make it sound sometimes seems like fleshed yeah, yeah, yeah, trying to get a little more on the flash but, you know, don't over flash yeah, you know what? Ready? Mmm, that was a killer. Take man. It was really good flash sound really good. And there was a little bit of, like connecting notes where you're going from head to full voice cool that connected a lot better, so I'm just going to listen, but let's, listen back to all the takes you can listen, tell me what you hear and all yet see, you feel like if we have everything in all five takes or we need to do a couple more and another thing kind of concerning the stamina thing that's a good way, it's actually a good way to mess up your flow but it's also a great way to be productive when the singer needs to take a break. Singer needs to take a break. That's a great time to comp vocals like let's say we actually just nailed out the verse and five takes if he's hot and he's doing good I just want to go right to the chorus and just keep it going I'm not gonna worry about going through the verse if there's like some word I want to change later we can go back and do that so I just want to keep the flow going if we did the verse and he needs a second catch his breath have a cigarette whatever you know whatever thing you need to do that is a great time to comp a vocal or to go through and find the best parts of the vocal guy leaves goes to the bathroom comes back and his vocals or ten times cooler that's like a great way to keep uh, spirits up and keep the stamina going in being productive I know this has come up sometimes as faras like artist that smoke and stuff designed really affect your nose that's a that's a killer question obviously yes, but I think for me personally as a producer like like I said before it's all about character and if that if you smoke than smoke, I think the worst thing you could do going into the studio say you're going into like a month long session or even a week or even three days you've already planned this for like three months, maybe a year you know you've been thinking about it for a while and I know is a singer you don't get to just sit and play guitar or like sit behind the drums and get it out it's like you're trying to sing enough to be really good but you don't want to blow your voice it's this whole natural thing this unless you know something that you you have control over but not ultimate control and you're trying to balance that out so you're like thinking way too much and a lot of things guys do they'll try to change their diet right before vocals like all man, I'm like eating too much pizza I gotta like start eating salads, you know, going to switched from regular milk teo soy milk I'm going to stop smoking seriously this is like the only time you'll ever hear me say this, but if you decide to stop smoking three to five even days even two weeks right before a vocal session that's the worst freaking thing you could do if it's you time in your life to stop smoking stop when the vocals are done because when you stop smoking or you go from milk to soy or really any kind of change in your diet, it changes the way I mean changes your body and it changes the way you feel emotionally and especially with smoking and drinking those things affect your voice, so if you stop smoking like three days before you're going to be coughing and having withdrawals and having all kinds of things, they're going to affect you physically and emotionally that air not worth going through is not don't don't change your life, don't change your diet were trying to record you just be you, you know you could cut down on the mouth you're smoking, but it's really about the person being in their element. So the only time I'm ever going to say don't quit it's like the day before if you've got a few months, I actually, you know, I'll get off on this for I'll get off on the standard for just one second. I did record a vocalist last summer who I've worked with many, many times and he's a great guy, and he had smoked for years, and he quit about three months before this last vocal set session, and there was actually a time when he tried to quit mid vocal session and, you know, he had decent stamina. It wasn't that great when when you tried to quit, things just got weird. His voice started to sound weird. He was coughing way mohr because you like your body's trying to get rid of the poison and you're not, you know, feeding it that addiction, but when he quit for three months, that was the best vocal session I'd ever had with him, like he was singing it. Incredibly, he was doing things that he'd never hitting notes had never been able to do before. So I'm not saying that don't quit. Smoking is just don't don't change your life right before the vocal session, because that's not going to help anybody. Your drummer is probably going to be like you, smoke too much and, like upset, but tell him I said it's okay.