background vocal compression

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by antonio, Jan 27, 2001.

  1. antonio

    antonio Guest

    just a curious question of how you all give treatment to your background vocals in todays modern songs.

    Do you all:
    1)run a whole bunch (8 or so) individual background vocal tracks to 1 stereo compressor and compress them all as a group?
    2)run each individual vocal track to a seperate mono compressor (requiring 8 compressors or more)?
    which gives the most transparent result?

    i'm not fussed about equipement-efficient results but i need to know which configuration would sound better as i would be willing to do either of the 2 examples to achieve a good sound.


    i know that when using eq on a vocal it is usually done before the compression but what about harmonic excitement? does the same signal flow apply here also?

    i suppose in the end it is all about what sounds better to the ear.. but surely there must be a more practiced technique out of the 2 examples which seasoned pro's use these days. this would really make things a little more clear for me..

    thankyou all
  2. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    There is no single "right way" to do it other than what sounds right and works with the song. Different methods can be used to obtain different textures. If the goal is to sound "transparent", don't use any compression at all. But to give the illusion of transparency, it can be done any which way, as long as the side-effects are controlled properly. Use your ears. When they tell you "this is being compressed (or EQ'd) too much" something needs to be changed.

    I don't know who told you EQ comes before the compressor, but forget it. EQ can come before, after, before and after... there is no rule. Some people may prefer working one way or the other, but as long as the desired results are achieved, don't get too hung up on whether or not their way is the "right way".

    The only practical technique is to use those acoustic input devices that are attached to the sides of your head.

    Hope that helps,

    Ang1970 is:
    Angelo Quaglia,
    AQ Productions
    RO, created for musicians by musicians.
  3. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    ...Ang nails another one right on the head!
    Great advice, brother, as usual. Thanks for
    'being there' for all of us!

  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

  5. antonio

    antonio Guest

    thanks ang1970 your reply was very helpful and logical.. i was just curious as to a "magical" setting for backing vocals... i suppose in this world of producing/engineerging their is NO magical settings involved in making something sound good and pleasurable to the ears it's just plain and simple "does it sound good? if so stick with it" i can deal with that. like i have up to now.
  6. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    One "magical" trick is to thin out the background vocals with eq, so that the lead voice sounds a little thicker by comparison. Try rolling everything off at 100 Hz at first and then move higher until you reach the right balance between the lead and backgrounds. Your ear will tell you when you hit it right.

    I usually use about 4:1 or 6:1 compression on the background tracks while recording, to make sure nothing jumps out at me during mixdown, altho I try to catch those while recording.

    If I'm recording four background parts, I'll usually do five, the last one replacing the first recording which is usually more of a rehearsal.

    If I'm just doing "stacking" (multiple takes of the same part for thickening), I won't let the singers hear what they've previously recorded till they're all done with the last track. Any timing inconsistancies seem to smooth out better that way - at least they do for me, YMMV.

    Harvey Gerst,

    [This message has been edited by hargerst (edited January 28, 2001).]
  7. antonio

    antonio Guest

    thanks hargest. i like the idea of "stacking". is that the actual term for what you're doing with the 4 vocal tracks?

    i use this technique myself for more rnb/pop based stuff. it's kinda like double tracking but more like quadruple tracking or 5,6,7,8 stacking i suppose...i noticed that doing this also evens out pitch problems and masks "off-pitch" notes if they're all re-sung the same as eachother..

    if i am producing a pop track like the brandy,jennifer lopez or boygroup type music i create a unison in 2 or 3 interval harmonies.

    i get the singers to give me 4 re-take layers of the lead melody and 4 layers of a good harmony. if the song can work with 3 harmonies then i usually split 8 background vocals into 3 pieces which usually works out to be 4 for the lead harmony 2 for the first harmony and 2 for the second harmony. i spread these recordings out in the stereo field not so far apart that they sound akwardly "too-spaced out" but enough so that there still is alot of mono material. i make the 4 lead melody Bckgrnd vocals a touch louder than the other harmony parts..this way i achieve a really thick "stacked" wall of "REAL" chorused background vocals (modern sounding) nothing is then better than routing all these vocals to an aural exciter further giving them an airy nature even more modern and fatter. i introduce these background vocals only in the chorus of the track and occasionally in verses and bridges for call and response and ooohs and aahhhs. it gives the chorus a nice surprise and distinction to the verses. people used to just run a voice through a chorus to achieve this effect but it never works like this method. this method offers a genuine "real" chorus at the expense of spending a little extra time re-tracking vocals individually. its well worth the effort and time.

    thanks for the advice of rolling the bass off the background vocals for lead-background vocal distinction purposes. post back and gimme some more input on BV's if you wish..keep in touch..

    cya all later!
  8. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Right on Harv... I usually prefer to use a parametric to notch out between 150-400Hz, or a shelving EQ rather than HPF. This way, the "plushness" of the bottom isn't totally lost and still affords the LV some space. Another thing I try to do is use distance and off-axis response, lessening the need for EQ later. Sometimes the room isn't dead enough to get away with extremes, but even a little bit helps.

    Where do you keep your threshhold set for that? A novice might read this and think it's supposed to be -60 or something. Sometimes I'll put the threshhold that low, but with a ratio more like 1.2:1
    As always, it depends on the vocal, the song, etc.
  9. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    I'll usually bring up the threshhold during a warmup, to where 1 or 2 gain reduction LEDs are lighting up, and then back it off just a bit from there. It usually works out to be between about 0 to -5 dB threshhold.

    Harvey Gerst,

    [This message has been edited by hargerst (edited January 28, 2001).]
  10. lendanear

    lendanear Member

    It's refreshing to see an Audio Engineer that is not hung up on the so called "right way" of processing sound.
    It is a purely subjective thing, and one that really has NO rules.
    What counts is what you hear, and that's, lets face it, what we are paid to do. We gather experience and tricks over the years that we impliment on all our ever increasing learning curve.
    Well done

    Martin Harrington
    Lend An Ear Sound
    Sydney, Australia

Share This Page