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Recording/Mixing Vocals Question

Member for

14 years 8 months
Is it acceptable to bounce a song without the vocals, then open a new session and recording and mix the vocals along side the 2 track mix?


Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Sun, 07/06/2008 - 03:21
Your recording process along with mixing generally includes the integrated vocal track.

If you like karaoke, know it was originally produced with the vocal before the vocal was eliminated from the mix.

So basically, if you're computer software does not accept the ability to manipulate & record & overdub multiple tracks, it's time to purchase some real software. Otherwise, you'll be dealing with " sound on sound" recording. Really not the best way to record but has been done through the years, generally before computers were available on consumer equipment.

So I don't recommend what you're trying to do and not sure why you're trying to do that?

Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Mon, 07/07/2008 - 02:55
Maybe I should clarify things a bit?

Actually, what you are asking about is not that completely unusual when you look at it from a different perspective. Not something many of us have done for rock-and-roll sessions however. The international advertising agency I worked for in late 1970s, utilized some of the finest commercial music producers in the industry. Think AT&T & GE. You know, "reach out, reach out and touch someone", "GE, we bring good things to life", etc.. Not Small Fry Jingle Producers. Neither am I.

I convinced the advertising agency I could accomplish what they wanted at a huge cost savings, with our little "box" of an eight track commercial production studio utilizing a Yamaha PM 1000, 16 input PA mixer (not my choice). 2-UREI 1176's, AKG-BX20e spring reverb and Eventied H910 Harmonizer along with 2 KEPEX's. OMG! Was I crazy? Especially while all their previous jingles were produced in 24 track studio's in NYC & Chicago to the tune of $5,000 each, in groups of six in 1978 dollars? Yup, crazy. But maybe I wasn't? I interviewed & auditioned a perspective singer/songwriter and was a primary influence in hiring this person. It turned out to be Don Moen, who would become a superstar Christian rock singer/songwriter, after we produced these jingles.

The following is the procedure I came up with & utilized.

Back in the day of recording fully orchestrated & complex commercial music "jingles" on 8 track 1 inch analog, yeah, I actually did crazy stuff. You virtually had to think inside a very small rat maze of a box. So here was an interesting process in which I worked.

We would start with your basic rock-and-roll style rhythm section i.e. bass, drum kit, guitar & piano. I would use 4 tracks & 6 microphones for the drums and one track for each of the other instruments. We would still have the brass, woodwind section, string section coming in later, not to mention the backup singers & solo singer, special solo instruments, etc.. That's seven tracks already & no computers in 1978!

I think I am an audio clairvoyant? I had to be to accomplish this. I had to envision the sound & mix in my head. I first would proceed to mix down, through the record sync head, the 4 tracks of drums which were mixed down to mono to track 8. I worked strictly at 30 IPS until mix down without noise reduction of any kind on MCI JH-110A & Scully 280B machines.

I could now wipe the 4 original drum tracks. (Oy vay & shaking in my shoes) So now comes in the brass/woodwind section, which generally consisted of 3 trumpets, 2 saxophones & trombone and at times, oboe, French horns . I would generally use 4 to 6 microphones mixed to a single track. To fill out the arrangement, we would cut a second part pass. To prevent any "phasing" sound during overdubs, I would always set up 2 rows of chairs. This way, on the second pass, I would have the musicians move to the rear row & NOT TOUCH THE PLACEMENT OF ANY MICROPHONES. No headphones were utilized only the studio fold back speakers. Of course, the leakage/bleed from the speakers was extreme being picked up by the microphones. That was all right since on the second pass overdub, the first track of brass/woodwind was bounced out of phase with the second pass to another track. This canceled out all of the bleed/leakage and provided us with a clean 12 piece or larger, brass/woodwind section. Yup, that made the first pass track a second-generation down just like the drums and I hadn't begun to mix anything yet.

The string track was accomplished the same way but at this point in time, I'm really running out of track count. So the guitar & piano now also may have gotten mixed together & bounced, which are now also a second-generation down. So another 2 passes with 3 violins 2 Viola & cello with the same loud studio fold back, second generation phase flip & bounce. Solo instrumental requirements sometimes dictating separate dedicated Solo tracks involving other instruments, such as orchestral/symphonic harps & timpani which BTW didn't fit through the door of the studio. Pretty funny having timpani in the entrance hall way.

When all that was finished, we had a marvelous fully orchestrated music "track" on 7 tracks.

Here is where the real fun came in (as if I hadn't gotten there yet). It's time now for the backup singers, all five or six. Well with only a single track left, I had to mix all of the instrumental stuff down first. I would mix to a single track of a stereo 2 track mix down deck. So now that music is 2 & 3 generations down. Remember, no noise reduction. Remember the romper room lady, as she looked in her magic mirror? She would say, "Do be a good bee. Don't be a Dolby."

Time to load up a fresh piece of eight track tape for the vocal session. Then I take that mixed down track of music & transfer the music to a single track of the new fresh 8 track machine's tape. The singers sing 2 to 4 passes. Along with the same studio fold back monitors blaring. Now for the lead solo singer. The only person who got headphones. Now I have like 5 tracks of vocals along with my single track of music. I carefully balance the vocal mix. Now I have a great vocal sound with music that is 4 generations down. That, just won't do. So the mixed mono vocals are mixed down to a single track of the 2 track stereo mix down deck. So this makes the vocals 2 to 3 generations down.

Here's the crazy part. (And you thought it was crazy until this point) I needed the music to be extremely clean & punchy sounding. Remember, "an ounce of punch is worth a pound of sound". Thankfully, there is a single open track left on the master 8 track music tape. So all that needed to be done now was to synchronize the stereo machine with the 8 track machine and transfer the single track of mixed vocals to the last remaining track on the music 8 track tape. Generally, you'd need to use time code & synchronizers. This was not possible nor an option for numerous reasons too long to explain here. Thankfully, the drummer counts off at the beginning of each take, which gives me the opportunity to hit the play button on the two track machine at just the right moment in time, to slip sync one machine to another. You synchronize them together by dragging your finger on the tape reel flanges to hold sync or, "flanging", which can be used for an effect when delay time between two identical sources is shifted in time. But that's another lesson of the past.

You end up with the mixed vocals on the master 8 track music tape. Now, I can mix down the music with the already composited vocals. Commercials were all delivered in mono back then. However, I was still able to accomplish some incredible stereo mixes I experimented with, as I was looking to the future. Interestingly enough we had certain requirements in the use of our jingles so we were all "2 mono tracks with music on track one and vocals on track two". This way, we could fly the vocals in and out around the announcers, as needed because the phrasing was so good. That's phrasing not phasing.

So to sum this up, you'd think these jingles would sound god awful? They sounded anything but because great attention was paid to detail & gain staging, etc.. These fully orchestrated jingles played throughout the United States & Canada for nearly 20 years, making the company millions of dollars on something I produced for only a few thousand. If you'd like to hear an example of these fully orchestrated productions, I'll post the link from a sample from my 1/4 track, 1/4 inch, archives. Sound-Click seems to have glitched's at this hour so I can't post the links at this time and You Tube's audio is just not up to the task for me to want to bother with them.

One of the real old engineers here.
Ms. Remy Ann David