how long should a take be?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Gerkass, Jul 8, 2009.

  1. Gerkass

    Gerkass Guest

    I been recording a good deal at home on pro tools and other various software for the past year or two, but I have always wondered about the lenght to record a vocal take for.
    I usualy get my singer to record each line about 20 times or more till we have ''the one'', , its worked so far for us,,but thought id ask other people how far do they record for?
    a whole song over and over?
    a verse over and over?
    a line?
    or even certain words which are sung quite long?
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    As many as it takes to get the desired awesomeness.

    (I only get one, though, dang live recording)
  3. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2009
  4. Gerkass

    Gerkass Guest

    ha desired awesomness,
    yeah the desired awesomness is a must hehe

    but not the amount of takes, the Length of a take?
    sucks for you having just the one take, but alot less frustration for you singing same thing over and over hehe
  5. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Nuremberg, Germany
    Home Page:
    as long as the singer feels comfortable with.

    usually i would let the singer make one take through the whole song, because a) he gets a feel for the song, b) i have a guide track, c) i or we can identify problems regarding phrasing, pronounciation or lyrics, d) we get a feel for how we should procede and e) i will get a feel for how long it will take to get this song done...

    after that i usually let him do parts (verse - bridge - chorus - verse... or verse - bridge - verse - bridge - chorus - chorus... or 1/2 verse - 2/2 verse + bridge - chorus...)

    it always depends on the singer and the song.
  6. Gerkass

    Gerkass Guest

    pretty much what im at, except for the full track as a guide!
    pretty handy, ill do that for the next song im doing, should prove very handy.
    cheers again.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    I like singers that are prepared, well rehearsed & ready. If it takes more than 3 takes, we'll go on to another song and come back to that one later. I wouldn't want to force a singer into 23 takes. That's crazy. That shows a lack of talent and preparedness. Amateur hour. I don't go there. Professionals nail it. Amateurs screw it to death.

    I don't like to get screwed even on an hourly rate
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I'm completely with Remy on this one.
    If it takes 20 or more takes, you need to not only hire a new singer, but some random act of violence may need to be committed to remove the old one.

    3 takes. If you can't get what you need out of 3, the music is too hard for the artist or the artist isn't worth the time or (a biggie) the artist is too picky but doesn't realize that they don't have the goods to be too picky.

    I just had the pleasure of working with (admittedly way outside the genre you're referring to) a very talented soprano. My past experiences largely show that a soprano may request several takes for the same material until they get it right. Fortunately, this young (and very solid performer) knew her material and knocked it out of the park. The most takes we did was 2 on 1 section. In most cases, it was a single take. She was prepared, had worked her butt off on the material and knew it before she had to start paying on the clock. These are the kinds of people I love to work with!

  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    As has been said, this all depends on the situation. I think Remy and Jeremy are coming at this from a pro studio point of view rather than a project studio point of view where composition, practice, and recording get intertwined. Even so, I can't imagine a singer singing anything 20 times without it becoming just a bunch of rote syllables. Sure we all repeat things endlessly when we practice, but then we come at it fresh to get the best performance. In most cases, I'll do two or three takes of the whole song, comp together the best pieces and then punch in if a few things need fixing.

    Some times this doesn't work. I'm working on a album by this guy from Honduras. He has composed a song with a lead vocal and two three-part harmony sections. He is recording all of the parts so that he can send various parts off as guide vocals to people in Honduras. (Assuming things hold together down there.) So there we are recording things in pieces - chorus - bridge - verse, etc. We only do two or three takes of each part - especially the high parts which (just barely) contain enough pitch information to let th soprano know what to sing. (I shouldn't joke; he's doing a very impressive job with the falsetto.)

    By the way, are you doing this in PT8? I'm trying to imagine a playlist view of a vocal track with 20 takes! How would you be able to even find "the one."
  10. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Mar 31, 2007
    North Vancouver
    But in all honesty we all have to deal with amateur hour. These days less people practice their craft and expect the studio to make them sound bigger and better. This is now the mainstream client I would say.
  11. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    What bugs me more though is the client that is never happy. You know the "What's that sound right there?" "Play that back, I thought I heard something" "Why can't you do this/that?"
  12. Gerkass

    Gerkass Guest

    yeah im using PT8

    well we go through a good few takes till we/she feels she has done enough,,, i place them all together in one line in Pro tools track and we willl sit down and listen to em and delete and clear from my hard drive straight off the ones we know arent good enogh and we narrow it down to the top 3 and use the best of the three or take the best bits of each and punch em in, if a certain thing is slighly off,

    we are both real perfectionists about things and have discovered that this way works for us best,
    we dont over do the takes though, its really untilll the singer feels she's just repeating herself too much and is loosing the vibe.

    then we will take a break or work on a different verse or chorus or something.

    i cant imagine just leaving it at 3 takes though.
    surelly there would be an odd note somewhere, that you couldnt possibly be truly content with?
  13. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    Frozen Tundra of CT
    There are a number of great singers I work with who can do nearly everything in one take,I often do a second take cause I'm superstitous (or stupidsticous) in case there is anything I might want to comp but hardly ever need it. Tina, one of the aforementioned artists I can barely tell the takes apart at all, timing, phrasing, pitch is almost effortlessly duplicato! I wish I had these kinda chops, for me it is 23 takes, but never more than three or four on any given day LOL. So any vocal line takes about a month!
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    Well, I'm going to jump into the fire on this one :) and come at it from the POV of creation first, then performance.

    The beauty of digital is no loss of sound compared to tape. The ability to loop, copy/paste mix it all up and so on is a writers dream come true. I don't know about you guys, but I came from the tape era. When I got my first PT rig, WOW! I started experimenting heavy and became totally addicted to creating songs on the fly with my DAW. What a blast of freedom and the beginning of finding songs inside my head.

    Without going on here... I have done 100's of takes with vocal phases, guitar solo's etc. Loop after loop until a song has been created. This is how I create most songs. Once I feel I have a good song, I then actually learn it... I then do it all over in real time.
    Then, I think that's where all you are coming from.

  15. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Well another way to look at it is that she surely would hit the note on at least one of the three trys. When I first read about producers "comping" a vocal track and building it up word by word and syllable by syllable I was appalled. But it's just so easy to do it with the playlist view and the promotion tool in PT8 that I find my self doing more of it. If there is a good take with a few bad note I don't hesitiate to promote a word from another take. A good clean take has a unity that's hard to achieve in a comped track, but a good take can be improved with a careful use of comping. All boils down to using your ears and listening to the whole song - not individual words and notes. Easy to say, harder to do.
  16. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Back to the original question.....

    I would like to think any competent singer(s) should be able to get through the entire song start to finish if they're prepared. (numerous times if necessary)

    Someone with talent, preparation, (and proper warm up) should be able to give a solid first take on the first run-through. You should be able to build from there. I tend to do at least 3 complete passes through the song before I start worrying about punching in specific spots.

    If they're not at least semi-pro it may take some coaxing verse by verse, or line by line, but it usually loses it's feel in the process.

    As others have suggested, there's a fine line between re-doing it and over-doing it. Sometimes the vocalist will relax and give you a better performance once they have a good take recorded. But you can quickly reach the point of diminished returns if their voice gets strained. And if their voice is getting a little tired by the time you're doing the punch-ins, the tone won't be the same as the rest of the track and might stick out like a sore thumb.

    If they are singing beyond their normal range you could go all day and never get a take that sounds good, time to think about changing the key of the song - because the more they strain the worse it will get. If they don't have decent pitch and your collective goal is perfection, I hope these are all billable hours.

    Perfection can be expensive and in my opinion it's over-rated. To me music is about emotion, energy, the authenticity of the songwriting, and honesty of the vocal delivery. Just because we can make it perfect with technology doesn't mean we should. Can you imagine if they used Auto-Tune and quantitization on Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Willie Nelson? All musical genius - no cheating.

    Keepin it real.
  17. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    I prefer a whole song end to end. You get good continuity, feel and emotion when the singer does that.

    I worked with this one band in a pre-production capacity. It too was a sort of composition/recording session where the singer had a basic idea but wanted to 'work it out'. The one thing that bugged me is he flat out did not want to sing the song beginning to end. We would record each part individually and then put them all together.

    Another thing that he wanted was layers. We tried to stick with 3 to 4 layers of vocals. But that meant lots of takes because one of the takes may have been off for timing or pitch or whatever. I would set up the loop and just start recording. We might have gotten up to 20 takes a few times but usually once he was in the groove he could nail them and we could get 4 good ones in a row.

    It was contrary to the way I wanted to record the vocals but for the music, I don't think it mattered a whole lot. One thing that I did though was record transitions where possible. Along with recording individual verses and choruses we would record the transition from one to the next if it was possible. It really depended on the phrasing but what it gave us is great energy transition from the verse to the chorus and back. I think it added a lot of life to some of the parts.

    Anyway, when doing a song section by section, if one doesn't really know what they are singing, I don't think there's a problem with lots of takes.
  18. Gerkass

    Gerkass Guest

    hehe yeah thats pretty much my way of looking at it,,and same as you i always use to think it was a cheat when i heard of people mixing in bits and pieces from takes, but once ya do it and it sounds right and natural you really do find it a godsend,

    in response to others on this thread , , , I do agree with the breaking up of verses and such can cause a continuity problem, but if you Do do it and the singer and band (aka me and my singer) are happy with it and it sounds natural straight through i dont see much of a problem there,,,,although i do wonder if the 'straight through' track would sound better in comparison hehe,,but singers in general are picky about every note,
  19. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    Mar 27, 2007
    NY, USA
    Home Page:
    im gonna throw in my 2 cents:

    isn't the beauty of recording at home that we can record as many takes as we want and never once have to look at a clock and worry about how much money is being spent?

    i am a singer and sometimes i nail it right off and sometimes it takes me a while (although not 23). but the entire process is stress and worry free

    i read somewhere that sir paul mccartney spent 8 hours trying to get the bass track right for one song on SGT Pepper..
  20. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    That was because of the special lemonade.
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