Hyper Background Vox

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by markrpaulson, Mar 6, 2001.

  1. markrpaulson

    markrpaulson Guest

    Anyone with experience recording or mixing music like this, I'd love your input. My question regards background vocals in super produced acts like Destiny's Child etc.
    Can anyone share their experiences regarding creating that huge separation between the lead vocals and that sugary omnipresent background vox? I work with mostly indie-rock guitar stuff, but this is something I'm personally interested in just for unusual juxtaposition purposes-
  2. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    Jan 4, 2001
    I don't do this style of music, but I have a notion. I'd figure you would have you're lead vocal pretty damn dry, maybe some early reflections sort of patch, but not much of that, while you pull the backing vocals back by putting a longer reverb on them, and maybe some stereo spatialization tricks, too. Reverbs always pull sounds away in your mix, dry sounds are up front in the sound stage. I would have to think about how to set up different compression for each for similar effect, and I suppose it would depend on what you're going for. I'm guessing lots on the lead, not so much on the backing.

    I hear a lot of that stuff is double, triple, heck, sextuple tracked to death, too. Not sure what that does other than kill nuance.

    da Bear
  3. antonio

    antonio Guest

    Ok I'd love to reply to your post regarding pop/rnb based BV mixing techniques. I've been following this for quite a while and have seen many great producers in action with this setup.

    I'll start by just attempting to elaborate on this:

    I hear a lot of that stuff is double, triple, heck, sextuple tracked to death, too. Not sure what that does other than kill nuance.

    Yes there sure is alot of triple/sextuple and yes up to 12 layers of tracking. I think it steers away from older and more tradition sounding recordings by thickening up the wall of vocals which in this type of music is what could distinguishes it more as "modern pop/rnb".

    I'm going to try to reply with some techniques which I "hear" are being done in those types of songs, by what I've done myself and seen/heard others do to success :)

    I got this technique from a UK producer who swarms in this style of music and has had numerous top 10 UK chart hits. I specifically asked him what was going on in a few of his tracks and I inquired mostly about backup vocals and how in this style of music they often sound thick and shiny and all similar in songs of this type.

    1)He records the lead vocal and pans it in the centre.
    2)When it comes to the backup vocals he organises what he wants to record and decides how many harmonies he wishes to do and this reflects immediately on how many tracks he will use.
    3)After deciding for example he wants 3 harmony parts (3 different melody lines to the lead) he then might want the backup vocals to also sing the same line as the lead vocal as "ghosting" it (backups singing just like the lead).
    4)He's chosen his 3 harmonies + 1 extra just like the lead melody = 4 total different melodies.
    5)His BV/Vocal treatment is as follows

    Hard left pan: harmony 1,harm2,harm3,lead ghost
    Hard Right pan: harmony 1,harm2,harm3,lead ghost
    Centre pan: harmony 1,harm2,harm3,lead ghost and REAL lead vocal.

    6)there is a total of 13 tracks to be "individually recorded" including the lead. 13 tracks should represent individual recordings and if you wish to follow this exact method then no "copying of tracks" is desired as it will defeat the purpose of "double/triple" tracking and the effect it produces to sound like Destiny's Child
    and Jennifer Lopez etc.

    Summary of 6 steps: Record each harmony 3 times. Pan 1 hard left, pan the other hard right and pan the 3rd one in the centre. Repeat that for the next harmony and before you know it you have a nice thick "lovely stereo" wall of harmonies. Only "you" can really put a limit to how many harmonies you'd like and it might depend on the song that calls upon the treatment.

    So when it's time to record these backups/harmonies you might decide to let the lead vocal record about half of them. If you have a 5 piece vocal group for example you might want to evenly distribute the harmonies amongst each person. If you've got a single solo artist to record you might get them to do half of the decided harmonies and get some good session singer to come in and do the other half or simply do it yourself :)

  4. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    I prefer a minimum of 4 tracks per bgv harm, sometimes up to 12 tracks for a unison. If the voice is thick and well controlled maybe you can get away with 2 tracks on 3nd or "n"th harmony. When mixed, they can be panned 100% L&R or spread in various ways to create different space. Three tracks is less flexible in that way. You always end up with one leftover track.

    Often a good quality EQ is used to boost the top (>10kHz). Rarely use an exciter anymore, but whatever floats your boat is fine. Dipping or dumping around 150-300Hz, depending on amount of proximity that needs to be removed.

    As always, mic selection/placement/technique can cut down the need for EQ & compression later.

    No hard rules about reverb - except one: if it's noticable, there's probably too much. Space should be felt, not heard.
  5. e-cue

    e-cue Active Member

    Oct 5, 2000
    Originally posted by Mark Paulson:
    Anyone with experience recording or mixing music like this, I'd love your input. My question regards background vocals in super produced acts like Destiny's Child etc.
    I work a lot in this style of music. We layer a buttload after a buttload, & recently I've been having to lock 2 protools rigs together (even after bouncing several times) so I can have enough voices/nodes/dsp. A more basic set-up is 4 part harms (4 tracks of each harm). Don't trip if the vocalist sings flat of sharp, just make sure if he/she sings a pass flat, that the next one should be sharp.
    Britney (Max Martin) seems to be doing a swedish/gospel thing, it almost sounds like they are screaming the bgs at times. Pretty cool stuff, even if you hate Britney Spears. I doubt it would work with Sebadoh, but you never know.
  6. OneMan

    OneMan Member

    May 8, 2001
    I do mostly urban and R&B music and I generally track 4 parts per note panned hard left and right per note. Generally 6 to 8 for unisons. Another thing (just for fun). Take the top or highest not of your harmony ,this works best for male vocals, and transpose it up 1 octave but just 2 tracks of it panned hard left and right and bring it way back in the mix. You just want to slightly hear the note and feel the vibe as opposed to hearing the words actually being sung. Try it you might like it. One more thing, Listen to any of BabyFace's productions on Boyz II Men. Notice how every voice doesn't sing every word? It breaks up the phrases and works really well. If you don't understand what I mean, check this out:

    1st tenor Twinkle, twinkle little star
    2nd tenor Twinkle, ******* little star
    baritone Twinkle, twinkle ****** star
    bass ******************* tle star
    obviously the words that get the most attention and represents the chord are "Twinkle" and "star"
    Try it......... your mileage may vary.


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