Pop/rock collaboration seeking backing vocals

This is an “in process” mix of one of my current collaboration projects. Next up is backing vocals. If you think you can offer some help, please contact me.

Hi @FJamStudios, is that a final composited vocal take? Or a scratch vocal?

Its sometimes difficult for background vocalists to sing over a vocal that isn’t in tune, as it forces them to choose between reconciling the harmonies with the instrumentation or the vocal.

A background vocal job like this is a bit beyond what I can tackle free of charge. If this artist is needing work done on this track and has a budget, feel free to p.m. me. I can send samples of vocalist I have on call to do work like this. Prices would range from $200-$400 plus hourly studio time (depending on the amount of layering your want done).

Maybe you can elaborate on which parts you hear that are out of tune?

Every single line in the first verse. Which was what led me to ask if that was a placeholder vocal or the artists best take. I listened twice through the verse just to double check, and I can assure you that not one of them are on pitch. The lyric “I’m searching” was the first motif that sounded on pitch, but it went flat immediately after that first phrase, then I quit listening.

This vocal is mechanically really really weak. Its breathy and feeble, but not in a way that evokes emotion. It sounds like your singer was afraid of the mic was gonna retaliate and punch her. Her tone is starting in her throat then she’s singing through her nose…her lack of proper diaphragm technique is partly why every phrase in that first verse is flat. Her performance suggests she’s perfectly capable of hitting pitches. I don’t think that’s the problem. Its not her hearing. Its how she’s using her actual instrument which is killing this track. 42 seconds is the worst spot here. I can’t make out what she’s singing. It sounds like “hall of uh shadows are going to impale”. Someone has to help her stop mumbling through every line.

If you are going to send this out for collaboration, you need to autotune those vocals and then send them out as a separate wav because the person singing bgv’s on them is NOT going to want to hear them when they’re trying to sing along with this. I would also suggest using a lot of ooooh’s and aaaah’s as bgv’s because her timing and phrasing is almost impossible to lock in with, and her rhythm is all over the place. She drags on the first chorus then rushes the second verse. You’re also gonna need to send a printed lyric sheet.

If this is a 10-11 year old child singing, I would recommend not doing anything else to this track. Autotune it and send it out unless the parents or the group paying for it are insisting on a completed production. With the vocal in that condition, they will not be able to use this for anything commercial, be it talent competitions, school auditions, viral media etc… as that vocal will not past the minimum standard required to admit the child to most fine arts schools.

That’s a little bit harsh. Not everybody makes music to try to get into fine arts school. I mean, I get what you are saying, but I don’t think he was asking for feedback on the song or the voice.

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I know this is not a discussion about the vocalist per se, but I agree with @bozmillar .

My imediate response of @Jonathan 's reply was that it was a bit over-the-top critical, but I thought I would measure my reaction before saying anything, so I played the posted MP3 to my wife, (who’s musical opinions I trust because they are open-minded and wide-ranging, whilst still maintaining a very sensitive “crap-o-meter”).

I said: “What do you think of this vocal performance?” She said: “Well I don’t like the fact that it’s overly breathy, but the singer has a definite style that I quite like and suits the song” (or words to that effect).

My feeling is that you can definitely work with what you have. From what I can hear, this is not intended to be hyper-polished pop, and treating it as such would take every skerrick of character and individuality from the song.

While I can definitely hear quite a few spots which would benefit from some tuning attention, it would be a shame to take the “fixing” too far. Individuality, originality, vulnerability and character are rare musical commodities these days, and IMO should be guarded carefully and jealously.

@FJamStudios Fred, I hope you can find some good backing vocals. Did you have male or female BV’s in mind?

There’s nothing in the vocals that Melodyne and a couple of hours won’t fix. The breathiness sounds more like an outcome of the processing rather than a source problem to my ears.

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She is not the strongest singer I know but I also know you are over reacting to this. You certainly are not worth the wage you seek if you would have trouble singing over this. I can and have created backing vocal phrases behind this with a MIDI keyboard. If she was out the way you whine about it that would not be possible. You must think I just fell of the turnip truck if you think I am buying what you have whined out here.

Her breathiness is part of her style for sure. I have worked with many better vocalists. She is German and has a strong accent. I tell you what I will do, just to put this to rest. I will go through and pick out the notes she is singing on the midi keyboard, just to show one way or another about her pitch. If I am able to pick them out on the keys, then we can say she is singing on pitch. If not then the whinner is right. I think I will be able to pick it out. I have done a lot of this and that is my prediction.

Thanks for that.

I don’t care for the mic she uses. Tends to have a good amount of “ssss” and that is not helped with her breathiness. I tend to believe she is too close to the mic. I have asked her to back up from the mic and project more, but I have not had a lot of luck with that. Like I said she is not the best vocalist. We will see if the notes she is singing can be found on the keyboard.

Really? No singer is likely to be singing the exact fequency of a given note. The best you can do is pick out the notes that are nearest to the ones she is singing, but that neither proves nor disproves anything, so it’s a pointless exercise as far as I can see.

Basically the vocal needs tuning, then it can be harmonised accurately.

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If that was true, then vocal coaches would be spinning their tires when they ask their students to sing the notes of a scale they play on the keyboard. What it proves is that her pitch is close enough that any vocalist with any experience should be able to sing along with her. That’s what it proves. It will prove that is is not as far off pitch as has been represented here. I can no longer sing because of illness, but if I could still sing I would be able to find harmonies to sing against this. That is why I was able to find them on the keys. You are actually making my point for me.

OK maybe I didn’t express myself very well.

I’m envisaging you play a note that she’s supposed to be singing, and you say ‘there you go, that’s the note’ and I say ‘nope, she’s a quarter tone out from the note you are playing, you can’t really harmonise that’. Then you say ‘No, I picked the right note out on my keyboard, therefore you are wrong.’ It’s a non-sequitur fallacy.

I mean, whether you have picked a note out on your keyboard is irrelevant, it has no bearing on whether she is in tune or not in the context of the recording. But hey, it doesn’t really matter. Pitch-correct the notes that are out and then sing any harmony you want.

So you are talking about scale rather than pitch?

There are a few places I agree, that need correction. This business of “every single note” is just BS. I will work on a few key places. They would be evident if I demoed the keys verbetim. Slightly out yes. To be honest with you, most of these that I do with Mel are just to get the writing down, and I would be looking for a different vocalist if we were going commercial. So as i listen I do hear a few places I would concede, but “every note” is just not correct. I still stand behind what I am saying about finding the notes on the keys but as I listen I think that would work against us here. It would have shown that some are out. I can be specific on the places I am hearing and it’s centainly not “every single note”. Thanks for your time.

Yes, that’s all I’m saying. Just pitch 'em with your favourite tool and you’re good to go.

I think if you had the chance to work alongside Mel, rather than just take what she gave you, perhaps the end result would be better. Most singers need to be produced to a greater or lesser degree in my experience.

I think this girl has a very unique tone to her voice and nothing autotune cant fix
some of the comments are a little harsh I felt, and a lot of average singers have made big careers
eg: Madonna but she was another with a unique sound and look. Seeing that she is German English maybe a struggle with phrasing and shaping of words I personally like her voice and can look past the slight pitch related problems
good luck finding some backing singers.

@FJamStudios Did you end up finishing this? I agree that the vocal should be carefully fine-tuned with something like Melodyne–that’ll also show you exactly how off-pitch each note was–but otherwise I like the song!

No I have been working on other projects. Maybe if I gave you a voxless mix, you could sing the lead and I can hear the difference?

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