Vocal Production

This is an pretty comprehensive video showing vocal production techniques. Particularly of interest to me was the vocal comping section which starts around 37:20. I’ve been using a pretty intense comping method for quite some time now - I often wondered whether I was being overly detailed in my approach, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the method shown here is pretty much exactly how I’ve been doing it.

How do you guys’n’gals work?


ooh I look forward to watching this later ta…

1 Like

I always have them sing it all the way through, never punch in. It’s for the weak, and I don’t think you get a very good performance when you just go into the middle of the song cold turkey. You get performance anxiety, and then you go limp. So I have 'em do a few takes and comp 'em together so that all the worry is on me and not them. You can’t sing if you’re worried about the end result, gotta exude confidence.

1 Like

I think it depends on who it is and the genre of music. Also your production goal and the level of experience of the performer and producer.

Some of the vocals on top records recorded by pop stars these days are so micro-comped you wouldn’t believe it. It’s what the industry expects. They bring in a producer specifically to work with a vocal artist on just vocals. Hundreds of clips used to comp a vocal for one song. It’s no secret that pop music is “engineered” to sell records, so it’s no surprise they do this. Any music that wants an ‘organic’ feel would avoid this probably, but it can work for other genres to get their desired result.

I found comping to be very easy in Pro Tools. Like many things in Reaper, I have learned to do it (comping) but it’s not quite as easy or intuitive as Pro Tools.

1 Like

Definitely a great video. Always interesting to see how others work!! :smiley:

…There are several things I think he could have done better.

At 38:27, I noticed he’s clicking the [S] buttons in the track lanes with his mouse. This guy has pretty good speed, but for any PT users watching this, this can be done faster by clicking at the front of the phrase and hitting Shift+S.

Another thing I think was slowing him up (besides the fact he was doing a video tutorial) is that he’s also mouse clicking the [^] arrow button to the left of the right of the [S] button to elevator the selection to the comp’d composite track at the top. Ctrl Opt + V does this faster, and you don’t have to chop the regions, only marquee them. Also, I recommend using Shft Opt + M instead, which moves the selection off the take lane and leaves an empty space in the take it came from. I like this way better because you can instantly see which take you pulled the track from.

Also, at 40:03, you start to see him manually drag his fade in/fade outs. This is unnecessary. Since his keyboard focus is targeting his main workspace, the [D] and [G] keys fade to the cursor positions. All three of these groups of key moves (Shft S to solo, Shft Opt M to move, and D/G to fade) can all be performed with your left hand in home key positions, without looking at your keyboard.

One last thing I think he could have taken advantage of is that Ctrl + [P] and Ctrl + [ ; ] allow you to step though previous/next take lanes. Yes, you have to take your hand off the mouse, but it doesn’t matter, because now because either thumb can grab the spacebar.

I really really also recommend marking exceptional takes as they come in. So every time an artist blurts something into the mic that grabs my attention, I leave my color palette open (while they’re tracking) and color it red.

Again, just some ideas. Am I quicker than this guy? Probably by a hair. Is he sufficiently fast? In my opinion, yes. Does he have a grammy? Yes. Do I? No…so I’m not criticizing his operator chops to be a dick. Just offering a few tips to go along with the video :smiley:


Cool video ta,
yeah, it’s pretty well how I do it but one funny thing for me… realised I’d completely forgotten about ‘cross fading’ when comping… I am really detail-conscious with the vocal and the breaths are important so I like to keep an ear on them but good to remember that process… I tend to manually automate everything in sometimes quite minute detail.

i’m always fascinated by the huge potential variation in ways of singing the identical piece. I liked his description of looking for ‘the character of the delivery’ which is a great definition.

Thanks for posting that, I enjoyed the watch…

1 Like

Your suggestions are really appreciated by me and I’m sure some other people. Thanks!

Yeah, I know what you mean. There’s just so many ways to sing something. That’s part of what makes recording vocals so challenging. I often am not sure if I like certain vocal inflection or not. It’s the sheer volume of choices that I often find consumes a lot of my time when I’m laying down vocals…and to a lesser degree every instrument.

Why comp that much? You lose all feeling. You usually don’t get it any better than the first few times you do it. Luckily now we’ve got hand tuning methods you don’t have to throw a line out if it’s out of tune but otherwise has got an emotion later takes ain’t capturing. If the vocal is in tune it sits much better in the mix, but you don’t get the feeling as often the 1000th time you’ve sung it. My experience only. Love you.

Perhaps. :slightly_smiling_face: I recently had the experience of capturing an awesome raw vocal that was way out of tune and unintelligible because lyrics had not yet been written. I WISH it was a live take that could have been used, but not even close to a Robert Plant fudge track. Someone once said “wherever you find yourself, that’s where you are”. I think it applies to vocals. I see your point, and I also see comping to infinite insanity as necessary.

When I looped instrument tracks and tried to redo the vocals with intelligible lyrics, the vocals degraded in tone and pitch take after take. High end loss from physical strain. So I see your point on that. It’s also how you approach it, and trying to be Rob Halford in that moment was not sustainable. I learned and knew that vocals are a sustained enterprise over time, but it’s always a bummer to have to practice it.

The comp selection is a general principle. And sometimes you don’t have any control over what you are handed to edit. Example, a recent project I worked on had 7 mics on the same cast. Three actors wearing lapels and four boom operators were scattered on the set. The director sometimes has no idea what he’s using and doesn’t care, as long as it sounds decent. If it doesn’t, they ADR the lines in post. The auditioning, compositing, and real-time audio suite processing is the same regardless.

To actually answer your question, most engineers build a series of takes, then work backwards. (This guy didn’t, he started from the top for some reason). For example, if I record six passes of just the first verse, the fifth and sixth are where most of my money is. The first through fourth only get looked at if there was sometime special in there, or if something in the 5th and 6th pass was really wrong. I do a good amount of decision making on the spot.

…and honestly, I hate tracking. I’m rarely the guy sitting behind the console doing this, but I certainly have done my fair share of time on that side of the glass!

I like comping because it helps me build a better vocal track…usually. The problem with prolonged singing/ tracking is that you can start to get hoarse and eventually your voice actually deteriorates…, especially if you’re pushing your voice with either a high range or a raspy inflection…, or both. So you’re right, in those cases you often need to lay the vocals down quick, or else your voice will be shot, in which case you have to wait a day or more til you’re vocal chords have recovered.

I never retune my voice. I just get it right at the source, but I have had many times when the first take is the best, so I understand where you’re coming from. I want to check out how that reatune/ reapitch (or whatever it’s called in Reaper) works though.

ReaTune is cool. I’ve used it to destroy many recordings.

1 Like

I did this mix with inexcusable ReaTune for @Jonathan with a few screams from @doubletrackinjive.
That’s Reatune vox down the center, vocoder in the left, and distorted in the right.

1 Like

Sounds like Mark Slaughter, those highs are piercing!

1 Like

Is that a kazoo, or is that doubletrackinjive’s voice?!

Two of the screams are DTJ, and the singing is from a song posted on “Mix with the Masters”.


1 Like

Ahh, we have Def Leppard fan in the room. High "N’ Dry rocks!:beerbanger:

1 Like

That’s their best fucking album! Talk about good vocal production, the stories Mike Shipley told about Hysteria was that he sat a mixer on his lap and played it like an instrument, EQing every sound that came out of Joe Elliot’s mouth on that record. INCREDIBLE!

Nice tastes touchingcloth.


I agree!
Love that album!