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Thread: How do you guys layer your rap vocals and how many tracks?

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    Maverick87 is offline Newbie
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    How do you guys layer your rap vocals and how many tracks?

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    How many tracks do you guys use to get a nice thick, but not muddy sound on your rap vocals? Im assuming you do it differently for your hooks and verses to make them sound different.

    The way I do it so far is:
    One lead vocal centered(Whole verse)
    Two supporting vocals panned -35 and 35 (whole verse also)
    Two overdub tracks panned -45 and 45 (accenting phrases and words, sort of like second halves I suppose)
    Two adlibs/extras panned -55 and 55

    For the hooks/choruses I do pretty much the same thing but I pan a lot harder to make it sound a little different, and Ive always heard you should hard pan your hooks anyways.

    So you can say I set the main vocal centered and do the rest around it sort of like a pyramid. Some people have the kind of voice where they can hit the verse just once and start to do overdubs and adlibs around it, I dont like how my voice sounds like that, but I do like how it sounds a little more thickened, so I suppose its a matter of figuring out how to EQ properly to reduce muddiness and increase clarity.

    The reason why this is an issue for me is because Im gonna be experimenting with how I track and mix, and one thing that caught my attention is a technique called the 'exciting compressor' where the lead vocal is split into two signals, one is lightly EQ'd and modified and brought to regular level, and the other is super compressed and the high frequencies are brought up and accented, and this signal is brought up only enough to make the first one stand out more. In other words there will end up being two lead vocals acting as one.

    Anyways, Id love to hear how you guys record your vocals, more specifically how many tracks you use for each part and how you pan them and anything else you do to it, and what differences you make for the hook/chorus, and how to do this effectively.

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    Emerson Maningo is offline Senior Member
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    You have the concept already but I would definitely want the vocals to sound near to the center. So I would pan them like this:

    One lead vocal centered(Whole verse)
    Two supporting vocals panned -5 and 5 (whole verse also)
    Two overdub tracks panned -10 and 10 (accenting phrases and words, sort of like second halves I suppose)
    Two adlibs/extras panned -20 and 20

    This would make the vocal tracks and their backup to sound prominent in the mix while you give more room for your other instruments in other places in the stereo field which are not panned in the center.

    One technique with arriving at a cool vocal overdubs is to have each layered vocal tracks sung at a different style. So for example, you might want to add more diversity to your vocals like:

    One lead vocal centered(Whole verse) - lead tenor or soprano
    Two supporting vocals panned -5 and 5 (whole verse also) - alto section
    Two overdub tracks panned -10 and 10 (accenting phrases and words, sort of like second halves I suppose) - baritone section
    Two adlibs/extras panned -20 and 20 -baritone2 section

    The key is to have different vocal styles panned in different location, it does tend to sound nice and thick.

    Some EQ techniques could be implemented, you might want to cut a hole in the background vocals to make the lead vocals in the center to sit more clearly. So if you are boosting your lead vocals at:

    2KHz, Q=1.4 +2dB

    You might cut the backgrounds (all those that are not in the center) like:

    2KHz, Q=1.4 -2dB

    So the 2KHz is used by the lead vocals. You can do the same for the rest of your layered vocal tracks, increasing their contrast by applying a slightly different EQ setting for each track. The key is to experiment and use your ears to know which sounds good or bad.

    For anything about vocal mixing and recording, you can read more tips on my audio recording blog. You can visit it on my signature below.

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    Maverick87 is offline Newbie
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    Wow thats some serious food for thought. I panned hard, and even harder for the chorus(I read somewhere youre supposed to pan hard for choruses and hooks) because I wanted the vocals to be wide in the stereo field as well, but I didnt realize that it probably IS clashing with the instruments that are out there too. It seemed like the closer I brought the layers of vocals, they were TO thick and muddy, but Ill just have to play with the EQ.

    I want to make sure the vocals cut through the beat as well, back when I hardly panned at all, if we were listening in a car system, you couldnt make out the vocals hardly at all over the bass knockin and everything going on, once I started panning and layering more I didnt have that problem, so Ill have to try to find the medium there.

    Im definitely gonna make space with the EQ though and Im sure Ill find all this info useful so thanks.

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    dainbramage's Avatar
    dainbramage is offline 1K Silver Member
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    Due to my lack of experience with layering and mixing in general I don't have much to add. But I remember from a thread from a while back someone on this forum said Eminem usually did a subtle layer where he whispered the words. I'm not sure why he would do this, but it might be worth a shot.
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    Emphasis is offline New Member
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    Thumbs up

    I'm also new to recordings vocals and found this very useful. Thank you!
    Right now I have about a million questions on this subject. I'll try to tone it down 3.
    And hopefully Iím as clear as possible.

    1. Are your supporting vocals, overdubs, and adlibs identical to their counterparts?
    As to say: are your supporting vocals at -5 and 5 the exact same recording, or just similar vocal recordings paned symmetrically?

    2. Are your supporting vocals, overdubs, and adlibs a fresh new recordings, or are you just using the original recording with different eq and tuning? Like would it be cheating if I tuned my voice down a semitone or two between the tenor/baritone tracks to save studio time? I mean technically, it's still my voice, right?

    3. How do overdubs, specifically "second halves", differ from adlibs and extras?

    Basically what Iím getting from this concept is something like: if the sentence is "worse come to worst, my peoples come first"

    The overdub might be something like: "worse...worst...my peoples come"
    And my adlib something like: "come first".

    Or something like that. Right? Thank you for your time. Really hope someone responds. This thread has been real helpful

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    timcarey is offline Registered User
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    Great stuff and informative too. Keep it coming.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dainbramage View Post
    Due to my lack of experience with layering and mixing in general I don't have much to add. But I remember from a thread from a while back someone on this forum said Eminem usually did a subtle layer where he whispered the words. I'm not sure why he would do this, but it might be worth a shot.
    I think that was me! Yeah, not sure if it's true or not, but I heard he does 4 takes. 2 normal rap ones, 1 rather loud "I'm-pissed-offed" version, and then 1 whisper version. I heard the loud one and soft one are compressed to heck and then the 4 takes are layered and panned (panning depends on the song).
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