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Thread: Harmonies

  1. #1
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    Harmonies

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    Going to a Catholic school as a kid, singing / music was an actual part of the curriculum and we were graded on it. I sang in Church growing up and took a voice class in College, I've sung both leads and backups in Rock Bands as an adult. Unlike my daughters I never sang in a choral group that did unique harmonies.

    I just didn't realize how complex and deep they can be. When my Line 6 UX8 crashed and burned a few weeks ago I broke out a TC Helicon Vocal harmonizer "Quintet" I had purchased ages ago as a vocal preamp before I was computerized.

    I started playing with it and singing a few songs with the digital harmonies and was intrigued because some sounded pretty flipping awesome. I then looked into the Carpenters, Beach Boys and Queen harmonies. Being a "by ear" musician I just had no idea of the depth and complexity of some these...wow!

    I'm still a newb to laying down tracks and have kept it pretty simple as far lots of tracks... I am getting more comfortable with using Reaper and planning on attempting to pull off some these more complex productions.

    Any of ya's already doing it? If so lets hear what ya got and your insight into how you go about it.

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    Is there anything specific you were wondering?

    I do vocal arrangements the old fashioned way, one track at a time. I average 16-24 vocal tracks on a song, depending on what I'm trying to pull off. I stopped using pitch correction a couple years ago and now just re-track it (sometimes many many times) til I hit it. The usual techniques.. a lot of doubling, harmonies really wide, main vocals really narrow. But there are exceptions, like I have one where there's a call-and=response between two groups one leans more to the left, and one to the right.

    Often I'll have multiple "parts" at once, where different sections sing different words, follow different melodies simultaneously White Coral Bells/Kites Go Sailing style. I'll stick the different harmony "sets" in different envelopes so I have a handle on each individual group for processing, reverbs, etc. Again, depends on what you want to do.. a lot of this stuff is fairly run-of-the-mill in terms of vocal technique. Best bet is to just dive in and tackle problems as they arise.
    History has a way of deleting anachronisms. -PKD

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    Also, in terms of arrangement, nuances really bring something to life.. Like, in a 3 or 4 part close harmony, running one melody line where there's a little Beyonce-inflection on just one melodic part (and of course double it and make sure you nail the timing so that while one part is going AAAAA-AHHH, the "Beyonce part" is going AAA---AH--EE-AHH-AHHHH", yet the major AHHHS line up perfectly. Tough to explain, but it just adds a little something- makes it sound like more than just a straight 3-part harmony.

    Also just accenting key words, and drawing out the last syllable and letting it continue under the "main" part, etc. Stuff like that. The idea is for it not to sound complex, but natural to the point where the listener doesn't notice any "complexity."
    History has a way of deleting anachronisms. -PKD

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    Harmonies are something that I have found that would be a good reason to learn music theory. But fuck that...lol

    What I have found over the years is that it just takes a bit of time to find what works. If you have any pitch correction software like Melodyne, then you will know what simply bringing up a vocal up to a third does. It doesn't just work. It is the in between and sometimes just a held third, lower/upper octave, or 5th of the root note through a phrase that works best. Experiment til you find the sweet note that works for the part. Every song is different.

    I often record vocal 'beds' behind the main vocal. Basically multiple vocal tracks creating a chord behind the vocal. Just simply playing a chord on an acoustic guitar in the key of the song will give you what might work. Singing it and nailing it effectively with the vocal melody can be a challenge.
    PC Win7-64-24G i7-4790k/Cubase 9 Pro 64-bit/2-Steinberg UR824's/ADAM A7x/Event TR8/SS Trigger Plat Deluxe/Melodyne 4 Studio/Other things that don't mean anything if a client shows up not knowing what it wants.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TAE View Post
    Going to a Catholic school as a kid, singing / music was an actual part of the curriculum and we were graded on it. I sang in Church growing up and took a voice class in College, I've sung both leads and backups in Rock Bands as an adult. Unlike my daughters I never sang in a choral group that did unique harmonies.

    I just didn't realize how complex and deep they can be. When my Line 6 UX8 crashed and burned a few weeks ago I broke out a TC Helicon Vocal harmonizer "Quintet" I had purchased ages ago as a vocal preamp before I was computerized.

    I started playing with it and singing a few songs with the digital harmonies and was intrigued because some sounded pretty flipping awesome. I then looked into the Carpenters, Beach Boys and Queen harmonies. Being a "by ear" musician I just had no idea of the depth and complexity of some these...wow!

    I'm still a newb to laying down tracks and have kept it pretty simple as far lots of tracks... I am getting more comfortable with using Reaper and planning on attempting to pull off some these more complex productions.

    Any of ya's already doing it? If so lets hear what ya got and your insight into how you go about it.
    Very similar story. I grew up in the Catholic school and sang in choir. Rock bands. Now basement.
    Like you I came across a software harmonizer.
    I did this tune for that.
    A single vocal line with 3 harmonics added by machine.
    I had to set the harmonizers up for specifics like 3rds and 6ths.
    I learned pretty quickly that I could alter the sound by doing a "wha wha" inflection. There is a term for that.
    It was fun.

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    Now on this one, I took the vocal, chopped it up, copied it and pasted it into a new track.

    I changed the pitch of the copies to make harmonies for the main line.

    Her vocal recording ends just before the time-time-time-time harmony and all the rest is copy paste pitch edits.

    Quickly realized how many hits were done like this.

    I prefer this method over the harmonizer because it sounds tighter. Not as many artifacts.

    This is my granddaughter singing some lyrics she wrote about a dream she had.

    I'd already laid the backing tracks over the course of a week or so. Then when she came over and we got to jamming, she just improvised over them.

    I did the post production the next week, learning as I went.


  7. #7
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    They've always been there ( harmonies ) right in my face. Sadly, up until a few nights ago I never gave proper attention or efforts to learn that part of songwriting and arranging. As a by ear", no music theory singer / songwriter it seems I have been sorely remiss in that sector. It was "no duh" eureka! kind of moment. Though I have been hanging here at HR.com for 16 years, I didn't start pushing the record button until about 4 years ago and with time limitations not all that much.

    I've recorded mostly single "one shot" live recordings and a few multi tracks but only a couple with any sort of harmonies and I was definitely a fish out of water. After the other night I am motivated to learn more and appreciate the input you guys threw out here so far.

    In my sig below is my soundclick page where I have posted the stuff I have done to date...."Did you hear the one" (warning Christian song) was the first multi track with me messing around with layered vocals.... totally a newbie attempt I did about two years ago and then walked away from trying to do harmonies again until recently when I did a cover of "Do you want to know a secret" got a nit pick "sounds like the same person singing all the parts" On soundclick some of my buds really liked it but again I just really don't have a clue...I guess I just need to experiment and that takes time.

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    well you know, everybody trods a different path. for me, the first band i was in was a chicago tribute of sorts and the guys i joined were ex high school band guys who new a bit about harmony. i did have a moment when it hit me that as a guitarist, i had the harmonies right in my hand. then a guy mentioned harmony guitar lines like the eagles and it all started to make sense.
    so yeah experiment. had i the daws of today back then, well no telling what i could have done. as it stands now i've been recording for going on 12 years and i have enjoyed the composing as much as anything. the thing that still mystifies me is how a simple two part harmony can be sad, sweet, nice, mean - it's all in that infernal interval.

  9. #9
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    Of all instruments, the human voice is the most personal, so personal it's scary. With a guitar or drums, you can cop someone else's sound. You can dress your music up so as not to even sound like you. Stick your voice on the top and suddenly the disguise falls away- it's you, for better or worse. Turn in a crappy performance and it ruins the song. Turn in a stellar performance and it soars to new heights. Squish it up to try to sound like some famous singer, and it just sounds like a pig trying to squeeze into a sheep suit. Though precious few people are born with phenomenal voices, most of us are born with workable ones and your power to emote with it will reflect the amount of work you're willing to do and, even more so, your confidence in pushing it out there. And, out of all the people who insist that they're tone deaf and "can't sing," I think only a tiny handful actually have flawed voices. The rest are just scared.
    History has a way of deleting anachronisms. -PKD

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by fat_fleet View Post
    Of all instruments, the human voice is the most personal, so personal it's scary. Of all the people who insist that they're tone deaf and "can't sing," I think only a tiny handful actually have flawed voices. The rest are just scared.
    Not to say I don't know some tone deaf people and unfortunately they just can't sing in key.

    I think what you say is a correct assessment. Again looking back at Catholic school, you didn't have a choice, you were singing like it or not. I really don't remember any kid having a terrible voice and this is Baby Boom 60+ kids in a class classrooms.


    The confidence it takes to sing solo however is another level and though I knew I could I just didn't have the guts to do it much when I was young. Now I'm old and don't care as much but you're still putting yourself out there for either accolades or scrutiny. I sure do like the ataboys but the "you sucks!" not so much...fortunately I've come to realize that you can't be everything to everybody and if some people hate it so be it being as others are enjoying and appreciating the efforts...all good.

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