Harmonies

TAE

All you have is now
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.
 

fat_fleet

Swollen Member
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.
 

fat_fleet

Swollen Member
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."
 

jimmys69

MOODerator
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.
 

Manslick

Road
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.
 

Manslick

Road
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.

 

TAE

All you have is now
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.
 

Manslick

Road
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.
 

fat_fleet

Swollen Member
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.
 

TAE

All you have is now
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.
 

TAE

All you have is now
Yo Manslick BTW very cool that you got your Grand daughter to record with you! My oldest is 5 going on 25 gonna have to drag her out there and get some tracks down in the next few years.
 

famous beagle

Well-known member
I average 16-24 vocal tracks on a song, depending on what I'm trying to pull off.

Holy crap ... seriously? And these are keeper takes ... not takes from which you comp a lead vocal or something? What are you doing ... tripling or quadrupling every note you sing or something?
 

TAE

All you have is now
Yo Flat Fleet...Howsabout some links to some of these heavy tracked vocals that'd be cool to check out.
 
Holy crap ... seriously? And these are keeper takes ... not takes from which you comp a lead vocal or something? What are you doing ... tripling or quadrupling every note you sing or something?

I get that. I do backing vocals regularly for a guy. Usually the choruses have 4 part, sung twice, and sometimes I'll have octave duplicates of some of the lines.
Anywhere between 8 + 16 tracks would be pretty normal.
 

fat_fleet

Swollen Member
Holy crap ... seriously? And these are keeper takes ... not takes from which you comp a lead vocal or something? What are you doing ... tripling or quadrupling every note you sing or something?

Well, I double everything like Steen said.. also there's alot of call-and-response type stuff and, for lack of a better word, "operatic" parts that dovetail together. It's not like there's 20 tracks firing at once. Here, I did a quick and dirty screen shot:

gfLamentSS.png


Everything on the screen is a vocal track, and that's not even all of them... there are a few stragglers I couldn't zoom far out enough to get. But, like I was saying earlier, they're separated into groups and processed as such. My mom used to listen to Handel's Messiah and stuff like that when I was growing up. So this is my kind of low-rent trailer park version. :)
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I'm in a tribute band, but we have spent six months recording BVs for a Carpenters tribute we were starting (and now scrapped as the only singer with the right voice is having a baby!)

What amazed me were the Carpenter's harmonies - amazingly clever and complex - we spent ages pulling them apart, and spotting the little tricks Richard Carpenter used. It's also really interesting that copying and pasting from the previous verses or choruses rarely works because the second time the BVs would be different - either in inversions voices, or rhythm. I really learned a great deal from studying this so closely. Sometimes one line would be done four times - but each one was a different version on the left and right channels - so 8 voices on one part - usually with the male voice on just 2, the rest the female voice. Another trick was often to soften syllables on the harmonies, mangling the words to make them more melodic and less percussive than the main vocal singing often the same notes. Clever stuff!
 

TAE

All you have is now
What amazed me were the Carpenter's harmonies - amazingly clever and complex - we spent ages pulling them apart, and spotting the little tricks Richard Carpenter used.

He definitely is a brilliant songwriter and musician. I have been dabbling with a few of their tunes and am really puzzled with what they do...your dissection experience is enlightening. There was a documentary on PBS about them recently. Equally impressive is that they pulled this stuff off live with all the musicians adding vocal parts...I remember knowing they were good but totally blowing them off as a teen because it was so middle of the road sugar coated as opposed to what was happening at the time in rock. Sure do appreciate what they did back then now.
 

famous beagle

Well-known member
Well, I double everything like Steen said.. also there's alot of call-and-response type stuff and, for lack of a better word, "operatic" parts that dovetail together. It's not like there's 20 tracks firing at once. Here, I did a quick and dirty screen shot:

gfLamentSS.png


Everything on the screen is a vocal track, and that's not even all of them... there are a few stragglers I couldn't zoom far out enough to get. But, like I was saying earlier, they're separated into groups and processed as such. My mom used to listen to Handel's Messiah and stuff like that when I was growing up. So this is my kind of low-rent trailer park version. :)

Gotcha... thanks for the screenshot and clarification. I guess I shouldn't have really been surprised when I think about the kind of polished stuff I hear on the radio. With me being primarily an analog guy, though, there was a bit of sticker shock. :)
 

fat_fleet

Swollen Member
Gotcha... thanks for the screenshot and clarification. I guess I shouldn't have really been surprised when I think about the kind of polished stuff I hear on the radio. With me being primarily an analog guy, though, there was a bit of sticker shock. :)

Yeah, analog's a different mindset. I saw someone in another thread make the analogy of programming for a Commodore 64 vs a new PC.. considerations of efficiency and all that, and I started on 4-track cassette myself so I can appreciate it. But now, even if I have one voice doing something low in the mix for a few seconds, I just give it it's own track.
 
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