How do you record nice lush vocal harmonies?

assman

Member
Hey,

I've been recording some new songs lately and I want a specific ''sound'' but was never able to achieve it. I want to know how I would go about recording some vocal harmonies. Keep in mind, I'm recording on tape, so the only effects I can use are on my amp (there are plenty of effects on there). Anyway, was hoping I could get some advice as to how to get a specific vocal harmony sound.


I've been listening to these records forever now and always loved them but never got the courage to try and recreate that sound:
The Good Mr. Square - YouTube (the beginning harmonies)
The Pretty Things - October 26 - YouTube (at 0:39)
(maybe songs on sf sorrow would be a better example as it is filled with harmonies like that also)

What are they using on the voices? I kinda understand the mixing/panning of the vocals, but what about the effects? Is there a slight flanger type of effect on them? What about the EQing? What about the overdubbing; are they double tracking the same vocal note, and then double tracking again but with a different note (to create the harmony)? How many vocal tracks are there for these harmonies? You hear this alot in the beatles' songs too. Sorry for the bunch of questions, but I've been wanting this sound forever and never knew how to get it.

any advice/help is appreciated!
 
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rob aylestone

Well-known member
You'll probably hate this - but I can tell you how we did it.
masquerade after reuploading
close to you after reuploading
 
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TalismanRich

Well-known member
It starts with having really good voices, then having very good harmony arrangements.

Here's an example, start to finish.

 

assman

Member
[MENTION=178786]rob aylestone[/MENTION] No I don't hate it at all haha, but yes I would be interested in hearing your recording process!
 

Tadpui

Well-known member
For me and my mediocre voice, its all about doubling up (or more) on each harmony part. I tend to use a darkly voiced mic and stand a little farther away than I would for a lead. I pan the doubles a little outside of center from each other (20% left/right), bus them all together and then mercilessly smash them with a stereo compressor with a fast-ish attack and a slow-ish release. Usually I'll add a stereo reverb to the bus as well.

I'm usually going for supporting ooh and aah kinds of backing vocals, and I like them to stand out of the way of the lead. That may or may not be what you're going for.

Sometimes instead I like to record the lead with a dynamic mic and do all of the backing vocals with a vocal-oriented condenser so they ride "on top" of the lead and they sound kinda silky sitting back there. I still tend to compress the living snot out of them and add reverb though.
 

Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
It sounds like each note is at least double tracked. So for a 3 part harmony, you would end up with at least 6 tracks.

I used to work with an old school R&B producer (think Issac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield) and he would actually weight each not of the harmony with doubles. Meaning, if he wanted the middle note to stick out, he would have 4 tracks of that note and only 2 tracks each of the other two notes. On 4 part harmonies, he would typically have 2 tracks of the highest note and 4 tracks each of all the other notes.

You just have to play around with the arrangement and the doubling of each note until you get the effect you want. Speaking of effects, I didn't hear any flange, it was probably just the multiple voices chorusing with each other.
 

assman

Member
For me and my mediocre voice, its all about doubling up (or more) on each harmony part. I tend to use a darkly voiced mic and stand a little farther away than I would for a lead. I pan the doubles a little outside of center from each other (20% left/right), bus them all together and then mercilessly smash them with a stereo compressor with a fast-ish attack and a slow-ish release. Usually I'll add a stereo reverb to the bus as well.

I see! I will try messing around with my compressor effect whilst recording the live vocals, not sure if it's going to be similar to what you're doing (as I don't have effects that I can put on during the playback really, unless I were to transfer all single tracks onto my computer). I will keep those attack/release settings in mind, thank you!

It sounds like each note is at least double tracked. So for a 3 part harmony, you would end up with at least 6 tracks.

I used to work with an old school R&B producer (think Issac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield) and he would actually weight each not of the harmony with doubles. Meaning, if he wanted the middle note to stick out, he would have 4 tracks of that note and only 2 tracks each of the other two notes. On 4 part harmonies, he would typically have 2 tracks of the highest note and 4 tracks each of all the other notes.

You just have to play around with the arrangement and the doubling of each note until you get the effect you want. Speaking of effects, I didn't hear any flange, it was probably just the multiple voices chorusing with each other.

that's super interesting that he would have 4 tracks of one note and just 2 other tracks to create the harmony. I will definitely try that. And yes, I was suspecting that there wasn't any effect on the vocals and maybe it's just all the tracks chorusing together. thank you for this info, it's really cool to read this!!

I will try recording/bouncing more vocal tracks.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
We do quite a few show tracks, and have got quite good at picking out things from commercial recordings - my colleague usually does the classical stuff, and I take the more poppy stuff, but he started a series of Carpenters tracks for a stage show, where the BVs were tough. We even bought an expensive sheet music package and discovered lots were actually wrong. His brother in the USA has been singing with another well known original band and got us a few studio tracks so we could listen to the stems and pick out more.

What was clear after a while is that what you think you hear is often not what you think. Where the lead line has clearly defined words, the backing vocals might swap some words for oohs or aahs, to stop the lead vocal merging into the backing - but the Carpenters do seem to have a bit of a formula. We know they did lots of harmonies, but the quantity sometimes is frightening. One line will be repeated with two takes, one going left the other right - so you can have her voice at least six times for three note chords, but some of their chords for one voice can be sometimes 5 or six notes x 2. Other times a line will split - two identical lines, that suddenly go one up, then one down - which when layered creates a really lovely sound. I figured I'd just share the cubase screen - Ellie has in one section TEN tracks - split half left half right - but other places just 4, as in just two note harmony. Richard carpenter has his BVs mixed lower, so we did the same, but again - the track count varies, and some you think are Karen Carpenter in the original are him, and vice versa. In some songs, she mangles the pronunciation of some words on purpose to make them fit - removing consonants with sharp edges - really clever stuff. I think with these kind of BVs the biggest headache is aligning them, but now cubase can do much of this for you - designate one BV as master and it stretches and shrinks the others for a better fit - which as we're not the Carpenters works for us! The sheer number of takes this must have taken with multitrack tape is scary - tiny timing errors would wreck it.cubase screen.jpg
 

Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
The reason to have more takes of one note than another is to adjust how much weight each note gets. If it were a group of people singing together, they would automatically blend in a certain way.

The other thing was, he was using a lot of jazz harmonies, lots of 11ths and 13ths, which give the chord and interesting texture, but those notes can't be as strong as the others.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
Keep in mind, I'm recording on tape
Are you recording on reel to reel or cassette and how many tracks is your machine ? This can have an interesting effect on your harmonies and the sonic content, especially if you're having to bounce tracks together. Back in "the old days" quite a lot of the sounds that some of us have grown to love came about specifically due to the limitations inherent in 4 and 8 track tape recording and things like tape noise, generation loss due to bouncing and slight distortion at points. In these days of 160 separate tracks per song and clean sound, trying to recreate the sounds of yesterday sometimes sound artificial because one isn't having to work against the technology like they were in recording's infancy.
I want a specific ''sound'' but was never able to achieve it. I want to know how I would go about recording some vocal harmonies
Personally, I'm quite a lover of the "SF Sorrow" and "Parachute" albums and some of the singles and B sides they recorded in the same sessions, such as "Defecting grey," "Walking through my dreams," "Cold stone," "Summer time" and the one you mentioned "October 26." I think the albums are truly underrated but I can see why. "SF Sorrow" is damned hard work ! At least it is initially. It took me quite a few listens before it hit. Like with Nazz, at first I thought they were verging on tripe really.......Then they hit !
Those two Pretty Things albums are the kind that are hard to get until one gets them and then they're likely to make a convert of one forever.
In terms of vocal harmonies, I think they were way ahead of most of their contemporaries of the period; there have been so many groups and artists whose vocal harmonies at particular times I dig, ranging from Martha & the Vandellas to the Byrds to the Stones {on songs like "Dandelion" and "We love you"} and the Who to Bob Marley & the Wailers and the Wailing Souls to the Beatles to the Jackson 5 to various interpretations of Handel's "Messiah" and tons more besides......the Pretties sure take their place alongside them all and I tend to use them as inspiration and ideas of what can be done rather than try to recreate their sound. What I do find happens though, is that whenever I admire an artist's vocal harmony, I'll have it in mind when doing my own and what usually comes out is so idiosyncratic that you'd never guess who the artist I had in mind was.
What are they using on the voices?
"SF Sorrow" was recorded on 4 track and "Parachute" 8 track which meant a lot of bouncing, especially in trying to have the kind of thick sounding harmonies they ended up with. On the title track, Jon Povey layered himself 8 times in order to get that sound. A bit like the way the mellotron, because it was a tape based instrument, gave the instruments recorded within it's banks a certain sound because of its limitations and helped develop the sound of both psychedelia and one strand of nascent progressive rock, the vocal harmonies on those two Pretties albums make the most of the least but do so wonderfully. Lots of overdubbing and bouncing with natural chorusing and phasing taking place at unexpected times and some tape echo {which I presume is what they called reverb in those days though that's a guess on my part}. But I'd say the result was worth it. One thing I've long been a fan of since I started recording is varispeed. It seems to be one of the aspects of recording that has all but died whereas for me, it's a staple, both in terms of being able to play fast or complicated parts {especially on instruments I'm not au fait with} and with backing and harmony vocals ~ recording at different speeds changes the pitch of the voice and while it can be pretty lame for a solo vocal to go more than a semitone up or down, this is almost mandatory for massed backing vocals. If you haven't already, try it. Backing/harmony vocals are a normal part of my songs and varispeeding is key to that. It's also interesting being able to sing the same sequences in different keys, especially 6 or more semitones apart ! My current DAW has varispeeding and I can get 8 semitones apart which is more than enough. In my cassette portastudio days 6 was the maximum and that was plenty.
Much depends on whether all the voices will be that of just one person or whether you have the services of more than one singer. The Pretties had Phil May, Wally Waller, Jon Povey as well as their producer, Norman Smith and that blend of voices, as well as the way they were recorded plus the limitations, contributed hugely to their sound. I've been fortunate to have had a variety of vocalists that could sing well to well~ish and the various combos have made a unique and telling contribution to the sound of backing vocals on my stuff down the years.
One of the good things about varispeeding and massed vocals is that it doesn't even matter if one or two of the singers isn't a particularly good singer as long as at least one of you can keep in tune because the way you all place around the mic makes a difference too. For example, say you are going to record 5 tracks of backing vocals and there are 2 or 3 of you. Just make sure that for at least 3 of the tracks, the stronger vocalist is the one closest to the mic. Closest doesn't necessarily mean right on top of it. If you record each track at a different speed, place yourselves in different places each time ~ around the mic, swap positions, sometimes have some of you sit on the floor while some stand, all go behind the mic, sometimes just some of you behind the mic, if there's room, all lie down on the floor, sometimes one lies, one sits, one stands etc. These are just suggestions but use your inventiveness. Sometimes sing high, sometimes low {yes, even with varispeeding}, sometimes sing in silly accents or accents that are not yours, cup your hands around your mouths, both together and separately, sometimes wobble your Adam's apple as you sing or sing with natural vibrato if you can, sing into or over the top of a bottle, sometimes all go out of the room or in a corner etc, etc. Sometimes do it all together, sometimes only some of you do it while others do it normally.
The point is to try and get as many different ways of getting a slightly different sound as possible. Some may sound awful on their own or unsatisfactory on their own or, when recorded at a different speed, just plain weird on their own. But you may find yourself very pleasantly surprised when you put them all together and start blending.
 

assman

Member
[MENTION=178786]rob aylestone[/MENTION] I see, that's indeed a crazy amount of vocal tracks! I think that may be why I've never had the courage to do this on tape as it requires doing a bunch of bouncing.
[MENTION=28025]Farview[/MENTION] I like that idea. Usually what I did was I would just do doubles of one note, and doubles of the other note, but I would mix the other higher pitched notes lower, since it was more noticeable than the lower pitched note. Although I never got much success doing that method since I only had like 4 vocal tracks in total for the harmony.
 

TAE

All you have is now
Here's how I do it...:laughings:

meuwqwz3it66d4orzuzw.jpg

I really do get some lush harmonies from this unit ...but with multi tracking IMO it just takes a good singer / singers and getting them to sit in the mix well..That said I am not even close to an amateur in speaking of getting lush harmonies.

I did The Beatles Do You Want To Know A Secret in a way laid back version HERE in multi track..it's just me... some people liked it..It was my first effort at trying to do harmonies in reaper...and my last ;) I'm a minimalist ( lazy ass )
 
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assman

Member
Are you recording on reel to reel or cassette and how many tracks is your machine ? This can have an interesting effect on your harmonies and the sonic content, especially if you're having to bounce tracks together. Back in "the old days" quite a lot of the sounds that some of us have grown to love came about specifically due to the limitations inherent in 4 and 8 track tape recording and things like tape noise, generation loss due to bouncing and slight distortion at points. In these days of 160 separate tracks per song and clean sound, trying to recreate the sounds of yesterday sometimes sound artificial because one isn't having to work against the technology like they were in recording's infancy.Personally, I'm quite a lover of the "SF Sorrow" and "Parachute" albums and some of the singles and B sides they recorded in the same sessions, such as "Defecting grey," "Walking through my dreams," "Cold stone," "Summer time" and the one you mentioned "October 26." I think the albums are truly underrated but I can see why. "SF Sorrow" is damned hard work ! At least it is initially. It took me quite a few listens before it hit. Like with Nazz, at first I thought they were verging on tripe really.......Then they hit !
Those two Pretty Things albums are the kind that are hard to get until one gets them and then they're likely to make a convert of one forever.
In terms of vocal harmonies, I think they were way ahead of most of their contemporaries of the period; there have been so many groups and artists whose vocal harmonies at particular times I dig, ranging from Martha & the Vandellas to the Byrds to the Stones {on songs like "Dandelion" and "We love you"} and the Who to Bob Marley & the Wailers and the Wailing Souls to the Beatles to the Jackson 5 to various interpretations of Handel's "Messiah" and tons more besides......the Pretties sure take their place alongside them all and I tend to use them as inspiration and ideas of what can be done rather than try to recreate their sound. What I do find happens though, is that whenever I admire an artist's vocal harmony, I'll have it in mind when doing my own and what usually comes out is so idiosyncratic that you'd never guess who the artist I had in mind was."SF Sorrow" was recorded on 4 track and "Parachute" 8 track which meant a lot of bouncing, especially in trying to have the kind of thick sounding harmonies they ended up with. On the title track, Jon Povey layered himself 8 times in order to get that sound. A bit like the way the mellotron, because it was a tape based instrument, gave the instruments recorded within it's banks a certain sound because of its limitations and helped develop the sound of both psychedelia and one strand of nascent progressive rock, the vocal harmonies on those two Pretties albums make the most of the least but do so wonderfully. Lots of overdubbing and bouncing with natural chorusing and phasing taking place at unexpected times and some tape echo {which I presume is what they called reverb in those days though that's a guess on my part}. But I'd say the result was worth it. One thing I've long been a fan of since I started recording is varispeed. It seems to be one of the aspects of recording that has all but died whereas for me, it's a staple, both in terms of being able to play fast or complicated parts {especially on instruments I'm not au fait with} and with backing and harmony vocals ~ recording at different speeds changes the pitch of the voice and while it can be pretty lame for a solo vocal to go more than a semitone up or down, this is almost mandatory for massed backing vocals. If you haven't already, try it. Backing/harmony vocals are a normal part of my songs and varispeeding is key to that. It's also interesting being able to sing the same sequences in different keys, especially 6 or more semitones apart ! My current DAW has varispeeding and I can get 8 semitones apart which is more than enough. In my cassette portastudio days 6 was the maximum and that was plenty.
Much depends on whether all the voices will be that of just one person or whether you have the services of more than one singer. The Pretties had Phil May, Wally Waller, Jon Povey as well as their producer, Norman Smith and that blend of voices, as well as the way they were recorded plus the limitations, contributed hugely to their sound. I've been fortunate to have had a variety of vocalists that could sing well to well~ish and the various combos have made a unique and telling contribution to the sound of backing vocals on my stuff down the years.
One of the good things about varispeeding and massed vocals is that it doesn't even matter if one or two of the singers isn't a particularly good singer as long as at least one of you can keep in tune because the way you all place around the mic makes a difference too. For example, say you are going to record 5 tracks of backing vocals and there are 2 or 3 of you. Just make sure that for at least 3 of the tracks, the stronger vocalist is the one closest to the mic. Closest doesn't necessarily mean right on top of it. If you record each track at a different speed, place yourselves in different places each time ~ around the mic, swap positions, sometimes have some of you sit on the floor while some stand, all go behind the mic, sometimes just some of you behind the mic, if there's room, all lie down on the floor, sometimes one lies, one sits, one stands etc. These are just suggestions but use your inventiveness. Sometimes sing high, sometimes low {yes, even with varispeeding}, sometimes sing in silly accents or accents that are not yours, cup your hands around your mouths, both together and separately, sometimes wobble your Adam's apple as you sing or sing with natural vibrato if you can, sing into or over the top of a bottle, sometimes all go out of the room or in a corner etc, etc. Sometimes do it all together, sometimes only some of you do it while others do it normally.
The point is to try and get as many different ways of getting a slightly different sound as possible. Some may sound awful on their own or unsatisfactory on their own or, when recorded at a different speed, just plain weird on their own. But you may find yourself very pleasantly surprised when you put them all together and start blending.


Thanks for this reply! There are very interesting ideas in your post! For this little album I told myself I would only use my four-track cassette recorder, as I was looking for a grittier sound, but I also have a teac a3340s (I'll have to buy more tape for that one). And yes I was also wondering how it would sound to bounce directly on the four-track for the vocals (I usually bounce from my 4-track to the computer (or another cassette) and back onto the cassette); so bunching up say three vocal tracks on one mono track, I'd be interested in what that would sound like, maybe natural chorus/phasing as you say. Nazz is pretty cool! I only know them because of Todd Rundgren, who's something/anything is proof that he's multitracking god, in my world atleast.

That varispeed technique you're talking about, I'll have to mess around more with that. I have experimented with the pitch control, for recording guitars at different speeds, but never experimented much with for the vocals! I'll also have to try the cupping of hands when doing vocal harmonies, that would have an interesting effect on the vocal tone.

And yes I've been listening to the pretties for a long time now, and those vocal parts always stood out to me, I always wondered how they achieved such beautiful sounding vocal parts. I've been wanting that sound forever, but I end up never satisfied with the results. I think I will try bouncing directly on the four track next time, I always perceived doing that as kind of shitty since I would lose the panning, but for vocals, that would be perfect since it could be bunched up together.
One of my favorite artist, who records digitally, but it kind of sounds analog, I noticed that his vocals had some sort of phasing effect on them (maybe it's a chorus/flanger I don't know, or maybe it's just because of the double tracking creating that effect). the flute harmonies of this song though Something You're Not - YouTube
 
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grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
For this little album I told myself I would only use my four-track cassette recorder, as I was looking for a grittier sound, but I also have a teac a3340s (I'll have to buy more tape for that one). And yes I was also wondering how it would sound to bounce directly on the four-track for the vocals....I think I will try bouncing directly on the four track next time, I always perceived doing that as kind of shitty since I would lose the panning, but for vocals, that would be perfect since it could be bunched up together
When I first began recording, I was beguiled by those tales of the Beatles' recordings and how "Pepper" and some of the White album and some of the greatest songs I've heard like "I am the walrus" were recorded on 4 track so I figured I could do that with a 4 track cassette. After all, it's 4 tracks, right ? But those books and interviews only told half the story. EMI studios had top of the range equipment {even though some of it was increasingly antiquated by then}, top shelf engineers/producers with over 100 years experience between them, purpose built rooms crammed to the hilt with every conceivable technological advance in terms of getting a space to sound right and a variety of techniques that could be applied to a range of different recording situations. It was at EMI studios that the Pretty Things recorded their two late 60s masterpieces with Norman Smith and they had engineers like Ken Scott filling in for the evening when their regular engineers couldn't make it !
The other thing those books didn't emphasize though they did mention it was that when the bands would lay down a basic track, they didn't just bounce down "anyhow." It was a meticulously planned exercise because there was no going back once done. And just about every engineer and producer used to curse the folly of having to transfer everything from the 4 track tape to one or two tracks of another tape just to get an additional 2 or 3 tracks. Simon & Garfunkel or Tyrannosaurus Rex could get by with 4 tracks. After 1965 few others could ! Even before I knew all this, I found 4 tracks too limiting.

(I usually bounce from my 4-track to the computer (or another cassette) and back onto the cassette); so bunching up say three vocal tracks on one mono track, I'd be interested in what that would sound like
The first time I bounced on a 4 track cassette {a Fostex X-15} I thought it sounded wonderful. But then, in order to get all the instruments and vocals on the song I was working on I had to bounce 2 or 3 times and it just sounded like mush and I didn't even use any effects {I didn't have any !}. By the time the song was finished, I was so disappointed that I said "it's onto 8 track I go !"

Nazz is pretty cool! I only know them because of Todd Rundgren
I used to read a lot about him and from time to time I'd hear about his old band, Nazz. So back in 2007 I was getting rid of a load of VHS tapes and swapped them for CDs by Greenslade, Kaleidoscope {the UK not the US outfit}, Caravan and Nazz. The Nazz one was a double with their 3 albums on. At first, there were only a few of songs I thought much of. Bit by bit though, I got into more and more of their albums and 7 years after I'd first bought the CD I was driving back to England from Holland and I happened to be listening to them and that was when it really hit me. It was rewind city. It's one of those sets of songs that I play endlessly when I am listening to them. I could be on them for a week !

I have experimented with the pitch control, for recording guitars at different speeds, but never experimented much with for the vocals!
The very first time anyone would do vocals on a song I was working on, I'd explain about varispeeding and I'd get them to just talk or sing or shout and while they were doing that, I'd alter the pitch all the way, very slowly from one extreme to the other then I'd play them their voice. Without exception, every one of them has been surprised but once they see what can be done, it becomes easier to explain to them how the quality of thickness of their vocals can be altered. If I double track someone doing a lead vocal, I do one track at normal speed and one a semitone down or up. The difference doesn't seem like much but often, it really is.
I've been wanting that sound forever, but I end up never satisfied with the results
I did start off my recording life wanting specific sounds that I had heard on songs but I struggled to get them and had no idea how to and there was no internet to ask people when I started so I had to plod on and find my own sounds. This is when I hit on the idea of what I call "approximation"; ie, have an idea of what I want but not try to specifically replicate it, just something in the range of the idea. Personally, I find it much more satisfying and in the process have found that I'm not even looking to repeat someone else's sound anymore ¬> I know what kind of sound I want and how to deal with what I get. For example, I might like a 1968 Rolling Stones type backing vocal or a 1979 Chic style backing vocal and want it for a song but neither myself nor the people that are prepared to sing on my stuff sound like that so I'll explain what I'm looking for and pretty much take what I get. It's then down to me to blend the tracks into something that elevates the song in the parts that have those parts.
I noticed that his vocals had some sort of phasing effect on them (maybe it's a chorus/flanger I don't know, or maybe it's just because of the double tracking creating that effect)
That's a lovely song, it sounds late 60s {Keith West's "On a Saturday"} or maybe one of those private pressings from the early 70s {Dennis Ryder's "Let me take you to the kingdom"}. I think the vocals are double tracked or layered. On a DAW you could get close to that effect by duplicating the track and pushing it forward by a few milliseconds but it's kind of hit or miss. Double tracking is, in my opinion, a better way with both vocals not at the same level and maybe reverb or light chorus or delay on one and nothing on the other.
 

assman

Member
When I first began recording, I was beguiled by those tales of the Beatles' recordings and how "Pepper" and some of the White album and some of the greatest songs I've heard like "I am the walrus" were recorded on 4 track so I figured I could do that with a 4 track cassette. After all, it's 4 tracks, right ? But those books and interviews only told half the story. EMI studios had top of the range equipment {even though some of it was increasingly antiquated by then}, top shelf engineers/producers with over 100 years experience between them, purpose built rooms crammed to the hilt with every conceivable technological advance in terms of getting a space to sound right and a variety of techniques that could be applied to a range of different recording situations. It was at EMI studios that the Pretty Things recorded their two late 60s masterpieces with Norman Smith and they had engineers like Ken Scott filling in for the evening when their regular engineers couldn't make it !
The other thing those books didn't emphasize though they did mention it was that when the bands would lay down a basic track, they didn't just bounce down "anyhow." It was a meticulously planned exercise because there was no going back once done. And just about every engineer and producer used to curse the folly of having to transfer everything from the 4 track tape to one or two tracks of another tape just to get an additional 2 or 3 tracks. Simon & Garfunkel or Tyrannosaurus Rex could get by with 4 tracks. After 1965 few others could ! Even before I knew all this, I found 4 tracks too limiting.

The first time I bounced on a 4 track cassette {a Fostex X-15} I thought it sounded wonderful. But then, in order to get all the instruments and vocals on the song I was working on I had to bounce 2 or 3 times and it just sounded like mush and I didn't even use any effects {I didn't have any !}. By the time the song was finished, I was so disappointed that I said "it's onto 8 track I go !"

I used to read a lot about him and from time to time I'd hear about his old band, Nazz. So back in 2007 I was getting rid of a load of VHS tapes and swapped them for CDs by Greenslade, Kaleidoscope {the UK not the US outfit}, Caravan and Nazz. The Nazz one was a double with their 3 albums on. At first, there were only a few of songs I thought much of. Bit by bit though, I got into more and more of their albums and 7 years after I'd first bought the CD I was driving back to England from Holland and I happened to be listening to them and that was when it really hit me. It was rewind city. It's one of those sets of songs that I play endlessly when I am listening to them. I could be on them for a week !

The very first time anyone would do vocals on a song I was working on, I'd explain about varispeeding and I'd get them to just talk or sing or shout and while they were doing that, I'd alter the pitch all the way, very slowly from one extreme to the other then I'd play them their voice. Without exception, every one of them has been surprised but once they see what can be done, it becomes easier to explain to them how the quality of thickness of their vocals can be altered. If I double track someone doing a lead vocal, I do one track at normal speed and one a semitone down or up. The difference doesn't seem like much but often, it really is.
I did start off my recording life wanting specific sounds that I had heard on songs but I struggled to get them and had no idea how to and there was no internet to ask people when I started so I had to plod on and find my own sounds. This is when I hit on the idea of what I call "approximation"; ie, have an idea of what I want but not try to specifically replicate it, just something in the range of the idea. Personally, I find it much more satisfying and in the process have found that I'm not even looking to repeat someone else's sound anymore ¬> I know what kind of sound I want and how to deal with what I get. For example, I might like a 1968 Rolling Stones type backing vocal or a 1979 Chic style backing vocal and want it for a song but neither myself nor the people that are prepared to sing on my stuff sound like that so I'll explain what I'm looking for and pretty much take what I get. It's then down to me to blend the tracks into something that elevates the song in the parts that have those parts.
That's a lovely song, it sounds late 60s {Keith West's "On a Saturday"} or maybe one of those private pressings from the early 70s {Dennis Ryder's "Let me take you to the kingdom"}. I think the vocals are double tracked or layered. On a DAW you could get close to that effect by duplicating the track and pushing it forward by a few milliseconds but it's kind of hit or miss. Double tracking is, in my opinion, a better way with both vocals not at the same level and maybe reverb or light chorus or delay on one and nothing on the other.

Yeah I used to have ''mush'' sound when I was bouncing using two cassettes. I would double track almost everything lol. I was considering buying an 8track cassette machine, or reel to reel! I don't know much about the sound quality of those 8 track cassette recorders though. i feel like there is something good about having the patience of adding tracks to your tape by bouncing. It's a long process that sometimes will sound like shit, but sometimes it sounds awesome, and that's truly a rewarding feeling for me. I'd love to try altering the thickness of my vocals by recording at a high/low speed. Unfortunately my mic xlr cable broke like a week ago (this is the second one I broke now) so I can't try any of those things right now.

I feel what you say about struggling to recreate specific sounds, I also have accepted that there are certain things I won't be able to do. But right now, I've found a good sound for me (that sounds somewhat unique to me i guess). I've gotten into recording my vocals as raw as possible, no effects, only using the eq on the machine (and the dbx) and the mic plugged straight into the four track.

and damn, that keith west song is one my favorites lol. I found out about it on my flac download of Tomorrow's 1968 album that had those keith west bonus tracks on it. There's something so cool about those songs, they're so laidback or something. I'm digging that Dennis Ryder stuff, never heard of him before!

that last song that I posted is from a wonderful album called ''A V'', it has alot of those late 60's vibes, i strongly recommend it!
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
I was considering buying an 8track cassette machine, or reel to reel! I don't know much about the sound quality of those 8 track cassette recorders though.
Like I said earlier, 4 tracks was just too limiting for me. 8 was just right for a number of years but a finished song could have up to 35~40 tracks worth on it. I did a lot of track sharing. I recorded tons of stuff over a 17 year period but then 8 became limiting for me. An ancient 12 track standalone DAW is my model of choice now. The good thing about my one {an Akai DPS12i} is that it has lots of virtual tracks so if I want to, I can keep tracks or takes. But I only keep the drum and vocal tracks as spares and they're just as an "in case" kind of thing. I like to commit early so if I'm working out a guitar or bass or violin or whatever, that sound is how it's going to be forever. I bounce the drums down to stereo but I keep the drum tracks in case I want to re~jig them once everything is finished although that happens as rarely as an American president not getting a second consecutive term !
When I was looking to move from 4 to 8 track, a guy in a shop told me never to go with an 8 track cassette as the sound quality was shit. At that stage however {1992} cassette was my thing, it was what I knew best so I ignored him and bought a Tascam 488. I never once regretted it. I learned most of what I know about recording on that 8 track and even now, much of my workflow is as though I was still working with a cassette portastudio.

It's a long process that sometimes will sound like shit, but sometimes it sounds awesome
With an 8 track, it's no longer a long process. Even with a DAW, I still bounce vocals now. I just like the sound.
Unfortunately my mic xlr cable broke like a week ago (this is the second one I broke now)
How in the world did you manage to break one mic cable, let alone two ???!!
I've gotten into recording my vocals as raw as possible, no effects, only using the eq on the machine (and the dbx) and the mic plugged straight into the four track.
When I used the 8 track, that's kind of how I did it but I'd add a little reverb as I often used to double track a lead vocal and then bounce it to one track. Often I'd reverb one and leave the other raw. It was a real eye opener when I figured out how to add effects after things had been recorded but before {or with} the bounce.
and damn, that keith west song is one my favorites
I discovered it back in 2002 on a CD I got out of the library. It was a compilation of psychedelic singles from 1965 ~ 1969 but I can't recall what it was called. It has a very early single by David Bowie when he was in Davy Jones and the Lower Third and lots of very interesting and obscure stuff. It's where I first heard the Pretty Things {"SF Sorrow is born" and "She says 'good morning'" are on it}.
The interesting thing is that I actually remember Keith West's "Excerpt from a teenage opera" from the late 60s. I was about 4 when it came out and it used to grab me emotionally. I didn't hear it for decades {well, 2002} but when I heard it again on that CD, it grabbed me emotionally the same way.
Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones played bass on "On a Saturday" and people tend to forget that he was a bass player in the Jeff Beck group {a bit like Jimmy Page in the Yardbirds}.
 

TimOD

Member
I don't want to be the rain on the parade, but have you thought about using a computer to record with? It's a lot easier and way more possibilites are available. But I'm sure you know that. But at this point even Steve Albini admits that he wishes he'd learned how to use computers years ago--his life would be a lot easier, but tape is his thing, and will remain so now forever. And, how does one break a mic cable? Stand on it and then pull the connector off? I had one stop passing sound just a day ago and found that the solder joint on the cold leg had broken loose, so I soldered it back and that was that. Then the hot leg on the other end broke loose as I was testing it, and I went back and soldered that. Now it's back in service. I never moved the end connected to the Audient 880--it just worked itself loose. Not the most expensive cable, so it happens.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
The problem with doing it on tape is that you have to make balance decisions very early as you build up the harmonies and wanting a little bit more or less of a voice when they’re buried in layers is impossible. Unless you have 16 or more tracks its just too time consuming and dull/boring for the people involved.probably minimum of four faders to balance in would be my thinking.

The one I shared back up the topic that we did a while back vanished when everything got deleted so we’ve put most back on YouTube, I added another with harmony stuff from the project they did it’s similar.
 
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