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Background vocals aren’t just more singing, they have a specific job in the arrangement. Background vocals are usually either,
(1) A layer of the lead vocal track that's intended to provide strength through tonal complexity
(2) An additional instrumental idea that's intended to provide harmonic context for the melody.
Whether you’re planning overdubs or whether in the middle of a mix, it’s never too late to be sure the background vocals are fulfilling their specific purpose.
Simple Techniques That Will Help
When the vocal track is intended as a layer of the lead vocal track, the layered affect is more easily to achieve without stereo separation.
The tonal complexity and range of vocal performances can make mono vocal layers inconsistent or just plain confusing.
Establish The Lead Vocal Track As The Primary Vocal Track
Limit the bandwidth of the background vocal tracks with high-pass filtering and limiting the articulation of the background vocal track.
One thing to remember when working on layered elements is to listen carefully. The sound of the effective layer may strike you as being nasty in isolation. Don’t make any hastey choices about the background layers unless you’re hearing the effect on the lead vocal track first.
This type of background vocal technique is to create a stereo instrument that is clearly distinguished from the centered lead vocal content. If you’re still in arrangement or overdub mode, this can be achieved by getting good doubles of any background vocal tracks that might be used this way.
If this doesn’t emerge until mixing, you’re not out of luck. A simple reflection can be just as useful as a well performed double. Try a static slap back delay panned left to provide symmetry for the right panned background elements. Be sure to vary the delay time for the complementary right panned delay by at least 8 to 10%.
If this technique introduces too much dept, a much shorter delay time can be used as well. Just be sure to introduce a slow modulation to these shorter delays to avoid unpleasant static phase issues.
If your goal is a mono layer of lead vocal content or a stereo vocal instrument, the objective is to get a group of individual audio tracks to behave as a single instrument. Group processing is a very simple and effective way to achieve this.
For example, one big difference between the sound of a beautiful stereo vocal pad and just a bunch of vocal tracks, can be shared dynamics. A stereo compressor across a background vocal subgroup will help create dynamic and tonal homogeny. Processing the tracks individually can’t provide the same affect.
A mono vocal layer often needs attention in the midrange to make sure it has a focused place in the track. Doing EQ work in a subgroup can strengthen the perception that these individual tracks are a single, a tonally complex powerful instrument.
A well produced overdub session has a way of taking hours off of the mixing process.
These techniques can apply just as well to other types of tracks like guitars and keyboard layers. Each application might have its own issues, but the concepts are the same.
Best Of Luck!!!
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