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Will_Kaydo

General question on backing vocals discussion

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It depends on how many, and what kind of vibe you're going for.

If it's just a couple, I'd treat them all like a lead vocal - compress, EQ, possibly de-ess and add a little hair with saturation blended in. It's all really to taste. I'd usually go Compression > Saturation > De-esser > EQ, but if it's a particularly "woofy" or bright mic, I'll add an EQ first before the compressor to get rid of the junk I know I won't be using, so it's not affecting how the compressor "hears" it.  I'll usually pan each one a little off centre just to give them a little bit of space.

On the other hand, if we're talking Queen / Def Leppard kind of layers, the first thing I do is aggressively clean up between any phrases. Those little breaths or lip smacks on the vocals? Multiply that by 50 and suddenly it's super loud and super distracting. Cut it close, crossfade, get it clean. I'll typically separate each harmony part into its own Aux track so if I have, say, 10 layers of vocals singing a particular harmony, I'll run all of those into it's own Harmony 1 sub group Aux track, and I'll pan those fairly wide. I'll repeat that for each harmony part, and then run all of those combined Aux tracks into a Choirs master Aux track. On that, I'd EQ first to remove the crud (there'll be a lot with so many voices),  compress, add saturation (being careful not to go too nuts since it's already pretty thick), de-esser (you'll get a lot of sibilance build up) and then an overall EQ for everything.  One big tip is to also do a "whisper" track, where I'll dedicate a few layers to whispering the vocal. You'd be surprised what kind of air that adds to the mix.

For each of those situations, I'll treat them like a lead vocal with reverb and delay to taste, and I'll usually add some kind of slapback with chorus to fatten it out a little (not too much), each running in sends rather than on the tracks as inserted effects. It's rare but sometimes on the big choir stuff I might add extra chorus or stereo widening effects, if I feel like I'm not getting the size I'm after.

A couple additional tips is don't be scared to aggressively high-pass everything. There'll be a lot of stuff you just simply don't hear in context. Adding a little bit of high shelf boost from around 6khz up can also add a nice sheen. If you're finding it's swallowing the lead vocal a little, try dipping the EQ on the choirs around the point where the lead vocal is mostly sitting (say 800hz?). It'll let you keep the loudness of the choirs but give the lead more room to stand out.

And finally, if you're planning to do the 60 layers of backing vocal choir thing like I regularly do here, stop and have a word with yourself before you begin. Do you REALLY need this stuff? It's a crazy amount of work that gets old realllly fast when you're doing it! It sounds amazing, but it's not something you want to do "just 'cos" ;) 

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Very cool suggestion about the "whisper" tracks.  I'm almost ready to start vocals on a new one ,  definitely going to try that .   Thanks ..  mark

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13 hours ago, Lord Tim said:

And finally, if you're planning to do the 60 layers of backing vocal choir thing like I regularly do here, stop and have a word with yourself before you begin. Do you REALLY need this stuff? It's a crazy amount of work that gets old realllly fast when you're doing it! It sounds amazing, but it's not something you want to do "just 'cos" ;) 

I do the 16-32 backing vocals a lot, and that is why I brought up this topic. LOL! My approach is 95% exactly that same as your rack.

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