Do you know the feeling when the chorus kicks in and you're like "YES, HOLY SH*T, THIS IS HUGE!"?
Goosebumps, emotions, energy, excitement - a great chorus can be just a perfect moment that immediately makes you love the song and want to sing along. A great vocal production and arrangement can create that feeling and make a chorus really stand out. It can turn it into the catchy, memorable highlight of the song.
If you don't put enough thought into this, you really miss out on the biggest opportunity to catch the listener and make the song sound and feel like a hit! A great vocal melody and lyrics obviously help, but in most cases it's just not enough.
The chorus needs to POP and deliver the message and emotion of the song in the best possible way!
Join us as we're breaking down 5 vocal arrangement and vocal production tricks that you can implement right away to create songs that stick and make your listeners lose it, as soon as the chorus kicks in!
Things And People Mentioned In The Episode:
Malcom's Book Recommendations:
Benedikt's Blog Recommendation:
The Aeropress (Coffee Maker That Both Malcom And Benedikt Use And Love):
The Song Malcom Mentioned As A Chorus Harmony Example:
The Plugin Malcom And Benedikt Like To Use To Create Vocal FX And "Fake" Harmonies:
TSRB Podcast 31: Make Your Chorus POP With These 5 Vocal Arrangement And Production Tricks
[00:00:00] Malcom: [00:00:00] Anybody that plays an instrument eventually starts learning some little lead legs. That's like your bag of tricks, you know, and what this episode is, is your production Baker case. We've got five little secret tips that are just like this. Don't make it better and more exciting.
Benedikt: [00:00:16] This is the self recording band podcast.
The show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are, DIY stuff. Let's go.
Hello and welcome. The self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedict tight, and I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm. Oh, and flat. How are you, Malcolm?
Malcom: [00:00:37] Hello? I'm good, man. I'm doing great. How are you?
Benedikt: [00:00:40] I'm good as well. Thank you. Um, nothing spectacular happened today. Um, so yeah,
Malcom: [00:00:47] I mean it's Friday.
That's pretty sweet.
Benedikt: [00:00:48] That's pretty sweet. It's not our usual podcast day. So that's why I just, you didn't hear that, but I just completely screwed up the intro and I. I introduced a completely different podcast. That's something [00:01:00] that wouldn't have stopped me. I wouldn't even have noticed. Yeah. That's because it's like Friday and it's late.
Um, at least for me. And, uh, yeah.
Um, yeah. How about you?
Malcom: [00:01:15] Yeah, I'm good, man. Um, it is Friday morning for me here, so I'm like just getting, going, having my second arrow, press coffee and. Yeah, thanks. We're good.
Benedikt: [00:01:25] I stopped by the way, because of your recommendation of the why we sleep book, I posted it on Instagram a couple days, a couple of days ago or yesterday or something.
Um, because of that book, I stopped drinking coffee in the afternoon. I don't know how for how long I will do that, but I just, I wanted to try it. What happens and see what happens because I'm one of those people who like, I can't sleep very well, at least I think I can. When I drink coffee late, it didn't like affect my ability to, to fall asleep at all.
But I've learned now that this [00:02:00] doesn't mean that the quality of sleep is the same and that it's still could be like, not good. So I stopped writing. I stopped now and I just, I'm just curious if I feel any positive effects from this. If I'm less tired maybe or something. Yeah, I'm curious,
Malcom: [00:02:17] our mutual friend, Steven Ward also posted that he was loving a book that I also shared to him.
So I felt like this kind of book guru that morning when I woke up and had messages from both of you, about how much you were enjoying books, I'd recommended that's I just started a book club newsletter.
Benedikt: [00:02:33] Yeah. Which book did you recommend to them?
Malcom: [00:02:36] Uh, I re recommended the obstacle is the way,
Benedikt: [00:02:39] Oh, I read it as well.
Malcom: [00:02:42] Oh my God. I love that book. Did you like it?
Benedikt: [00:02:44] I liked it a lot. And since then, I've subscribed to the daily stoic blog and I read it every day. It's like part of my morning routine right now. I read like those short emails that he sent us out like this very short blog posts and emails. And, uh, I listened to his podcast for a bit.
I read the book of [00:03:00] course, and I started. Uh, taking journaling a little more serious again. So I'm totally into the whole stoic stoicism thing right now. It really awesome. It's super awesome. Super awesome way to live and think. And yeah. So I second that recommendation. So thank you for those two recommendations.
Malcom: [00:03:18] If anybody else needs some book recommendations hit me up. Yeah, I got ya.
Benedikt: [00:03:22] Yeah. Yeah. And I don't dunno, like with the coffee thing, we all have coffee. I think everyone recording music or in music, almost everyone like is a coffee addict. The most people that I know at least. And like, yeah, I, I, it's too early to, to really like say that it has a positive effect, but I, I feel like this sub, like this post lunch hole that I usually fall into, like this, this afternoon, tiredness is like a little better right now.
I don't know if that's the thing, but like when I had a coffee in the afternoon, it would keep me. Like energized for a while. And then I would become really tired [00:04:00] really quickly. And that is like evened out a bit now.
Malcom: [00:04:03] Yeah. I think, I think you're going to end up sticking with, with this change because for me it made a difference.
Um, but I've got one more hack for you. Oh yeah. I don't drink coffee after, after nine. Uh, which I, with the exception of today, because it is currently nine 39, I've got a coffee in front of me, so Brooklyn rule today, but whatever. Um, normally I stop by nine because I like to get myself like I'm normally going to bed around nine so that I can wake up at five.
Uh, and that's, that's my hours. But another hack for you. Decaf coffee is actually really good, man. Really? Yeah. Yeah. Decaf coffee. Doesn't taste different at all. It just doesn't have caffeine. Okay. So
Benedikt: [00:04:42] I have to, I have to tell her what a story now. And then we go into the episode because I have like, kind of this childhood trauma with decaf
Malcom: [00:04:49] coffee, because
Benedikt: [00:04:51] I remember when I was like a very small child, I always wanted to be an adult.
I always, I never like. Wanted to sit at the kid's table. That was one, two, like I [00:05:00] always thought I'm older than I actually was. And one thing that was always like, um, one thing that I always wanted to do was I wanted to drink coffee because all my, like the adults drank coffee, drank coffee. So I always like insisted on having coffee.
And of course my parents wouldn't give me one. And then my grant pot gave me like decaf coffee. And said, I can have this. And then I, I drank it. I was all excited that I could finally have coffee and it was the terror, the most terrible thing I've tasted in my whole life, but I was too proud of course, to admit that it was terrible because I, like I got on their nerves for such a long time that I finally, now I finally got it and I didn't want to admit that it was terrible.
So I said that I really liked it, that I enjoyed it. And from that day on for like years, at least in my life, that's how I remember it. I always had to drink like decaf coffee went out when we visited at my grandparents, because I never like made it that it was awful and I always drank it. And I always pretended that I liked it.
So I have this child of drama trauma, and I can't even think [00:06:00] of ever having decaf coffee again, because of that.
Malcom: [00:06:03] That's hilarious. It's like everybody's first beer. Yeah, this is good. And then eventually, somehow we start liking it. So,
Benedikt: [00:06:11] yeah, exactly. But maybe I should give it a try again with the decaf coffee.
So you do that.
Malcom: [00:06:16] Yeah. Yeah. I make it in arrow press, just like any other cup of coffee delicious
Benedikt: [00:06:20] in the morning or like after night
Malcom: [00:06:23] after night. Yeah. So if I want to have more coffee after my dedicated to caffeine hours, uh I'll uh, go ahead with, uh, um, decaf.
Benedikt: [00:06:31] Okay. Okay. That's interesting. Maybe I should give it a try.
That was the lamest hippie banter that we've ever had.
Malcom: [00:06:46] Yeah. Self recording. Bystand podcast where you learn about stoicism books and how to get better sleep and drink decaf coffee.
Benedikt: [00:06:53] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, but like it's true.
Malcom: [00:06:58] So,
Benedikt: [00:06:59] yeah. [00:07:00] Anyway, uh, let's see. Let's get into today's topic and that is about vocal production and vocal arrangement.
We've been talking. I think that topic came up in the last episode and I thought we should like move on straight to, to making an episode like this. Uh, so it's gon it's about how to make your chorus pop with these five vocal arrangement tax. We're going to talk about what you can do to make. Your chorus, choruses big and make them stand out, make them more impactful by adding these or trying these vocal arrangement, things that we're going to talk about and why you want to do this.
We're going to explain that why that's even important to have a chorus that stands out to make the chorus pop. So we're going to explain that, and we're going to talk about how to exactly do it and like give you these five tricks that we came up with. And, um, yeah, I'm excited. I can't wait to, to dive into this.
This is a great topic. It's not so much about recording, like the technical aspect. Again, it's more about the songs, but that's [00:08:00] kind of become a theme here, um, because we're all about the songs and the impact and. Your life as an engineer or mixer or whatever you are, is like so much easier when you take care of those things and do the arrangement, the songwriting, right?
Malcom: [00:08:14] Anybody that plays an instrument. Uh, eventually starts learning some little lead licks. You know, like if you're a guitarist, especially you start learning some pentatonic licks that you can start whipping out to show off and take a solo while you're jamming. Right. And drummers have their little rudiments that they like just blast in there, you know?
And I've told the other place all the time and everybody, every instrument has these little things. And, uh, that's like your bag of tricks, you know? And what this episode is, is your production bag of tricks. These are a little. Hacks that are like, how do we make this better than it is right now? And more exciting.
And that's what we've got here. We've got five little secret tips that are just like this. We'll make it better and more exciting. And it's going to make everybody in the room happy when they hear it.
Benedikt: [00:08:57] Oh yeah. Oh, yeah, totally. And I [00:09:00] tend to, like, I use these very regularly. It's like, not something that I occasionally do, but these are almost like the next standard things.
Uh, and they, and still, they don't get that boring. Like you can always do that. They just work. These are just like staples that just work. And they are used on so many productions for a reason. So, yeah. Uh, I mean, why would you want to make the chorus different from the worst or the bridge or like all the rest of the songs?
Why would you want to do that?
Malcom: [00:09:28] Well, uh, a lot of reasons, uh, I mean, like that's kind of a rhetorical question because it's obviously you want that almost always
Benedikt: [00:09:37] price. How many people sent me stuff to mix, whereas just one vocalist the whole song and no extra elements in the choruses. And like, it's, it's, it is obvious.
And, but still some people just say, okay, well we have a singer, we have one person singing and that's what we have. And that's how they send it and don't, they don't even think about that. So
Malcom: [00:09:56] you, okay. Here's another thing, uh, Anybody [00:10:00] that's good at writing emails knows that you have to use a lot of exclamation marks to portray that you're happy and it's because people can't see you.
They don't know what your emotion is on the other side of things. So you're overcompensating to get that done, um, and done effectively over the medium. And I think there's a little bit of that in the recording world, where if you're watching a band live and there's only one vocalist, you can still tell when the chorus hits because the whole band.
Gets a little more like, like the dynamically things take off, you know, and emotionally, um, where we don't have that visual feedback with a recording. So I think layers and, and these kinds of production tricks that we've got up our sleeve here are ways of. Of portraying to the listener. That's something important in this happening.
Um, we're, we're essentially adding exclamation marks to the end of the sentences to show them that they're at the chorus. And I talk like that a lot. Actually. I'm realizing that when I'm in a production with a band [00:11:00] is like, assuming that the listener is stupid and like, not that I think they are stupid, but if we just kind of assume they're stupid, even if they're smart, which hopefully they are, uh, Well, we know we're going to accomplish our job, but like, okay.
We have to let them know that the chorus has happened. Um, so we need to up the dynamics and add something here so that the chorus contrasts the verse in a, in an impactful way. Yeah.
Benedikt: [00:11:24] Does that make sense? Totally. Makes totally makes sense. You might not even notice that you're in the chorus if you're not doing that.
So there are some songs where it's just not clear and where it is like yeah, you lose the listener sometimes if you don't do that. So. Totally. Yeah. So what you're saying basically is the, you want to have some, some dynamics in there. You want to have the chorus. Usually you want to make it bigger. You don't want to add the exclamation Mark.
You want to make it stand out. Um, and yeah, that's, that's like just. That that reason alone is basically almost sums it up and that that's almost the reason enough to do it, but I'm also a [00:12:00] thing for me is that Sometimes the message of the song, the lyrical content of what the song is all about is often in the chorus, or the most important part, at least, is in the chorus.
And with adding these tricks that we're going to talk about, you can increase the emotional impact and you can support the lyrical content in the chorus. You can make the listener feel it even more. You can make it more exciting. You can make it more dramatic. You can make it more emotional. You can create a real goosebump moment.
And depending on what the song is about, clever arrangements can really add to that. So yeah, that's also thing, a reason why I want to really work on the choruses and make them really get the message across.
Malcom: [00:12:42] Yeah, I like that. That's, that's actually very cool way to think about it is like now you have to really underline the point of the song.
Benedikt: [00:12:49] Totally. And you can, like, you can also ruin that you can come up if you come up with really cheesy harmonies or whatever, or really cheesy stuff. Uh, and it's a very serious or sad song. You can [00:13:00] also ruin it. You can. Get get, like, you can become something that's not supposed to be, but if you do it right, it can really add to, to the, the, the lyrical content.
And what's the song. What's the songs about
Malcom: [00:13:11] the chorus is kind of. I'm sure. That's a Western term that came, like I said, as long as pop music's been around, that's been a term and everybody knows what that is. And it's like, w we just write songs based around choruses. Now it's like, if you don't have a chorus, the song's not even worth recording.
It's almost like the mentality. Um, so a lot of what we're talking about today is going to be focused around that. Like how to add, you know, some big space to it, like some depths to the chorus and atmosphere. Um, but also just making it more memorable and hooky and catchy, you know, uh, like that, that can be a lot of the goal as well as just how do we make this hook into people's memories so that they're going to remember this part of the song?
Benedikt: [00:13:59] Absolutely. [00:14:00] Absolutely. Um, There's also a little thing here that has nothing to do with like the arrangement, but I just want to add it here, because you said, you said the, the memorable thing. Sometimes it can be a good thing to do a part that like is repeating in a song to do it like, um, To record it separately, like to record each course, even if it's the same, but sometimes it's even cool to copy the exact same thing for the exact same for that exact reason.
Because if you have one chorus that really works and you copy that exact thing, maybe you add something to it, but you copy something that's there and use an exact copy of that. It gets more memorable. It's easier to remember. It's like, Even subtle differences are a little different. And if we hear the exact same thing, three times in a song, we really remember it.
And of course there's a lot about that, depending on the Shauna's of course, like pop music, of course, um, everything that supposed to be catchy or when you want to two people just do remember the song and sing along to it. You, yeah. You want to be, you want it to be memorable. Other genres, not so much.
Like if it's a. Math [00:15:00] rock or like Prague, whatever stuff that that's not supposed to have a very catchy chorus sometimes. Um, that's okay too. But if you want to have a catchy chorus and if you want people to remember it, those extra elements in the chorus that make it really stick out are, are happening a lot.
Malcom: [00:15:16] I'm a big fan of that idea because I think people just think copying and pasting is just a lazy way to save time.
Benedikt: [00:15:24] I do it on purpose actually, because if they told me.
Malcom: [00:15:27] Uh, like, think about how many songs you've heard that you didn't like the first time you heard them or you weren't sure if you liked him, you probably, I mean, if you didn't like a song, you're probably not going to start liking it, but if you just heard it and you were kind of indifferent to it, but then by like the third, listen through the album, you're like, Oh my God, this song.
I like, I don't know how I was sleeping on this. This is an amazing song. Yeah. I think by the kind of the method you were just describing of using a Zack replica chorus, you're kind of speeding up that flow of people getting used to something. And so it's a tool you can use to make your song more catchy.
[00:16:00] Benedikt: [00:15:59] That's very cool. Totally. I totally make that decision every single time. Sometimes I don't want to do it sometimes. I think it's the right decision to record three choruses three times just because it shouldn't be exactly the same, but if it's supposed to be a really catchy thing, like a pop punk or, um, in my case, because I do a lot of punk rock and rock music, or just the pop song or something that just should be super catchy.
Um, you're doing yourself a disservice. If you make it too different, like, because you add additional elements, it shouldn't be the whole thing. Shouldn't be the same thing, but you can copy the main vocal line. You can copy the background, vocal arrangement, just something that's exactly the same because in our subconscious, like the way we, we, we perceive it.
It's different if it's like the exact same thing, or if it's just a subtle difference there, it's just not, it doesn't stick. So, yeah. Yeah. Alright. So what's you also said what's the thing about atmosphere, space and depth, and that's also something, if you have just one. [00:17:00] Vocalist one vocal track. It's kind of two dimensional.
Of course he can, depending on how good it sounds. It can have a sense of three dimensionality and there can be effects and stuff. But if there are additional layers, uh, in the back of it, that immediately creates more. If it, if done right, creates more depth because you have one vocal, that's more upfront, you have the others, like.
Sounding a little farther, further away. And these, these layers increase the sense of depth and they make the lead vocal stand out even more because now you have this, um, this bad of backing vocals that support the lead vocal so that they shouldn't mask it. They shouldn't take away from it, but instead they should.
Uh, help, like build a contrast, like, like a front to back contrast sort of that's how I think about it. Um, so yeah, these additional layers even like help the lead vocal. So that's also something I, uh, I really like about that. And many people are afraid of adding more vocals because they don't want to take away from the lead vocal.
But I think [00:18:00] if done right, the opposite is the case, they should not get in the way they should support it.
Malcom: [00:18:04] Yes. Yeah. I'm with you.
Benedikt: [00:18:06] Yeah. Uh, and then talking about contracts, there's something that you sat before we started the episode, um, like, yeah. Talk about that real quick.
Malcom: [00:18:17] So, uh, what came to mind was Mumford and sons immediately.
Um, so Mumford and sons, I'm sure everybody's heard them. And their first few songs were essentially just one repeating thing. Um, and it was sort of like strumming guitar and a vocal. And then rather than changing parts, they just. Emotionally changed. It just got like louder and more intense and, you know, save probably stomping and clapping louder.
And so that became a trend and I think it's still existing in Canada, pretty strongly where, uh, instead of changing parts, musically, you're just emoting, uh, and, and changing the emotion. Um, and that's fine. That can be really cool. But what I was struggling with [00:19:00] in some productions was that. It wasn't contrasting like the chorus might not contrast the verse enough.
And I needed there to be more separation again, assuming that the listener is dumb and we need to tell them that there's a chorus. So that's where tips like this, uh, like the, the harmonies and, and layers and stuff like that, where that can really be the big cue to the listener, that there is a new part in the song, even though you're hearing the same chord progression, this is the chorus now.
Benedikt: [00:19:31] Yeah, totally right. The, the, uh, add a texture and you're right. I haven't thought about it that way before, but the Mumford and sons example is really spot on it. There are a lot of bands like that actually that are. Yeah, where you have the same elements, it's just gets louder, more intense. Yeah. AI can be cool, but yeah, you're right.
It's basically the same thing.
Malcom: [00:19:51] Yeah. Yeah. And you know, some of my favorite songs are like that. I think it's almost a sign of like, if somebody writes a four chord song that is just four [00:20:00] chords and it's an amazing song, it's like, wow, you really figured it out. You did it, you know? Um, but, uh, There, there has to be that that, that has to exist, that the chorus has to exist.
And, um, if it doesn't the whole thing falls flat. Yeah.
Benedikt: [00:20:15] Yeah, totally. And you can do it with minimal arrangements. I mean, if you think of a live band, just four or five people and, uh, they play the verse one per one person sayings. They have two guitars, bass drums, and then, um, the chorus kicks in and just one of the others starts singing harmonies.
You immediately get the sense of like, yeah, we're in the chorus. Like there's a state thing that wasn't there before in additional texture. So just adding that one more thing can totally separate the chorus from the verses and add that additional texture. And yeah, I definitely liked that. There's it doesn't even need to be much louder or more intense to be a chorus then.
Malcom: [00:20:55] no, definitely not. Um, quick example, uh, is the song [00:21:00] wagon wheel, was that a big, huge thing over there in Germany?
Benedikt: [00:21:03] I mean, the fact that I don't know about it doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't the thing before I say anything. I wouldn't say, I would say no, but again, I'm not a great reference.
Malcom: [00:21:14] Uh, I'm betting that every North American listener just groaned and just turned off the podcast and I mentioned the wagon wheel, but it was so overplayed, but, uh, It got done by a country guy.
Um, like a cover over here got done and it became a, like a number one. Um, and this was probably five years ago already, so actually old by now, but, uh,
Benedikt: [00:21:36] was it up? Yeah, 2013 Derrius Rucker wagon wheel.
Malcom: [00:21:41] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, there's an older one by a band called old Crow medicine show. And for some trivia, they actually took some of the idea for the song off of Bob Dylan from like an uncomplete song or something like that.
Some weird thing like that, but their version is like the straight up bluegrass, nasally, [00:22:00] hillbilly too, and banjo fiddle and the guitar. And it's a four chord song doesn't change once through the whole song. And really the only difference for the chorus is that harmony kicks in. Um, and, but it's like the perfect example of that.
It could not be more clear what the chorus is, and it makes all the difference in the world. Um, totally recommend checking that out. If somebody wants an example of what we're talking about, you know, what the chorus is, even though not a lot has changed.
Benedikt: [00:22:26] Absolutely. Going to put that in the show notes.
Can't wait to check that out myself. Um, but yeah. Um, sounds like a great example. Those like four chords all the way through songs can be really exciting. Like sometimes surprisingly, and that's also interesting because when we write songs for our bands, we often tend to think that we cannot do that. Like we have to come up with something different.
Like the chorus has to be different than there has to be a bridge. And the second half of the worst has to be different. And like we, which is often true and can be great, but sometimes. [00:23:00] It's adding a little extra texture can be enough and you just have to, yeah, you have to be bold if you, if you want to do something like that, because it feels like you need to change something when you actually don't.
Malcom: [00:23:12] Right, right. Yeah. So should we jump into some, yeah. Some house,
Benedikt: [00:23:17] um, now why you want to do it? And we already gave some examples kind of what to do, but now we're going to dive into the specifics of how to do it and what you can actually do to, to achieve those things. We've just mentioned. Yes. Uh, as start with the most classic, one of the most simple one that most of you, um, yeah, probably have heard of or done.
And that is, um, doubles and like stereo doubles. So you have like one double in the left side, one double on the right side to make it wide. So you have one in diversity, you have one vocal track. And when the chorus kicks in, you have the same vocal line, but just. Doubled to three exact copies of the same track.
Um, three, three exact takes of the same track, not copies. So it doesn't work if you just copy [00:24:00] it, but seems three exact same takes of the exact same thing. One pan central, one pan left one pan. Right. And then all of a sudden you don't have the mano vocal, but it just becomes wide in the chorus. So, um, that's, that's one thing.
Uh, then there is another thing where you just use one double. Instead of the two. So it's just a mano double behind the lead vocal and double always means like the exact thing. Not harmonies, not any like exactly the same take just, um, yeah. Another, another version of it and a mano double behind the actual lead vocal.
That's the one thing that I was thinking about when I, one example I always think about when, when I do that or when I think of that effect is like they've goals, voice on the firefighters. They do that a lot. Like this, this chorusy sound all the time, so there's just, yeah, it's just two, two times Dave Grohl seeing the same thing one a little bit louder than the other mano.
And he creates this chorus effect. They probably use chorus and flavor and stuff like that as well, [00:25:00] but much of it is just the stubble. That's pretty loud. And, um, yeah, that gives that chorus, like effect.
Malcom: [00:25:07] Yeah. And you can use both of these, you know, the wide. Panned out doubles and the minor up the middle doubles, um, or, you know, varying degrees of both, you can swap between them, but vocal doubles are hugely popular and especially in rock production, you know, and pop, I guess it's something that's happening a lot.
And if you haven't experimented with that, you told the shit. Um, I, uh, definitely appreciate when I get sent some vocal layers to mix.
Benedikt: [00:25:35] Yeah, absolutely. A little trick. If you do vocal doubles. Um, it's a wise thing to do, to do them like part by part, uh, or like line by line. So not, not to the whole song and then all the doubles.
But like, if you have a line that you want to have a double for, like, if you're recording the chorus right now and you want to double the chorus, uh, immediately after you got the take, right? Like the lead take the main take, right. Do the double immediately [00:26:00] because you just, it will be easier to, to reproduce what you just did because it has to be an exact double, like the timing and everything has to be spot on.
Um, and it's easy to do that if you've just done it rather than like two hours later. And you've you get, you got to get into the same Headspace again. So.
Malcom: [00:26:16] Yeah, the timing and the pitch have to be really great. Um, it's kind of like doubling guitars. So we've talked about in previous episodes, it has to be as close as possible.
Now the only pushback I'd give to that is if the vocalist is on a challenging song, uh, I prioritize that lead vocal first and just get that all done. So, you know, you have it and you can, uh, cause you don't want to blow their voice singing doubles. They're not really worth it compared to a lead vocal. Um, but even then, if that's how you're doing it and you're coming back to this after the fact, I always like to let them listen to it a few times before we go for it.
Um, the part where we're trying to hit and break it down as small as we need to, so that it's nailed you really want it to be tight.
Benedikt: [00:26:56] That's one thing I want to add, and that is the most annoying thing [00:27:00] about vocal doubles, not being tight or probably s's. And that's what you can listen for. Yeah. So, what I absolutely hate is when people, I mean, you can align that a little, you can do some trickery afterwards, but when people send me doubles and I'm at the end of a line, is it is an S and the heel like this from left to, right.
That's just a, that's just not good. You want to avoid that at all costs. So, I mean, you can do something and mixing and editing, of course. But just make sure you get, you get an as tight as possible when recording. Yeah. And by that, by that, by the, by the s's and plosives, you really hear if
Malcom: [00:27:34] this is also a fantastic way to improve your vocal abilities is by having to nail doubles.
You might think that you are listening to what you're doing, but not until you have to sing the same thing multiple times. Do you realize that now you really have to listen to what you did?
Benedikt: [00:27:50] Oh yeah. Good. Then, um, Why wouldn't you, why don't you move on with one of the things? I mean, you can pick any of those five that we've written down.
I'm just curious what [00:28:00] of those you actually do a lot and you actually enjoy a lot.
Malcom: [00:28:03] Well, yeah, I think the second one on our list is actually a great thing to move on to, cause I kind of consider it very similar to our doctors. Um, and that is the using low and high octaves. So this is essentially. Very similar to doubles because it's the same notes.
It's just either drop down a full locked octave or up in Okta. Um, you know, normally the NFL set up for that and. I really like this effect because it really blends in easily. You know, you're not introducing any new melodic information, really. It's just really kind of depth that gets added and you can sneak it in there in really cool ways.
It always is one of those things that you asked them to do it and you're like, "okay, sing an octave" and they're like singing like Johnny Cash. And they're like, "this sounds ridiculous". And I'm like, "just wait, it's going to be okay. Trust me. Trust me, trust me, trust me." And then it works, you know, you duck it in and you're like, "yeah,
see, that sounds cool!" You can't even tell that you did that. So you have [00:29:00] to kind of convince your vocalist that it's going to be okay in the end. It's also one of those things that I bet you'll notice, once you do it a few times, you'll start noticing it in other productions you're listening to, that there's these octave layers all over the place, because they just work.
I mean, if the lead vocal worked, it's going to work.
Benedikt: [00:29:20] Yeah, absolutely. And the nice thing about them is they can open up a chorus or make it sicker by like the lower Tufts make a sicker. The higher octaves can open it up without a cue. Like if you want to make the course a little more airy, a little, have a little more top end.
You don't even have to queue the vocals differently. You just need to add those, those, uh, high octaves and all of a sudden, like there's this additional air and like presence to it and, um, an energy sort of also, so, yeah, totally agree. But yeah, it takes. It takes a little convincing. And especially if you are in one room together as a, as a DIY band and like you probably have headphones on and maybe there's someone in the room without headphones.
[00:30:00] Who's only hearing the person singing. It can be a little weird. And you might, you might feel a little weird just standing there doing a falsetto or sing like Johnny Cash. So you gotta get used to that. Definitely. You should get over it and just do it anyways, because it's really, really worth it. Yeah,
Malcom: [00:30:14] definitely.
Benedikt: [00:30:16] Yeah. And I mean, other than that, it's like really the same thing as doubles, as you said, it's no new melodies, same thing. Um, timing has to be right. Pitch has to be right. That that's what, what what'd you could describe as addition, no texture. It's just another texture. Yeah.
Malcom: [00:30:34] And there's power in that we should mention because.
If you were to add another instrument, playing something different, it takes up a lot more space. You know, it's like once you depart from the same notes and timing, like that's a lot harder to fit in there into a mix. So if you're just trying to add a little something, uh, an octave layer or a double layer is a, is a great way to sneak it in there and know that you're going to have the space to do it.
[00:31:00] Benedikt: [00:31:00] and proof, um, for that w what Malcolm just said, that he don't even notice it if done right. Is, uh, I have done it quite often. There's been a couple of records where I've done it, where people didn't send me doubles, uh, or like, uh, octaves. And I just took their lead vocal, copied it, pitched it down an octave and up and active and snuck those in.
So they, you sound really artificial, really weird. Um, but if I wanted to make the chorus a little fuller or at this, like, Air to it or this like texture to it. I just did that, edit it in and never, ever had a band like commented, uh, what I've done or like that they wanted it to be removed or some, they don't even notice it just works.
I hear it. It's there. It makes the chorus better, but it's so subtle that the band. Uh, that no band ever, uh, commented on it. Maybe they heard it, maybe not, but at least it didn't annoy them. So if the artificial octopus didn't deny them, the real ones certainly won't
Malcom: [00:31:55] so, yeah. Yeah. Do you, uh, you use little alter boy, [00:32:00] did he?
Benedikt: [00:32:00] Yes. A lot that or the built in Cubase pitch thing. Okay. Uh, like where you just drag it down an octave, but yeah, there's a lot of boy all the way, like super awesome. Because what's also cool about that is you could change the format, like how the voice sounds. So it's a little less like it blends a little better if it's not the exact same thing, you can make a male voice sound a little more female and like vice versa.
And, um, so that's a little cool little plugin where you can manipulate it in a way that it's like someone else sits on the Okta.
Malcom: [00:32:31] Yeah. I've used where we were talking about a pitch plugin called sound toys, little altar boy, by the way. And I've used it to full on create harmony. So not even for doubles.
And I've had the band messaged me. Oh, I like. Thanks for singing on the track, man, this is cool. I'm like, that's, that's still you,
Benedikt: [00:32:49] but how do you do, I mean, let's move on to the next point. And then I'll ask you this question because the next point is actually harmonies. Um, so. Up until now, we've just been talking about doubles and octaves, which is [00:33:00] the same vocal line.
All we did is either like, do an exact copy of that or, um, a low end or high octave of that. Now, when we're talking about harmonies, it's a different melody, but that's, that has like a harmonic relationship with the lead vocal. Of course. So it's not just some melody. It's just like, yeah. It's harmonies to the lead vocal.
If you know what that is, you know what we're talking about. If you don't know what that is, it's kind of hard to explain. So you need, maybe need some. Some music theory or you need to look it up what a harmony actually is or what that sounds like, because I know that some people have a hard time coming up with harmonies or like getting the concept, but yeah.
Um, it's, it's a very basic thing, a very basic technique. Uh, and, um, the easiest one or the most common one, at least I think so is like to sing a third above the vocal line. So you, you will altering between major and minor thirds. Depending on what the song is and like what the mood of the song is and like, yeah.
And, uh, that's like my [00:34:00] starting point, like when there's no harmony and that we need to create one, I start with the third, most of the time,
Malcom: [00:34:04] right? Yeah. Yeah. Third definitely a go to the fifth is another pretty easy one to jump to.
Benedikt: [00:34:10] Yeah, totally. And I want to ask if you create harmonies with the little art of boy plugin, Uh, how do you do that?
Because that is static. Like, you can, you can do a third, but, but then it's always a major, always a minor throat, which doesn't really right.
Malcom: [00:34:23] Correct. But you can get creative and automate the steps. Um, so it's not perfect, you know, cause it's very rigid movement, but if, uh, the vocal phrase is like, Sung in a way that there's little gaps where you can write an automation on the plugin to change what note it's spitting out.
You can make it happen with that. So, Oh, that's cool. It's been done.
Benedikt: [00:34:49] I'm so spoiled with Cubase because it has this built in Melodyne thing where I just copied the thing. And then I direct the notes where I want them to be. And then it's like, Super quick, but was awesome. Yeah, but Alex, [00:35:00] but I liked the manipulation you can do with little boy with the foremans and stuff.
Malcom: [00:35:04] why I like the, I also love the gain built into Oh yeah. Little ultra boy where you can kind of like add some distortion right on it.
Benedikt: [00:35:10] Yeah, yeah, yeah. You heard it. Uh, we're cheating all the time mixing, but that's because these vocal arrangements, things are so important. They, we wouldn't do that.
Uh, if we didn't think it would really help the songs. So. Is that the, um, we just need those, these things in there too, to make the chorus pop. It's just part of, of production. And I can't think of many really great songs. Other, maybe a couple of examples, other than a couple of examples where it's done on purpose, where it's really minimalistic those exist.
Of course, but I can't think of many like great productions that. Don't have at least one of those elements in them that we're talking about here. So yeah. So yeah, thirds fifths. Um, when I prepare this episode, I was thinking about ways to help people come up with harmonies or [00:36:00] two to get the idea. And as I said, it's kind of hard to, just to describe, to explain, is there anything you do to help people, um, come up with that?
Malcom: [00:36:09] I mean, using a plugin, like little alter boy can be a quick way to just kind of. Like experiment on the fly. You just like do play the vocal, throw that plugin on and drag it around and listen to it in real time. And that might just kind of like, Oh, that note worked there, get that in your head and start like messing around from there, you know?
Benedikt: [00:36:26] Um,
Malcom: [00:36:27] so that can, that can help, but I would recommend just getting a little, uh, like mini keyboard on your phone where you can kind of just like learn to. Play it out and, you know, half an hour, an hour on YouTube, you're going to have the basics down of how to figure that out from that, you know, you'll find the note you're singing and you go up a third and that'll get you started.
Benedikt: [00:36:48] Oh, totally.
Malcom: [00:36:48] It's not too tricky, but you just have to put in some time.
Benedikt: [00:36:52] Yeah, absolutely. Man. I'm so glad I learned the piano when I was a kid, I played it for four years. So, um, [00:37:00] I feel like that made it so much easier for me to come up with things like that. I mean, I can do it on the guitar, but the piano roll is so much more intuitive for me.
Like I can, I can instantly, when someone sings a melody, I can go to the piano and instantly play the harmony to that without thinking it's just natural. I can't do that on guitar as naturally as I can on the piano. So it's cool. Like, so what I want it to say is like, if you are into, um, getting more into producing, uh, BP, your own music, or if you want to become a producer or whatever you want to do, I think it's worth to.
At least know your way around a piano roll the basic way, just learn piano basics. It's like really valuable. Even to someone like me, I'm doing almost exclusively right rock and having music. And there's not often that I have pianos in there or something, but still. I use it all the time, these skills, and I feel like this is the perfect instrument for arranging the perfect instrument to start and to get into music theory.
[00:38:00] Uh, and yeah, the more arranging and producing you do, the more valuable it is to know. A little bit of piano, I think.
Malcom: [00:38:06] Oh yeah. Any virtual instrument inside of a Dar is going to be piano rolled out. So you have to get used to it that way. Anyways, any vocal tuning it's kind of displayed on a piano roll, you're going to have to get used to it that way as well.
So, uh, I don't think it's optional. You don't have to learn how to play piano, but you have to learn how to understand what a piano roll looks like and equates to as far as notes.
Benedikt: [00:38:26] Yeah, totally, totally. Okay. Um, so then we get into the more fun stuff, the more, not so obvious stuff, but still I think pretty common techniques.
It's just not the, the really basic stuff like doubles and harmonies. Um, and that is like effects, doubles. That's what I call it in our outline here. So what I like to do, and there are more than I just, I sat here, but that I'm more than I put in our outline, but one that I like to do is I like to do a low-fi kind of double.
So I tried, [00:39:00] I'd like to. Either use a crappy microphone or like filter it really heavily, like take the top and bottom off distorted, um, put it through a pedal, something like that. So like this radio ish or like megaphone type of voice, maybe, um, with some, some cool unique texture to it. And I add that underneath the live vocal, because that adds some extra mid range, some grit.
Um, you can, you can do that with a delay. Also, you can throw a slap delay on it and distort that. That can sound pretty cool if it's like this lo-fi thing. So, yeah, that's something that I like to do. Sometimes I just sorted it pretty heavily to add energy, to bring out the breathing and all the details and the voice.
So that can help a lot. If you just have the mid range and you compress and distorted a lot, and you mix that in with screams or aggressive vocals, it really brings out the yeah. The aggression and the details and the breathing and all that. I don't know if you do something similar, but I always mess around with something like that typically.
Malcom: [00:39:56] Yeah. Yeah. I love this stuff. Um, so there's. [00:40:00] There's kind of two, just so our listeners are clear, we're both talking about using effects to create layers, but also creating layers. Like, so making recording one more double and then using effects on top off that as well. So, uh, really something that's not on our list that I've been loving is rather than adding reverb on to the vocal take like the lead vocal.
I like to record a double and then throw a reverb on that a hundred percent wet. So the reverb is actually coming from an entirely different take. Um, so it doesn't really match up to the lead vocal and that, that sounds pretty weird.
Benedikt: [00:40:33] Yeah. But it's awesome. I like it
Malcom: [00:40:34] can be so awesome. Yeah. I, I definitely did get, um, yeah, I'm, I'm also a big fan of distorted vocal layers.
Like, like you are.
Benedikt: [00:40:41] I do that. What'd you just say, right. I do that with the micro pitch effect, the micro shift effect. So there's this, if you don't know what I'm talking about, there's this classic, um, vocal effects where you take a double level of a lead vocal, one left and one, right. What we've been talking about in the beginning, and then you.
Um, pitch one of the [00:41:00] doubles slightly up, just a few cents and the other slightly down, just a few cents and you delay them a little bit. And that is like, that creates this kind of, um, yeah. Sense of wide. Why looked like yeah. Wider picture, or you can even do that with like, without doubles, you can create fake doubles with that technique.
So you take the lead vocal, put that effect on any creates those two doubles that are just a copy of the lead vocal, slightly pitched up and down slightly delayed. And then you have this fake double and there is a device like, um, A legendary effect that has that as a preset in an like, and nowadays we have plugins that emulate that and that little there's also by South toys.
I think it's called micro shift and little micro shift. Yup. That does that. Um, and what I like to do is. I like to use that effect, not on the lead vocal itself, but exactly how you described it. I like to use it on a double and then all the way wet. So it's the same thing. It adds this, these artificial doubles, but not to the lead vocal, but to another layer.
Yeah. So yeah. Yeah, in [00:42:00] principle it could be cool.
Malcom: [00:42:00] There's times where I want to affect the lead vocal, but there's times where I just want it to be clear peer and kind of left alone and everything else around it's messed up. There's so there's time and a place for each. But, uh, that, that can be really cool.
That's why it's so important to have vocal layers recorded so that there's ammo to do these weird things with, you know, um, so that we have the mixer, like Bonnie has something to mess up to grab and distort, and then like layer behind that lead vocal. You should always give your mixer some vocal layers.
Benedikt: [00:42:34] I think. I think, I think so. So you can always mute stuff if you don't need it. Right. So
Malcom: [00:42:38] yeah, one more that I think we both really like is the, the whisper double where you get some layers of whispers of vocals. So you're doubling the vocal again, but in a whisper and this can sound so crazy. Cool.
Benedikt: [00:42:52] Yeah. Um, yeah.
Tell me more about what you, where you use this, because I hadn't thought about it the way you thought about it. I think I thought about it [00:43:00] in like regular. Vocals to create intimacy and to create, to bring them a little closer to the listener. But you've been talking about the more heavy stuff where it actually works well, too.
Malcom: [00:43:11] So yeah, I mean, I actually used it on song vocals mostly as well, but, uh, but how I discovered that people were doing this was that people were layering it into screams and I thought, Oh, that's kind of interesting. And then I just tried it and it turns out it really is interesting. It sounds awesome.
Benedikt: [00:43:29] Yeah.
Maybe it's just explain what that really is. Like a whisper double. It's an actual whisper. Like you.
Malcom: [00:43:34] Yeah. Yeah. So somebody literally whispers into a microphone, the performance, and you still want to try and get the timing as good as you can. Pitch has kind of less of a thing, especially if it's really whispered, you know, there's like no pitch, but, uh, there's just this airy breathy tone that can really be blended in to taste.
Um, and again, all of those past kind of effects layers we were just talking about can be done to the whisper track. You know, you can add some [00:44:00] stereo width, you can add reverb or delays to it, you know, and, uh, and make that the affected vocal and just tuck it behind your lead vocal. I mean, you really got to experiment and have a vision in your head of what you're looking for, but this is, uh, a very cool texture that I don't think is used as often as the other, uh, other techniques we've been talking about on this podcast.
Benedikt: [00:44:21] I think so too. And that is especially useful. If you want to bring the vocal a little more upfront, a little more closer to the listener, because if you add that and if the timing is spot on so that you don't perceive it as an additional vocal, that's distracting, but if it's really spot on, it's just, it can't really sound like the singer is.
Like right at your ear, like very, very close. And that's a pretty cool effect and both for very soft intimate songs, as well as for screams where you have the, the, the, the sensation of someone screaming at you from very close distance. So, yeah, that's totally cool. Also a weird thing to do. If you're not used to it.
So it takes some, [00:45:00] like, you need to be brave to try that, but it's worth it. It's really it's it's and also it's fun to do things like that. Once you get over it, it's really fun to experiment and. Yeah, definitely
Malcom: [00:45:10] a one little tip. Do that last, because whispering is actually bad for your vocals. Um, it's, it's hard on your vocal chords and people forget that or just don't even know it.
So you don't want to ruin a vocalist stay just because you were experimenting with whispers.
Benedikt: [00:45:25] Oh yeah. That's okay. Great. General tip because people went, when they start feeling that the voices that they're losing their voice, they start whispering in an attempt to, uh, Yeah, to not cause any more damage.
And they're doing the exact opposite by doing that, whispering is actually harming, um, or doing damage to your vocal chords. And, uh, you're going to lose your voice even quicker if you do that.
Malcom: [00:45:46] So this may be total baloney, but bear with me and my word is lost. So believe it, you should probably look into this and fact check me here.
But, uh, how it was described to me was that when you [00:46:00] whisper or you yell, your vocal chords are essentially moving too much. Um, so if you were to picture two chords, when you shout, they're going to react to that quickly and potentially kind of like snap tight kind of thing. Um, and when you whisper they're flopping in the wind kind of thing, like uncontrollably in an unsafe manner, both of those things are bad kind of thing.
So when you're talking at a normal volume, they're kind of moving in this controlled, uh, Range, and that is good. And why that, that that's the least damaging thing you can do for them.
Benedikt: [00:46:37] All right. So I just, I just believe it. I don't even want to check it. That just makes sense to me. So
Malcom: [00:46:43] I'm an expert on this.
Benedikt: [00:46:46] it's, that it's enough to know the consequences because they are very real, so you don't have to know why that is. But
Malcom: [00:46:54] I like having a visual representation of what the hell's going on.
Benedikt: [00:46:57] That's why I like this explanation so much. Yeah. [00:47:00] Cool. Um, yeah. Any other effects doubles that you can like think of?
Hm. Well that you use, those are the main ones for me, but
Malcom: [00:47:07] yeah, those are the main ones. Uh,
Benedikt: [00:47:09] I mean, other than pedals and crazy stuff, but we've been talking about that in another episode, you can always try crazy shit, whatever you want to.
Malcom: [00:47:15] Yeah. I mean, if you can think it, you can do it. So yeah, like this is enough to get you started, I think.
And, uh, And just go from there, like actually, you know, something that, uh, the bands are shut up the most on this podcast, probably shed monkeys that they, on a song we did recently, they've got breaths in it, you know? So it's like, and stuff like that, you know, and we made layers of that, like as percussive instruments almost.
Um, and that turned out really cool. You know, you're, you're a voice is an instrument. So utilize it.
Benedikt: [00:47:43] Yeah, totally. I mean that, that's now list of the five hacks here, but these lips type things and additional vocals are worth mentioning. Maybe like it's a, yeah, what's the word for it? Honorable mention outside of the list, because part [00:48:00] of the main vocal arrangement, but they're just like these ear candy things again, like that can be breaths.
It can be, um, some, yeah, just some backing vocals thrown in there. Uh, tastefully that can add to a chorus. So, yeah, no rules there. Try stuff like that. Totally. Um, okay then, uh, number five on let's steal, the fifth, uh, hack here is. Has nothing to do with the course itself, but it is making the verse before the chorus smaller or narrower, narrower, or more low fi in order to make the chorus pop more.
So you have the chorus, the chorus is perfect. It's like wide. It has to impact. It's just the way you want it, but still it doesn't like pop enough. It's just not, it doesn't stand out enough. Make the verse smaller, like take away from the worst. And the chorus will. Benefit from it.
Malcom: [00:48:46] Yes, definitely. Anybody that's done like any mixing has probably been told to cut instead of boost.
And this is the arrangement equivalent of that. That's the recording equivalent of that is instead of trying to keep [00:49:00] adding more and more to the chorus, take something away from the verse and that might solve your problem.
Benedikt: [00:49:04] Yeah, absolutely. Um, that's also why all these techniques we've been mentioning.
You should not use all of them all of the time in every song, because then they lose. Um, the, the impact and the effect. Yes. So use them tasteful use them in the choruses or a bridge or some part that has to stand out, but not all the time, because then yeah. They won't have that effect, uh, in the verse, especially like the second leading up to chorus, you can take all of that away or not that you shouldn't all use all of that in the verse anyways, but, um, you can't of course have harmonies in a verse or a double universe or something, but maybe.
Um, not all the time or maybe if you have something in there it really needs to be in there. Maybe there's a way to make it a little smaller or narrower towards the end, or create a gap before the chorus hits or something like that. Just some arrangement thing you do, um, to create that [00:50:00] impact when the chorus hits.
And you're, you've heard that a couple of times, probably when there is like this instrumental gap and then maybe a word or two, or like leading up to the chorus and then the chorus hits or where, uh, suddenly the, the music or the voice turns low five for a couple of seconds or for half a bar. And then the chorus hits something like that.
That just, that's just there to make the chorus appear even bigger.
Malcom: [00:50:24] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And this is, you can take this right to the writing stage, uh, is like, how are we going to translate this as you're writing the song into an explosive chorus. And I love when stuff comes like that, it's like, Yes, you thought of it right from the ground up, you know, like you built it the song this way and it works so well now.
Benedikt: [00:50:46] And like the opposite thing isn't that I really don't like that, that if I get that is when it seems like someone just wrote a verse, the chorus of the bridge and they just put it together without any like transition or anything that sometimes happens. And it's just such a [00:51:00] shame. Uh, if that's, if that's the case, just put some thought into it, make sure the coolest really pops.
Uh, and don't be afraid that the verse might not be big enough. Like, I agree that the beginning of it, sorry, maybe shouldn't be too small or it should, it shouldn't take too long to get something exciting in there. So you, you really get the listener like right from the beginning. That's important, but.
After, like the intro or the first couple of bars, you can really slow down. Yeah. But you can really take some energy out of it. Um, you already have the listener, you can create some dynamics. You can really make it smaller and it's not a bad thing. You don't. I need to be afraid here. And I was afraid of that.
Uh, for a long time also in mixing, I always wanted my drums to be punchy. No matter if I'm in the verse or in the chorus. And now I find myself more and more backing that off in the verses a bit and like not having full on drums and why guitars and vocal harmonies and everything in the worst. Um, just so that the chorus has more impact.
Malcom: [00:51:57] Yeah. You have to give [00:52:00] somewhere, you know, it can't all be as explosive. Like if it's all at a hundred percent, the whole time, there is no dynamics. So if you want that chorus to pump, if that's the goal is of course has to jump, then you have to give that to somewhere else.
Benedikt: [00:52:13] Yeah. Uh, I mean, that's basically it there's, there are our five heck's here, so.
To sum it up. We have the doubles left and right. And mano, we have the Okta slow and high. We have the harmonies, we have the effects doubles, and we have the arrangement trick of making the verse smaller to make the chorus appear bigger. That's the five things. And I think if you mess around with these, if you experiment with these, that can get you pretty far already.
So, yeah. Great. I find experimenting.
Malcom: [00:52:49] Yeah. Looking forward to hearing some of this. I'm sure somebody is going to put,
Benedikt: [00:52:53] yeah, me too. I can't wait to hear it. Um, also let us know if there's always, some of you might have [00:53:00] their own techniques or tips and tricks and stuff that they found out over the years. It was something, um, just let us know.
We're always curious. We like to learn stuff, uh, especially the nutso common stuff. So let us know what you do to make the chorus pop. And when we see you or hear you, or you hear us next week.
Malcom: [00:53:20] Alright, see you next week. Bye.
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