Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

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Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by Razor7Music » Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:20 am

Being my own producer I basically do everything from start to finish--have for almost 30 years. But darn if I don't have the hardest time with vocal harmonies. I can tell within seconds if a vocal part is going to play hardball with me. If I start singing over an accompanied part and the harmony doesn't come to me within seconds, I know it isn't going to come--I have to painstakingly find each note that sounds good with the instrumentation in the background.

I know about 3rds and 5ths, etc. but when you throw those changing instrumental notes in the mix in there, it's not that easy.

I used to collaborate with a singer that could find a harmony to ANYTHING and instantly and it always sounded great. I believe she had a talent for it. I'm reading everything I can and it all sounds great when the vocals are a capella.

Any help? I've actually forgone harmonies in songs because I couldn't get one that sounded good. :cry:
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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by swhit » Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:34 am

Hi Stephen,

Not sure if this helps but try recording the harmony one
line at a time. You could also get a pedal to help you
out. I have the Boss VE-20 which I use live. It's amazing
how accurate it is. Would probably work well for recording.

Might be worth a shot!

http://www.bossus.com/gear/productdetai ... uctId=1043

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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by Razor7Music » Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:12 am

swhit wrote:Hi Stephen,

Not sure if this helps but try recording the harmony one
line at a time. You could also get a pedal to help you
out. I have the Boss VE-20 which I use live. It's amazing
how accurate it is. Would probably work well for recording.

Might be worth a shot!

http://www.bossus.com/gear/productdetai ... uctId=1043
Thanks M8. I've used vocal harmonizers before--owned the Eventide vocal harmonizer which is a pro-level piece of gear and I can't get it to do what I want--sounds...like a vocal harmonizer. I also have pitch correction software (Auto Tune and V-Vocal) which I can do that same thing.
Thanks,

Stephen Davis, Songwriter
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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by hummingbird » Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:38 am

My experience singing in many choirs helps me harmonize by ear, but there are some times when I find it difficult to do that over the instrumentation. As mentioned above I also will develop and record it line by line.

I find having the chord chart in front of me allows me to see the relationships in the progression

for example if the chord progression was
D G Em A

I would know in my head I could sing the notes
d - d - e - e
for the most simple harmony line

or
d - g - b - a
for something more lyrical

etc

it's like I can literally "see" the notes in my mind that would work, and I'll usually start on the tonic of the first chord (even if it's in unison with the melody) so I have a secure starting point for the next intervals & if I am having trouble improvising it then I'll play the chord progression on guitar or piano while I sing to confirm the note(s) 'fit'.
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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by cardell » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:18 pm

Singing harmonies is a real skill. Especially those layered/staked harmonies. It's kinda like a specialized thing.

It's something that requires regular practice to keep good at. Also, it's not just the notes you need to get right, but the tone & phrasing as well, in order for it to sound cohesive.

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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by feaker66 » Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:48 am

I pick out a few notes that work well with the acoustic and then sing them alone in the correct spots. Low harmonies are more difficult. High harmonies to me are automatic now.

Isolate just your main vocal. Let it play and just keep singing the harmony over and over. It gets better and as Stuart said, then you can enter personality.

Good luck

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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by Razor7Music » Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:43 am

Thanks all. I think the most trouble I have is when the musical accompaniment comes in. Some songs just have an easy chord I can find a harmony to and some don't. Like you said, I just can't give up until I find it.

I did notice recently as I've been studying Pop, that sometimes the producer drops the 2nd layer of the leads vocals and then adds them back in again. It has a nice effect and I might try it too.
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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by Len911 » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:08 pm

If you find the harmony with one of those harmonizers, why can't you just make a guide track of it and record your voice singing in unison with the harmonized track? Then keep the track that sounds better,lol :P
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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by RMCALL » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:21 am

I could be full of crap, but I do a LOT of vocal harmonies (perhaps too many). After doing it for years, I have found that simply adding harmonies many times was not doing anything exciting for the song. So a few years ago I started experimenting... I got excited by some of the old Beach Boys woven vocal masterpieces.

So many times I set up 6 - 8 vocal tracks to the song. I sing the basic melody that I want to harmonize with. I then go back and add harmonies that pop into my head w/o spending a ton of time on quality. Almost in a stream of consciousness fashion, fast and furious, dont analyze it. If they sound weird or like Johnny's first attempt at harmonizing, it may be the inversion of the chord. Consequently I may take a particular harmony down (or up) an octave. Many times I will end up with a train wreck of harmonies at that point if I add a lot of them. However I will then mute some parts and listen to different combinations. I may use the beginning of one track, but the last 4 bars of another. You will likely end up with 2 or three that either spark an idea, or you may have a lucky accident and really find some that sound interesting and actually add color and uniqueness to the song. I generally end up still doing some modifications at that point to trim off the rough edges where single notes may have clashed for instance. Once I get something I like, I then just go back over each track one at a time and re record the parts in tune w/ EQ etc. A lot of times I will double all of those parts for fattening, and pan them out in the mix.

If this idea is too weird sorry

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Re: Wish I Didn't Have So Much Trouble with Vocal Harmonies

Post by jimmymio » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:48 pm

Probably OT here but I always find that the way that harmonies are mixed has a lot to do with how they sound. I'm in the same boat as the OP in that i'm a one man shop. Often I'll record harmony parts that i don't think will work but then after comp/EQ/level automation/ FX etc. they start to sound really good.
I'm sure the OP, with his background, knows how to mix the parts but i thought I'd mention it for other readers who might not have that much experience.

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