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Questions about vocal note editing in Logic

Discussion in 'Studio Techniques' started by ryguy76, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. ryguy76

    ryguy76 Member

    Questions about vocal note editing in Logic - UPDATE

    I have a song that I'm writing & recording for an artist that will be the first dance on her wedding day. The melody for the chorus is slightly out of her top-end sweetspot, and I coudn't transpose the song down any lower because there are low parts that would be out of her lower range/register, too.

    I've asked her to practice it as much as she can with hopes that she finds a way to sing the chorus as it should be sung. I can always do a re-write on the melody, but it really would be best with the current melody, so I am wondering if there are any ways with Logic to perhaps, cheat the vocal a little. I've thought that a melodyne type treatment could be used where I just step the note up, but she may not be happy with that, as it wasn't achieved organically. My other thought was to re-write the lead vocal in her range and possibly use the original melody as a blended vocal harmony, tucked just under the lead, and then she might be more willing to use "studio trickery."

    Any thoughts, or techniques you can suggest, would be appreciated.

  3. Ming

    Ming Member

    Some thoughts on it. First Melodyne Essential will give you excellent results. As a wedding gift it is for sale now during this month for $69.. so it's a real bargain. Secondly if you still have time, recording it now with varied high notes sung at her sweetspot you then transpose, might very well trigger her to learn it for real. Another way is to set the key to her best top range and instead modify low notes that might be less sensitive. A 'to soft low note' is better than a high note out of reach.. Using technical tools? some might say it's cheating, others: "artists must be true to the work of art itself". I? would Melodyne her and have her practice to it and she will come very close. Then all I have to do in the end is a little correction that she won't even notice.. Females do use make-up and it's really not a problem.
  4. ryguy76

    ryguy76 Member

    Ooooh, I'll have to check into melodyne at that price. I haven't recorded anything other than a scratch track that I had her sing as I did the arranging/composing of the various instruments. She can hit the notes pitchwise, but there is a definitive "screech" that rears its head on the highest of notes. She'll be stopping by tomorrow for a dry run on singing it now that the instruments have all been tracked. Kinda a "learn-the-nuances of the melody day, before I have her attempt to record it.

    I didn't want to have a somewhat restricted performance on the stuff she does well 'cause she's too busy thinking about the chorus section.

    Anyhoo, I've thought I might see if her switch into falsetto is smooth enough to work.

    I'll be sure to use your "make-up" point if she has any real issues with editing. ;)
  5. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Mhm ... you try to make something special but do you really think, challenging a singer on her wedding day by writing notes out of her range is a good idea? She may not be willing to concentrate on difficult music but prefer to think about guests, food, maybe about her new life. Give her a nice song, not more and not less :)
  6. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Administrator Staff Member

    I agree. Although I'm no stranger to sudio trickery to enhance performances or create impossible performances, there's an old fashioned hat on the peg I'm reaching for in this case. You are writing a song specifically for an artist, then she should be able to perform it "organically" as you say. This will be her special song forever (hopefully), and I'd make it suit her voice, especially the high notes. If you need to change the maybe some of the lower phrases can be transposed up.
  7. ryguy76

    ryguy76 Member

    Peter, it's a recording that will be played over a stereo for her first dance. It's not like she's gonna sing it while she dances.....

    The melody isn't written out of her range on purpose, it's just the way it's ended up, and I'm sure I'll figure out a solution. In fact, the singer is hoping that she will be able to hit the notes with MORE practice, as she quite likes the melody, as is, and doesn't really favor the re-write option.

    Thanks for your concern regarding the bride, but I was more looking for solutions for the problem at hand, than critique about the situation itself.

    When I wrote the song and melody, before I recorded the final version, I recorded a pre-production version and had her come by to pick the key. She decided that the key we're using was best, and was quite happy about the range, as she said she was slightly rusty and would be able to hit ALL notes with practice. Guess what, she's practiced some, and not sure she is gonna get those notes as easy as she thought. That's the situation. I've already had her sign off for commencement on the final product. The instruments are recorded, and with the exception of a couple midi instruments, the rest are all audio files and the song is 95% tracked.

    I agree that the vocal performance should be organic... No argument there. Doesn't change the situation, however.

  8. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Administrator Staff Member

    This is very often the case with singers who are not extremely experienced studio singers. Often they either say they can sing in any key, or that they like G (as if the actual key is as important as the range of the song).

    This is often because they get away with a bit of screeching on a gig, but it's a far cry from the standard any producer has to aim for on a recording, which will hang around for a long time to come back and bite you one day.

    If she is happy to go the melodyne route, then it is probably best. I certainly wouldn't rely on Logic's P & T to do a reasonable job of such an important vocal, though I have used it on vocals in the past for this sort of thing but not when it's a very crucial part of a lead vocal that needs to sound natural.
  9. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Well if it is playback and it turns out that she cannot sing the melody, the best solution is Melodyne.

    If she is not far from the right tone and the voice is not dominating the foreground, Logic's pitch correction can help. But this software is not in the same class as Melodyne and uses a different technique. You have it already in Logic so it might be worth to give it a chance. Automation is essential otherwise it would work on all notes which is not desirable.

    Melodyne as an offline editor does not need to measure the frequency quickly and then slide to the target pitch in a given time. It can take all the time it wants. The full version of Melodyne provides more than pitch correction. I do not know the version that was mentioned, but in case it deals only with pitch it may not solve all problems. For a sung tone just a bit out of tune, pitch correction is enough. But if the singer has a problem with heights or lows, there can be more to deal with.

    If she just slightly misses the desired pitch and if this really sounds wrong, then Melodyne will do the job in a convincing way.

    Yes we realize that but we are not an exclusively technical forum. We talk also about composing and songwriting, the more human side of music. Neither mine nor Pete's comment were meant as criticism but in this case, where the composer is also the arranger, the engineer, the producer, it made sense to tell some other views from the other side.

    Today musicians and technicians are often faced with decisions that cross the borders between the working areas. Sometimes we cannot even tell were a problem actually occurs and have several ways to solve it. Then it is a good idea to step aside and look from a different angle. There are chances to find a way that does not even lead to a problem, instead of solving it. Or we think about it next time if we don't want to disturb a running production.
  10. ryguy76

    ryguy76 Member

    I've written for this artist before and have recorded those songs as well. I wouldn't have guessed this was going to be an issue. She'll be here in a couple of hours so I can see where she's at. This discussion may be all for nothing if it's manageable.

    I also thought about recording her singing the chorus a step and half done over a quickly recorded acoustic track, and wonder if logic could pitch shift the phrases I need, so the formants and slides sound better a a phrase then words alone.

    I had originally mentioned that a re-write was an option, but the artist wasn't fond of that idea. Yes, I fully realize that this problem goes away entirely with a melody that's within her range. Problem was, that's not really what she wants. She was hoping for a "studio miracle," and I was looking for some solutions. I'm new to Logic, but not writing/arranging/recording. I've always recorded getting the part right from the source, and never used much editing. I now realize that there are some incredible tools in the digital world which is why I made the switch.
  11. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Administrator Staff Member

    This is what I was talking about. By "a step and a half" do you mean down 3 semitones? Even a semitone pitch shifted can sound wrong in certain vocal situations. I often use pitch shifting with trumpets, it can work great, but the "chipmunk" effect can slip in very quickly with voices. Still it might just work.
  12. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    I agree with Pete, 3 semitones are quite a mouthful. You may do this to a sloppy male singer, preferably with a deep voice, where you just push him into a usable range. But good singers mean what they sing, we cannot simply move their notes to another place. Especially female voices tend to become trumpets when you shift them too far up and, worse, play with the more sophisticated tools in Melodyne what would be necessary to keep a natural impression.

    Look at the Melodyne readout below, it is from a raw recording of a female voice without any processing:
    I think, from the Melodyne display, we agree that she is a decent singer. Pretty good intonation. Now hear what happens if I do nothing else than shifting this part 3 semitones up:

    (First the original, then the shifted version)

    What could we possibly do with this result? Make a film score for a comic rat who lost her last piece of cheese? In my opinion simple pitch shifting with the best tool available ruined the performance. We would have to put all her slightly wrong but originally context sensitive notes into a new context. I could not do that, which does not mean that nobody can do it.

    Yes but the discussion itself is valuable because you describe a real production situation. Pitch shifting became so common during the years, it is worth to talk about it and exchange experiences.
  13. ryguy76

    ryguy76 Member

    Well, she came by and we played with some ideas. I showed her an alternate melody, that works well, and she can hit with ease, but she's still leaning toward the original. It's close...pitch-wise, she's there, but tone-wise, a little too harsh for the song. She's gonna keep at it until we begin tracking vocals after xmas. We've decided that we'll switch to the 2nd melody if it's just not happening. I'll keep ya posted.
  14. ryguy76

    ryguy76 Member

    UPDATE - Questions about vocal note editing in Logic


    I'd thought I'd do an update now that the song is finished. We ended up keeping the original melody and made it work. Tracking the lead vocal was pretty rough, and I secretly kept my fingers crossed and hoped for the best.

    I didn't let the singer hear much of any of the takes she did as to keep her confidence from waning, and just got her to sing many takes of the hard parts until I felt I had enough to make a decent comp, and would only require limited amounts of pitch correction. I spent about 6 hours editing her lead vocal, and did a significant amount of swipe comping, and used logic's' pitch correction when needed.

    She came by the following week and was very happy with the lead vocal because she left feeling a little worried about the performance. I did my best to assure her she'd be happy once I worked on it. I was a little worried too, but of course, I had to remain confident for her sake. We've since recorded the backing and harmony tracks, and she has yet to hear the final mix, but so far, she's VERY happy with what she has heard.....which makes me happy, too.

    I hadn't recorded any of the guitar leads or bass when she heard it last, so she'll be pleasantly surprised by the final product. (recording and mixing bass is my kryptonite - it always brings me to my knees, so I leave it for last )

    Here's a link, if you care to listen to the final result:

  15. Eli

    Eli Senior member

    Hey Ryan,

    Technical issues aside; it sounds like you have excellent studio chops. And I don't mean just with Logic! It sounds like you were in a difficult situation and handled it elegantly and with great poise. Congratulations. These kinds of skills are the hardest to learn.

    PS: I'm away from home, on dial up access at the moment (can you believe it!), and so can't listen to your link. But look forward to hearing it tomorrow.

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