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I've mentioned this many times in many posts. Doubling, or re-recording a track, will do things to 'thicken' its sound in a way that no effect can duplicate. Automatic double tracking (ADT) and subtle use of chorus approach, but never quite reach it.

I knew this, but had it brought home in the early 80s when I cut a guitar track using a solid-body Kalamazoo electric guitar with one pickup and a Masonite (chipboard) body. I only laid down two tracks with cheap spring reverb laid over the two. Listeners thought I was using compression and stereo chorus, which was then an expensive and uncommon effect. Nope, just a simple rhythm part played twice.

Singers Gilbert O'Sullivan ("Alone Again, Naturally") and Michael Franks have made it a trademark of their recorded sound. To the trained listener it's obvious; to others their voices have a sort of 'density' which set them apart for reasons the listener cannot explain.

Less obvious but far more extreme, Art Garfunkel, Sting, and many others have been known to lay down dozens of unison tracks. (They're good, of course, but nobody's voice sounds that good by itself.) Crosby, Stills and Nash each used to record each other's vocal parts in the studio as well as doubling their own, resulting in yet another degree of sparkle.

The process of tracking has another effect. As you try to duplicate earlier takes, you will hear embellishments and vocal 'tics' of which you may have been unaware. If they were not absolutely intentional and you can't repeat them every time, it will force you to simplify the part until you can repeat it note--and embellishment--for note. You will still never exactly hit the same pitch or match your phrasing to the millisecond, which is what gives it that density.

Once while engineering a jingle, the talent was a 12-year-old performer. The producer thought the first take was acceptable but a little thin. I suggested doubling, but went a step further, as I was uncertain of the child's experience. I had the singer omit the final consonant of each word in the two succeeding takes, as without the most careful phrasing these stand out garishly. The kid nailed it and the producer was very happy. I was secretly pleased myself as it came out better than even I expected. (And the young singer probably could have matched himself without that trick; he was good.)

Once you've gone to all that trouble, and have however many succesful takes you want, you can start
playing tricks. Keep the doubled tracks back in the mix. Pan them slightly (or not). Use "crossverb"--delay panned to the side opposite the voice or instrument. Be creative and use different effects. Peter Gabriel commonly uses a pitch shifter for an octave up and down. But unless you want it to stand out as an effect, keep all of this very subtle.

All the performances above were done on an analog four-track recorder in mono. Most of us have virtually unlimited tracks. The only cost is the time it takes to do the additional takes. Why not give it a try?


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One of the more prolific early users of this technique was Richard Carpenter.

Billy Joe Royal "Down In The Boondocks" and the late great Dusty Springfield (on many of her early recordings) got great vocal effects by simply singing in the bathroom.

Beyond $$$ I think the real studio trick of the stars is picking great songs.

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Ryszard is right.

Elliot Smith did most of his recordings in a bedroom studio. Magical vocals, mostly double-tracked. Same with Jose Gonzales.

Sorry to disagree with you Silvertones.

Automatic track doubling does not cut it. Just try it doubling versus any plugin that claims to thicken, or the copy/time shift technique. Two totally different animals, with doubling sounding much more pleasant in the end.

For the extreme of this, Enya's producer recorded typically 30 or so tracks of her vocals and used them all on her original stuff.

-Scott

Last edited by rockstar_not; 04/27/09 06:19 AM.
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I don't agree. Anything other then a pure analogous reproduction of the voice or instrument is an effect. Doubling is an effect. It's not what makes or breaks a recording. Top end gear and top end people make stars. There are always exceptions. We can all name a few no talent stars.


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Ah HA! Finally, I can reply. Firefox has scroll bars so I can reach the "Reply" button. (I actually wrote this on the 24th.)

Silvertones,

It's assumed that you have talent to begin with, otherwise just give up.

What money will buy you in the studio is ancillary talent (sidemen, arrangers and engineers), a room with a 100-plus dB noise floor, and gobs of noise-free equipment. It also used to get you unlimited recording channels, but now that have digital workstations we all effectively have that, too. (Even if it's "only" 48 channels, bouncing makes it effectively infinite, and in stereo. And we get the noise-free processing gear, too, in the form of plugins.) Far cry from four-track days.

I figure that, given journeyman competence as a performer and engineer, anybody can get about 85% of the studio ideal. If the material is solid and marketed properly, the next album can be done in a "real" studio, leveraged by a record deal* or profits from self marketing.

So nyah.

R.

* The British prog rock group Marillion made history recently by going direct to their audience for financing of a double CD, eliminating the record company altogether. Contributors got an autographed copy and a bonus disk when the album was released. Think about it.

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Doubling a track is just another tool in the toolbox.

One does have to know when to use it and when not to use it though, just as with any of the other tools.

It should not be considered a fix for an already bad track. Two times bad does not equal good.



--Mac

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Ain't it great! You know, two wrongs don't make a right . . . but three lefts do.


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There was an interview and some tracks from Sinead O'Connor on BBC Radio 2 yesterday eve.
Now you come to mention it, sounded like there were a few of her on every vocal track...

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Quote:

I don't agree. Anything other then a pure analogous reproduction of the voice or instrument is an effect. Doubling is an effect. It's not what makes or breaks a recording. Top end gear and top end people make stars. There are always exceptions. We can all name a few no talent stars.




OK, perhaps we are talking about two different things.

When I say doubling a track - I'm talking about two entirely different tracks - with different takes. The goal being trying to sing and/or play the identical thing on both tracks. Of course an exact waveform copy is nearly impossible. The differences are what thickens things up and makes the sound 'large', even if it's quiet. I have yet to hear an 'effect', which I refer to as something that alters a particular track, that sounds as nice as bonafide track doubling.

For example, I double tracked the acoustic guitar on this cover of Beck's "The Golden Age". I did not use chorus, I did not use delay or copying a track and time shifting it as some people call 'doubling'.

Here's the first two minutes of my cover: http://rockstarnot.rekkerd.org/songs/new...ute%20cover.mp3

And here is the Beck, high-dollar, real studio version on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf_zt_dIm0A

The audio on that is not such great quality. It's an ace album and one that I find myself listening to again and again because of it's production values, the interesting lyrics, the tuneful melodies, the place that it takes me to. To be honest, I can't stand any of Beck's other albums, but this one is probably in my top 10 favorite albums of all time. I would love to mimic some of the sounds of the other songs on the album, but most of them have these Bacharach-like 60's string section bits that I simply haven't figured out how to do in my home studio.

I took on the outright mimicry of this song as a challenge - really to see for myself if what you say is true (which many other people; amateurs and pundits alike have said in the past) - or at least part of what you said in an earlier post - the part about quality - does it really take expensive gear/talent/studio, or does it depend more upon how well one knows the gear and tools they have at their disposal? I proved for myself that at least for this kind of music, which I really love, it does not take the expensive studio. Just careful listening, careful planning, a creative approach, and fairly deep commitment to quality and studying about how to get there from an engineering perspective - that is what it takes; plus a little bit of musical talent.

On the background vocals, I believe I triple-tracked my vocals. You can call it an effect, or you can call it mixing/arranging. I guess I don't really care about the terminology - call it an effect if you like. I don't see how that matters.

I think I came about as close as I could getting the vibe and sound of the original, all played, programmed, mixed, edited by my lonesome, in my basement, without an engineer, producer, high-paid help, multi-million dollar record collection, etc.

In fact I had some people claim I simply copied the first 2 minutes of the song when I submitted it to the monthly KVRaudio.com song contest (it was a cover month). But when they listened to mine vs. Beck's, they heard that I switched up the rhythm on the acoustic guitars, the keyboard parts are different, etc. My drums were 'hitchier' (hand played in on my midi keyboard and left alone for the most part'. I happened to win the contest that month out of about 50-60 entries in the contest.

-Scott

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I assume what rockstar_not just stated in regard to doubling. As I suspect Ryszard intended in the origional post. I've doubled acoustic guitar parts and panned them slightly left/right and the result was far beyond (ie., fuller/fatter sounding than) anything I could have done with a chorus, double tracking, or any other effect/technique.

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Quote:

Doubling is . . . not what makes or breaks a recording. Top end gear and top end people make stars. There are always exceptions. We can all name a few no talent stars.




What a curious statement.

Earlier I said to assume talent, otherwise give up. By positing "top end people", you make my point for me. Maybe not the star's talent, but talent nonetheless. (BTW, in production terms "talent" refers generically to any performer, in the same way a doctor would talk about a "liver" or a "leg", e.g., "Have the talent come to my office after this session.")

If you want to assume no talent, then it is certainly not equipment that makes a star. Gear--in the hands of talented engineers!--may be used to mask the lack of innate ability.

It is by definition publicity and distribution which make a celebrity, talent or no. Awareness and numbers.

R.


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Right on, R.

In Mac terminology, "You can put a saddle on a dead horse, but you still can't ride."



--Mac

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Ok I'll bite.
S: (n) trick, fast one (a cunning or deceitful action or device)
People with talent be it the engineers,the producer, the musicians or the artist do not need tricks. That was the intent of that comment. They may use doubling as an effect to achieve a certain ambiance or something. Doubling is not the Holy Graille to a good recording.


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Quote:

. Doubling is not the Holy Graille to a good recording.




Listen to the difference between early Crosby, Stills and Nash in the studio, and live; Woodstock is a good example. You may change your mind.

Of course, if Britney, Amy and the other divas really do have talent, then I stand corrected. But what about those stories of when the electronics go during a performance, and all the audience hears is their unaided voice . . . ?

And who did you have in mind when you said we all know talentless celebrities? I mean, besides Paris Hilton.

LOL,

R.


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Just to add to the people who were known to use the doubling vocal tracks technique... The early Beatles... especially Lennon. He even continued using it on his solo albums - listen to "Double Fantasy"

Bobby

Last edited by bobbyt9999; 05/26/09 07:45 AM.
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Early Beatles, also Motown, a few others, the doubling thing often happened because of working with 3 and 4 track tape machines where the vocal would be repeat recorded along with the next track's instruments, background vox, etc.


--Mac

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This technique and many many more are examined in this fascinating series.

The Record Producers
- exploring the work of individuals whose recordings have had a lasting impact on popular music history.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0072fbv)

I have been lucky enough to catch the episodes covering the work of 10CC and Mike Chapman. If they are still available at the BBC site, I would recommend this series to anyone with an interest in production.

Sorry that this ‘Head’s up’ comes a little late but some of the shows may still be available at the BBC’s website.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kn4rj

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NMore important than the technique itself is for the aspiring recording technician to work on being able to identify doubled parts in a recording by simply listening to the recording.

"Learn to Trust Your Ears" applies here as it does to all of everything else.



--Mac

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I think alot has to do with what you capture in the "can" when i seem to get my best takes on a vocal it has a lot to do with the preamps and setting whether i get a richer sounding track. Plus whether i am sure of the take and have properly practiced the vocal.


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I believe that Patti Page was the first to ever overdub her own voice. It was during a strike at her record company, and there were no available backing vocalists to do harmonies, so she recorded her own harmony. Mitch Miller was the recording engineer.

I think Connie Francis also overdubbed her own harmonies. (I'm a fan of both of these wonderful singers)


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Right on, Keith.

A lot of people credit Les Paul and Mary ford with initiating the vocal overdub, and they did a lot of it, but it was really Patti Page that did the first vocal overdub -- Les Paul had already done guitars.

Not to take away from Mary Ford -- she was great too.

Brad


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The very first overdubbed recording was done by Sidney Bichet, the legendary soprano saxophonist.

He had all the parts arranged in his head, played all instruments and sang one after the other using the ping pong method, in which you cannot make a single mistake or you have to start over again from the beginning.

This was before any of the aforementioned people were born, I think, or at least they couldn't have been much more'n knee high to a grasshopper at the time.


--Mac

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