E12 - Editing Vocals


Like most things, I like to try and keep a touch of realism in my vocal editing. As a result I try to not go over the top with comping, or tuning. That being said, I will go as far into comping or tuning as is necessary to get a result that I am happy with.


As far as I’m concerned, the vocal editing process starts with comping. Finding the best parts of each take to make one master take. I start by making a new playlist for my lead comp, and then soloing each of the takes until I find the one I am most happy with. This is then duplicated to my new main playlist. Then I try to find the parts of the take that are less than perfect, and find suitable replacements from the other takes. Once these are all roughly in place, I will have an unedited lead take.


To make doubles, triples and quads I have a system that seems to work for the most part! As I comp my lead vocal take, I will mute the parts that have been used, greying them out. This shows me the parts that I can’t use. Then I can take my double without fear of phasing or copying an already used take. For my L and R takes, i then look for variability and will take full passages barring any huge errors, and I now have 4 separate comps from one track!


Taking the comped playlists to a new track for each part, like verse lead, verse double, chorus lead, chorus double, chorus L, chorus R, I duplicate the lead playlist on each of these tracks, and go and edit the lead vocal to be in time. Shifting the individual phrases around where necessary, but trying to keep the feel and human element of the takes. 


Then I move onto choosing edit points where two clips overlap. This for me is a case of trial and error, and I will move the edit point until I hear the least artefacts before fades, meaning that when fades are applied the edit should be invisible. 


This process is repeated on the doubles and Ls and Rs, trying to get the cleanest most lifelike edits possible whilst still being tight. Special consideration needs to be paid here to not use the same breaths twice! Its very easy to do when comping leads and doubles from the same takes, but you should hear it pretty quickly if it occurs!


Duplicating this edited playlist on each of the doubles, and harmonies, I now align the vocals using Vocalign. You feed your lead take into the plugin, then your double, hit align and then render out a perfectly in sync double or harmony. This process can be done by hand, but for me this saves time. When working with a better performer, I will often choose to do this by hand as they will tend to have more consistent phrasing, and keeping a take as natural as possible is still the most important thing to me.


Finally, i will duplicate the time aligned playlists and then tune the vocals. If the take is super clean then this often isn’t necessary. If it has some hiccups along the way, i will use melodyne and try and keep the tuning as soft as I can get away with. For BVs and elements that will be less heard I am happy using an autotune of some description with reasonably lifelike settings.


Finally I will commit this tuned vocal to audio giving me separate playlists for Final Takes, Time aligned, Edited, comped, and raw takes. This gives me the absolute maximum in terms of flexibility should I need to go back and change something for any reason.