Recording and Mixing Vocals

Loop Recording

Sat Jan 30, 2016

Press record, quickly get to the mic, sing, get up, press stop, rewind, listen, stop, rewind, find the right spot, press record...again, and again, and again. Does this sound familiar? If it does, you're a proud member of the analog recording generation. Recording like this was a time consuming process.

I saw a documentary on Peter Gabriel's recording of So. Part of the workflow there was to record takes on separate pieces of tape. Then the pieces were cut up, choosing the best parts of each take, and reassembled to create a final compilation. I'll be describing how I do this digitally in the next couple posts.

Pro Tools and other DAWs have a loop record feature. By highlighting a section of the music and pressing record, it records in that section and repeats continually, creating individual regions.

Besides the obvious convenience and speed factors, the major reason I like loop recording is consistency. I can find the sweet spot on the mic. I can quickly retry the next take. Since I'm kinda locked in and not moving around each take sounds very much the same and blends seamlessly together when comping.

My goal is to get two really good takes of what I want. This usually takes a minimum of five tries to warm up and get into the part and I've easily sung parts ten times or more. Timing may be off, wrong note, wrong words, had an idea to do something different, cough, dog barking, you name it. Once I've got two I probably also have other earlier takes which will come in handy.

I may be able to stay within the 'verse 1' section and continue singing verse 2 right away if the verses are back to back in the song and there is little change between them. Most likely I will stop. Then highlight and loop record the next verse section where I may have different instrumentation and want to interact with it.

I'm committed at this point. I want takes of the main vocal line of the song completed: verses, choruses, and bridge. On rare occasion I may do the verses then come back later in the day, or the next day, to record choruses.

Let's assume I got what I want, 2 good takes of everything. Time to take a break! Walk away. Find something else to do. Maybe fix something around the house. My ears need a break and when I return to this I need to really listen and see if I got it or am I scrapping the whole thing and trying again on another day. If I rehearsed enough I should be good.

I now have a long list of individual takes. Time to organize them by part, cut them up, and create the final complete track. Comping is next.