Audio engineer Scott Hirsch makes a vocal comp (or compilation take) out of five recorded vocal takes using playlist-style multilayer editing in the Logic takes folders.
- [Narrator] The first and, arguably, most important step towards producing a lead vocal is deciding on the final take. Here's where you're gonna use all of your producer and editing skills to select the most compelling performance for the final mix of the song. Now, it's possible that the singer nailed a complete vocal performance in one of the takes. If that's the case, all you need to do is find that take and use it. More likely, you'll have to search through more than one of the original recorded takes to make a composite best of.
This is called a vocal comp. Now, depending on your production style and the individual singer, you may need to go word by word, phrase by phrase, line by line, or verse by verse to find the best stuff. Let's look at how this is done in Logic Pro 10, since we're using Logic's take folder and Quick Swipe Editing to make this happen. So here I have my original Excel spreadsheet where I made some notes during the original recording session. This is a road map of the takes that I thought were working at the time.
We can use this to help guide us as we make our comp. As we discussed in the vocal recording techniques course, keeping track this way can be helpful when it comes time to make the comp. You'll still want to listen through on the different day or different time you're making your comp. So, in the original recording session, you recorded four complete takes of the song, and a fifth take of just verse one. And these will show up in Logic as separate takes in our enclosed take folder. If I want to see all the takes I can click on the take folder triangle and reveal all four of the takes and then the fifth pick-up take of that first verse, and they all show up here.
So this is what a takes folder looks like in Logic. It allows you to use a handy tool called Quick Swipe Editing where you can quickly select any area of any of your takes and it moves that up to the top lane here, which becomes our final comp lane. So this top area of the takes folder is the final thing, the final track that we're hearing as we make our comp. Anything that shows up here or gets moved to the top here is what makes our final comp.
Starting with the intro of the song, I want to point out one thing here. I made arrangement markers. I've gone ahead and used a global track function in Logic called the arrangement lane. And I've gone ahead and assigned arrangement markers for all the sections of the song. Now you can use arrangement markers for this or regular markers. And it just gives you a way to see where things happen in the timeline. And I've gone ahead and done that for the intro verse, pre-chorus, chorus, and so on, of the song.
So when I look at my notes and I listen through, I can quickly identify visually where things happen. Now, starting with the intro, I have a note that I liked the take three for the intro. Again, we can go ahead and listen and audition all of the takes. Whatever is selected blue is what we're currently hearing, so if I wanna hear, for example, take one, go ahead and since that's selected blue. [Music Plays] Go ahead and listen through to take one.
And if I wanna hear what take two sounds like, at this point it's just a single click and that whole take two gets highlighted. Back to the beginning of the song and hear what we have in take two. [Music Plays] Pretty similar to take one. Gonna hear take three. We can do this while you're playing, by the way, too. [Music Playing] Found something in there I really like for take three.
And if I wanna hear take four. [Music Playing] A little different there. [Music Playing] So that's very different than what we have in take three for that section. [Music Playing] I really like take three. I think she really hit the mark there.
So I'm gonna go ahead and use take three for the intro. So keeping this selected, I would move now to the verse. And I have a note, at least initially, that I like the verse from take one. So I'll go ahead and, with the Quick Swipe tool, all I need to do is select, dragging left to right, and I'll take part of take one, and you can see it went ahead and moved this section from take three, this section from take one, that's now active in the top player. And you'll notice that Logic automatically makes crossfades between the two selections.
So if I zoom in a little bit, you can see there's an automatic crossfade happening there. And this is done so that you don't get any clicks or pops between your selections. And you can actually go into the settings to adjust how long or what type of crossfade is happening there. I'll just quickly show you. Logic Pro preferences, audio. Now in here under the editing tab you get your crossfades for merge and take comping. Crossfade time, I have it set to 10 milliseconds, so you can go larger or smaller than that and that assigns the length of the crossfade between your Quick Swipe comps.
So, let's listen to what I've chosen for first ones. [Music Plays] Okay, that sounds great. Now I have a note that I'd like to use the pre-chorus from, you know what? Actually I realized that I chose take one here but this was the pick-up take we had from take five which I really liked when we recorded.
The rhythm was better. So I'm actually gonna grab the verse from the pick-up take, take five, because that's why we did it, because that was the best one there, that one we recorded. What I like from take one in my notes is actually the pre-chorus. So I'm gonna go ahead and choose, using the swipe tool, the pre-chorus from take one. Now, there's the thing I wanna show you. When you're moving between the different takes, you have to listen through and make sure that the energy and the vibe is consistent from take to take. You don't want to have it going from really softly sung, emotive thing to a more energetic thing, because that'll really jar the listener.
So once you decide on the comps or the takes you like, you really want to listen through from edit to edit. So going through I'm just going to check what happens here energy-wise from here in the intro to the verse. Let's see if it matches. [Music Plays] That sounds pretty natural, right? And, again, I want to check the same thing from my first verse into the pre-chorus.
Let's see how the energy flows there. [Music Plays] That sounds pretty. And, again, I liked the chorus here from take three in my original notes, so I'm gonna start with that and I'm gonna go ahead and grab that cause it already is chosen from take three for the chorus, right? So, again, I wanna check the transition from the pre-chorus of take one to the chorus of take three in our comp. Let's check that.
[Music Plays] Okay, right. So the end result is it should sound like one complete take even though it's being culled from several takes, in this case, five takes, we used to make our final comped version. Now, when we're done, we have a final composite take that we've chosen in terms of the best performance to support the song in the best way possible. Now, once you have the ideal comped take that flows and sounds great, you've completed the most crucial step towards producing a great vocal.
Now turn our attention to work on refining this edit, supporting the lead vocal with background vocals and other effects, and mixing it into the song.
Audio engineer Scott Hirsch starts with comping the vocals—combining the best performances into one final vocal master take. He explains how to edit out breaths and other noises and fabricate a doubling effect for additional texture and vibe, and then brings in some plugins into the mix—Antares Auto-Tune, Melodyne, and iZotope—to tune vocals and create more interesting soundscapes. In the "Mixing" chapter, Scott enhances the sound of the vocals with EQ, compression, reverb, delay, and automation, adding life and motion to the song. The final track demonstrates everything you can do to maximize the effectiveness of vocals with Logic Pro.
- Comping takes in Logic Pro
- Editing breaths and noise
- Doubling and tuning vocals
- Experimenting with iZotope's Stutter Edit
- Processing vocals with EQ and compression
- De-essing vocals
- Using reverb, delay, and modulation effects
- Automating levels and FX in Logic Pro