Audio wngineer Scott Hirsch makes a vocal comp (or compilation take) out of five recorded vocal takes using playlist-style multilayer editing in the PreSonus Studio One Playlist Editing view.
- [Instructor] The first and argueably most important step towards producing a lead vocal is deciding on the final take. Here's where you're gonna use all of your producing and editing skills to select the most compelling performance for the final mix of the song. Now, it's quite possible that the singer nailed a complete vocal performance in one of the takes. If that's the case, all you have to do is find that take and use it. More likely though, you'll have to search through more than one take to make a composite best of from a bunch of options.
This is called a vocal comp. 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 Studio One, since we'll be using the playlist editing options, and the quick swipe editing tool to make this happen. Here I have an Excel spreadsheet where I made some notes during the original recording session. This is a road map of the takes I thought were working at the time of the recording session.
Keeping track this way can be helpful when it comes time to make the comp. Now in Studio One, we have four complete takes and fifth take of just the first one, and they are all on separate layers. Right now we're only seeing the top of these layers, but if I click into the tracks expand layer button, I can see all five of the layers. I've got take one through four full takes of the song. These are different vocal takes. We did four complete takes and then we have one take which is just verse one in take five.
Now how this works is we hear whatever's on the top layer. So if we wanna audition take one, we can go ahead and hit play and we'll hear what we did on take one. Let's take a listen to a bit of take one. (jazzy music with female vocalist) We're hearing whatever's in the top layer.
So now if I wanted to hear take two, I can click down into the second layer where take two is, and click on the up arrow and it'll move into the top slot, and now I can hear take two in the upper slot here. So we'll hear that same intro but we'll hear the second take. (jazzy music with female vocalist) Sounds pretty similar to take one. Let's check out take three.
So click down in here, click the up arrow and move take three to the top. (jazzy music with female vocalist) So, so far, that's definitely my favorite, and I actually have it written in my notes that I liked take three when we recorded it. So let's say I wanted to decide to use take three.
Well, one way I can do this is just to leave it right there up at the top, since it's already the current, active take that I wanna use. So we'll use that for the intro, we'll use take three, but I have in my notes that I like the last pickup take of take five for the first verse. So this is how this works. If I wanted to use take five, notice how my cursor is an I-beam. So all I need to do is click and drag take five right around the area where it starts and it'll move up to the top layer.
So now I've got take five moved up and if I zoom in a little bit, you can even pull the beginning of it back a little bit. Actually what is did was cross fade, which is nice, since we know we wanna have a cross fade between take one and take five, since they're different takes. Just pulling it back a little bit actually created an automatic cross fade. So I'm starting to make a comp. I'm using the beginning of the intro from take three, and then I'm using the first verse from take five. Now I also have in my notes that I like the prechorus from take one, in which is now currently in the second slot here.
So if I decide that I like that, or I'd at least wanna hear it, I can use the I-beam cursor to swipe across in that layer, and it'll bring that to the top. So notice I have a really nice road map also up top. I've created some markers for each section of the song, so I know exactly when the sections of the song start. I know this is the prechorus section. So I'll use take one's prechorus, and I'll just grab it by swiping and it quickly moves it up to the top. And then I like take three for the chorus.
I have that in my notes as well, so that's already in the top layer. So I'll use the chorus from take three. So you can see how this works. And you'd go through the song and what you wanna listen for is all of the takes and you find which ever one fits the song best and has the best emotional involvement in the song. Now the one thing to be careful for as you're deciding on your takes, is you wanna make sure that the energy flows from take to take. If you're culling performances from four or five takes, you have to make sure that the energy matches.
So go ahead an listen to these selections I've made here and see if the energy fits between the takes. So you might wanna take the last couple phrases of each one and then just go through. So let's start playing here. (jazzy music with female vocalist) Let's make sure it matches. Sounds pretty natural, right? And then I'll hoop over here and hear the outro of this verse into the prechorus.
Go back a little bit. (jazzy music with female vocalist) So that sounds pretty natural, and then going into the chorus. (jazzy music with female vocalist) So that all works pretty well as one performance. In the end, you really want it to sound like one complete performance, even though you're taking from many different takes.
Now, when we're done, we'll have a final composite take like the one you see here. And we've chosen this in terms of the best performance to support the song in the best way possible. Once you have the ideal comped take that flows and sounds great, you've completed the most crucial step toward producing a great vocal. We'll now turn out attention to work on refining this edit, supporting the lead with background vocals and 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 Studio One.
- Comping takes in Studio One
- 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 Studio One