How many takes YOU do for comping vocals?

If not voice, what is your instrument? And have you posted any songs that I can listen to?


If you’re not a trained vocalist then what you do you expect? :wink:
I’m lucky enough to know one of the UK’s top vocal coaches… you would not believe who she has on her client list! and i have heard the difference it makes to people once they develop the right techniques… quite stunning actually!
A little trick i use, on other people that is, is to get someone else to sound check the mic for level before the singer comes in… then i tell the singer that we’re just having a couple of runs through for level etc… but i ALWAYS hit the record button… very often as they are so relaxed with no ‘red light syndrome’ you can get the best take… 1st takes quite often tend to have more energy in them too for obvious reasons… with variaudio it’s generally pretty easy to tweak out anything that’s less than perfect or of course you can just get the talent to drop in over any parts that aren’t up to scratch or easily fixable.
When i was still capable of playing bass properly i would usually get the majority of takes down on the first run (hence the nickname i got of ‘one take wonder’ lol, with maybe one or two overdubs because i would generally rehearse the line for a few days before if possible or keep it well within my own capabilities and limits if not with maybe a few runs/vamps afterwards if time allowed.
the thing i’ve found over the years is to try and keep things as relaxed as possible, don’t let anyone into the session that isn’t needed, make sure you have plenty of cool water, throat lozenges etc handy and remember to keep talking to the person at the end of the mic if it’s not yourself.
I remember reading an interview with the pet shop boys many years ago about working with dusty springfield… they said she was a complete nightmare as she used to like recording ONE SYLLABLE AT A TIME!!! AAAAAHHHHHH! that would drive me nuts! lol but whatever it takes to get the goods down!
I did know a ‘guitarist’ who would totally go to bits and fluff the same part of the solo on every single take, definitely some sub-concious stuff going on there

These days with the bass i have to heavily comp stuff… probably in the region of 20-30 takes if i’m honest, generally i set up a loop and play until either i get a spot on take or if there are enough bits that are right so i can comp from what i have recorded. i generally do this from start to finish in order. I NEVER copy and paste bits to other sections though as i feel variation and alternatives add so much to a piece and just copying and pasting the same section throughout a track is just a cop out but that’s just my opinion…
Interesting thread actually.

Hi Steve

Like yourself I am not a singer. I tend to do two or three takes of to begin with as guide tracks. I will discard any terrible takes straight away. I don’t record in sections for the main vocal. I prefer to do whole takes for the song. As I develop the song/arrangement I will normally redo all the vocals mostly doing three to five takes of a lead vocal. Takes for backgrounds vary from one or two to five or six depending on the range and complexity and these are often done in sections. I generally prefer to comp from just a few takes and drop in if required rather than work with a lot of takes.

Thing is though, like matjones says, the early/rough takes are often the best performance if not the best technically. :wink: :laughing:


Lead vocal: first I do a guide vocal, usualy one take. Later on when I do the ‘real’ vocal it’s usualy three or four takes.
In the end, more often than not, I use parts of the guide vocal for the final mix.
Backing vocals are mostly done in one or two takes.

I used to do more takes, but I’m getting more and more confident with my singing, which speeds up the recording proces… :wink:

I’ve always gone for the “as many as it takes” approach, but then I only record others never myself…

well I have been roped into bv’s a couple of times :blush:


As a solo acoustic guitar player singer-songwriter type it might seem inauthentic that I don’t just record straight performances of the songs mic’d the best way I can find. But I have a reason: to record the guitar and vox separately is the most efficient way to get all the songs down (it was 100+ a few years ago) and time is/was of the essence. Plus recording guitar and vox separately gave me the best results. So, given that I was recording the vox separately it was reasonable to do a few takes and comp.

Incidentally, given that I record guitar and vox separately, I do a “couple” of guitar takes which enables me to edit for fluffs.

I used to feel a bit guilty about ending up with what some might regard as inauthentic recordings but given what I’ve learned about classical music recording practices that’s no longer an issue.

Also, about a couple of dozen of these songs have been issued on CD and iTunes and elsewhere and my customers (as few as they might be :smiley: ) deserve the best I can produce.


I think it might be worth mentioning to put this in context a little that even some of the very high class classical recordings on lables such as Deutsche Grammophon actually comp the vast majority of their stuff… yes believe it or not some poor sod has the joy of trying to comp a dozen or so performances of a full orchestra… bugger that!
So i wouldn’t feel too bad about it… comping has been around as long as multitrack tape has and possibly even earlier.
To use a motor racing cliche… the model t ford was invented one day, motor racing the next… :sunglasses:

I’m finding it rather interesting that the non-vocalists are doing only 3 or 4 takes. You might want to consider doing additional tracks, IMO.

As you know, voice is my instrument.

I generally set up 8 tracks beforehand. Although I am quite capable of doing one take vocal tracks (as you know), I like to work it. As such, I break down a part into small chunks, and since I am so consistent, they won’t vary much from track-to-track, but enough that one part or more will definitely shout out, “PICK ME!”. I can often go back months later and add tracks because of this.

Each part would be great during a live show, leaving no one in the audience wishing for something better, but since we’re recording, we want it to be as close to perfect as possible. Since we also have tools like Melodyne, if the emotion is perfect, but the pitch is slightly off, we can fix that. In my experience (and that of many professional engineers and producers), the emotional part is the more difficult to nail, so a perfect emotional take with slight pitch inconsistencies will generally be a keeper.

Robert Plant is one of the worst for pitch control, so keep that in mind.

Anyway, once you have those 8 tracks, you can listen to short passages, listening for anything that makes you want to scream, and then use either mute automation or cross-fades to mix your perfect vocal track. Make sure to listen without headphones to make sure it is all good, because headphones have a tendency to mask small imperfections.

As a non vocalist I do no takes.

I usually start with 2 or 3. Then I comp them to find the best of them and if needed use melodyne or variaudio. Now I use this as a guide and sing along with this for a double a few times until I get it to sound right.

From there I mute the first comped take and use the doubled take - which sounds pretty good as I was using the take that was corrected by melodyne as a guide - and then record a second take for a double with that. By now it sounds pretty good as I have sung the song so many times I am singing almost exactly the same for the double.

A bit of eq, compression and some ambience and it is usually good to go.

I usually work section by section, and I’ll do usually 3 takes in a row using Stacked Mode. Then, I’ll cut the takes up by phrases. Next, I’ll select which of each phrase is the best of the 3. Then I’ll play it all back before I “collapse” it just make sure it “gels.” Then I’ll perform the comp. Lat, if there any out of tune notes, I’ll fix them manually using AT

Well I wouldn’t protest it at all. Of course it’s better to nail it it one take, but if you can craft a better recording by cut and paste, et then why not? The end justifies the means :slight_smile:

Sometimes I’ve chopped in even a syllable if I can find a better one. depends on how much time you got. :slight_smile:

Personally I think a series of takes goes through stages of warming up, hitting a peak and then tiredness sets in and things dont’ get any better, if not worse.

i.e anything after 8 to 10 takes is not worth it without a decent break :slight_smile:

Often the first take has some stuff that is without immediate critique and is ‘free’, but has some flaws inherent with such looseness. i’d err towards using the first couple of takes as the main basis ad using the middle takes to draw on spot fixes. :slight_smile:

100 takes is complete madness IMO :slight_smile:

Sounds to me Steve that you aren’t actually ready to record…or at least not the final vocal. There’s no substitute for knowing the song and your voice before stepping up to the mic. If you’re doing THAT many takes then it sounds to me like you’re still ‘composing’ still trying to find your voice and the melody etc etc. I suspect you’d may be better off if you just simply sat down with a guitar for a while and sang the song over and over - enough times so that you develop a sense of where you want and can go with it, are generally a lot more familar with the song and have a better idea of how you want to deliver the vocal.

I often then record some rough variations and comp together a demo vocal which I then use as a guide, learn and rehearse before embarking on the final takes. And I also make sure I don’t need a lyric sheet in fron of me. I think better performances are possible if you’re not reading at the same time you’re singing.


It only takes one take to remind me to use a singer.

40-80 takes per song.

I know it’s a joke, but don’t laugh just yet – I’ve read that a typical Britney Spears recording can utilize on the order of 60-80 tracks, which they comp down to one. I’m sure this is probably true, because I’ve heard Brit sing live and guess what – she cannot actually sing very well at all

A standard thing to do with someone that cant sing very well, even after retuning and retiming, is to track up the vocals. It can work wonders for a weak and faltering singer. After about eight tracks even a very weak voice can start to sound good. Of course it depends on the singer and track, and thats before considering backing vox!

It can take one to two days to do one song but sometimes it just has to be done :smiling_imp:

Wow, what a shocker … I mean I had no idea … :astonished:


But hey guys, if a multi million star cannot sing at all, there is hope for us all… :laughing: