I just finished the final tweaks on the final mixes of All Wood and Doors (www.allwoodanddoors.com) and I realized that there are a few things that I do that might help you with your own recording.
First, what I did with the background and lead vocals, in terms of how I mixed them and how I tweaked them.
If you are recording in someone else’s studio then you need to have the background vocals rehearsed and you need to begin and end at the same time. I know this sounds intuitively obvious, but in practical application it is not as easy as it sounds.
It’s best if one of the vocalists takes the lead, conducting the others as to tempo, entrance and exit.
With regard to siblance, only one vocalist during each pass has to put the “d”, “t” or “sh” on the word. When you have several vocalists doing this and then you double or triple it, it begins to sound like the siblance from hell; spiking the volume and creating digital distortion.
So agree on which person will add the siblance at the end of the words and let the other vocalists simply stop.
Now if you are in a computerized recording studio (and most of us are now), the process becomes much easier, tho more tedious.
You simply move everyone around until they are coming in at exactly the place you want them to and you cut them off at the exact place you want them to stop.
Then you draw a little fade at the end and you leave one voice to add the siblance.
And I suggest that you end vocals on a downbeat. It makes the downbeat strong and helps the groove. When you have vocals or notes ring over the beat it diminishes the power of the beat.
Stop them on 4 or stop them on 1 of the bar, or stop them where ever it sounds like they are hanging out..
It’s amazing how wonderful background vocals make the recording sound when they are locked into the lead vocal and/or they are beginning and ending their parts together. Changes the whole thing from garage band to professional recording.
Now there are folks who actually prefer the raggedy edge to the background vocals. This is certainly legitimate, but to my ear sounds lazy, sloppy and unprofessional.
When Timothy B Schmit comes in here, he listens to the lead vocal, he learns the phrasing and he emulates it. Starting when I do and ending when I do, unless he comes up with a part that answers the lead vocal.
Try it both ways, but remember, in a bar, when folks are drinking and singing you get that raggedy thing. If that’s what you are going for, then go for it.
For me, I like to hear arrangements, control and authority coming from all the musicians. And that means tight singing, tight playing, tight arrangements. And that’s more work all the way around…but worth it to me.