Can rappers use the voice

Only the voice counts - tips for better vocal productions

Produce vocals: adjust instrumentals, optimize vocal recordings & simply make better songs!

Everyday life as a producer: put tens of hours into the latest beat, everything swings, everything fits. Then quickly sent the beat to Soundcloud rapper LilBeef347, who raps on it, sings another hook and once again everything sounds like an amateur production. Why is that? How is it that vocals and track work fully separately, but collapse completely together? And how do you get around it? We'll show you how to produce your tracks so that the vocals are right in the middle and not on top.

“Which three elements are the most important in a pop song? - The voice, the voice and the voice. ”- That's what David Foster, sixteen-time Grammy winner and producer of i.a. Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera and Michael Bublé have said. How frustrating for us beat builders. For hours, days and nights we sit on the beats, make the sound design, fine-tune the transitions and thin out the arrangement. Then we mix everything, the sound becomes more professional. Finally, the singer or rapper is found, vocal on it and the result is shown around to friends. More than a tired smile, a: “That's okay.”, Which would make you burn your studio, doesn't come back.

At the latest when your friends react like this, you will know: something went wrong. (Credits: Shutterstock / By: G-Stock Studio)

Some producers simply lack the awareness to arrange their tracks and design their sounds in such a way that most of the available space is left over for the vocals. The songwriters who are already producing the vocal melody, however, have fewer problems with this. But we're not all top liners, melody princes or Freddie Mercury !? Fortunately, however, there are enough ways to clean up a track as soon as the vocals are added - in other words: the tracks can be arranged around the vocals in such a way that the two go well together.

Basically, of course, the quality of the vocal recording has to be right first. The cleanest arrangement is of little use if the recordings are crackling, the tones are crooked, the wrong microphone has been used, there are too many room resonances in the recording and, above all, the expression in the voice is missing. A summer hit performed with a grave voice rarely works, a growled Christmas ballad can go well, but it can also just sound inappropriate.

If the vocals are not professionally recorded, as is the case here, there can be many problems with the vocal tracks. (Credits: Shutterstock / By: AboutLife)

Cause 1: The arrangement is too full

The voice is king! That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to delete all seventeen percussion loops and synth plucks. But imagine you are sitting in the stadium and a fan is sitting in the stands opposite. With a little effort you can see which team he is a fan of, what he is wearing, which flag he is waving. Now take the same block again, just full of fans. Will you find that one again? If he's not waving a Bengalo, it'll be difficult. The voice therefore needs just as much space as a single fan on an entire grandstand. Their rhythm, phrasing, expression and melody must be able to develop. So out of the way, you basslines and guitar solos!

With the exception of a cappella pieces, the voice always has to share space with other instruments. If there is too much going on in the song, it gets tight. (Credits: Shutterstock / By: Tomacco)

Lead synths and electric guitars in particular are often the criminals who overshadow the voice. But too many of the aforementioned percussion loops, all of which are shaking and drumming around the vocals, can also be the cause. The following tip will not be easy for you, as you fell in love with every sound during the instrumental production and embedded it so nicely in the arrangement. But: You have to delete what it takes. Or at least pull everything else into the background using filters and volume adjustment so that the voice cannot be disturbed.

Hi-hats and sharp percussion instruments can also be disruptive factors. The most important element in singing after expression is intelligibility. This is guaranteed by the consonants, i.e. basically in the 1-3 kHz range, with the s sounds sometimes even in the 6 kHz range. Hi-hats like to hop around there! Here you can confidently help with EQs and automations.

Cause 2: same situation

Immediately after the overcrowded arrangement, the most common cause of the suppressed singing is the one that we already mentioned in the arrangement tutorial from last year: The voice and the instruments are pitched too similar. For producers, the balancing act between arranging and making room for the voice is one of the greatest challenges. All harmony instruments whose fundamental tones are too close to the melody of the song should change position as quickly as possible. In other words, you transpose these instruments (mostly in octaves) upwards. Under certain circumstances (see cause 3) this can lead to a sound no longer sounding good, but in the end it may also mean that it was superfluous anyway.

One of the main tasks of composers in classical music is to distribute the instruments in different positions - also called arranging. (Credits: Shutterstock / By: Igor Bulgarin)

If you want to go a little deeper into arranging, it can help a lot to deal with voice guidance. Arranging chords, but also monophonic instruments, not only stubbornly in their fundamental tones, but also together with the respective two inversions so that the harmonic jumps are smaller, can help a lot more than just setting them an octave higher.

Cause 3: The sounds do not match

To protect myself in front of the elaborately produced instrumental: Maybe the voice just doesn't fit. If your track is full of high lead sounds, guitar solos and saxophone loops and you have a female singer with a rather throaty, squeaky voice, vocals and instruments can quickly get in the way. Likewise, a singer in the hummed tradition of Barry White will have a hard time asserting himself against an 808 bass.

The “Godfather of Soul” would have had a hard time asserting himself vocally in the sub-bass-heavy genres. (Credits: Shutterstock / By: spatuletail)

Provided you are not producing for a genre in which the intensive use of autotune makes it clear from the start what the vocals will sound like in the song, you have to edit your sounds so that they harmonize better with the voice. The pad sounds behind the decent, high soprano voice (à la Ariana Grande) then perhaps need more support in the middle with a brass sample or less sharp reverb. The tuba sample really offends with the deep baritone or bass vocals (like Macklemore or Peter Fox); a rather muffled synth bass or a sample of a higher-sounding instrument would do a lot more here. These are just examples, but they hopefully demonstrate how important sound selection is. If you have problems, you are always faced with the decision: change sounds or lose voice.

Cause 4: The rhythms do not match

Even if the sounds have been changed, the arrangement has been tidied up and everything has been well transposed, it can happen that the vocals are still not tangible and understandable. The coarse double-time flow of a 16-bar rap has no chance against equally fast whipping hi-hats, shakers or synth plucks. So: place there! The big "My-Heart-Will-Go-on" melodies would not have the same effect if there were fast house pianos or a beat that was too fast.

If there is chaos in the rhythm, your track will go under! (Credits: Shutterstock / By: Tomacco)

Too great a contrast between the two rhythms, that of the song and that of the music, can be just as difficult as too great a resemblance. The voice has to stand out, the rhythms of the other instruments have to avoid it. You also fine-tune the bass / kick combination, where the rhythms of both instruments play a significant role in making it sound good.

Solution 1: Produce the vocal line

So how do you avoid frustration? The easiest way to do it is to practically co-produce the vocal melody. You will not be able to assess whether your sounds will ultimately match the voice, especially if you have not yet worked with the singer. But with the integration of the vocal line you can align the voice, the position of the instruments, the rhythms and the arrangement with each other. To start with, this can simply be a track with a piano that takes on the role of singing.

The earlier the vocals are included in the production, the easier it is to incorporate later. (Credits: Shutterstock / By: OSABEE)

From there you can of course go on and on. From singing in or rapping through guest musicians to demo recordings by the intended artist, the pre-production can then go into more and more detail. Of course, it really depends on whether you are also a copywriter. But sometimes the lack of text can inspire the search for comrades-in-arms.

Solution 2: collaborate

100 hours of studio a week, your best friends are coffee, cigarette and compressor and the best are your beats still for yourself? Then maybe it is time to work with someone. Outside mirrors, a new universe of ideas, a different perspective and life experience are three gold pots full of musical ideas. Granted, the longer you cook your own soup, the harder it is to let someone in. Especially with regard to the producer's disease “producing instrumentals on the assembly line that no vocals fit”, the view from the outside is one of the most effective antidotes.

Four ears hear more than two. (Credits: Shutterstock / By: Nejron Photo)

If, as already mentioned in solution 1, you produce for the vocals earlier, everything will come together much faster. But if you are the best beat builders and the worst voice integrators in one person, a partner who has been there from the start or maybe even has singing ideas is worth gold.

Solution 3: take a look at the big ones

Melodies can be stolen, but arrangements can only be imitated. Everyone recognizes the melody of "The Final Countdown" (Sorry for the catchy tune) within seconds. If it were to appear in another song without a mention, it would be illegal, uncreative and in most cases pretty bland for listeners. But no one and no law has anything against it or will notice anything if you orient yourself to the arrangements of the models of your genre. How did XY create the balance between voice and drums, how does the vocal line work in the chorus of YZ, why with XYZ is a low whisper, door creak and a chime for permanent goose bumps? The answer lies in the arrangement.

Solution 4: build vocals around the song

Max Martin - anyone who has never heard the name of the most successful songwriter of all time after Paul McCartney and John Lennon will be forgiven. The Swede has been responsible for over 20 number one hits on the Billboard charts and an estimated 150 million records sold since the mid-90s, such as a little song called "... Baby one more time" (Sorry for the second catchy tune ). It may also be due to the fact that Martin’s mother tongue is not English, which is why many of the lyrics in the songs he wrote for Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Katey Perry, The Weekend and many others are completely free of meaning. But it also has to do with "Melodic Math".

Just don't mess it up! (Credits: Shutterstock / By: Morrowind)

Martin has spoken of it repeatedly in the few interviews he has given in the course of his career. The music dictates the sound of the words. Admittedly, that's a very cerebral approach to songwriting and producing. But maybe the cause of the mismatch between your track and the vocal recording is even buried in the wording of the lyrics.

What that means? - Voice track off, instrument on, notepad or voice app ready and brainstorm. Or just make this suggestion to your copywriter. It may just be an experiment that you quickly realize is leading you in the wrong direction. But it can also be exactly the one knot that has to burst so that you can find a solution to your problem, if all of the other tips and ideas in this article haven't helped you yet.