September 22, 2008

How do I get the 'Crowd' effect?

Today I was browsing the homeRecording forum and I came across this question:
Hey guys, im tryna record the typical hip hop sounding "ayy", which usually sounds like a crowd of people. I'm doin a few takes in different tones..somethings lacking.. any ideas?
What he's looking for is known as "Crowd vocals" or "Gang vocals".

I thought to myself... "I know how to do that!" So I answered it. Good story huh?

Then I thought, hmm I bet somebody else might want to know this too! So here's my answer, trimmed down and broken into steps:
  1. Get a few friends together - 4 or 5 is plenty.

  2. Record 6 to 10 tracks of the group all doing the parts you want to sound like crowd.

    Of course more tracks can work too, but I find that once you go beyond 35 voices or so the strong sounding low mids start to disappear. You can always mute tracks if you record too many though.

  3. Pan half of the tracks left and half of them right. Somewhere between 50% and 100%, depending on how close to the front of the mix you want the crowd to be.

    note: If you want the crowd to be really in front, pan a pair of the tracks left 10% and right 10% respectively. I try not to pan any of them center because the sound of a crowd surrounds you by it's nature.

  4. Make all the tracks about the same volume and send them to a group channel (or in protools, set the output bus of each track to the input bus of an aux channel).

  5. Apply any effects to the group/aux channel
This effect can be seen in action in all kinds of music, from hip-hop to punk, to big band. Here are a few examples:
Here's a comic for ya!

Crowd Vocals Comic

September 14, 2008

Clarity - Warm... or just Hot and Even?

If you've ever read a review for a piece of audio equipment you've probably come across the word 'warm'. You've also probably tried to find out what it means, and come up with a different answer for every person you asked.

What does 'WARM' even mean?

Well... I wish I could say I had the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, but I don't. The closest thing I've got is a collection of ideas about what warm means; hopefully I can bring a little clarity to the topic.

Despite the occasional likening of warmth in audio to the taste of vodka, the majority of answers I found revolve around 3 main ideas...

Warm means:
So... basically any result of analog gear. Specifically tube gear and tape saturation.

Tube Gear

Before we go on, lets look at the history of digital for a short bit. When digital recording first came out, engineers were enamored with the newly found high frequency response that their analog gear had been lacking. Pete Brunelli shared some wisdom about the advent of digital recording on
To me, that short period [at the advent of digital recording] created this analog/digital division, and the fascination with "warm". Warm really does exist. And a lot of the early digital recordings were anti-warm. IMO, digital got tagged with a "cold" or "sterile" tag because the technology was in its infancy and engineers weren't trying to make digital sound like tape. In an A/B situation I don't think that engineers were willing to knock back the highs on thdigital stuff at all. Also, a lot of digital "remasters" were, and continue to be, hack jobs that ruin the feel of the original recording. That didn't help the image of digital either.

So either digital gear isn't as cold/harsh/lifeless as we think and it's just an effect of engineers hyping the music in a certain way, OR what warm really means is 'sounds like analog.' If that's true... the only way for digital to accomplish 'warm' tone is to emulate analog gear... right?

Well, that's definitely has been a trend in plug-in development. Just to name a few:
Here's my take on it: If it sounds good in the room, and you've got decent gear... that's all the warmth you need... but don't just take my word for it experiment and find what works for you!

© 2008 Jim Robert