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

© 2008 Jim Robert