Timing of the double-tracks

The timing reference for all double-tracks is the master lead vocal track. Any correction will concern not only the beginnings and endings of words, but also the sibilants and breaths on the double-tracks. Here we will outline the workflow for manual correction and also the use of the timing macro.

Sibilants and breaths

Timing discrepancies between the master lead vocal and the double-tracks are particularly troublesome where they concern breaths and sibilants. You will therefore want to make all such sounds quieter on the double-tracks than they already are, and even, in the extreme case, mute them altogether by double-clicking with the Amplitude Tool.

To obtain access to these and only these sounds, you may need to insert additional note separation – the easiest way of doing this is by entering Note Assignment Mode and moving the separation slider to the right:

Sometimes you will prefer not to reduce the volume of the sibilants and breaths, in order to preserve the illusion of several people singing in unison. In that case, the best way to eliminate timing discrepancies will be to move the offending sibilants and breaths laterally (without stretching or squeezing them in the process). In this context, it is helpful to bear the “+1 rule” in mind.

Sometimes, you may need to disconnect breaths altogether from their surrounding blobs through the use of hard separations.

When moving sibilants or breaths, use the starting point of the corresponding sound on the lead vocal track as point of orientation, as it is there that any discrepancies will be most annoying.

If an intake of breath on a double-track still seems too long, you can either mute it – after all, there’ll be sufficient breath noise on the other tracks – or shorten it with the trick described here.

The beginning of words

Once you have optimized the breaths and “S's”, you can get down to the beginnings and endings of words. Here it is advisable to summon a manageable number of double-tracks (four to eight, say) to the Note Editor and then fan them out in the display with the switch near the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

A quick way of improving the synchronization is to begin by selecting one note and thereafter step from note to note using the arrow keys. Any note that is too far offset from the corresponding note of the reference track can be nudged to the right or left as appropriate using the keyboard shortcut “Alt-Cmd-right/left arrow”. If you would prefer to assign some other key combination to this command, you can do so from the Preferences property sheet.

Using the Quantize Time Macro

An even faster technique takes advantage of the Quantize Time Macro:

  • Shift-click on all the notes (regardless of track) that are mistimed, in order to select them.
  • Open the Quantize Time Macro and choose the lead vocal track as the groove reference.
  • Set the Intensity to 100 % (or thereabouts).

This method corrects the notes quickly and efficiently but harbors two risks:

  • The quantization of the notes can lead to the stretching or squeezing of neighboring breaths or sibilants. In extreme cases, this can sound unnatural. Here, though, in the context of the entire mix, it is perhaps not noticeable. To listen to the entire mix to see whether it is, start playback in the DAW. If the “S's” or breath sounds are proving problematic, eliminate them from the selection before opening the macro.

  • If the master lead vocal has been sliced into smaller snippets than the double-tracks, it can happen that notes when quantized “seek out” the wrong targets and end up in the wrong places, in which case you may end up making the timing worse rather than better, if you’re not careful.

But don’t worry: This is something that is easily noticed and quickly put right. All you have to do is select the erroneously quantized notes, right-click and choose “Reset Timing” to return them to their original positions.

Now you just move them to the desired positions by hand or using the keyboard shortcuts.

Word endings

To move the ending of a word, you must usually begin by detaching it from the following note by severing the “ties that bind them” i.e. by replacing the soft separation between them (vertical dash) with a hard one (square bracket).

You already know this technique as it was discussed in detail in the section on lead vocals.

Summary

To correct the timing of vocal double-tracks, here in a nutshell is the procedure to follow:

  • Display the master lead vocal in the Note Editor for reference.
  • Move four to eight double-tracks at a time to the Note Editor, this time for editing, and fan them out so you can see what you are doing.
  • Select the notes to be corrected (excluding the sibilants and breaths using the “+1” method).
  • Open the Quantize Time Macro, select the lead vocal track as the groove reference and set the desired intensity.
  • Alternatively (or in addition), move blobs by hand (to do this quickly, use the arrow keys).
  • Next, adjust the word lengths (for which it is necessary to release certain notes from their “social ties”).
  • Edit the sibilants and breaths, which require special treatment:
- make all such sounds quieter or mute them altogether - out-of-sync sibilants should be moved laterally without squeezing or stretching them - overlong intakes of breath should be shortened using the slice-and-fade technique, not by squeezing them.