Vocal comping is an incredibly powerful and effective technique that will give you a strong vocal track – if you get it right.
If you're new to comping and unsure how it works in GarageBand or both, let's take a look at what vocal comping is and how to do it in Apple's free music production app.
What is vocal comping?
Vocal comping is when you record multiple takes of a Performance, or parts of a Performance, and combine parts from two or more takes to create a seamless vocal track called a "composite track".
Comping isn't limited to singing – you can compose many instruments – but is often associated with singing when recording.
Vocal comping is ubiquitous in recorded music, especially popular music. While vocal performances can be more liberal and nuanced in live music, recorded music is another beast that should be listened to in isolation over and over again.
Vocal Comping is essential in this regard, like putting all the correct pieces of the puzzle (parts of different vocal takes) together into a coherent whole (the Vocal Comp).
Why should you use vocal comping?
For example, suppose you recorded a near-perfect recording, with the exception of a small section that you think is missing, or you made a mistake. Should you record the voice from scratch, which can be time consuming if you don't like the next take, or do you just want to go through this one section?
Vocal comping can be used to correct mistakes, record hiccups like pops that come with explosives, or clipping, but that's not all it's limited to.
A good reason for you to use vowel comping – and comping in general – is to experiment. You're not just trying to correct mistakes. You can use Vocal Comping to combine special moments from each take to create a wonderfully unique and real vocal recording.
With that in mind, you can use any setting to try different things and play around with factors like dynamics, tone, vocal character, and anything else you might want to try.
Now that you know a little about vocal comping and what to use it for. Let's learn how to compose Vocal Comp in GarageBand.
We'll get into comping in a moment. If you're not sure how to use GarageBand to record your vocals, then read our guide first.
Step 1: Load an existing project or start a new project
So you can start a new project and record your lead vocal, or you can load an existing project that you already have vocals in.
To start comping right away, we will load an existing project with vocals.
There are a few ways you can do this: GarageBand may open the latest project upon publication for you to choose File> Open or last opened in the top left corner, or you can use the shortcut Cmd + O. If a project is already loaded, choose a different one.
One thing to keep in mind: if you are loading an existing project, it is important that you record your next vocal recordings exactly as you recorded the original voice. Comping doesn't sound seamless if one recording sounds like it was recorded a few inches away from the microphone and another like it was recorded a foot away.
So make sure you know roughly where you were sitting or standing at the comp, how loud your microphone was, and what kind of acoustic treatment you had in that room.
Step 2: turn on cycle mode
The next thing you're going to do is tune in Cycle mode by clicking on the Two arrows icon Click the shortcut next to the record button C.or just click on where the cycle area is.
This will create a yellow bar over your tracks (where your bars or timecode should be) that you can shorten or lengthen at either end, or click and drag along the track to move it.
Cycle mode creates a loop within the parameters of the yellow bar – or "cycle range" – allowing you to listen to specific sections over and over again, or to record multiple takes of a specific section or the entire track.
Step 3: Start recording another take
Once cycle mode is selected, you can start recording another take.
Recording starts at the beginning of the cycle range and returns there immediately as soon as the end of the cycle range is reached. So it is best to widen the cycle range a little on either side of the section you want to recapture. Give them a few moments each time to get ready.
Once cycle mode is activated, you will no longer be able to stop and start playing your project. If you stop playback you will have to return to the beginning of the cycle range instead.
You can record one take at a time in a continuous motion using the loop, or stop, pause, and continue after each take or a few takes.
To show you how to compose from more than one different take, we'll record four takes of a section.
Step 4: listen to your takes
Once you are happy with your takes, you can listen to each one in the Take folderClick the number in the top left of the audio file next to your region's title.
Here you should be able to choose from and listen to each take, decide whether you need to record more takes, and make a note of which takes you like.
Step 5: isolate your comp area
You will see that if you haven't recorded your track from start to finish, then everything will not be out of comp range when you select different takes.
To just focus on the comp area and leave everything outside untouched, let's split both ends of the comp area and create an independent region.
To do this, drag the playhead to either end of the comp area (indicated by a black line from top to bottom) and press Cmd + T. to split the track at the playhead. Do this on both ends of the comp area.
You should now see everything before and after your Comp pane reappears, and if you change the settings in the Comp pane, they won't go away.
When you've given yourself a little more space before and after the parts you want to include, you can just drag the playhead at the exact time you want the composition to come in or out and use the Split tool to create an independent area and select your first take (usually the full part).
Now you can select takes from your take folder and listen to each take in the context of the project. Make sure to turn off cycle mode when you do this.
Step 6: comping takes
Do you remember how you isolated your comp area in the previous step? Well, this is exactly the technique you will use to compose your takes!
For example, if you prefer Take 2 at one point, but only at that point, you can use the Split tool to isolate that area and select Take 2 for that section only.
In this example, we've used Take 2 and Take 4 and split back on both ends on Take 1 to seamlessly reinsert the comp into the lead voice.
It is worth listening to your singing in isolation to find the best points for dividing up and using different takes. You can do this by clicking Headphone icon in your track header or by pressing S..
Remember to zoom so you can precisely split and adjust areas using the normal trackpad gesture or the horizontal zoom slider to the right of your work area.
Comp with other audio instruments
Comping takes a long time to master, and the comping version of GarageBand is still relatively easy compared to more sophisticated digital audio workstations (DAWs) like big brother Logic Pro.
That being said, using GarageBand with the comp can provide an intuitive and streamlined introduction that you won't find in many other DAWs, and keep things from getting overwhelming.
Once you are comfortable with vocal composing, you can try composing other audio instruments such as guitar or drum recordings.
A step-by-step guide to recording your guitar in GarageBand
To get the best recording of your guitar in GarageBand on a Mac, follow this beginner's guide.
About the author
(32 articles published)
Soham is a musician, writer and player. He loves all things creative and productive, especially when it comes to music and video games. Horror is his preferred genre and he is often heard talking about his favorite books, games and miracles.
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