Music peeves: Should we have to deal with them?

Music peeves: Should we have to deal with them?

I generally see myself as an optimistic person.  There isn’t too much that makes me want to pull my hair out.  However, there are a few things that get under my skin.  Since music plays a pivotal part in my everyday life, I found it fitting to want to talk about a few of my music “peeves”.

Reverb – an effect whereby the sound produced by an amplifier or an amplified musical instrument is made to reverberate slightly.

I’ve been a part of the online music scene since 2005 (12 years).  I was a member of a karaoke site called Singer’s Showcase.   We kind of had a motto on that site – ‘the more reverb on your vocals, the better you sound’.  I kid you not; I have some recordings where it sounds as if I was singing inside of a cave.  Nothing better than recording your vocals, then saturating them with a ton of reverb.  But, that was what everyone was doing, so I followed suit.  I was an active member there for around 2 years, give or take.

In 2006/2007, I stumbled upon a site called icompositions.  Since the site focused more on original music, I jumped right in and wrote my first song.  It was a collaboration with two other musicians, so I was super excited.  I was the one who did the mix, and believe me, I am NOT a mixer – but back then, since the track was already done, you just mixed in your part.  I know, I know – but this was like 11 years ago when we collaborated via email.  It turned out really great; at least that’s what a lot of the other members said.  But it wasn’t until the next collaboration that the wool was pulled from my eyes, or should I say ears?

My second original song wasn’t mixed by me.  As a matter of fact, the musician that I worked with convinced me to send him my raw dry vocals so that he could mix the song.  I was a bit hesitant, I mean, geez my dry vocals with no reverb???  Oh man!  But eventually I did send them, and when he sent back the final mix, I was blown away.  Wow, was that what my voice sounded like!?!?  What did he do to my vocals to make me sound so good?  Turns out – all he did was add a touch of reverb instead of drowning my vocals.  It was seriously one of those ‘holy shit’ moments – I have a lot of those!  I was just so amazed that my voice didn’t need all of that reverb.

For years I was hiding behind saturation.  Needless to say, I became very turned off to reverb.  No, really – my dislike towards it has become quite strong.  And for anyone who has worked with me or mixed my vocals knows that.   Don’t get me wrong, there are songs that require a heavier reverb to get the ‘ethereal’ message across – and for those types of songs, I am cool.  But otherwise, I prefer very light verbage – and I’m not afraid to let audio engineers know it.

Yep, reverb is my first music peeve.

Melodyne – a tool which is used by a large number of professional record producers worldwide to tune and manipulate audio signals, typically a singer’s vocals.

I could probably write a short novel about my feelings towards Melodyne, but I’ll spare you the sarcastic details. Listen, I’m not against it, nor do I think it’s sinful that some vocalists’ depend on it, or even like or prefer it. However, for me, I would rather redo my vocals if I sing something “off pitch”.   Much like reverb, I can appreciate Melodyne at times, when used as a cool effect or to add some depth to my background vocals.

If used properly, Melodyne can be an awesome tool to enhance a performance.  If used sloppily, it can turn out horrific!  And believe me; I have experienced the horror first hand.  Since then, I am pretty adamant about not using it – unless the audio engineer uses it tastefully & informs me about it.  I guess it’s a trust thing, if the AE knows how to accurately use it, then I have faith that he will use it in good taste.

Yep, Melodyne is my second music peeve.

All in all, there should be a trust that vocalists have with the audio engineers who are handling their vocals.

I feel it is always best to be upfront about your preferences.  Most AE’s will appreciate your honesty.  Because really, there is nothing worse than spending hours or even days mixing a song, only to be told that the vocalist doesn’t like this or doesn’t like that.  So speak up or forever hold your peeve!

Can you relate?  What are your feelings towards Reverb & Melodyne?

19 thoughts on “Music peeves: Should we have to deal with them?

  1. Pet peeves? Sloppy timing and bum notes.

    1. Melodyne, Melodyne, Melodyne! But Melodyne doesn’t help with sloppy timing, right?

      1. Actually, it does. Melodyne is freakin’ awesome! 🙂

  2. LSSongs


    Your complaint about excessive reverb struck a chord, as it was only a day ago that I opined to someone about reducing the reverb on some preliminary mixes. Plus, sometimes subtlety can be even better than excess.

    Consider the masterful subtlety of Ricky Nelson who recorded at a time when the use of noticeable plate reverb was common place. In regard, here’s a great example: “Young World”:

    Re: Pitch altering programs:
    I’ve always been in awe of the flawless three and four-part harmonies of groups from the 40s and 50s, as well as by the two-part harmonies of the Everly Brothers which to my ears sound more like three voices than two. “Let It Be Me”:

    But getting a vocalists to record harmony edits is not always as easy as simply using a pitch program to do the edit. Case in point: I once nagged someone to mimic the vocal intensity at the ending of this live version of “Rhiannon”: [listen at 4:16 minutes in], and apply it to a tune I wanted her to sing. In result of her efforts to accommodate, she began losing her voice. So when I also wanted to add some harmonies to a musical refrain, it became much easier to simply create them via Melodyne. All things considered it was the least I could do. 🙂

    Example of Melodyne created harmonies:

    1. Yeah, nagging is an understatement, haha. I wonder who that singer is? 😉

      It was a fun experience all in all, and you did an awesome job with the harmonies at the end.

  3. Usalabs

    I like using Reverb, but not to heavy and in the right places, as for Melodyne, or Autotune, I do not like them, and I can detect their use a 1000 miles away, my opinion on Melodyne or Autotune is:- If someone has to use some sort of software to put their vocals in pitch, then go and get some professional singing lessons, and LEARN how to sing and NOT rely on software to do it for you.

    One might as well strap a mic to yer throat connected to a smarphone with a belt clip mini-amp, and say “hey I can sing, professionals DON’T need it and should NEVER use it.

    Another example for someone that can’t be bothered to learn how to yodel, is to get an anvil, drop it on yer foot, while someone give ya an atomic wedgie, and while yer wailin in the mic, set the software to yodel, and done.

    1. For years I was very much against it. I do like it at times when I hear it used as an effect on certain songs, but as far as ‘correcting’ pitch, I am not feeling it.

  4. Fine blog R. Trouble with melodyn is you can hear it being used in most cases especially when developing backing vocals. A German friend of ours used it a lot on icompo and I always new it and it bothered me.

    1. Speaking of background vocals – do you see LSSongs’ comment above? Follow the last link he posted, that is a song I did with him. He used Melodyne to create a harmony for my background vocals. If you listen to the ‘falling’ harmonies, one of those harmonies was actually created.

  5. greg

    I dunno… To me, reverb is like any other effect when mixing.. Sometimes you need it, and sometimes you don’t. If it’s only a singer and a piano soing a slow, sultry song, then maybe some reverb would be appropriate to fill the audio spectrum…. But on a busy mix, it can muddy things up in a hurry.

    Mind you, using a reverb bus with a very short reverb tail to make everyone sound like they recorded in the same room is very common practice. But then again, you don’t really hear that reverb, it’s just a “glue”.

    Pitch correction……. is a touchy subject. when you have a good singer, then yeah, use it as little as you can, if not at all. I use it for back vocals when I’m too lazy to re-track a botched back vocal… But these days, I use it less and less. I just got better at harmonies. Practice makes perfect, and a well done, well sung vocal track will ALWAYS sound better than a processed one.

    I do use it from time to time when multiple singers are involved in a vocal harmony, as every vocalist has their own “habits”, For instance, I always start a verse a little flat, and my regular back vocalist usually starts a little sharp. When we do our own backs, it doesn’t matter, since we have the same pattern going on… But when we back someone else, and there are more than 3 singers involved, it can get messy if we don’t follow each other properly… Hence a little correction is sometimes needed.

    I gotta say though, when I sing with Dani, I don’t even think about reaching for the correction plug. Yup, she is that good 😉

    1. I can definitely mirror that last statement, Greg. Working with you always brings out the best in me! 🙂

      I remember we had a similar discussion about this on another site a few years back. Things got heated with a few people, so yes, it is certainly a touchy subject. Throughout the years I lightened up about it – still not totally for it, but I’m not against it either. To each his own, I say! 😉

  6. Steven Sweet

    Ah reverb. The only reason the only place (other than the studio) I sing in, is the shower 😛 While it is widely abused, there is a time and a place. Personally, I quit using reverb about 4 years ago. A well placed delay has always given me a far better end product, that is, if used in moderation. Time based effects, such as Reverb and delay, have always been very subjective. As you mentioned, reverb\delay, in most cases, will always make whatever sound “better” to a point. Unfortunately, at the same time, it will make said sound, translate sonically worse (a catch 22, if you will). There is nothing more pleasing to the ear, than a perfectly recorded vocal take with absolutely no room effect. But at the same time, if the vocal is less than perfect, reverb or delay can definitely add some polish.

    The gold standard, and common practice for reverb states: “If you can hear the effect, there’s too much”. In essence, delay and reverb should be dialed in to a point where they blend seamlessly together, and contribute to the overall timbre of the sound. While this might be applicable to 90 percent of all music produced, there still is room for artistic approaches and interpretations to produced mixes. All one needs to do is to look back at Sun Records, and that signature slapback sound to know that the likes of Cash and Elvis just wouldn’t have sounded the same without the “verb” being over accentuated.

    With that said, my personal approach is pretty simple. I place my finger on the delay mix fader, close my eyes, and roll it up and down, and stop when it sounds good to my ears. Strangely enough, 2 of my best vocal performances sat better in the mix with a very prominent amount of delay. Go figure. A lot of it also depends on the backing tracks. Lead vocals (for most applications) should always be in front. The more reverb and delay you have, the further back they sit. If all of your instrumental tracks were recorded in a treated room (with very few reflections), then generally, your lead vocal should sit better in the mix with less reverb or delay.

    Moving on to Melodyne. We have had a love affair for several years now. It absolutely, hands down, beats the crap out of Antares, Waves, etc. That being said, it’s a tool, not a miracle plug-in. If used correctly, it will make good vocalists sound great. If used correctly, it will make crappy vocalists sound like robots with down syndrome. My personal rule of thumb is, if you have to fix more than 3 notes, re-take the vocal. DO NOT APPLY IT TO YOUR ENTIRE VOCAL! Use it to spot fix some crap you were too lazy to fix. Pure and simple. I personally work a million hours a week with my “day job”, so when I finally get the time to cut vocals, I will definitely employ Melodyne to expedite the process. The better alternative is to comp your tracks. Record your vox 15 times, then cut and paste on a final track till’ ya’ have something representable. Of course, the better alternative to that, is to learn to sing 😛 TIP: If you play lead guitar, banjo, etc. and have some issues with intonation on your instrument, Melodyne is a life saver when used in polyphonic mode.

    That’s all I got. Thanks for bringing up a good subject ma’m!

    1. greg

      Sooo much good stuff in that post Steven!

      I agree with everything you said.. Especially the ” If you can hear it, there’s too much of it”. That rule is golden!

      Yup, pitch correction aint gonna make you sound like a god if you can’t sing properly…. But yeah, it can fix lazy vocalists (like me)’s mistakes 🙂

      Basically, if it takes more work to do pitch correction than to re-plug the mic and do a re-take… Just sing it again 😉

      I’m not against it, but it should be a tool to fix little blurbs here and there….

      I don’t even use melodyne, because it is too good. I use a crappy, stock pitch corrector that came with my DAW. It sounds completely fake and obvious. So if I use it too much, you hear it right away. That forces me to re-sing properly, and that’s a good thing 🙂

      Concerning other people doing pitch correction on vocals I submitted… If I uploaded them,that means I’m quite confident that they are on pitch and at least decently recorded…. So please ask before you mess with them, and show me the result before publishing. You don’t want a diva throwing a fit at you because you messed up his precious vocals 😉

      Oh yeah Dani, I remember that heated discussion LOL

      1. “So please ask before you mess with them, and show me the result before publishing. You don’t want a diva throwing a fit at you because you messed up his precious vocals” – – hahahahahaha, spot on, my friend!!!

  7. Steven Sweet

    One thing I forgot to mention. When cutting vocals, an overdose of reverb in your headphone mix will drastically and positively effect the outcome of your recording 🙂

  8. Ever notice that when ya sing in the shower it sounds amazing? It’s kind of like singing in an empty room, I love it – – but once you plug in that mic and it picks up that space, eeek!!!

    I do appreciate when reverb is used properly on my vocals. As you know, I am very picky about it. But you always seem to make my vocals sound fabulous. So whatever you are doing, it’s working! 😉

    Very true, Melodyne definitely isn’t a miracle plug-in, haha. Although I’ll never understand how today’s pop stars are getting away with it, and making millions, geez!

  9. Steven Sweet

    Lmao…Thanks Dani 🙂 Eh, the problem is, pitch correction technology has evolved to a point where, if used properly, it’s hard to detect. The one thing it can’t do: Add that inflection and soul that resonates with the end user 🙂

    1. So true, soooooo true! 😉

  10. For all you doubters! Here’s a nice little guide that I think highlights the benefits of this amazing little tool 🙂

    Using Melodyne 4: A Beginners Guide – Warren Huart: Produce Like A Pro

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