8 Steps for Comping The Perfect Vocal Take

Comping is a term used for editing multiple instances of the same performance together into one flawless track. Cakewalk has adapted this functionality in order to bring this kind of workflow right to the fingertips of every SONAR X3 user. Within this article I am going to show you my own workflow for comping together a vocal track.

1. Create Markers for the different sections of your song. This should have been done during the actual recording. As I’ve stated in other posts, it’s really important to label your sections so that you can move from one place to another without a second thought. Fast paced environments are not very forgiving when the engineer loses their spot. It creates distractions and impedes the artist’s or group’s concentration.

2. Identify the individual sections of the song with split points so that you can understand where each section edit starts and ends. This works in tandem with Markers to help isolate the larger sections of the song. Simply expose your take lanes by using the short-cut Shift+T, expand the track height of the takes, and then click and swipe on the lower half of your audio regions to make split points.

Clicking and swiping can be viewed here:

3. Rid your existing takes of unnecessary audio, bad edits, and any parts that bleed over into the current vocalist’s microphone. This is the moment to start making decisions about your takes. If you can’t use it, then mute it or completely remove it from your session so that it is not taking up useful space.

During the process of this recording we tracked basics with the entire group in one room. The vocalist was in the middle of the room giving direction and cues as well performing with the group. The drums are especially present in some of the takes.

This type of process requires the need for something called an “overdub session” – where individual parts are then recorded after the initial “basics session” is tracked. The content of this article is from the overdub session for the vocalist. For syncing purposes, some of the parts have the count-in from the basics section available at the beginning of take. Some of the takes have previous takes recorded onto them so that the vocalist knew when to come in correctly. Ridding your session of the unwanted stuff makes things less confusing.

4. Apply clip gain automation where it’s needed. It’s important to take note of which tracks have mismatched gain staging. Alleviating that issue from the start is crucial for A-B comparisons. Differences in gain can distract you while you are trying to evaluate takes next to one another. One take may sound better than the other, but it’s actually because one is louder than the other.

5. Start auditioning your takes and making more decisions. SONAR X3 introduces speed comping, which makes moving from take to take faster than ever before.

Speed Comping is activated by the following:

With an audio section selected, select Shift+Spacebar. This begins playback of that single take isolated from other backing tracks.

During playback, you have two choices:

  • Use the cursor arrows to navigate from take to take. This will not interrupt playback and smoothly jump from take to take. Selecting [Enter] will promote the currently highlighted take.
  • Or, use your mouse to click from take to take. This will start playback at the beginning of each clip you click. This almost acts like the “On Stop Rewind To Now Time Marker” setting in the Track View Options for the Now Time Marker. You must click in the lower half of the audio region in order for switching to occur. If the beginning of your region is off-screen it will not snap to the beginning – simply where you clicked.

Once you have auditioned and promoted the takes you need,  move onto the next section. This will allow you to work rather quickly through the takes that were recorded.

You can then start splitting these sections into smaller, more detailed comp takes if you so please. Moving around the split points is rather easy:

  • Do this by zooming onto each split point and moving the split point by hovering along the split. If you zoom in far enough you can view the pre-made cross fades between sections and takes.

 

6. Make descriptive notes as you work. SONAR is one of the only DAWs that introduces a notepad right into each take lane so that you can make small notes about timestamps, good things, bad things, and general thoughts of each take.

 

7. Take a listen to what you have done. By this, I mean sit back and look away from your computer screen and listen intently to your comp track. This is the only way you are going to properly disconnect your eyes from your ears. Make a list of what you don’t like without stopping the song. Your listening skills will improve the more you do this.

8. Flatten the comp track so that you your take is saved as one seamless audio file. SONAR X3’s comping features has a specific and separate “Flatten Comp” feature. This renders your promoted takes into one track, adds it as the most recent take, names it “Comp”, promotes it, mutes all other takes, and locks it in place so that no harm can come to it. That’s saves you 6 steps!

To do this:

  • Highlight the parent take
  • Right-click on it
  • Select “Flatten Comp”
  • SONAR X3 does the rest for you

 

Learn more about SONAR X3 and the new Comping feature.

Read Developers Notes: SONAR X3 Comping

Watch our Get Started Video on Comping:

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