Yes, I am a big fan of the “good old days” when all vocals were performed live onstage. When it comes to the current usage of tape and voice samples it cheapens the authenticity of the show for me. However, I do know that promoters lose money if they have to cancel shows (and the human voice is a fragile instrument… It can wear out from over usage). Background vocals are important, but often they are difficult to match up EQ-wise with the recorded versions of the song. When you hear a recording certain effects are placed on vocals to give it that spice. Trying to add them for live background parts and then trying to subtract them when one of the background singers switches to the lead part can be exasperating for a sound engineer. So welcome to the world of “tape.” As long as the audience cannot tell then “no harm no foul.” Let’s look at an example:
On this particular song ALL lead parts are sung live. You can tell because of the differences and imperfections of some notes. However, the background parts “sound way too perfect” and that is because the backgrounds are “canned.” It may not be very noticeable at first but when you get to the 2 minute 7 second portion of the song you will hear background parts that sound “way too great.” That isn’t because they are singing them that way. That’s because they are lip syncing (or singing along with the track). If these guys tried to actually sing those parts live while moving like that they would probably be close to passing out. A prime example is at the end of the song when they take a bow. They start to bow before the very last note is sung and yet you can still hear the notes “supposedly through the microphones.” Your head can’t be down and yet still be heard perfectly through the microphones. One thing I didn’t like about this song rendition is Michael Bivins’ performance with the guys (He is the one doing the rap in the song). He is talking over the other vocals through certain key parts of the song and to me that is a distraction. Bivins is the one who actually discovered the group (He is from the group New Edition). I am happy for the group’s fame. They have done well and I don’t want to cast any negativity on their show. By no means are they the only group using voice samples. I only used them as an example today because it was easier for me to show what was going on. I have been on programs with these guys before and they “can” sing, so please don’t get the wrong impression from me. Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.
The late Gerald LeVert in concert with Brett Jolly on bass guitar
“Many” professional groups want to put out great live shows because people will judge them on what they hear. If anyone has noticed (back in the day) whenever a singer had a sore throat he or she would just cancel the show. That “rarely” happens now, and the reasons for that are simple. Singers are singing less and lip syncing more. It preserves their voices so that they can perform that same show tomorrow. The deep part about this is that the audiences (people with untrained ears) cannot tell the difference most times. They will go home after a performance thinking that the artist (or artists) sang perfectly. However, if the background vocals sound different quality-wise from the lead vocals then there is usually a reason for that. A perfect example is the hit group “Boyz II Men.” They are great singers, even though they will rely too much on the background track to carry them through a performance. In this particular clip, you will hear the background clip at the “very beginning.” It sounds “perfect.” That’s because it was “recorded perfect.” While the “lead parts are very real in this clip,” the chorus parts (on the hook of the song) are samples (in other words, pre-recorded). Just listen to how “perfect the background vocals sound when this song first comes on.” It sounds almost too good to be true. That’s because it “is.” Also, the group used to have a “bass singer” by the name of Michael McClary who started out with them. When you listen to the background singing, the bass vocals are still on the track (even though it has been lowered in volume so most people won’t notice). For there to be 4 part harmony and only 3 vocalists says a lot. Please check this out for yourself:
Also, in order to make sure the timing of the samples fits in with the song it would be imperative for the band to play in “perfect timing.” In order for that to happen the band would have to “play along with the track.” So even if the band is actually playing, chances are that at the show you will be hearing more “track than live playing.” Please keep in mind that Boyz II Men “CAN” sing, but using a background track is helpful just in case one (or all) of them can’t hear their voices right in the monitors. If just one harmony note is off, then it will sound like the “entire” harmonies are off. I have been on programs with these guys before, and they have a great show. However, just like “most of the current groups today” some (if not all) of the vocals will be sampled to alleviate wear and tear on the voice. This is not to expose the group, but rather to enlighten you about how concerts are done these days. There are a lot of “major acts” who do the exact same thing (and even worse). Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought today, and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.