Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

885
Banjo Lovers Online


Oct 19, 2021 - 7:14:14 AM

sethb

USA

625 posts since 2/16/2005

I'm not sure if this is the best forum for this question, but here goes:  I was taught that when you are accompanying ("comping") a vocalist, you should play harmony chords that are lower in pitch than the singer, so that you aren't close to or duplicating the singer's melody notes. 

Our band has always had a vocalist who needed most of her tunes transposed up about a third in order to fit within her vocal range.  So for example, if a song was written in the key of C, we would usually take it up to Eb to accommodate her.  And when I was comping her, I would usually play chords that were located around the 5th to 7th fret, mostly the first inversions of the same chords at the "nut," in order to be playing "below" her.  Then if I had a solo, I'd just go further down the neck (towards the bridge) for the next set of inversions, which would usually be where many of the melody chords were located.  

But we just hired a new vocalist who happens to be an alto, which means that we had to redo our entire book of music by transposing almost everything down at least a fifth.  So if a song was originally written in C, we now needed to bring it down to F or G.  In order to play "below" the vocal now, I have to go up the neck (towards the nut) and often use basic open chords in order accomplish that.  While that's OK, it's not my preference soundwise or for ease of playing.  Using closed first inversions around the 5th-7th frets is better, but then I'm using chords at the melody chord level, thus duplicating the singer. 

If anyone has any suggestions about dealing with this situation, I'd much appreciate it!  SETH

Oct 19, 2021 - 7:49:52 AM

68 posts since 2/8/2016

Anytime multiple instruments (including voices) share sonic spaces, things can get a bit muddy. The more lower frequencies the more mud. Ergo, the sticker bass players stick on piano keyboards reminding the piano player that the band already has a bass player. It is also true that higher pitches cut through the mix better.

I do try and play out of the vocalist (or lead instruments) space, but that may require going higher. There a male singers you aren't going to play lower than with a banjo.

With these things said, I believe the solution is better handled by audio engineering. It is a chronic problem for the vocals volume to be to low. (Especially if the band is doing their own mix versus a well positioned sound tech.) Also there are some equalizer adjustments that can really help the vocals cut through. These solutions, of course, assume that your not all standing around a single mic.

Oct 19, 2021 - 9:42:43 AM

sethb

USA

625 posts since 2/16/2005

quote:
Originally posted by JohnnyShayne


[snip] I do try and play out of the vocalist (or lead instruments) space, but that may require going higher. [snip]

[snip] With these things said, I believe the solution is better handled by audio engineering. [snip]


Thanks for some good ideas!  I have tried "going higher," with mixed results.  On some tunes, we stuck with the higher transposed Eb key, but had the vocalist sing an octave lower, which was in her range.  That was a quick fix that didn't require any additional transposing (or new chords and new fingerings).  But it seemed very odd to have the band above the vocalist.  And I think it may also have given the singer some intonation problems now and then, especially at the beginning of a number -- she had some trouble "finding her note" sometimes, and I don't blame her in that situation. 

We use a separate mic and a separate channel for the vocalist, so it should be easy to give her a little extra volume or maybe a little more treble or other tweaks.  We'll give that a try and see what happens.  We do try to make sure on preshow sound checks that the band is not overwhelming the vocals, and we also try to cut the band's volume anyway during vocals.  But a little more attention to dynamics and equalization is probably a good idea.  SETH

Edited by - sethb on 10/19/2021 09:43:42

Oct 19, 2021 - 10:00:20 AM

68 posts since 2/8/2016

quote:
Originally posted by sethb
quote:
Originally posted by JohnnyShayne


[snip] I do try and play out of the vocalist (or lead instruments) space, but that may require going higher. [snip]

[snip] With these things said, I believe the solution is better handled by audio engineering. [snip]


Thanks for some good ideas!  I have tried "going higher," with mixed results.  On some tunes, we stuck with the higher transposed Eb key, but had the vocalist sing an octave lower, which was in her range.  That was a quick fix that didn't require any additional transposing (or new chords and new fingerings).  But it seemed very odd to have the band above the vocalist.  And I think it may also have given the singer some intonation problems now and then, especially at the beginning of a number -- she had some trouble "finding her note" sometimes, and I don't blame her in that situation. 

We use a separate mic and a separate channel for the vocalist, so it should be easy to give her a little extra volume or maybe a little more treble or other tweaks.  We'll give that a try and see what happens.  We do try to make sure on preshow sound checks that the band is not overwhelming the vocals, and we also try to cut the band's volume anyway during vocals.  But a little more attention to dynamics and equalization is probably a good idea.  SETH


I always use a low cut filter set to 120 Hz for vocals.  Also you can cut from 200 to 500 Hz ( no more the 3-5 db) to reduce mudiness and boost (again 3-5 max) 5k to 10k for better vocal clarity.  Also, remember that almost everyone plays louder performing than during the sound check.  Hope this helps.

Oct 19, 2021 - 10:33:49 AM
likes this

sethb

USA

625 posts since 2/16/2005

quote:

Also, remember that almost everyone plays louder performing than during the sound check.  Hope this helps.

Yeah, you're right about that, I hadn't considered it and I'll have to keep it in mind!  And when the band gets rolling, we have a tendency to get a little carried away sometimes, so we do need to work on dynamics anyway.  That would also give a little more variety to the overall sound. 

And then there's the all-too-familiar situation where somebody can't quite hear themselves well enough, so they crank up their guitar or their mic.  Then somebody else can't hear themselves, and they do the same thing.  And you know what the result is!   SETH  

Edited by - sethb on 10/19/2021 10:34:46

Oct 20, 2021 - 7:04:55 AM

beegee

USA

22510 posts since 7/6/2005

When I play backup to a vocalist "less is more." Sometimes silence can be effective. I play quietly and try to enhance what the vocalist does. I use standard punctuation licks between vocal phrases and whatever combination of rolls and rhythm chops and runs are appropriate to the tone of the song and lyrics.

Oct 20, 2021 - 11:56:32 AM
likes this

887 posts since 10/4/2018

I am talking about Scruggs style, because it is the style I have most experience with. So...I play softer backgroundy stuff and nothing flashy. I don't mind playing in the same register as the singer, Earl did it all the time, just worry about the rhythm and the progression. Jump to a higher register to mix it up, a lick or two between lines of verse, generally don't try to show off. Sometimes I just repeat the break softly, a bare bones version of it.

Edited by - Good Buddy on 10/20/2021 11:58:08

Oct 20, 2021 - 12:17:09 PM

johnedallas

Germany

165 posts since 2/18/2005

I mostly accompany myself these days. I have a bass-baritone voice - and play several instruments. I find that - in home-made recordings, and in the resonance that comes back from the auditotium I'm performing in - the best instruments are those that occupy the higher end of the frequency range. Ukulele and Autoharp work well, and so does 5-string banjo. The banjo is more in my vocal range, but because of its quick decay it leaves my voice exposed.
I guess a good rule of thumb would be "High voice, low accompaniment; low voice, high accompaniment."
Of course, the exception proves the rule.
Cheers,
John

Nov 14, 2021 - 9:43:01 AM

2863 posts since 2/10/2013

SethB - what instrument are playing ? BHO's guitar counterpart doesn't get much activity, so it is redirected to BHO.

Your post gives me the impression that eventually you will probably answer your own question.
I was earlier reading about what you posted. Just in theory, not application. I am a retired computer programmer. As I read about chord voicing and similiar subjects, my mind became tired. I though that I should probably write a computer program which did this mental work for me. The program could use chord formulas and scan scales and provide the information I was after. I am especially intererested in chord substitution as well a chord voicing, inversions, etc. A computer program would complete the work much faster than I could.

Finally, you associate with much more advanced players than I do.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.1560059