Commercial Vocal Production

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Authored by Prince Charles Alexander

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Course Code: OMPRD-599

Next Term Starts January 14

3-Credit, Graduate Level Course

In this course, you will develop the skills necessary to create vocal-focused recordings that are contemporary and commercially viable. You will explore the voice as an instrument, one that is naturally expressive and harmonically complex, and that can be technologically processed. You will also master microphone placement for various types of vocalists, choirs, and backing vocals; analyze the use of phase, panorama, delay, reverb, and vocal modulation in contemporary music compositions; and apply Auto-Tune, Melodyne, and the vocoder effectively to edit vocal recordings in production. You will develop and implement strategies that enhance vocal performances using natural and artificial techniques and processing.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the connectivity and commercial viability of vocal performances
  • Develop and implement strategies that enhance vocal performances, using natural and artificial techniques and processing
  • Analyze the use of phase, panorama, delay, reverb, and vocal modulation in contemporary music compositions
  • Apply the most effective microphone placements for recording various types of vocalists, choirs, and backing vocals
  • Apply Auto-Tune, Melodyne, and the vocoder effectively to edit vocal recordings in production
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors Request Info

Syllabus

Lesson 1: The Lead Vocalist

  • Introduction to the Human Voice
  • Male Vocal Types and Ranges
  • Female Vocal Types and Ranges
  • Vocal Registers
  • Assignment 1: Vocal Performance with No Processing/Effects

Lesson 2: Recording the Lead Vocalist

  • The Recording Environment
  • The Microphone and Microphone Pre-Amplifiers
  • Compressors
  • Equalization
  • Time-Based Effects
  • Headphone Mixes and How the Vocalist Hears
  • Monitor Mixing and How the Producer Hears
  • Overdubbing and Editing the Vocal in Contemporary Music Compositions
  • Assignment 2: Vocal Performance with Processing/Effects

Lesson 3: Two Lead Vocalists in the Same Composition

  • Male/Female or Female/Male Duo
  • Male/Male or Female/Female Duo
  • Unison and Octave Techniques for Vocal Duos
  • Harmonic Techniques for Vocal Duos
  • Assignment 3: Duo Vocal Performance with No Processing/Effects

Lesson 4: Recording Two Lead Vocalists

  • Two Vocalists, One Vocalist Recorded at a Time
  • Two Vocalists, Two Microphones, Recording Both Vocalists at One Time
  • Two Vocalists, One Microphone, Recording Both Vocalists at One Time
  • Overdubbing and Editing with a Pair of Vocalists
  • Assignment 4: Duo Vocal Performance with Processing/Effects

Lesson 5: Recording and Mixing Background Vocals

  • Double Stacking
  • Triple Stacking
  • Quadruple Stacking
  • Hard Panning
  • Position Panning
  • Cascade Panning
  • A Background Choir
  • Background Routing
  • The Processing of Multiple Tracks of Recorded Vocals
  • Assignment 5: Lead and Background Vocal Performances with Processing/Effects

Lesson 6: Vocal Performance: Pitch, Timing, and Emotion

  • Vocal Pitch
  • Vocal Timing
  • Vocal Emotion
  • Vocal Timbre
  • Assignment 6: Different Vocal Versions

Lesson 7: Processing Pitch, and Time Compression and Expansion

  • Antares Auto-Tune for Recording and Monitoring Vocal Pitch
  • Auto-Tune for Editing Vocal Pitch
  • Celemony Melodyne for Editing Vocal Modulation and Pitch Drift
  • The Vocoder as Creative Option
  • Transient Slicing, Grid Slicing, and Rhythmic Time Compression and Expansion
  • Polyphonic and Monophonic Time Compression and Expansion
  • Varispeed, Speed, and Re-Pitch
  • VocALign and Conforming the Timing of Multiple Vocals
  • Assignment 7: Pitch-Processed, and Time-Compressed and Expanded Vocal Performances

Lesson 8: Time-Based Effects

  • Phase
  • Panorama
  • Delays
  • Reverbs
  • Modulators
  • Assignment 8: Vocal Performances with Time-Based Effects

Lesson 9: Vocal and Ad Libs by Song Section

  • Introduction
  • Verses
  • Prechorus
  • Chorus
  • The Bridge
  • The Outro
  • Assignment 9: Contemporary Music Composition Structure

Lesson 10: Rap Vocals

  • Pitch
  • Timing
  • Accenting with Doubles
  • Accenting with Triples
  • Ad Libs
  • Hype Vocals
  • Time-Based Effects Processing for Rap Vocals
  • Assignment 10: Contemporary Rap Composition Structure

Lesson 11: A Final Song

  • The Evolving Structure of Melody in Contemporary Music Compositions
  • The Evolving Structure of Song Form in Contemporary Music Compositions
  • The Evolving Structure of Harmony in Contemporary Music Compositions
  • The Influence of Rap on Melodic Contemporary Music Compositions
  • The Influence of Rap on Harmonic Contemporary Music Compositions
  • The Future of the Human Voice in Contemporary Music Compositions
  • Assignment 11: Contemporary Music Composition in “Billboard Hot 100 Charts” Style

Lesson 12: Review, Discussion, and Goals

  • Course Review
  • Discussion
  • Goals
  • Review of Final Projects

Requirements

Required Textbooks

In addition to the accompanying manuals for a commercially viable DAW (such as Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, etc.), students will need to refer to the manuals for:

  • Antares Auto-Tune
  • Celemony Melodyne
  • Synchro Arts VocALign

Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • Audio interface and microphones for recording vocals are necessary for this course
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed (http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

Instructors

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Author & Instructor

Prince Charles Alexander is a sought-after music producer and audio engineer whose clients include Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, Faith Evans, P. Diddy, the Notorious B.I.G., Usher, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Babyface, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Brian McKnight, Donnie McClurkin, and others. 

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Alexander has garnered more than 40 Platinum and Gold certifications from the RIAA and has multiple Grammy Awards and nominations. He teaches Advanced Production and Mixing at Berklee, and created the Commercial Record Production minor in that department, for which he received the Don Wilkins Excellence in Curriculum Development Award from Berklee's Professional Writing and Music Technology Division in 2013. Alexander also teaches production and engineering for Berklee Online, is co-creator of the Vocal Production course for Berklee Online, and for ten concurrent years, was also an adjunct instructor at New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. 

He has taught audio technology at the Institute of Audio Research in NYC, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities around the world. From the early to mid 80s, he produced, wrote, and recorded on Virgin Records with his group, Prince Charles and the City Beat Band. Alexander was an early innovator of wind synthesis and a part of the "punk-funk" generation that incorporated many of the devices that would propel rap music to the forefront of the American music scene. Prince Charles Alexander is one of the proud founders of the annual Berklee in Atlanta Spring Break Trip. Read Less

Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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