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We outline some of the most effective techniques for integrating sampled vocals with your track.

Over the last couple of decades, samplers and digital editing techniques have blurred the lines between vocal tracks and instrumentals. Dance music producers have explored numerous ways to create vocal-led tracks without ever going near a microphone. They’ve even, in the case of producers like Todd Edwards and MK, developed ways to use vocal samples as instruments in their own right. In this walkthrough we’ll look at some of the best ways to cut and transpose vocals in your DAW in order to make them fit into your tracks. So grab some acapellas and let’s get started.

Beat It

For the sake of immediacy let’s assume that we already have the bare bones of a track… (Click the images to enlarge.)

Here’s how our backing track sounds:

This track has a tempo of 125bpm. We also have a vocal we want to use, but unfortunately it was originally recorded for an entirely different track at 80bpm…

The quickest approach is to dive in and completely disregard the original tempo. Just slice your acapella audio into a series of smaller sections (even down to the syllable level if you have the patience) and import the slices into your software sampler.

Many DAWs make the job easy, and even almost completely automatic. In Logic, for instance, we can use the ‘Convert Regions to New Sampler Track’ function…

This takes a sliced audio clip and maps the slices to successive keys in the EXS-24 sampler…

Cubase has the ability to drag-and-drop slices into its Groove Agent ONE sampler for similar results. The slices are mapped to pads, MPC-style…

Once the sampler is ready, just record or draw a sequence which plays back the slices in an interesting way…

Here’s how the sliced samples sound when played back:

The big issue here is that the key of the vocals doesn’t necessarily match the key of the new track. Therefore, some retuning might be necessary…

And here’s how it sounds once we’ve retuned the samples:

However, adjusting the pitch of the samples will also change their timing. This isn’t a problem if you’re using very small slices, but it can be annoying with longer phrases. The alternative is to transpose your musical parts to fit the vocals.

Here we’ve left the samples at their original pitch and transposed the rest of our MIDI elements:

Next, let’s take a look at some alternative approaches…

11th October, 2012

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