How to note overlapping vocals on a session chart?


faith83
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faith83
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09/11/2020 8:17 pm

Hi all, I thought this might get more eyes in the open forum, so I'm posting it here.

I'm putting together the session charts for a demo -- NNS and lead sheet with the lyrics/chords -- and I need to indicate a part that has overlapping vocals. I've tried to find info on google on how to do this, but everything that comes up is either about standard musical notation or about recording or about voicing choirs, etc., none of which is applicable. And I'm not finding anything in Nashville Number System symbols that could be used to communicate this. I think I'm not googling the right thing.

I used to put together charts all the time in Nashville, but I don't recall ever seeing a chart that had overlapping vocals, though I'm sure they exist -- is there an industry standard way of denoting that that I'm not aware of?


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 1
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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09/11/2020 9:11 pm
Originally Posted by: faith83I've tried to find info on google on how to do this, but everything that comes up is either about standard musical notation or about recording or about voicing choirs

That's because that is exactly what you trying to do. And you have just discovered the limits of systems other than standard music notation.

Let's have an example using the master craftsman's music.

That's why standard music notation exists: :) Precisely to do what you are trying to do.

It is the industry standard.

You can get musicians & singers to do this if you explain it's essentially a round (or a canon), or draw some other kind of diagram on paper. Or you can simply direct them like a choral director or conductors does. I suppose you could just write the lyrics on the lead sheet in overlapping text lines, one below the other & hope for the best.

But there is no substitute for simply notating it to show precisely which syllables of the lyrics use which notes (pitch), at which times & for how long (rhythm).


Christopher Schlegel
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# 2
faith83
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faith83
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09/11/2020 9:20 pm

Thanks, Christopher!

Writing it out in formal musical notation is a bit beyond me, and probably beyond the session musicians in Nashville who are tasked with interpreting my charts as well. I was hoping there might be a simpler standard way, but like you said, I'll just have to invent something on the chart to make it work! (since I won't be there in person...)

This is, BTW, the same song that has the "two chords at once" situation so this is gonna be a wild ride, esp doing it all virtually... [br]


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 3
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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09/12/2020 2:53 pm

You're welcome!

Originally Posted by: faith83

This is, BTW, the same song that has the "two chords at once" situation so this is gonna be a wild ride, esp doing it all virtually...

All right! Best of success with it!


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snojones
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snojones
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09/12/2020 10:06 pm

So will we get to hear the end result? Have you figured out how to deal with the dual chords/ vocals? Are you going to let the musicians take a run at finding solutions, or do you have to work that out your self at home? At a distance I will be interested to hear how that works out! Can you hear what the musicians are doing and discuss it back and forth before they record the music? I have worked with teaching people my own music, but that was always in person. I would be at a great loss without that close contact. GOOD LUCK


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# 5
faith83
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faith83
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09/12/2020 10:38 pm

So will we get to hear the end result? Yes.

Have you figured out how to deal with the dual chords/ vocals? Not yet.

Are you going to let the musicians take a run at finding solutions, or do you have to work that out your self at home? I have both options. I'd rather work it out myself for all kinds of reasons, but we'll see how that goes. Since this is a "work for hire" situation rather than a collaboration, I feel weird about asking them to do anything that relates to the actual composition of the song, even though I could. Even my idols, Billy and John, who are known for writing their material all on their own didn't really, of course. Lots of input from lots of people. I've been away from the songwriting game for a long time and I don't have many "people" -- I wish I did. I would love another songwriter of similar sensibilties to bounce some stuff off of right about now before taking it to demo.

Can you hear what the musicians are doing and discuss it back and forth before they record the music? Yes, if I want that option, which I do! I'm trying an online studio called Tunedly, which was featured in American Songwriter so I figured it was legit. So far so good. Great, actuallly. I really like the producer (who synchronistically turns out be a huge JD fan, so I've been sweetening the deal with periodic infusions of rare JD soundboard recordings to keep him motivated)

At a distance I will be interested to hear how that works out! Me, too. I've done a lot of demo/studio work, though it's been awhile, and so much of the creative magic comes from having everyone together, at least for the first session. This is totally different and much more difficult -- it's one instrument at a time, which for me is very challenging. But honestly, so far I recommend them very highly. Get in on it before they raise their rates.

GOOD LUCK. Thanks, gonna need it.


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 6
snojones
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snojones
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09/14/2020 12:31 am

First and foremost, I love Billy Joel! He has a very unique style of writting and composition. The Stranger, Get It Right the First Time, Italian Resturaunt, Piano Man, I Go to Extreems, Shameless, Leningrad, The Downeaster Alexa, Storm front, and so many more are classic tunes of my life. I really dig his style!

However, have you seen "Hired Gun"? It is a documentry on being a guitar slinger for big bands, similar to "20 Feet to Stardom". Hired Gun is about being a studio musician.

Once again I have to emphaticly state I love Billy Joel. The man is a genius.


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# 7
faith83
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faith83
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09/14/2020 1:08 am
Originally Posted by: snojones

First and foremost, I love Billy Joel! He has a very unique style of writting and composition. The Stranger, Get It Right the First Time, Italian Resturaunt, Piano Man, I Go to Extreems, Shameless, Leningrad, The Downeaster Alexa, Storm front, and so many more are classic tunes of my life. I really dig his style!

However, have you seen "Hired Gun"? It is a documentry on being a guitar slinger for big bands, similar to "20 Feet to Stardom". Hired Gun is about being a studio musician.

Once again I have to emphaticly state I love Billy Joel. The man is a genius.

The man is an unqualified genius. I believe he will be remembered as one of the towering giants of 20th century music. I'm glad he's finally getting the stature/recognition he deserves. Now if only John would...because most people don't really know him as an artist and he was phenomenal, esp in later years when most people (including me) weren't paying attention.

Billy changed my life -- I saw him in concert in 91 and dropped out of school the next day to pursue my musical aspirations (which then got massively derailed for the better part of two decades... but that's another story). But not before following him on the road for a summer. Yep, I was a groupie. I've got stories.

I haven't seen Hired Gun because I'm not super interested in hearing Liberty bitch about Billy. But apparently they've made peace and Lib has a book out that I need to get and read...


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 8
Carl King
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Carl King
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09/14/2020 4:32 pm

In modern studio situations, these types of vocal lines are going to be recorded separately (unless it's a big choir in a room).

If it were me, and I knew the vocalists couldn't read notation, I'd give them the lyrics with isolated mixes for each melody line, with a loud piano sound playing those lines. Melody A on Piano with backing, Melody B on piano with backing. Then they just need to match up the words with the rhythm of each melody line when recording. The engineer simply sticks those tracks together in post.

I'd also give them a rough demo of me singing it myself, each track / melody line (together and separate). Even if my singing is not great, they'll learn it quickly from hearing a demo. These sorts of sessions often move so fast that they'll quickly memorize it by ear, do a few takes, and move on to the next thing.

-Carl.


Carl King[br]GuitarTricks Video Director / Producer

# 9
Carl King
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Carl King
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09/14/2020 4:35 pm

And yeah -- as Schlegel said, notation is the Industry Standard. If they are professional, trained vocalists that have gone to music school (and at minimum had choir class) they should be able to figure it out.

-Carl.


Carl King[br]GuitarTricks Video Director / Producer

# 10
faith83
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faith83
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09/14/2020 11:56 pm
Originally Posted by: Carl King

In modern studio situations, these types of vocal lines are going to be recorded separately (unless it's a big choir in a room).

If it were me, and I knew the vocalists couldn't read notation, I'd give them the lyrics with isolated mixes for each melody line, with a loud piano sound playing those lines. Melody A on Piano with backing, Melody B on piano with backing. Then they just need to match up the words with the rhythm of each melody line when recording. The engineer simply sticks those tracks together in post.

I'd also give them a rough demo of me singing it myself, each track / melody line (together and separate). Even if my singing is not great, they'll learn it quickly from hearing a demo. These sorts of sessions often move so fast that they'll quickly memorize it by ear, do a few takes, and move on to the next thing.

-Carl.

Thanks, Carl! I just got back from the studio where I did exactly that -- I just recorded a scratch track of the overlap. Problem solved!

As to the other, I've not come across a Nashville demo singer who can sight read standard notation. They may exist, but in my experience, they are rare creatures...


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 11

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