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In my last article, I told you all how I finally found my way through the naming maze to find the correct session to work on. That was the easy part! Now we’re inside the session and I have to do a lot of expensive housework to get things in workable order.

I see a lot of names of people I don’t know… I wonder what parts they sing? Bryce sounds like a baritone to me, but right next to that track is another guy, obviously a high tenor, but the track is just marked “schmee 4” for some reason. I don’t see schmee 3 or 5 anywhere around here, maybe I’ll figure out what that means later, but first I need to find the guys between the Baritone and top parts.

27 tracks down, I find another track with another guy named “QDogg” singing the same part Bryce was. Would probably be nice to have those together so I can find them easier in the mix, don’t you think? Usually, we’re dealing with 30 to 80 channels in a typical collegiate A Cappella recording, sometimes more (just opened a new session last night with 171 channels), so if things are all in a random order, my first hour or two (and your first couple hundred dollars) might only be devoted to just figuring out where everything is!

Looking further down, there’s “schmee 7”, maybe that goes with “schmee 4”… nope, different part. I wonder if “Schmee” is someone’s nickname, or if it is just this group’s name for extra (auxiliary) parts – seems like each group has a different name for that.

But I am on the clock here, no time for pondering!

Hey, here’s the snare drum track! I saw the kick drum awhile ago… where was that?

Hopefully you know what my point is by now and I don’t need to rattle off any more examples! I also know that these internal references work well for their particular groups – it’s what and who they know! When you send it out to mix, though, your mixer won’t know QDogg from Adam (or Bryce for that matter), nor that QDogg is a Baritone or whatever.

Some basic housekeeping will save your engineer much time and frustration, which equals money for you! Take the time to get your channels in order and labeled for someone who doesn’t know anything about your group.

Taking into account that most A Cappella is double-tracked these days to thicken up the sound, a typical well-organized session might look like this:

Kick (Bass) Drum
Snare
High Hats
Live Vocal Percussion
Cymbals
Bongos or other VP sounds

Bass Ernie 1 (you can keep names after voice part for communication’s sake – so you can easily tell your engineer you’d like Ernie louder than the other two for example)
Bass Ernie 2
Bass Fred 1
Bass Fred 2
Bass Heinz 1
Bass Heinz 2
Bari Bryce 1
Bari Bryce 2
Bari QDogg 1
Bari QDogg 2
Bari Tom 1
Bari Tom 2
Tenor 2 Sanjeet 1
Tenor 2 Sanjeet 2
Tenor 2 QDogg 1*
Tenor 2 QDogg 2*

And so on and so forth through the top parts.

* Of course, this world isn’t perfect or consistent! You may have noticed above that QDogg appears in both the Bari and Tenor sections - but it's actually still from his one part: Let’s say that Bryce and QDogg don’t ALWAYS sing the same part, that once in awhile QDogg moves to the Tenor 2 part. In those cases, it’s probably better to separate those tracks (in editing) onto new channels, so that QDogg has his Bari parts together with Bryce, but his T2 parts are on other tracks along with the regular T2s. This is also true for regular splits that don't join other parts.  I'd MUCH rather, if there are three Tenor 2 parts, that they all be singing the same thing, and any splits (even if for a few notes) are put onto their own tracks.   Yes, it makes for more channels, but that is actually easier for a mixing engineer to deal with than having to find these changes by ear.

Then you can have solos, harmonies and other parts after that, keeping relevant parts together:

Lead Vocal
Lead Vocal double (such as at the choruses to thicken it up – listen to the original versions of the songs you are covering – this trick is done a lot outside of A Cappella, and is quite effective at making the choruses stand out – if it happens on the original, you might want to try it on your version as well!)

Harmony 1
Harmony 2
Trio Low 1
Trio Low 2
Trio Mid 1
Trio Mid 2
Trio High 1
Trio High 2

When I receive a session laid out more like this, I can just get right to work, knowing I’m not going on a “treasure hunt”!

Take 20 minutes to clean up your session file (since you are already intimately familiar with what everyone are doing), and save hours in your mix. Your engineer (and your budget) will thank you for it!

Comments

Fantastic!

Bill,

What a great job helping remote recording groups in laying out their tracks. This is a real time and money saver!

Jonathan

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