Jump to content

Avatar

Vocals Charting PSA: A Matter of Philosophy, Or: Less is More


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 Atruejedi

Atruejedi
  • 497 posts

Posted March 30, 2018 - 09:24 PM

Hi all. Let me preface this post by saying it comes from a place of deep respect and appreciation with the goal of improving custom song releases, both past and future.

 

Recently I was playing with my band mate and we both got a bit frustrated with a great pack of awesome songs all by the same artist from the same author. My band mate always sings and I always do backing vocals while playing guitar or bass. We both noticed during these three songs that we were getting slaughtered on expert vocals, and, frankly, we're pretty damn good singers. She aired her frustration and I understood how she felt, but now that I'm an author myself I understand how to address the root of her frustrations. I told her that it seems like many authors use MIDIs to chart their vocals, and that's fine, but it causes big problems for vocalists because it's playing a synthesized melody performed by a robot. The problem is: humans aren't robots, and this is compounded by the fact that microphones don't easily pick up every noise we humans make when we sing.

 

Privately, I've always told fellow authors that "less is more" when it comes to placing vocal tubes in Reaper, but now I want to publicly expand on that idea. It comes down to this philosophy: you want the vocalist to hit the mark, not fill the tank.

 

"What the hell are you on about, bra?"

 

Fill the Tank

I use this phrase because so often while singing vocals for custom releases (and, not infrequently, even with Harmonix songs) I have to sing very unlike the actual singer of the song I'm hearing on the track. I have to hold out notes for much longer than would be natural in order to fill the tank enough to please the game engine and get an Awesome, and it really snuffs out the spark that makes karaoke so fun. As an author, you should want your singer to sing as if they're the real performer and to have fun while doing it. Playing a Chili Peppers song? You're now Anthony Kiedis. Jamming to some Arctic Monkeys? You become Alex Turner. Nobody likes pretending to be Vocalbot9000. Filling the tank is bad. So what mind set should you have when charting vocals?

 

Hit the Mark

The way I chart vocals for Rock Band 3 customs (both for my own releases and my many contributions to other authors) is to make it so the player just so happens to be hitting the same note as the performer in the source audio at critical times. This means the vocalist shouldn't have to try to fill the tubes. That's no fun, son. And this doesn't mean you can't use MIDIs as the base for your vocals chart! You just need to make sure you shorten every tube at both the beginning and end of the tube. I really only place tubes where there's an unmistakable vowel sound happening.

 

Less is More

Generally speaking, 90% of the customs database could benefit from these ideas. Many customs of otherwise dazzling quality still are a bit lacking in the vocals department... and I understand why: charting vocals is tough and very time consuming. But nothing sucks more than singing on expert difficulty (with a partner!), sounding solid, and being told you're Messy. :crying: So where do I think authors should pay the most attention to tube length?

 

1. The very end of tubes. This is the sssssin we've all had to sssssuffer through, so we just need to be aware of it. And many more soundssssss other than ssss are problematic. If the singer has already hit the note at the beginning of the tube, he or she shouldn't be punished for not holding it out for the exact duration of the singer in the source audio.

 

2. The downward slide at the end of tubes. You know what? JUST DON'T CHART THESE UNLESS the singer is aiming for a very specific note which you can identify and fits with the melody. Frankly, it's absurd to expect a vocalist to trail off at the end of a word just like the performer, and this is one of my biggest pet peeves.

 

3. The very beginning of tubes. I never, ever have a tube beginning at the very start of a measure... because most consonant sounds aren't going to be picked up! So truncating the beginning of a tube is a good idea. But even worse...

 

4. The upward slide at the beginning of tubes. So many authors don't chart this but really should. Having a tube without the necessary upward slide absolutely punishes good singers for trying to do a good job and is extremely frustrating. I speak from experience!

 

Miscellaneous

When I began charting vocals that were good enough to be released, I was using the 128th tip brush. I've learned that this is rarely necessary and am now saving myself a significant amount of time when charting by using the good ol' 64th tip brush. Just make sure you're scrubbing accurately and often (that is, constantly). I learned how to scrub from Nyxyxylyth's tutorial on YouTube, which you can find here, but you might also want to check out my post in this thread.

 

I hope this post is helpful, and I welcome feedback, comments, suggestions, or criticisms. Thanks for reading!


#1 Ranked Wii Customs Player... because it's the Wii
"Like a madman laughin' at the rain" - Custom song releases
Freelancers wanted! - Works-in-progress
"One-Trick Pony" - Details of my contributions in the database!
In-Depth Eclectic Suggestions - Let's collaborate!
Packing Like a Pro - The Guide for a Legit Wii Library
Last.fm Profile - Let's be snobs together.


#2 TrojanNemo

TrojanNemo

    The Programmer

  • 4,823 posts
  • Location
    Miami, Florida

Posted March 30, 2018 - 10:26 PM

Huh.

Sent from my Samsung S9+ using Tapatalk.

#3 astronomyhopes

astronomyhopes
  • 25 posts
  • Location
    Southern California

Posted March 30, 2018 - 11:08 PM

Interesting strategy to vocals charting. I agree with some of these points more than others though, and I think a lot of it comes down to how one prefers to play vocals. For me personally, the closer timing-and-pitch-wise a chart is to the recording, the easier it is for me to read and match it. So for me, playing vocals really is about filling the tubes and not necessarily giving an actually "good" vocal performance.



#4 MrPrezident

MrPrezident

    C3U Moderator

  • 768 posts
  • Location
    Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Posted March 30, 2018 - 11:26 PM

My early charts have some pretty nasty trailing downward slides in them.  I tend to make them far less dramatic now.   Some other good tips in there, thanks.  


-= My Profile =-    -= My Customs =-


#5 Jack Cross

Jack Cross
  • 7 posts

Posted March 31, 2018 - 12:05 AM

Nice tips. I'm in the process of charting my first ever track but I did know to keep some of this in mind. I sing mainly and there are certain songs I've downloaded from my favorite band that are nearly impossible to sing. I end up getting 4 stars on Hard with 98% notes hit and it's just not fun. I too do not play to hit notes, I play to sing and dance around and actually sound good. Quite a few customs are like this so I tend to just play on easy which honestly doesn't bug me much as I'm not playing for a score or anything. Still though, this is great to keep in mind as I didn't really know about the upward slide.



#6 Farottone

Farottone

    The Lean Mean Customs Charting Machine

  • Administrator
  • 6,299 posts

Posted March 31, 2018 - 12:12 AM

There's some very good common sense there mixed with a few bad practice, so let me clarify...

 

- First of all, the length of the notes is not dictated by the player but by the original track. "I don't like having to hold a note" doesn't cut it: if the singer is holding the note, so should the player. Anything different is not up to specs. Now, failing to hold a note for a 1/32 while authoring is not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination but "the player just so happens to be hitting the same note as the performer in the source audio at critical times" is not something we rely on while authoring.

 

- Chopping off trails is a hit and miss tip. You should never force the player to replicate a singer who is basically "throwing away" a syllable simply lowering the pitch with no real rationale, that is spot on. However, authoring only when the sing is hitting a specific note is no good either. Don't force the player to sing undefined pitches but don't cut too much, and this is even more true on customs where the player can't mute the track and is more prone to break immersion.

 

- "I really only place tubes where there's an unmistakable vowel sound happening." Let's expand on what the docs say... Some author start a note exactly when the singer start making some noise. That is wrong. You should usually keep vowels as your reference however omitting long consonant sounds altogether is wrong, even more so when they're consonants the game engine actually picks up.

 

- "I never, ever have a tube beginning at the very start of a measure" This is bad advice: where you start a note has nothing really to do with measures and beats. If a vowel starts at 18.1.00, you author starting from 18.1.00. Always ask yourself: is this a hard consonant sound? Is this a sound the mic does not pick up? If not, chop it off, regardless of its position relative to a measure.

 

- The upward slide is sound advice, though it's really a matter of "author properly": any kind of slides need to be authored, not just at the beginning. With that said, I sometimes see very small slides applied to the beginning of notes and those shouldn't be there: they make little to no impact on scoring but they make the part look cluttered.

 

- Finally, MIDIs have little to do with bad authoring. If you take a MIDI and don't edit it, your chart will be bad, that's it. But if you use them as reference, there's nothing intrinsecally wrong with MIDIs that will make your part look bad or your notes look longer than they need. Remember: you use MIDIs as reference, not as source you don't edit that much.

 

Maybe it's me but nothing here is not already covered in the docs, so for everyone reading this: make sure you read the docs, all the common sense tips posted here you need to know by heart as you do every part of the docs. It's good to read them one more time, but make sure you are getting all your rules from the docs. ;)



#7 Farottone

Farottone

    The Lean Mean Customs Charting Machine

  • Administrator
  • 6,299 posts

Posted March 31, 2018 - 12:15 AM

Nice tips. I'm in the process of charting my first ever track but I did know to keep some of this in mind. I sing mainly and there are certain songs I've downloaded from my favorite band that are nearly impossible to sing. I end up getting 4 stars on Hard with 98% notes hit and it's just not fun. I too do not play to hit notes, I play to sing and dance around and actually sound good.

 

So, let's differentiate here. Songs that are impossible to FC because are badly authored are one thing: if a part is wrong, it needs more TLC. However, how players play has little to do with how lax authors should be while working on a part. Some players would like to see, for example, songs with all unpitched notes because they are easier to sing at parties. For those, there's Easy. Expert requires you to sing like the game engine wants you to. If you do that and you score 4 stars on Hard, the authoring is plain wrong; howere if you score 4 stars because you tend to goof off while singing, well, you're not singing to score well so no harm done in getting 4 stars,



#8 Atruejedi

Atruejedi
  • 497 posts

Posted March 31, 2018 - 12:30 AM

- "I never, ever have a tube beginning at the very start of a measure" This is bad advice: where you start a note has nothing really to do with measures and beats. If a vowel starts at 18.1.00, you author starting from 18.1.00. Always ask yourself: is this a hard consonant sound? Is this a sound the mic does not pick up? If not, chop it off, regardless of its position relative to a measure.


I guess I should rephrase that. Very infrequently do I start a tube at the beginning of a measure. If the word is beginning on that first beat, I'll still wait until I hear that vowel sound clearly. I'd rather err on the side of shorter tubes rather than longer tubes. "Less is more," after all.

 

- The upward slide is sound advice, though it's really a matter of "author properly": any kind of slides need to be authored, not just at the beginning. With that said, I sometimes see very small slides applied to the beginning of notes and those shouldn't be there: they make little to no impact on scoring but they make the part look cluttered.


With this I disagree. I think that minor slide is very important, because they add up in a lot of phrases and can make a difference. So that extra bit of effort can pay dividends for vocalists who try to emulate the artist.
 

- Finally, MIDIs have little to do with bad authoring. If you take a MIDI and don't edit it, your chart will be bad, that's it. But if you use them as reference, there's nothing intrinsecally wrong with MIDIs that will make your part look bad or your notes look longer than they need. Remember: you use MIDIs as reference, not as source you don't edit that much.


I tried to stress in my original post that using a MIDI is fine. But sometimes it seems like authors think that a MIDI will instantly work properly for a vocals chart, when in reality it needs a bit of attention. In my experience, authors who use MIDIs tend to have much-too-long of tubes, specifically the tail ends.
 

Maybe it's me but nothing here is not already covered in the docs, so for everyone reading this: make sure you read the docs, all the common sense tips posted here you need to know by heart as you do every part of the docs. It's good to read them one more time, but make sure you are getting all your rules from the docs. ;)

 

The docs are indeed helpful, but more often than not lately (the past few weeks) they've been down for me. So any information tied to this forum (and with some style, no less!) might prove helpful. Besides, I see this post as more of an opinion piece than straight-up facts. If it helps, it helps. Just trying to pay it forward.


#1 Ranked Wii Customs Player... because it's the Wii
"Like a madman laughin' at the rain" - Custom song releases
Freelancers wanted! - Works-in-progress
"One-Trick Pony" - Details of my contributions in the database!
In-Depth Eclectic Suggestions - Let's collaborate!
Packing Like a Pro - The Guide for a Legit Wii Library
Last.fm Profile - Let's be snobs together.


#9 Farottone

Farottone

    The Lean Mean Customs Charting Machine

  • Administrator
  • 6,299 posts

Posted March 31, 2018 - 12:46 AM

With this I disagree. I think that minor slide is very important, because they add up in a lot of phrases and can make a difference. So that extra bit of effort can pay dividends for vocalists who try to emulate the artist.


Unless we're talking about slides of different lengths, it's not a matter of agreement, it's a matter of game engine, which is why you don't see them in official releases. But maybe you mean longer slides than I do, the same you see in proper official content, and in that case I obviously agree
 

I tried to stress in my original post that using a MIDI is fine. But sometimes it seems like authors think that a MIDI will instantly work properly for a vocals chart, when in reality it needs a bit of attention. In my experience, authors who use MIDIs tend to have much-too-long of tubes, specifically the tail ends.


Right, but what I mean is that ANY improper use of a MIDI is bad: "too straight" notes is the biggest mistake, and also timing and as you said length. But length is just one element: MIDIs can NOT be used as they are in any situation for any instrument.
 

The docs are indeed helpful, but more often than not lately (the past few weeks) they've been down for me. So any information tied to this forum (and with some style, no less!) might prove helpful. Besides, I see this post as more of an opinion piece than straight-up facts. If it helps, it helps. Just trying to pay it forward.


Make sure you're using the link posted in the Authoring Tools thread: we've been consistently up for 2 months now I think and we plan to stay that way. ;)



#10 Jack Cross

Jack Cross
  • 7 posts

Posted March 31, 2018 - 12:52 AM

 

So, let's differentiate here. Songs that are impossible to FC because are badly authored are one thing: if a part is wrong, it needs more TLC. However, how players play has little to do with how lax authors should be while working on a part. Some players would like to see, for example, songs with all unpitched notes because they are easier to sing at parties. For those, there's Easy. Expert requires you to sing like the game engine wants you to. If you do that and you score 4 stars on Hard, the authoring is plain wrong; howere if you score 4 stars because you tend to goof off while singing, well, you're not singing to score well so no harm done in getting 4 stars,

 

 

I didn't mean for it to come off like I wanted songs to be made easier. It's not so much goofing off as it is feeling the music. Dancing around was the wrong words, I'm doing standard frontman mic work to songs that apply. I'm still able to hit 5 stars and very rarely go under 98% on official tracks on hard. Expert I do agree with, I usually need to stand still and focus on my breathing more but that's why I don't do expert much. The 4 stars on 98% hard was me just standing still and singing like expert. It's mainly just an issue I had with a couple of customs so it's no biggie.






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users