Why listening while singing?
November 19, 2011 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Why are singers using headphones while recording?

I noticed on many videos of amateur and semi-pro singers on YT that they have headphones while singing. What is this for? Do they listen to the melody or their own voice? What advantage does it have compared to a regular loudspeaker?
posted by knz to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Click track. The vocalist records their song, usually to part of the instrumental backing, but also to a steady, electronic "tock tock tock" that helps them keep the beat. If they make a mistake and need to go back and re-record a little snippett, the click track helps the engineer splice the re-recorded bit into the right place.
posted by LN at 1:53 PM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: So the background music doesn't bleed into the microphone which wouldn't sound to good.
posted by jasondigitized at 1:57 PM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Both of the above (in particular the bleed thing), plus being able to hear yourself in the headphones makes it easier to control your voice.
posted by Beardman at 2:03 PM on November 19, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, you don't want music from speakers bleeding into the vocal track. Even headphones can cause a little bleeding into the track, but usually this gets buried in the mix. Also, sometimes the producer will create a special stripped-down version of the song just for the vocalist to listen to while tracking; it's easier for the singer to hear him/herself (and keep in tune) without all the instruments competing for attention.
posted by malocchio at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Here's an example of the stripped down track, albeit from a live performance instead of studio. It's the "Bonocam" from U2's Elevation tour.
posted by The Deej at 2:26 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all!
posted by knz at 2:54 PM on November 19, 2011

There's also the possibility that they don't actually have any (good) speakers for recording, so they're doing everything with their headphones. : )

(Although in my experience recording and mixing with only headphones is asking for trouble, because our ears aren't really designed to hear stereo in a straight-on left-right fashion as headphones are wont to deliver (vs. a true 'stereo' field like you get from properly placed speakers). Some people are really good at it, tho, and the field is not usually what gets singers in terms of recording - it's the volume of their own voice in relation to the other things in the mix that they hear in the headphones.)
posted by bitterkitten at 12:29 PM on November 20, 2011

I don't use a click-track, I play the drums and then listen to my drum track and whatever others get added in as I go along - although sometimes to get a certain groove, if we're doing vocals last, I'll ask for just the bass.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 7:58 AM on November 24, 2011

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