Creating Vocal Harmonies using Cubase

Learn how to create vocal harmonies using Cubase's time-stretching tools.

Dynamic Processors

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Creating vocal harmonies is easy if you have the luxury of having a singer close who can record multiple vocal harmonies, but what happens when you are presented with a mix that has only one lead vocal take? We need to get creative and the tools within your DAW might be all you need to create interesting and rich harmonies.

Creating vocal harmonies

The most common industry process is to copy and layer the single vocal take into multiple layers and to then pitch shift them to create the desired harmonies. A simple example of this would be to create two copies of the vocal take and pitch one copy up a third and the other up a fifth. This will create a basic major triad harmony.

But to truly master vocal harmony processing you need to think a little deeper. Pitch shifting vocal take copies is the standard approach but we need to define it further by altering the start times of each copy. You see, when a vocalist sings they are not always exactly in time and every time you run another vocal take the timing is different. Once all the copies are layered with slight timing variances they sound far more natural and richer. If you were to just copy the vocal takes and pitch shift them they would sound too static and unreal.To achieve micro tuning processing I use Cubase’s built-in Nudge Tool to move the copies by milliseconds until all the layers combined sound big and colourful. I then supplement this by panning the copies slightly off center. This gives the illusion of  size.

In the video I walk you through the processes required to create vocal harmonies using Cubase’s built-in pitch shifting and time-stretching tools. I then run you through the nudge tool setup process and offer valuable advice on what values to use to achieve natural rich sounding vocal harmonies.

Topics covered in the video are:

  • Time-stretching
  • Using the Nudge Pallette
  • Understanding Algorithms
  • Understanding Pitch and Time
  • Advanced Panning Tricks
  • How to create Major Chords
  • Using the Range Tool
  • Using Elastique for Time-stretching
  • Tips and Tricks