What Do You Do When You Want to Re-Record Vocals?

re-record vocals

I’m going back to this project of mine in a few days.

The singer wants to re-record all of her vocals so we’re going back into the studio to do exactly that.

But it got me wondering about the session in general.

Since I’m redoing the vocals, I’ll probably have to redo some of the mix as well.

And although I probably won’t re-record any of the instruments, I started thinking whether I should remix the whole thing again?

Starting with fresh vocals.

It’s a fairly old mix so I know I can probably do better this time so why not have fun with it right?

What do you think? Have you ever gone back to a session, re-recorded a part and then completely redone it?

I’d actually love to know what you guys think. What would you do in this situation?

What I’ll do is:

  • Leave the mix as is during recording. She’s so familiar with the sound of the mix that I don’t want to throw her off.
  • Re-record all of her vocals.
  • Start from scratch and start mixing everything again. Maybe this time with a complete focus on the vocals.

Any opinions on this? Leave a comment and let me know.

Also, if you have any cool vocal recording tips that you’ve done lately I’d love to hear about them.

I’ll be doing something very similar to what I recommend in the Strategies bundle: a good condenser, a reflection filter and the singer’s back against a treated wall. It’s worked for me in the past, it’ll definitely work for me now.

For details check out the Strategies bundle:


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joybot/8624910341/sizes/l/in/photostream/

  • Hey Björgvin,

    Whenever I have re-recorded any instruments after a mix, I believe it’s good practice to mix the whole song again.

    You listen with fresh ears, and it’s necessary to me! Levels may change slightly….etc


  • Chris Nemeth

    Re-mix it all. If you feel you can do better then why not do better?

  • I also think you should remix the song once the vocals are redone. You may have learned new, better techniques since then. Also, if you build the mix from the vocals this second time around, you may find that everything falls into place better. I’ve mixed the same song severals times on more than one occasion, so it’s commonplace!

    I wish you the best!

  • bomusicprod

    Why not? I’ll go for the re-mix. I mean, the mix sat for a while…I’m coming in with fresh ears….gonna definitely hear some things different and want to experience. Also depending on what the vocalist does, I’ll like to check it up a bit…just my 1 little cent..

  • Kaushal Chandrasen

    Leaving the mix as is while recording vocals again isn’t going to change the perspective much unless the previous vocals was really very WRONG or very BAD.

    The singer may have worked on it after the previous recording, but the sound of the mix is still the same. So there isn’t gonna be a radical difference. To get better results with a noticeable difference, it would be better to record with as little elements from the mix as possible, keeping very few tracks for time, pitch and feel references along with some arrangements, but not all.

    The results are gonna be far better than you or the singer herself would expect.

    You obviously have to mix it again, but this is hardly as time consuming as the first mix. It is going to be relatively easier and with a fresh perspective, you’re sure to hit upon more ideas for the mix.

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      Thanks for the advice. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, and not just a sound thing but an emotional thing that she feels is lacking. The mix sounds pretty good still so resinging it will definitely give a much improved vocal performance I believe.

  • I would definatly do the new vocals to the old mix first. Then It would be pruden to consult with the artist about re-doing the mix. She may want to re-do some of the instruments as well. I’d mix the new vocals in and burn a demo of that, save the scene and then copy the tune and do a re-mix with the copy. Burn a demo of that as well. Two options are alway better than none. Three options might be pushing it.


    Bjorgvin, the last comment by Jose Diaz was a very good idea & so were the comments by Kaushal……though you will probably find there will be other things that will crop up in & during the process..& so were the comments by Kaushal….

    1./ how many tracks will she want to redo the vocals on or is it only 1 track a single solo effort that is not part of an LP CD ?

    2./ Are there any vocal harmony parts & are they sung by her or other backing singers & are they male or female ?

    3./ has she already done any double tracking of her previous vocals real live double track versus software double tracking ?

    4./ your studio set up, is it a full computer based recording system or do you still have reel to reel tape available as well, in what format 4/8/16/24 track ? I am assuming that it is an computerised system & is it via a manual or computerised mixing desk with automation ?

    5./ what type of microphone did you use in the last session for vocals. will you use the same again or did you use a combination of different vocal microphones & open up several tracks to record each. & mix it down after..

    6./ do you have a “boundary ” PZM flat surface microphone ?

    7./ finally is your studio a home based studio with or without
    a./ a vocal booth or one of those curved vocal shields
    b./ some acoustic treatment to control other ambient factors

    8./ Are you also a Musician & singer with a good understanding of male / female vocals & harmonies etc

    9./ if so, what instruments do you play well & did you play on the original session?

    10./ finally, what is the budget to do this versus the anticipated hours to do the recording & then the mix again in relation to the studio rate ?

    Sorry about the questions as I have just come upon this forum, but I feel each has a needed answer to be able to assess accurately the requirements versus the approach needed to achieve the desired result

    One thing that comes to mind, that might also broaden the potential scope foe a better remix & you mention the emotional factor…
    Assuming, that she has a very good voice ( excellent pitch & experienced ) & that she knows how to track well & given that I have not heard the track & the genre of music is not a known factor…

    I would
    a./ start off with Jose’s idea,

    b./ be inclined to open up the scope by recording her new lead vocals using a 3 mic configuration in front of her & possibly a boundary mic on the wall behind & also record all vocals “dry ” all effects can be added later
    The Mic’s ( Tubes if you have them ) or the best vocal mic that you have in your microphone locker & / or software that models various different vocal mic’s

    c./ If she is very good, I would also have her double track key emotional lines & also separate again sing her own Harmonies as well if she does it good ( the Karen Carpenter approach )

    All this will certainly give you all the scope that you can choose from to capture the emotional content that is either present or not in her actual lead vocal performance, the other double tracking & harmonies will add extra warmth to her lead vocal & then there is the use of other out board gadgets like,
    a./ the sonic / aural exciter on her vocals / or the instrumentation either directly in a selective way or as a wash over the top
    b./ EQ / Compression / delays / reverb & the multitude of things governed by need , good taste & the music type etc etc

    I hope that the above has proved helpful as suggestions if only to give thought to possibilities
    Thanks for allowing me to comment.
    Regards, Michael the_australian_songwriter@yahoo.com.au

    c./ have her come in with a double spaced typed copy of the lyric / chords laid out in proper verse / chorus / bridge structure as per the recorded song & then photocopies in both A-4 & A-3 size copies for notes & a suitable board to accommodate the A-3 near your mixing desk

  • I’ve been tracking my third album, and following a habit, thatI’ve sort of fell into, I decided to re-Record some songs that were written/recorded as much as twenty years ago, listening and going back to the digitized versions of my old analog stuff, from when I was first recording 4 track cassette ( i am not a pro, never done any commercial stuff, and have always been of the Dada/Surrealist/Krautrock/punk ethic of spontinaeity, I don’t treat my room, unless it’s badly, or for odd effect) is fun and sometimes surprising, but I chose to start from the beginning. I try to do everything on the fly, I never use a click track, I WILL not touch any Autotune anything, When I set down the first guide track of a song, it’s usually Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Piano. and I play the entire song through as many times as it takes until I’m happy with it, scrapping tracks as I go, until I get the one take I like. alot of times the tempo wavers, but I prefer strange slight deviations , like on “Sounds of Silence, theres a passage where it sounds as if they spliced in another formulation of tape, and the tempo is ever so slightly slower, but it’s just slightly disturbing enough to make it great. Anyway, I would try something within the general framework of the song, but push ever so slightly over the edge, Kind of like Eno/Bowie Berlin sessions, if it’s a Vocal centered song, perhaps something completely atypical to the genre, even antithetical, mixed with the straight forward, I.e. Something extremely emotional, but not necessarily with the song itself, say a happy song, have the singer sing with fear, or apprehension, or withdrawn, conversely if it’s a sad song, have them sing with just a small edge of the maniacal…perhaps use processed parts of the older song as soundscape, in the background, or have it unexpectedly pop up in places..

  • Sorry to write back again, but I was thinking of a for example. Some of the ways that Robert Smith tracks his Vocals with the Cure, Singing a line, and a whisper-sing back-up, like on ” Fear Of Ghosts” or “lullaby”, or something odd like on Strawberry Fields, the doubling of the track at a slower speed, to match the half-step or so discrepancy between the takes. These are where I got a lot of my ideas when I started out, anomalous oddities, that turn out brilliant. I think though I would try to incorporate a bit of the existing mix into a whole new mix, Sorry for rambling, but I LOVE this aspect of music, because theres so much room for having fun, and I always try to find the most unique sounds as possible for good or ill, and never doubt the mistake. the best tool I’ve ever used.

  • Emmanuel Radin

    Yeah..I’ve had this experience too. My band’s vocalist wanted to re-rerecord certain vocal parts in our song, and since I knew that I had certain parts sounding a bit off in my previous mix, I took it as a chance for me to re-mix it better then.

  • Peter Kipp

    i think, what you need is a little bit of time.
    just re-record the vocals (you may get lost when you change too many parameters simultanuosly)
    from there your inner ear – or the inner ear of your fellow-musicians – will guide you.
    when it has time enough to chew and digest… since it can´t sing with its mouth full.

    you will know what to do.
    for sure.

  • Peter

    If emotion is the only thing that is lacking, I would suggest to record it with the whole mix as it is.
    But it could well be that the singer feels that her vocals are not complementary with the current track, in that case you might consider re-record the whole track. Maybe with a whole different feel to it.
    It might be that remixing will do a lot, by changing some parts, but that’s not always gonna work.
    I’ve done that a few times and found myself re-recording the whole song 🙂

  • I’ve tried this before and was unsuccessbul, only for the very simple reason that the initial vocal performance was head over heals better than the newer re-recorded vocals. I think you touched on it above, and this is something we always hear… performance is everything. I would rather deal with some eq, compression, and poor recording issues on a stellar performance than a perfectly recorded, poor performance. Just something to consider as you dive into this project!

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  • Les Howard

    Lots of good ideas above. I think you need to talk to the singer about why she wants to re-record her vocal. What does she like and not like about the existing mix? How does she think redoing it will improve it? Can you make the desired improvements to the existing mix?