The lazy way to make harmonies with Band-in-a-Box and Melodyne Studio 4

If you want a detailed step-by-step guide on how to make and perform with Band-in-a-Box backing tracks, have a look at my eBook "Band-in-a-Box 101: A  beginners guide to making and performing with Band-in-a-Box backing tracks"

Hello all music lovers and music makers.

Firstly I need to apologize for no blog last month. It was February Album Writing Month plus I had a trip to fantastic Egypt with 12 wonderful ladies. So it was a busy month and I did not get round to writing up a blog post. Here is a picture of us in Egypt. I am the one fourth from the right hand side.

For February Album Writing Month (FAWM) this year I decided to take yet another short cut. Band-in-a-Box is, of course, my number one short cut but, being a very lazy musician, I am always on the look out for more time saving methods. Here is a song I wrote and recorded in one day. It is called "The Day You Went Away". You will notice the Band-in-a-Box backing and also the harmonies.


Please note; I am trying out a new hosting site for my original music. It is called Musicoin and artists get compensated in a cryptocurrency when the track is streamed. Listening to the music is completely free (as it should be!) The site is still in Beta so if there are any problems listening to this track please let me know. 

In order to follow along with this blog post you will need Melodyne Studio 4 which is the most comprehensive version of Melodyne. It gives you the ability to work with multiple audio tracks at the same time.

It is not a cheap bit of software but if you are serious about making music and working with vocals then it is fantastic. It is something I use in every song I record. Here is a link to the Celemony website where you can compare the different versions of Melodyne.

Onto the song....

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make and mix the harmonies using Melodyne Studio 4, Band-in-a-Box and RealBand.

1. Compose the song and record the lead vocal using Band-in-a-Box and RealBand. For those who need more information on how I do this there is a blog post here How I use Band-in-a-Box in my Songwriting. It is also a topic I cover in depth in my video course First Song with Band-in-a-Box video course 

Export the lead vocal to a wav file. Personally, I find it very difficult to work with Melodyne in Plugin mode so I generally use it in stand-a-lone mode. Select the vocal track and choose "Render>Export highlighted section(or entire track) to wav"

2.  Export the backing to a wav file. Mute the lead vocal and then choose "Render>Merge Audio and Vsti/Dxi tracks to Stereo wave file"

4. Import the lead vocal and backing track into Melodyne Studio 4 into two separate tracks. Use the "Import audio" function to do this (rather than the "open" file function"). Make sure the default algorithm is set to "Melodic"

5. Copy the lead vocal to another track inside Melodyne and rename the track to "Harmony Up". Copy the lead vocal to yet another track inside Melodyne and rename the track to "Harmony Down". Make the harmony up track editable (orange) and the lead vocal and the backing track audible (grey). Deselect the harmony down track.

6. Edit the harmony up track to just include the sections you would like the harmony to sound. For example you may just want the high harmony in the choruses and one or two select lines in the versus and bridge.  You can see in the diagram below that I just have the harmony up sounding in a couple of the pre-chorus lines as well as in the chorus.

7. Now select the entire harmony up track and move it up four half steps. Then tune the relocated harmony track to the key of your song. In this case the key is G.

8. Listen to the result and make changes to individual notes as required.I usually try and tune my harmonies according to the underlying chords. So where a G chord is playing I will tune my vocal harmony to sound the third note (in the case of the G chord, this will be the B note). However, harmonies are a very personal thing and you may like to tune your harmonies differently. 

9. Now select the "Harmony up" track and apply subtle pitch and timing differences.

10. Now deselect the harmony up track and make the harmony down editable (orange).

11. Repeat the process described above with the harmony down track, except move the track down 5 half steps

12. Export your two harmony tracks to wav files

13. Import the wav files back into RealBand and mix as required. Sometimes I will pan the high harmony on one side and the low harmony on the other. Often I will want to add some stereo width in the mix. To achieve this I will duplicate each of the harmony tracks so that I end up with the two harmony down tracks (right and left) at about 30% panning and two high harmony tracks at about 45% panning. Simply copy the imported harmony track to a fresh track but move it by about 5 cents. (If you just copy the harmony track exactly as it is and pan the two to opposite sides without moving one or the other by a few cents the harmony will just sound as if it is one track dead up the center).

Well that is it. I hope this explanation is clear but if not please do not hesitate to contract me and let me know if you try this technique out on any of your own songs.