Just so you know, I don’t make musical decisions by committee. I believe ultimately as an artist you have to be selfish and please yourself, rather than trying to second-guess your audience.
However, one of the songs from my upcoming EP ‘Amerikana’ has two different vocal takes. The first went down live in the studio along with bass, drums, guitar and grand piano. The second I did several months later as an overdub. I’ve worked a lot on the song over the interim and I’m very close to it at this point, probably too close, and I was finding it hard to judge which was the best vocal.
So as an experiment I sent 16 friends two mixes each, just piano and vocal, A (live) and B (overdub.) Same piano track on both. Some of them are musicians, some are just friends I trust. I will paste their reactions below:
generally, prefer B….
it’s more english, and the words are clearer
which is important in this one..
B gets my vote. You’re telling the story more clearly without mawkishness..
A is a wee bit too melancholy for me though there is a section of A which is better.
B. Love and warm vibes
It is clearly vocal B that I feel is the stronger one. In vocal A, I don’t feel that you are really hearing the words and telling the story that you are singing. For example, the beginning of the first bridge. In vocal A, it sounds like part of the song. In vocal B, you stop to tell us that story. You make a change.
B. It’s the one which makes me want sing along. It’s the one which makes me really listen to the words. It’s the one that makes me tear-up.
I vote “B”. IMO “A” is not a confident, committed telling of the tale like “B”. “B” is a
unified piece, angrier in the right place, more vocally dynamic and far more
confident where the melody takes an unexpected turn and challenges the ear.
I would delete “A” and feel excited and positive about “B”.
my vote is for version B. It sounds lived in.
There is something in your voice on A that is impossible to repeat, and as music is a moment, the
moment is captured there so beuatifully. Not that the other vocal isn’t good. But A is the one. Trust me!
And thanks for asking my opinion.
I’m going to say vocal B! More personal and earnest, sounds like you “mean it” more, and reminds me of your Flat Earth era vocals.
B is very much the thomas that we know…..english, slightly more introverted
deeply soulful….closer to the airwaves thomas …and very
importantly I can hear all the words…
“A” makes more sense to me. “A” would be my choice if I were in your shoes.
B is the most engaging of the vocals by far – I understand you’re going for a world weary approach with A, but it’s a bit of a whinge to be honest – B is Best – good tone and I actually want to listen to his story whereas the A fellow, well I’d happily pull the switch!
Vocal B sounds more decisive to me esp at the beginning.
Listening to the recent version I hear that it DOES sound like you’ve lived with this tune a long time… and I think that’s a good thing. So I’m not sure how much of a “gut decision” it represents, but I would be inclined to go with version B.
I vote for this one… Vocal B. I love your connection to the lyric on this one!
we prefer B. Both are gorgeous, Version B seems to have more clarity
I have not filtered these comments. They were 16:2 in favor of B, with two lone souls preferring A.
Most of the criteria I felt were important—the storytelling and the emotion—I suspected A had the edge, but people actually got more of those same qualities from B. Funny how people perceive things differently! The aggregate of comments about A was ‘indecisive, worldweary, whingey,’… the story was not as well told and the words were not as clear.
I read the responses as they came in, feeling more and more comfortable with the idea of going with vocal B. The two lone detractors twinged something in my heartstrings, but I brushed over that. I was relieved they were almost unanimously in favour of B, because A is a technical nightmare—the vocal mic has piano all over it, making it virtually impossible to tweak for tuning and timing, or to get rid of lip smacks and asthmatic breaths.
Yet I am genuinely torn because my heart says in A I was feeling it more; plus wouldn’t life be great if I could do one-take vocals and never have to worry about them again!
Then I got this email from the guy that’s going to engineer/mix it with me next week, a man with a long an distinguished track record who did a great job mixing one of my previous albums. Yikes.
There is no comparison, as I suspect you knew, but just needed affirmation. The live vocal (A) is perfect. well.. it’s hard to understand “cell block E”, “cell block A”, and what exactly the crooked lawyer did, but please, you know its right. There’s loads we can do in protools, as long as we lock in the mix on fresh ears, before the tweezing.
It’s fucking gorgeous.
The plot thickens…..