Let’s say you’ve coughed up a hundred or so pounds to see your favourite artist. You probably already know that the singer will use a backing track (though you might be surprised to hear what’s actually playing in their ears).
But how can you tell if your beloved belter is singing live versus mouthing along to the tunes in the background?
Recently, TikTokker and music producer @littlebrookstudio shared how you can tell if a singer is performing live in a music video ― and two of them apply to concerts, too.
It starts with the mic
“The first, and the most glaringly obvious to any audio professional, is how the mic sounds,” the producer said.
“The vast majority of live performances you see will be recorded on a microphone like this,” he said, lifting up a microphone with a black handle and a silver, globe-shaped head ― it’s the type of microphone most of us think of when we imagine the object. This is a live dynamic mic.
But then, he lifted a more remote control-shaped mic up, stating that that “is what you’d use in the studio”. This is a studio condenser mic.
The latter sounds much crisper and more high-end than the former, which is a little tinnier, less equalised, and more “raw”.
“These little dynamic mics are great, but they do not have that smooth, clear, crisp high end that you’ll get from a proper condenser studio mic,” he shared.
“So if you see a live performance and it has that clear high end, there’s a very good chance those vocals were recorded somewhere else.”
Then, there are tone shifts
The creator shared that a “dead giveaway” is when there’s a tone shift in the middle of a singer’s line ― ie, when one part of a sentence sounds completely different to the rest.
“As producers, we love to record loads of takes, because this allows you to go into an editing room and pick the best bits,” he says. That’s called “comping”.
Most producers use the technique, he revealed ― but it can come with the downside of making particular lines shift slightly mid-sentence.
“If you hear it in a live recording, it hasn’t been done in one take, and it certainly hasn’t been done live,” he added.
Well, the more you know...