In the pop, EDM, and hip hop worlds, the songwriting process usually begins with a producer creating a beat who then hands it off for toplining.
Toplining is the process of writing vocal parts over pre-recorded songs. In many cases, topliners are music specialists hired to write catchy hooks or refrains for other artists. Good topliners easily write hooks, back those up with strong lyrical ideas, and perform those ideas with clarity.
Spire Studio is an ideal tool for toplining because it doesn’t have to be done in a professional studio or at any specific location. If you’re a topliner on the go, simply bring your Spire Studio, your mic (or use the built-in mic in your Spire Studio), and any other portable tools you need for your creative process. With Spire Studio, you can import a track into a new project and record your ideas on top—you can also use Spire’s editing tool to cut and delete your vocal tracks as needed.
Now let’s put these tools into action. From importing to mixing, we’re going to show you how to effectively topline your own projects using Spire Studio. Let’s start with the import.
To start toplining, the first thing you’ll need to do is import your track, but before you can do that, you need to make sure it’s in the right place to import.
Upload your track to your drive or cloud. Head to Spire’s main screen where your projects are—you’ll see the 'Import' button just above your most recent project. Then select 'Browse.' Select the location of your track, and you should be able to see it at the top (make sure your files are sorted by date). When you select your track, Spire will import it into a new project. Your new project will automatically open when the track has finished importing. If you’re working from a Mac, or another iOS device, you can Airdrop your track to the device and choose the 'open in Spire' option.
Below is an imported beat. Now it’s time to start building on it.
Now that your track is loaded and ready to be toplined, you’ll need to plug your mic into Spire and choose the right recording effect. For vocals, Spaces are usually the best match, specifically the Acoustic Shaper or the Warm Voice Space, but you can use any of the effects for your track.
The first thing you’ll want to lay down is your lead vocal track. Once you have your lead down, use another track to double your lead in areas that need emphasis. Then you’ll want to tackle harmonies or counter melodies, and, finally, any additional vocal phrasings you want to fill out the sound. Check out this handy guide when tracking your vocals in Spire Studio.
The example below is our toplined project. Starting with the lead and ending with the extra vocal phrasings, this is what your toplined example should sound like.
So your project has been toplined, but your work isn’t done yet! Use the cropping tool located in the bottom right corner of the recording screen to cut out any unwanted noise in between your vocal phrases—this will give your vocals a professional sounding finish.
The pictures below demonstrate what your project should look like before and after your vocal edits.
A toplined track is essentially a Frankenstein creature, so you’ll need to make sure your mix job blends the vocals and the original track well enough to sound like one cohesive track.
Make sure that your original track is centered in the mix (your producer has undoubtedly already mixed your original track, placing it off center will throw off its mix). Place your lead vocal center, adjusting the volume level to properly blend with the track. Pan your harmonies across the stereo field, and keep your doubles close, but slightly underneath your lead vocal.
The image below is the mix for our original example.
Whether you’re a pro topliner who works remotely, or an aspiring topliner trying to build a repertoire, Spire Studio is the perfect tool to make toplining a simple and professional process. Simply import your original track, record your vocal tracks, edit along the way, and mix with intention. It's toplining done simply, quickly, and professionally.
Interested in learning more about toplining vocals beyond the Spire Studio? Artist, producer, and YouTube creator LXGEND goes through a mobile recording tutorial for topline vocals using Spire Pro, a Spire app subscription that gives you full access to exclusive, new features and content that help you get pro-quality, release-ready vocals recorded with your iPhone.