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What Is Double Tracking and How to Do It Effectively in Vocal Recordings

by Arthur Kody, iZotope Contributor April 29, 2021
Learn more about double tracking with five easy steps for incorporating it into your vocal recordings
Learn more about double tracking with five easy steps for incorporating it into your vocal recordings

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Listen to a recording of your favorite artist, and you'll likely hear vocal doubles throughout the song. It gives your recording a wide sound, and it is a popular tool for recording artists and producers to bring even more fullness to a vocal mix. 

So what exactly is double tracking, and how can you add it to your vocal recordings? In this article, I’m going to explore what double tracking is and show you how to use it to get a rich, wide vocal sound.

What is double tracking?

Double tracking is when you create duplicates of a recording in order to add more bulk and sonic character to the instrument being recorded. This technique can be used on virtually any instrument, but it sounds particularly great when used on vocal tracks. 

Popular ways to implement vocal double tracking include:

  • Manually recording the same vocal line multiple times into separate tracks.

  • Copy/pasting a vocal track and adjust the timing slightly to stagger the tracks, creating a chorus effect

  • Creating duplicates of the vocal track and panning them right/left to create a wide sound. 

A great example of double tracking is in Ariana Grande’s “breathin” at 1:55.

If you like to produce your music in a digital-audio-workstation (DAW), you can use a software plugin like the free Vocal Doubler by iZotope designed to enhance your vocal with a natural doubling effect. And with new advances in audio technology, professional vocal doubling is achievable on your phone! I’ll show you how I use a Spire Pro free trial with the Spire app for iOS for authentic double tracking that gives your vocals an organic, lifelike sound in the mix. 

Step 1: Prepare for double tracking

Before you begin recording, import your beat into the Spire app and run a soundcheck. Simply, tap “Soundcheck” and perform the loudest vocal from your track. The Spire app will listen to your vocal and apply processing to sculpt your tone and set your levels to avoid audio clipping. If you have the Spire Pro membership, you’ll get access to Soundcheck Pro, which listens to your environment and applies personalized processing to your voice to make sure your vocal shines through clearly no matter where you’re recording.

Step 2: Record your vocals

Start by recording one take of your main vocal and then record at least two additional takes of it on separate tracks. You’ll want to make sure you keep your timing consistent across these takes—and don’t leave any lyrics out! Your goal is to get three “identical” vocal tracks.

Record three different takes of the main vocal
Record three different takes of the main vocal

Depending on the vibe you’re looking for, you can even use double tracking on your harmonies. Simply repeat the process: record your harmony, then record two duplicates. And, if you want to add even more depth and dimension, try adding slightly different inflections to each take. These subtle variations in your performance will help you get a super thick vocal during the mixing phase.

Step 3: Mix your vocal doubles

Here’s where it gets fun! Navigate to the Mix tab in the Spire app. Keep your main vocal in the center, pan your first double hard left, and your second double hard right. Now, you’ll be able to hear the double tracking working it’s magic. In fact, it might even create too much of a widening effect, so you may want to move your doubles down in volume.

If I’ve recorded harmonies, I’ll typically put my main harmony slightly behind the main vocal and pan my harmony doubles halfway between the main vocal and my main doubles, but make them slightly quieter in the mix. Here’s an example:

Example of the Mix tab layout for double tracking in the Spire app
Example of the Mix tab layout for double tracking in the Spire app

Step 4: Add vocal effects

Mixing your tracks is a great place to start, but the real sparkle happens when you start playing around with Spire Pro’s vocal effects. Select one of your doubles and tap “Inspire Me” to hear a random effect chain applied to your vocal. Tap the dice icon until you find an effect that suits your track.

Use the Inspire Me feature of Spire Pro to add creative effects to your double tracking
Use the Inspire Me feature of Spire Pro to add creative effects to your double tracking

The sonic possibilities are endless, so flex your creativity and design a vocal vibe that’s all your own!

Step 5: Share your work

Once you’re happy with your vocal mix, you can share your final track right from the Spire app. There are quite a few export options, but I really love sharing my Spire projects through the Cloud. That way people can collaborate with me, leave comments, and access the vocal stems directly. To show you how this works, feel free to check out my Spire project file for “Chemical Crush”. Or, give the final mix a listen below.

Audio Example without Double Tracking

"Chemical Crush" by Arthur Kody

Audio Example with Double Tracking

"Chemical Crush" by Arthur Kody

Ready to take a stab at double tracking? Start your free trial of Spire Pro.

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