Capturing Passion, Pursuing Perfection

Dec 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson

Recording Celine Dion’s Vocals

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The processing begins with a bolder Jensen Twin Servo, ADGIL custom VU meters, GML 8200 EQ, Neve 33609J/d, and another GML 8200 for her headphone mix. The Sony MDR7520 headphones are at left.

The processing begins with a bolder Jensen Twin Servo, ADGIL custom VU meters, GML 8200 EQ, Neve 33609J/d, and another GML 8200 for her headphone mix. The Sony MDR7520 headphones are at left.

“The big challenge with Celine is with the monitoring,” he continues. “When I’m recording her vocal, I’d say 50 to 60 percent of the time is taken on her monitoring system. She’s going to change her performance based on how she hears herself or how she hears the track, so that’s why it’s important to have the stems. Even though in the finished mix, the drums may be loud and the keyboard may be loud, in her headphones we’ll remix it so they’re a little less loud, but maybe the guitars are more predominant and that will give her the drive she needs to get to the particular emotion she wants to give. It’s different with every song.”

For Dion’s headphone mix, Lalonde routes the signal through a GML 8200 EQ, a Bryston 4B amplifier, a U.S. Audio Whirlwind SAT-1 passive headphone amp, and out to either Sony 7506 or the new Sony 7520 headphones, both of which he lauds for their clarity, power-handling capacity and ability to reduce distracting head resonance.

“She wants to hear the reverb and compression and all that in her headphones,” Lalonde offers, “so part of the chain, too, is on the console and we’ll use a Lang PEQ2 EQ and another GML 8200 on the inserts, in case we need to EQ things just for the headphones. I have a 4-channel custom Sifam VU meter which I daisy-chain—one after the mic preamp, one after the inserted EQs and two to monitor the headphone mix after the GML EQ before the Bryston 4B. I monitor the complete mic chain with the high-quality LED VU on the Weiss ADC2 and the Pro Tools input.”

Lalonde says that Dion tends to work a little faster when she’s singing in French, sometimes completing vocals for three songs in a day, whereas in English it’s usually one or two. “Part of it is the comfort zone—French is still a bit more natural for her, so she’ll typically do top to bottom, three, four or five times and then that’s it—we’ll comp it from there. Whereas with an English track, it needs to be on the pop charts so it’s usually produced a little differently and it needs to be even more polished. She’ll usually do between 10 and 12 tracks and sometimes we’ll end up breaking it up more, where we’ll just do verses and then do choruses.” The English record was mixed by Humberto Gatica, Serban Ghenea, Mick Guzauski and Manny Marroquin.

Whatever the differences and similarities, the formula seems to be working both technically and artistically. Her popularity in both languages has only grown over time. And much as Lalonde loves to talk tech and experiment with gear (something Dion fully supports), he is very clear about this: “Seventy-five percent of the Celine chain is Celine; my job is getting out of the way and capturing it as well as I can.”






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