I wrote this article for the latest Revolution Audio newsletter. Check them out if you’re looking for recording gear in Canada.
Vocal Processing And Mixing Tips
Last time I shared some tips for recording great vocals, now lets get them sitting right with the rest of the track.
Cleanup – Before anything, clean up the vocal tracks. Go through and trim the silence around each phrase. Remove any noise, thumps, clicks, pops and gasps. Fade in or out on each edit.
Pitch Correction – Gentle pitch correction with software like Melodyne is a big part in getting that professional sounding vocal we all strive for in our home studio productions. Be careful with this! Doing it right takes time and practice. Over tuned vocals are about as bad as out of tune vocals (you can hear both on American Idol).
EQ – There are no rules and every voice is different but here are some starting points. A high-pass filter (low cut) can be used to clean up the very lows (below 100Hz). 200-600Hz can be gently boosted or cut depending on the voice to add thickness or compensate for proximity. 1kHz-3kHz is usually where the clarity of the vocals is. Above that is brightness, bite, air but look out for sibilance. How much you can boost here depends on the song.
Compression – When it comes to controlling vocal dynamics, using two compressors doing less individually often yields the most transparent result. Use a compressor with fast attack and high ratio (10:1) working just on the peaks, ignoring everything else. The second compressor is set with a 4:1 ratio, a slower attack and release and threshold set so it is always compressing about 2-4dB.
Reverb – Reverb is an effect you’ll want on a separate channel (aux track in Pro Tools, FX Channel in Cubase) rather than having it right on the vocal track. Use a send to add the reverb to the vocals. The reverb time should be related to the tempo of the song, it can really clutter the mix if it’s not. Hall and Plate are the most common types of reverb for vocals. Shaping the reverb sound with EQ is recommended.
Automation – Automating the volume level of the vocals is absolutely essential to getting the vocal to sit right where you want it throughout the song. Automating the reverb send for the vocal will allow you to have just the right amount at any time. You can also automate effects like chorus and delays for the vocals to keep things interesting through the song.
iZotope Nectar – A great all-in-one tool for vocal processing is iZotope Nectar. Eleven effects in one plugin including EQ, Compression, Auto and Manual Pitch Correction, reverb, delay and more.