In this post I will to take you through some classic techniques to treating your vocals so they don’t sound dry and amateurish but pro and up to the commercial standard. The example I will use here is the vocals in my latest track called Placebo Disco.
1. The Original Sample
Let’s start with the recording. A nice, decent, mono take of a female singer. This particular sample is taken from Platinum R&B Urban Female Vocals VOL1 by Platinum Hit Factory. It is pretty far from the track we’re trying to add it to – not only is it in a different key, but it’s also in 68BPM instead of 105.
Here is our track:
And here is the sample:
I often like to use small chops and tiny edits when it comes to sample packs, so let’s make some cuts and play around with the different bits and pieces, apply some pitch shifting to make it go with the track.
3. Sonic Shaping
To make this new vocal lead fit into our original track, we’ll bring up Live’s built in EQ Eight and apply a pretty harsh high-pass filter, removing everything below 480Hz.
Now let’s give it a little edge by applying some overdrive to it using Live’s Overdrive. This makes it warmer, a little distorted, like an overdriven pre-amp. It’s also great to make it jump out more in the mix.
5. More Edge and Character
Now we’ll boost it at around 3kHz to give it more of an identity. Of course these particular values are highly dependent on all the other elements already existing in the mix, but generally speaking, it’s probably a good idea to make your lead instrument loud and consistent in the 2-4kHz area. This is where our ears are most sensitive, it’s also very important in human speech, so we are probably wired to expect the aural/ musical focus to be around here.
Our vocals are now strong in the right areas, now we need to make sure they are consistent, too. We achieve this by dropping a multiband compressor in the chain next, using Live’s Multiband Dynamics device. This won’t allow the signal to jump too high in volume so it essentially reduces our dynamic range by turning down what it considers too loud. We apply a little make-up gain at the individual output knobs, too.
7. Peak Control
We’re getting close to where we want to take this sound, now we only want to make sure that there aren’t any sudden peaks left. We apply Live’s Limiter and dial in a threshold so it delivers a very subtle gain reduction, only clipping the very short peaks that might appear in the signal.
8. Final Touches
We finish off by putting a slight and very fast side-chain compression at the end of the chain, driving it through the entire Drums group channel, which contains all our drums and percussions. We don’t have to worry about all the percussions driving the compressor, though, the loudest bits in that group will be the kick and the snare, anyway.
Our final version sounds like this:
You can listen to the entire track here.
Do you have any vocal treatment techniques to share? Any questions?
Let me know in the comment below!