Volume automation is one of the most time-consuming steps in audio mixing, yet it’s just as crucial as everything else. Even if you have all of your EQ and compression functioning flawlessly on your vocals, the lead vocal level typically requires a little assistance to stay in the foreground of the mix. In the following article, I will show you how to apply volume automation to your vocals and a few other helpful tips.
As usual, I have prepared a short sequence in SoundBridge: DAW, which contains most full-mix elements and the vocals. Let us listen to it.
~Full Mix – Vocal (Unprocessed)
Use Volume Automation to Reduce the Dynamic Range of Your Vocals
We can hear from the audio example above that this vocal has a wide dynamic range. In other words, the volume and energy are constantly changing. It fits well with the whole mix in some parts of the vocal sequence, while it is simply too loud in others. It even causes some unwanted distortion in some parts of the mix. While a compressor can help make a dynamic vocal/track more consistent, it is not a one-stop solution. The goal is to adjust the vocal level to stay within a relatively constant range. In effect, you have to apply volume automation to your vocals.
Because this vocal sequence has a wide dynamic range, the volume automation applied will have some complex curves, as shown in the image below. It would be best to automate this vocal volume fader while listening to the rest of the mix. It’s pointless to listen to it solo while drawing the automation curves. Let us hear how the vocal fits now with the rest of the mix’s elements.
~Full Mix – Vocal (Volume Automation)
Apply Similar Automation to Other Effects for a More Interesting Sound.
The same procedure can be applied to almost any parameter for various effects. So, in this case, I’ve used a reverb effect on the vocal, and I’d like to emphasize the reverb level at the end of each vocal phrase. I’ll accomplish this by automating the reverb effect’s dry/wet parameter, as I did previously with volume. Let’s hear how the vocal sounds with volume and reverb automation, both solo and in the context of the whole mix.
~Vocal – Solo (Volume & Reverb Automation)
~Full Mix – Vocal (Volume & Reverb Automation)
If you liked this article about mixing, here is some more on the same subject: