There are several approaches to producing sumptuous soundscapes, and the reverse vocal swell is one of the most simple and instantly applicable in music production. In the next tutorial, we will show you how to create a vocal swell effect.

As usual, we prepared a short sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW. It includes most of the elements of a full mix, including the main vocal. Let’s take a listen to it.

This is a screenshot of my mix before applying the vocal swell effect.
~Full Mix – Vocal (Unprocessed)

Preparing the vocal edits

Even if you haven’t had the opportunity to test this technique on your own, you’ve probably heard it. Many professional-level productions use reversed delays and reverb to bring consistency and coherence to a mix.

This is particularly effective when applied to a main vocal, but it sounds good with just about any audio source. The idea is to prepare the listener for the music that follows. Reverse reverb generates anticipation, enhancing the sound’s intensity when it hits. It’s an excellent technique to create suspense and excitement.  We encourage you to try this method if your song lacks gloss and ear-candy or feels abrupt in the transitions.

Let’s begin by listening to the vocal line solo.

This is a close-up screenshot of the main vocal channel.
~Vocal – Solo

The first step in creating the vocal swell effect is to reverse the vocal. We’ll duplicate the main vocal audio track and place the reversed vocal on it. As shown in the image below, in order to reverse the vocal, we must double-click the actual audio block. This will take us to the audio editor, where we will engage the reverse icon on the left. Let’s now hear only the first part of the reversed vocal.

This is a screenshot of my mix with reversed version of the main vocal and its audio editor.
~Vocal – Reversed (Unprocessed)

We will select and edit appropriate parts of the reversed vocal to work with and which will fit in nicely with the beginnings of the original vocal’s phrases. You can try out different edits for this purpose.

Once we’ve decided which parts to work with, we’ll remove the rest of the reversed vocal and place the chosen parts where we want to create the anticipation effect. Let’s hear this.

This is a close-up screenshot of main and reversed vocal audio channels.
~Vocal – Main & Reserved (Unprocessed)

Processing the vocal swell

Now we need to process our reversed vocal. We’ll accomplish this by adding a reverb effect to the track. In this case, we used MeldaProductions’ MCharm reverb.

For this technique, you need a long decay time, between two and five seconds. It shouldn’t be too long or the fade-in will be too slow, but it shouldn’t be too short either, or the opposite will happen. Adjust it until it sounds good to you.

Keep in mind that you may always repeat this procedure with a different decay setting. Remember to turn the wet/dry balance to 100% wet. None of the original signal should pass through. Let’s hear how this sounds solo and then together with the main vocal.

This is a screenshot of my mix and reverb effect interface used for processing.
~Vocal – Reversed (Processed With Reverb)
~Vocal – Main & Reserved (Processed With Reverb)

The idea should be to build unity in the transition, so appropriate balance and volume of the effect against the original vocal and overall mix is very important.

Lastly, let’s hear the main and reversed vocal in the context of the full mix.

~Full Mix – Vocal (Main & Reversed Final)

If you liked this article on vocal processing, here are some more on the same subject: