There’s a huge variety of vocal treatments that may not be quite so obvious. Not all are applicable to all styles of music, but it’s still worth trying them at least once, just so that you know what they sound like. As mixing engineers we have to be aware that however soulful the lyrics and performance are, there are many mixing tricks we can do to push the envelope even further. What follows are a few mixing tricks to try on your vocal tracks. They may not work on every track, but these vocal mixing tips can give an interesting edge to your vocal recordings. You have probably heard these effects before in some of your favorite tracks. Maybe you have wondered about how to recreate them. In this tutorial, we will examine some special techniques in detail that will push your vocals into a new dimension.
Here we have a short vocal for a chorus – nothing special about it yet. It is, however, recorded and mixed quite well. It sounds clean and wide.
In this case, we do not need the first syllable of the vocal – so we will apply a fade in.
The next step is to copy the vocal and paste it on a second track. Reverse it by double-clicking the block and hitting the reverse button in the audio edit window. We do this to achieve a gradual lifting sort of sound. Then, trim and adjust the position of the block such that it ends right as the first block begins.
On the duplicate vocal (reversed), apply a fade in. Then, process the output with a reverb – use a relatively long decay setting for a nice blend of these two vocals. Let’s listen to it.
Vocal 2 – Reversed and faded
Try using a resonator for this next step. It is a very interesting effect. Despite the many available multi-band resonators, we will use RESOCHORD in Guitar Rig 5 by Native Instruments. This resonator is limited to a single band, yet it demonstrates the effect well.
A little bit about resonators:
In your productions, you may have come across some delay effects with very precise controls for parameters like feedback and delay time. If you set the delay time very short (like 8-10 ms) and push them up the feedback generously, you will notice a metallic, resonant tone. Also, notice that slight adjustments to the delay time parameter cause pitch shifts. This concept is the basic idea behind resonators.
Basically, a resonator is a network of resonant delay lines (as described above). Except, instead of having to set specific delay times in milliseconds (like you can with the delay), the resonator decides them for you. You can tune the pitches to a specific key – very useful for creating pitched effects.
We will apply the resonator effect to our vocal on the first channel. To do so, we add an instance of Guitar Rig on the channel and select Resonator from the components/pitch drop-down menu. This unit is called RESOCHORD. We do NOT want it on chord mode (the default setting). Select string mode instead.
By shifting the Key button, we determine the master key signature of our vocal. In this case, it is in the key of B minor. Next, we can adjust the Style button to make the effect either clean or muddy and shift the Decay button to a higher value – which will seem to lengthen the release of the overall sound.
Here is how our vocal sounds after this processing stage.
Vocal 1 – with RESOCHORD
We could take this further by automating the Key button (since it is controlling the pitch) and turn the vocal into something completely different. Automating parameters in SoundBridge is quite simple. Simply open the effect and move/click the parameter you wish to automate with “Read” enabled on the XY graph. In this case, you would map the key button on RESOCHORD. This will create a fader on the insert rack module and a respective automation lane in under the track. On this new lane, you can create a block and draw some automation points in it. This is what our vocal sounds like with the key button automated.
Vocal 1 – With RESOCHORD and key signature automation
All in all, let’s listen to the final output. It consists of the first vocal with RESOCHORD applied and the reversed vocal with reverb.
Vocals 1 and 2 – With all processing