Compressing rap vocals
Old 14th June 2011
  #1
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Compressing rap vocals

And I don't mean for tracking but for mixing.

It's not easy! I like my CLA-76 on vocals and I usually slam it hard (ratio 20:1 or sometimes even all buttons in) to bring out energy. But with rap it's harder to work with because it saturates too much. And I found that saturated vocals and hip-hop don't mix well.

Of course I can use a 4:1 ratio which will distort less but it's not grabbing the vocals the way I like it.
I found I get the best results using 12:1 ratio with attack between 5 and 6 and release between 6 and 7, but I'm still not fully satiesfied.

What are you guys' secrets? How do you compress rap vocals?
Old 14th June 2011
  #2
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I have no experience with that plugin, but assuming it is relatively accurate to the real thing.... an 1176 is NOT the compressor I would reach for on a lead vocal for heavy compression (ie. the type of compression that is common in today's hip-hop). It is much better at pulling off peaks on vocals, unless you like them saturated and wooly as you've discovered.
Old 15th June 2011
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dutch Dave View Post
And I don't mean for tracking but for mixing.

It's not easy! I like my CLA-76 on vocals and I usually slam it hard (ratio 20:1 or sometimes even all buttons in) to bring out energy. But with rap it's harder to work with because it saturates too much. And I found that saturated vocals and hip-hop don't mix well.

Of course I can use a 4:1 ratio which will distort less but it's not grabbing the vocals the way I like it.
I found I get the best results using 12:1 ratio with attack between 5 and 6 and release between 6 and 7, but I'm still not fully satiesfied.

What are you guys' secrets? How do you compress rap vocals?
How do I compress rap vocals. I listen to the sound of the vocal, listen to the context of the mix, and then I adjust accordingly. No secret. I wish I could tell you more. 50% of the time, RVox works - I love that. Other half the time I need to get a bit more calculating with the settings.

1176 can sound very good on vocals, but I'm with Chris on this one - the heavy settings tend to make the vocals very scary sounding.
Quote
1
Old 15th June 2011
  #4
Attack and release times are important and a bit of musical theory knowledge helps if you're not up on the fundamentals of compression.

+1 to Rvox as a starting point or if you're not confident with a compressor. Otherwise if you are let the phrasing and determine your release times. Seeing the needle/meter swing back after about a 16th note is a good starting point and adjust faster/slower depending on how their phrasing is subdivided (rapid fire jay-z style as opposed to elongated snoop style)

Either way just experiment and see what works as there's no definite answer, just don't set it too long or your threshold too low/input too high. Then again, there's a chorus on "So Appalled" by Kanye West, not sure who does it but it really stands out and I think it has quite a ling release time.

Generally though dynamics are vital to lyrical impact if the rapper is any good, which is why setting a release in time with the music but to a subdivision relevant to the phrasing is a good starting point if you need to compress.

I've had success with Waves H Comp and Rvox. Just remember the track will groove better when it's right
Old 15th June 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyville View Post
50% of the time, RVox works
Ren Vox

I go thru stages. I was heavy on Softube CL-1B for a stretch. Was heavy on CLA 1176 w/ 20 ratio or even the ALL to get the grit. Even MCDSP and Metric Halo Channel Strip. But when you look back at end of the year. I wound up using Ren Vox on 75% of the projects. It's an older plug but it does something to push them vocals forward, add pleasing distortion, and round out the bottom nicely. An all time great plug-in.
Old 15th June 2011
  #6
Hobbs_Won
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how bout Voxformer?
Old 15th June 2011
  #7
EDF
Gear addict
Whenever I have to touch vocals that I'm paranoid about, I throw RVox on them to be safe. It's easy to use, and if you mess up, you'll hear it.
Old 15th June 2011
  #8
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illacov's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyville View Post
How do I compress rap vocals. I listen to the sound of the vocal, listen to the context of the mix, and then I adjust accordingly. No secret. I wish I could tell you more. 50% of the time, RVox works - I love that. Other half the time I need to get a bit more calculating with the settings.

1176 can sound very good on vocals, but I'm with Chris on this one - the heavy settings tend to make the vocals very scary sounding.
Which apparently is exactly what people who make hardcore/screamo/metal prefer.

Seriously, I did not know that Skeletor from He Man and Gargamel from the Smurfs made rock music.

Scary vocals indeed.

For heavy compression try Stillwell Major Tom VST. Much better suited for heavy compression, follow it with the 1176 doing some tickling GR and its a better fit.

OR

LA2A>1176 works nicely on certain sounds too.

Peace
Illumination
Old 15th June 2011
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dutch Dave View Post
And I found that saturated vocals and hip-hop don't mix well.

Hmmmm I absolutely love saturated vocals!!!!

Someone needs to tell Kanye that saturated vocals and hip hop don't mix well!
Quote
2
Old 15th June 2011
  #10
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I wouldn't even go there. Saturation is almost a meaningless word. You get saturation at the mic circuit, transformer, preamp input, preamp circuit, preamp output and any other piece of electronics that gets touched along the way. Saturation could be extended to mean room mode interference, or too many hot dogs before the tracking session for goodness sakes.

But if you want to start pointing the finger at saturated vocals, we can go back WAY before Kanye. Did Bob Power over bias his tape machine? Me thinks he may have.
Old 15th June 2011
  #11
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Danny Downer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyville View Post
How do I compress rap vocals. I listen to the sound of the vocal, listen to the context of the mix, and then I adjust accordingly. No secret. I wish I could tell you more. 50% of the time, RVox works - I love that. Other half the time I need to get a bit more calculating with the settings.

1176 can sound very good on vocals, but I'm with Chris on this one - the heavy settings tend to make the vocals very scary sounding.
I personally luv a 1176 emulation on rap vocals... All depends on the settings...

But maybe I don't know s**t

I just don't like theses heavily over compressed vocals I'd rather use some saturation to make them sound big and upfront...
Old 15th June 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbdrummer44 View Post
Attack and release times are important and a bit of musical theory knowledge helps if you're not up on the fundamentals of compression.

+1 to Rvox as a starting point or if you're not confident with a compressor. Otherwise if you are let the phrasing and determine your release times. Seeing the needle/meter swing back after about a 16th note is a good starting point and adjust faster/slower depending on how their phrasing is subdivided (rapid fire jay-z style as opposed to elongated snoop style)

Either way just experiment and see what works as there's no definite answer, just don't set it too long or your threshold too low/input too high. Then again, there's a chorus on "So Appalled" by Kanye West, not sure who does it but it really stands out and I think it has quite a ling release time.

Generally though dynamics are vital to lyrical impact if the rapper is any good, which is why setting a release in time with the music but to a subdivision relevant to the phrasing is a good starting point if you need to compress.

I've had success with Waves H Comp and Rvox. Just remember the track will groove better when it's right
+1 on the rvox and h comp. Good thing about h comp is you don't have to do the math to set the release times. Also, the limiter is a plus.
Old 15th June 2011
  #13
Gear interested
 

RVOX!
Old 15th June 2011
  #14
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illsoulprod's Avatar
 

Don't forget about Rcomp! Still a beast on vocals and any other instrument that comes its way!
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1
Old 15th June 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjboogie View Post
Hmmmm I absolutely love saturated vocals!!!!

Someone needs to tell Kanye that saturated vocals and hip hop don't mix well!
lol, Kanye also likes singing out of tune, so I guess opinions differ.

The hip-hop I'm currently mixing is pretty clean, so saturated/slightly distorted vocals feel out of place.
Old 15th June 2011
  #16
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RVOX, RCompressor, Major Tom... I'll try 'em, thanks for the advice guys!
Old 15th June 2011
  #17
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lots of instances of compressors with light settings is great too.
Lightly tame some peaks, do some manual compression where you can, and use a few compressors in line. like 2:1 --3 times
maybe a 4:1 the last time or something...
Old 16th June 2011
  #18
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Kre8 da RedBeerd's Avatar
 

Just make sure you Understand the relationship between the instrumental in question and the vox in question.

You're not going to find a standard answer for achieving a great mix with any compressor, or parameter.

If you've got a vocal on front of you, try to have a an educated guess as to which plugins are going to be absolutely too much and which plugins are going to be too little. This will help you determine which plugin to use.

Once you've got that in Mind, apply it, then decide which parameter settings are going to be too much, and which will be too little. This should put you in the ball park of what you want to do to the vocal mix. Now, you're in the ball park.

Tweak away.

But before you do any of this...make sure you Understand the tools.

Peace.
Old 16th June 2011
  #19
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Caramel's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by illsoulprod View Post
Don't forget about Rcomp! Still a beast on vocals and any other instrument that comes its way!
+1
Old 16th June 2011
  #20
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This is a clip of a mix I'm working on right now... still not fully satisfied with the vocal compression. (yeah, it's Dutch rap lol)
Attached Files
Old 16th June 2011
  #21
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I hear more issues with frequencies than compression.

Carve some room out for those vocals. They are already super compressed and bright.

You need to clear some space out for them out of the instrumental section and when you scale up the mix the vocal will jump out more.

PS I'm on a laptop.

Overall I dig the appeal. You just have to clean up the freqs a bit and make the music and the vocal co exist rather than one dominate the other.

Peace
Illumination
Quote
1
Old 16th June 2011
  #22
Depends on how loud/quiet the vocals were recorded, how much dynamics there are. I usually start at about 3:1 ratio, threshold at -16db and a fairly fast attack . At the highest I use a ratio of about 8:1 (that might go higher but very rarely). The threshold setting can be set to as low as -30 depending on how quiet certain parts of the vocals are.

I only use the stock Logic Compressor btw.
Old 16th June 2011
  #23
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I like an LA-2A for the Leveling and the warmth section of he Oxford Dynamics for some MOJO...I also like the compressor section of the SSL strip.
Old 16th June 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dutch Dave View Post
lol, Kanye also likes singing out of tune, so I guess opinions differ.

The hip-hop I'm currently mixing is pretty clean, so saturated/slightly distorted vocals feel out of place.


See? We are making the same point!

Context is crucial to whatever you mix, do or say!
Old 18th June 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjboogie View Post
See? We are making the same point!

Context is crucial to whatever you mix, do or say!
True, I was also not saying that saturated/ distorted vocals never go well with hip-hop. As you said, context is crucial.
Old 11th July 2011
  #26
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Man i never was able to understand compression that much, i guess cause i dont do mixing a lot i dont remember what i cant practice.
Old 11th July 2011
  #27
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Last hip hop session I did I used a 1176 on the way in and hit it pretty hard but adjusted the attack and release times for the performance so that it pumped a little instead of taking all the life out.

During the mix, I ended up using trying my Chandler TG1 (hardware, although software would work) in limit mode and both the me and the artist loved what it did. Made it sit rock solid, gave it a lot of weight, and added just the right amount of harmonics. I had just patched it in when the artist asked, "Can you fatten up the vocals any?" I switched the switch to engage the limiter and it answered his question immediately and made me look like I knew what I was doing!

I disagree that saturation and hip hop vocals don't go together - I guess it depends on what's saturating. I could see lots of tube saturation getting too soft but saturating a transformer or op-amp can give it a nice bite (come to think of it, I used a Chandler TG channel for pre and eq - maybe it's just Chandler saturation that works so well!
Old 8th January 2013
  #28
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profplume's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dutch Dave View Post
And I don't mean for tracking but for mixing.

It's not easy! I like my CLA-76 on vocals and I usually slam it hard (ratio 20:1 or sometimes even all buttons in) to bring out energy. But with rap it's harder to work with because it saturates too much. And I found that saturated vocals and hip-hop don't mix well.

Of course I can use a 4:1 ratio which will distort less but it's not grabbing the vocals the way I like it.
I found I get the best results using 12:1 ratio with attack between 5 and 6 and release between 6 and 7, but I'm still not fully satiesfied.

What are you guys' secrets? How do you compress rap vocals?

So, the problem was obviously your choice of plug-in for that particular task, as the 1176 doesn't handle heavy compression of vocals too well.

Also, as we all know, there are no magic settings; each case is different.

But if you haven't found anything yet, I recommend the Voxformer.

It took me a long time to finally warm up to Voxengo plug ins, even though they always get raves on forums. I think it was the GUI that turned me off, but yeah I highly recommend giving it a shot.
Old 9th January 2013
  #29
Gee
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lots of good advice here, I'll throw in that it doesnt really matter what you use, just make sure it works with the music. Rvox is great for levelling. someone mentioned multiple compressors set to lighter settings, thats something I do frequently (personal fav is the cla76 with the la2a or rvox). it also helps if you send your vocals to a bus and compress them there as well. Also automation is the best compressor. rap vocals can really benefit from being automated slightly throughout the verse.

Just keep trying stuff, but I've found that using 1 compressor at extreme settings for a vocals rarely works.
Old 9th January 2013
  #30
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[QUOTE=Gee;8617908

Just keep trying stuff, but I've found that using 1 compressor at extreme settings for a vocals rarely works.[/QUOTE]

Learning this myself. I used to not understand that 'artifacts' or 'falling apart' terminology about comps pushed too hard... I hear it now all the time in my earlier mixes - it's a harshness you can't de-ess or eq away. For me recently, discovering a saturation THEN comp approach is really working, allowing me to use far less compression. I will say that I have yet to use cla76 into the LA2A like I hear so many using without problems. Suggested settings to start with? I always get too much noise/grit and pumping. Suggestions of any kind welcome.
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