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Mixing Pop Lead Vocals Dynamics Plugins
Old 6th September 2008
  #1
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Mixing Pop Lead Vocals

my lead vocals sound a bit lackluster when compared to the mainstream "commercial" CD's (mostly pop/urban). Current setup is: Brauner Phantom -> Pacifica pre -> DBX 160a -> Rosetta 800.

My usual mix plug chain is: Logic EQ (low freq rolled off) -> Ren Comp (voc preset) -> Logic Plat Verb -> Logic Ster Delay. Yes, it's simple and to the point, though I have lots of stuff I'm not using like UAD LA2A, 1176, other Waves Gold plugs, etc.

Can you guys share your ITB chain of plugs, and settings if possible? I'm more interested in what's going ITB, as opposed to the actual hardware recording chain... unless you think mine needs improving as well?

Thanks in advance!
Old 6th September 2008
  #2
Try parallel compressing the lead vocals instead of trying to do everything "in-line". Here's how:

Let's start the with Lead Vocal track inserts

1. EQ (take out some of the low end with a hi-pass filter around 50hz-80hz, either raise or lower around 200hz depending on whether or not the voice is forward enough, dip out some of the harsh hi-mids if needed)

2. Compresss (just a little bit at 2:1, no more than 4:1 so that the meter is just taking off the peaks and controlling the track)

3. De-Ess (not a ton, but enough that the sibilance isn't an annoyance)

Now that you've got that all setup, create a mono aux track and call it LeadVoxComp. Now create a send at unity (pre-fader) to this new aux on the actual Lead Vocal track so that the entire signal without fader moves is being sent to the new aux track.

LeadVoxComp Inserts:

1. Compress (use a rather extreme compressor at 10:1 and smash the crap out of the signal - don't completely pin the meter but get it where it's doing around -10 or so at all times, adjust the attack and release accordingly)

2. De-Ess (yes, I know we did this on the main track, but do it again here because you are compressing so hard)

Now, blend the LeadVoxComp aux track in with the Lead Vocal track just to the point that you can hear it. Add reverb and delay to taste (as sends, not inserts) and don't overdo it.

There you go! Good luck!
Old 6th September 2008
  #3
Most pop vocals have almost no dynamic range to them. Toss on a limiter and smash it down. Make sure to de-ess afterwards. Then automate the level to be spot on with the different parts of the song as needed.

Don't go heavy handed on the EQ. Chances are if you have to fiddle around more than a db or two you aren't using the right mic. Make sure to get inspired performances, that's 90% of the battle right there.
Old 6th September 2008
  #4
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The main thing is butt-loads of compression... you can forget about dynamic range. The dynamic feel is in the tone of the voice, not in the dB scale LOL. I typically wind up with a total of three compressors on a lead vocal. One is the tracking compressor (3:1, softknee), one at mixdown (usually 2:1 to 4:1 depending) for a few more dB. Top it off with a third set for 8:1 (practically limiting) with super fast attack to take off the tops. Then you get a smoothly compressed vocal with basically no dynamic range. The downside is that you have to automate the snot out of the fader to ride it through the tune... always fun...
Old 6th September 2008
  #5
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ok, so lots of compression. How about EQ...what kind of setting do you use on that, besides low freq cut? I know it's all to taste, and what kind of source, but do you generally boost highs, and cut mids, as I would imagine someone like Mariah would do?
Old 6th September 2008
  #6
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picksail's Avatar
 

Ride the vocal into place.

Just go for it.

If you are looking for that top end sheen, you can always mult out the vocal with nothing but top-end (8-12k).
Just blend it with the original.
Old 6th September 2008
  #7
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssprod19 View Post
ok, so lots of compression. How about EQ...what kind of setting do you use on that, besides low freq cut? I know it's all to taste, and what kind of source, but do you generally boost highs, and cut mids, as I would imagine someone like Mariah would do?
I am an OTB guy, but I might be able to help. As mentioned before, tons of compression is the key to most pop current vocal mixes. There are not a lot of compressors that can do tons of compression well, so its good to try chaining up a couple different types of compression having each one doing a bit.

Also when it comes to EQ try subtractive EQ first. Many pop records are mixed with the vocals sounding far thinner than you would expect (the just sound full when mixed with the big bass etc). Once you cut out a lot of the fat in the vocal you may find you do not need to do all that much boosting.

Last edited by RCM - Ronan; 17th December 2010 at 08:59 PM.. Reason: my spelling is awful
Old 6th September 2008
  #8
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duckyboard's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kittonian View Post
Try parallel compressing the lead vocals instead of trying to do everything "in-line".
thumbsup
Old 6th September 2008
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kittonian View Post
Try parallel compressing the lead vocals instead of trying to do everything "in-line"..........

Now, blend the LeadVoxComp aux track in with the Lead Vocal track just to the point that you can hear it. Add reverb and delay to taste (as sends, not inserts) and don't overdo it.

There you go! Good luck!
by "parallel compressing", you are playing 2 of the same vox tracks at the same time? I'm not sure if Logic allows to send pre-fader, so I assume I can achieve the same by setting up 2 separate audio tracks with the mentioned comp settings?
Old 6th September 2008
  #10
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chrispick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssprod19 View Post
by "parallel compressing", you are playing 2 of the same vox tracks at the same time? I'm not sure if Logic allows to send pre-fader, so I assume I can achieve the same by setting up 2 separate audio tracks with the mentioned comp settings?
I don't use Logic, but typically...

You can duplicate your vocal track, then apply the additional compression to the dupe. Play and mix them together.

Or aux send to a separate auxilliary track with said compression.

Forgive me if this is pedantic:

Parallel = running side-by-side
Serial (or "in line" as he put it) = running through a single, linear route (e.g., your typical insert effect)
Old 6th September 2008
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssprod19 View Post
ok, so lots of compression. How about EQ...what kind of setting do you use on that, besides low freq cut? I know it's all to taste, and what kind of source, but do you generally boost highs, and cut mids, as I would imagine someone like Mariah would do?
Try to use as little EQ as possible. Vocals don't really respond well to radical equalization. I tend to think more in terms of cutting than boosting when it comes to vocals. If I add anything, it may be a bit of 3-5k for 'edge' and 12-14k for 'air.'

Generally speaking you're going to want to get the tonal balance by proper microphone and preamp selection. Nail that and you probably won't need any EQ.

That's just my approach, there are probably 100 different ways to do vocals.
Old 6th September 2008
  #12
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jamwerks's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssprod19 View Post
I'm not sure if Logic allows to send pre-fader,
Yeah you can make a send either pre or post fader. It's I think option or control clicking on the send.......
Old 7th September 2008
  #13
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Unclenny's Avatar
Automation can be your friend.

Ride the gain to highlight what you like.

Set up some delays and ride them for effect....particularly at the end of phrases.
Old 7th September 2008
  #14
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
So here is a vocal example of a tune I am producing.

The singers name is Shelea.
The mic is a Sony C800G.
The mic pre is the A Designs Pacifica.
Then into the A Designs Hammer.
Then into the Tube-Tech CL1B.
Straight into PT HD.

There are two examples.
1. The vocals by themselves. http://www.tonysound.com/mixes/NeverThought-Vocals.wav
2. The vocals in the track. http://www.tonysound.com/mixes/NeverThought-Track.wav




Now the plugins for mixing:
The plugin on the lead is http://www.tonysound.com/mixes/Waves_G_Channel.jpg
with a little of http://www.tonysound.com/mixes/Waves_DeEsser.jpg

The reverb is (send level -20) http://www.tonysound.com/mixes/Reverb_One.jpg
The delay is next (send level -30) http://www.tonysound.com/mixes/Medium_Delay.jpg
And a harmonizer (send level -20) http://www.tonysound.com/mixes/Harmonizer.jpg
Old 7th September 2008
  #15
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that's what I'm talking about, Tony.. thanks so much for sharing that with us! These kind of examples are the next best thing to being in the actual studio with the engineer/producer. I've heard that same vocal chain (C800g -> Pacifica) and it sounded amazing... if only I could afford the Sony. But still, I appreciate the input and will hopefully learn some tips from it
Old 7th September 2008
  #16
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matt thomas's Avatar
thanks for that tony

do you often use a harmonizer on lead vox? I don't own the sound toys but do own the waves doubler, but I find it gets a bit artificial sounding quite easily..

thanks
narco
Old 7th September 2008
  #17
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
Yes for the most part I do use a harmonizer a lot.
Sometimes it's only on the chorus or bridge of the tune.
It really depends on the song and what I am going for sonically.

Here is another example from a few months ago.
click me.
Old 7th September 2008
  #18
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Tony, is the tracks you posted, on either acapella and full mix, going through a final master plug, i.e. T-Racks, Waves L1/2, etc? it's beautiful btw
Old 7th September 2008
  #19
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssprod19 View Post
Tony, is the tracks you posted, on either accapella and full mix, going through a final master plug, i.e. T-Racks, Waves L1/2, etc? it's beautiful btw
The tracks I posted today have a Waves SSL compressor and Massey limiter on the 2 buss.

Within the last month I started using the stereo mix out of Pro Tools into the Tonelux.
2 channels of mx2 into a SM2. Re-recording it back into Pro Tools.

On my c24 it's set so I can monitor the stereo mix of Pro Tools on Stereo 1.
And the output of the Tonelux on Stereo 2.

That way, during a session I can quickly A/B mixes and see what the Tonelux analog summing is doing for my mixes.
Old 7th September 2008
  #20
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Jorg's Avatar
@Tony:

Love the sound of those vocals!!!
How hard did you hit the CL-1B?
Old 7th September 2008
  #21
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jorg View Post
@Tony:

Love the sound of those vocals!!!
How hard did you hit the CL-1B?
Usually no more than 2-4dB of gain reduction.
Old 7th September 2008
  #22
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degas's Avatar
 

Tony, I've noticed that you've used that exact vocal delay setting (180/280) in other tempos as well. Do you use it more like a widener, or...?
Old 7th September 2008
  #23
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by degas View Post
Tony, I've noticed that you've used that exact vocal delay setting (180/280) in other tempos as well. Do you use it more like a widener, or...?
That's correct. It usually goes against the tempo so the delay stands out better.
If you use it in moderation, it gives a subtle width to the vocal.
Old 7th September 2008
  #24
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Rednose's Avatar
you have some great advice here.
Also alot of pop vocals are auto tuned and have the Eventide pitch up +8 pitch down -11. I hear that effect on a ton of pop records.
Old 7th September 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Shepperd View Post
That's correct. It usually goes against the tempo so the delay stands out better.
If you use it in moderation, it gives a subtle width to the vocal.
Interesting that you tend to use those two delay amounts Tony.

I have used the combination of 120 and 242 for so many years that I can't remember when I didn't use it!
It probably dates back to as far as when delays didn't have readouts that told you how many msec. you were using.
I also use 170 msec. a lot.

I use it for rock, C&W and I used it for black gospel this past weekend.

A lot of people think that delay settings should match or somehow relate to the song's tempo, but it doesn't have to and it DOES work better in most cases when it DOESN'T match.
Think of Jerry Lee Lewis singing/playing "Great Balls of Fire"...
The entire rhythmical structure of the song is created by the straight time echo against the shuffle the band is playing.

BTW... my original thought behind using 120 msec. and 242 msec. was something I came up with years ago.
I was trying to emulate 3.75 ips and 7.5 ips tape slap and those delay settings seemed close.
I always figured that so many of the classic recordings that used delay were using a tape machine and since not everyone was going to have VSO available...
Old 7th September 2008
  #26
good thread
Old 7th September 2008
  #27
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Jorg's Avatar
Hahaha. I guess your name explains your post
Old 8th September 2008
  #28
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choinga's Avatar
 

very nice...

I don't use pro tools...anyone have any recommendations for a similar 'harmonizer' in VST format??
Old 8th September 2008
  #29
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chrispick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by choinga View Post
very nice...

I don't use pro tools...anyone have any recommendations for a similar 'harmonizer' in VST format??
Or AU?
Old 8th September 2008
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrispick View Post
Or AU?
ditto on the AU request
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