Whether you’re comping vocals via the traditional audio-editing method or using advanced comping aids such as Logic’s Quick Swipe comping, you can still end up with unwanted by-products such as double breaths, which are a dead giveaway that a vocal has been comped. Editing out all breath sounds from a vocal can make it sound unnatural, so for a more complete-sounding performance, zoom in on your region boundaries and adjust them to ensure that there’s only a single breath between each line.
When compressing vocals, the goal is to even out the volume level so that every word can be comfortably heard. So start with a generally good overall monitoring level, turn up the ratio so that you can see the compressor’s gain reduction meter moving, then set the threshold so that loud phrases show a lot of movement but quiet parts barely move the meter at all. Finally, adjust the ratio so that the vocal doesn’t sound overly squashed and increase the makeup gain control to suit.
There are numerous plugins dedicated to the task of de-essing vocals, but if you find yourself without one, you can craft your own using a simple parametric EQ and any compressor with a sidechain input. Copy the vocal track and use the EQ to isolate the sibilant frequency, normally around 5-8kHz. Then insert a compressor plugin across the original vocal track and send the EQed version to its sidechain input. The compressor will now reduce the volume level whenever a loud “ess” sound occurs.
The classic gated vocal effect can be achieved using any software noise gate with sidechain input.
First, copy the target phrase to a new audio track and place a noise gate plugin across it. On a MIDI track, load up a default sine wave synth preset with a short release, then record or program a new MIDI part, playing the required trigger pattern with this sound. Finally, route the audio from this part to the gate’s sidechain input so that it triggers the gate.
A combination of gentle compression and volume automation can produce great results on vocals. Set up a compressor with a ratio of around 3:1, then write-enable automation and adjust the channel fader as the track plays. Fine-tune the volume curve further if necessary.
As well as quantizing the pitch of incoming audio to a set scale, Antares Auto-Tune can also accept target pitch information from MIDI notes, making it behave a bit like a monophonic vocoder. Click the Target Notes Via MIDI button, then either set up Auto-Tune on a MIDI channel as a MIDI-controlled effect and set your vocal as the sidechain input, or insert Auto-Tune across the vocal track and route the output of a new MIDI track to it.
TAL Vocoder is a great way to get the classic vocoder sound. To get it working, strap Vocoder II across a vocal track, then set up a MIDI track and send its output to the vocoder. In Logic Pro X, it’s done slightly differently, by inserting the vocoder on a MIDI track as a MIDI-controlled effect, then setting the track containing the source vocal as the vocoder’s sidechain input. Then just play your MIDI keyboard as the track plays to hear the effect.
Pitch-correction tools such as Logic Pro X Flex Pitch or Antares Auto-Tune can also be used to iron out excessive vibrato on individual notes. In Auto-Tune graphical mode, highlight the section you want to edit and set the Adjust Vibrato control to increase or decrease vibrato to taste.
Also the Auto-Tune EFX+ is based on the well-known Auto-Tune engine, which at its core performs pitch correction based on the previously defined pitch and key. However, Auto-Tune EFX+ is quite restrictive when it comes to the effects: Although there are a large number of presets whose parameters can also be edited within the presets, it is not possible to create your own presets from them or even to combine parameters from different presets with each other.
Manipulator plugin by Polyverse Music is the exact opposite here. You can simply combine all the available sound parameters with one another as you wish and literally throw the input signal through the wolf. Compared to Auto-Tune EFX+, Manipulator feels and sounds like the cheeky free radical of the two. Manipulator is not designed for subtle pitch corrections, although you can make pitch corrections using MIDI data.
In terms of sound and workflow, Manipulator is aimed more at sound tinkerers and fans of electronic music who want to edit voices and other monophonic sounds extremely. This shows the signature of the DJ duo Infected Mushroom, who are also known for their extreme vocal effects in their productions.
Once you’ve comped your perfect lead vocal, you can use any half-decent unused takes as backing vocals. Compress them, pan them evenly across the stereo image, then either run the spare takes beneath the lead vocal track to fatten it up or re-pitch them as harmony parts.
To get the popular momentary slowdown effect, put a pitch-shifting plugin across the vocal and draw a pitch drop using automation. If you have Logic, you can go one better: set the Fade Out in the Region parameter box to Slow Down and draw across the target word with the Fade Tool.
I hope these tips to be useful in your vocal processing work. If you enjoy my article share it with your friends.
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