VOCAL Mixing - Reverb, delay, EQ and compression

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by Nihan Olivier, May 5, 2017.

  1. Nihan Olivier

    Nihan Olivier SS.org Regular

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    Hey guys.

    I have a few questions regarding clean vocal lead mixing.
    I will state my approach and grievances in each section. Please give me your approach or what I can do to improve mine.

    1. EQ - I start with a HPF around 100HZ, small cut around 1K (depends on the performance) and then a slight boost around 6K for brightness.

    2. COMPRESSION - I then compress the .... out of it in order to remove a lot of dynamic range. I use typically a 7:1 Ratio, 500ms Release, and a fast attack with a smooth knee.

    3. DELAY - This is where most of my problems come along...
    I have seen many people create a separate bus with a delay on and send the vocal to there. I don't know why people do this? I just put the delay on the vocal itself. Please help me understand why people do this?

    -How long should my feedback be?
    -How high should the mix be?
    -Should I be using automation on these two settings, and if so, when and why?
    -During the chorus should i increase these two settings?
    -Should I only be using a Slapback delay? etc.
    -And should the delay repeats have a HPF or a LPF on it?

    4. REVERB - This is for me the hardest part...
    I have also seen people create a separate bus for the reverb as well. WHY? Please help me understand this.

    Whenever I add reverb it always feels too much or too little. I can never get it to a place where I'm satisfied.

    -How high should the mix be?
    -How long should the decay be?
    -HPF or LPF?
    -Pre Delay and why?
    -Which type of Reverb (Hall, plate, chamber etc)?

    I am asking for guidelines. I know eventually I will have to get my "own sound", but I need a good starting point so that I channel my energy into the right direction and don't spend hours perfecting terrible technique.

    I use Pro Tools.
    Thanks so much in advance.
    -Nihan
     
  2. shnizzle

    shnizzle johnny

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    people like to put the delay on an fx channel because leaving the original tracks or vocal bus dry will keep them focused. and you have a bit more control when it´s on an fx instead of as an insert. when you put it on an fx channel put the mix to 100%, so that channel really only has the delay in it and not the original track. otherwise automating the volume will be messy.
    everything else about this is really completely depending on the mix. just listen to the full mix and decide what you want from the vocals. should they be more dry and upfront? than keep the delay channel low in volume with a short feedback. should the vocals be big and spacey? raise the delay channel and the feedback.
    all this also applies to the reverb. on a seperate fx channel the original vocals track will stay upfront and you have more control. put the mix to 100% and fade it in till it does what you want it to. everything else also again depends on the mix and what you´re after. should the voclas feel more direct and upfront? keep the decay and volume of the reverb lower. should it be big and spacey? raise the decay and volume of the reverb.
    as with everything, there are no hard set rules. it all depends on the situation.
     
  3. schwiz

    schwiz Lefty

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    Creating an AUX/FX channel, or a "Send", and sending a signal to that channel is parallel processing. You're effectively duplicating the signal, by routing it somewhere else for processing (ex: compression, reverb or delay).

    Send your drum bus to an FX channel with Compression = Parallel Compression.

    With that said, if I'm working with a guitar or vocal bus, and I send that signal to an FX channel for reverb or delay, I will cut all the dry signal out of the FX channel processing and use 100% wet signal. From there I blend in the delay or reverb to taste by using the fader on the FX channel.

    I was really confused about sends and pre/post fader up until about 2-3 months ago. I never understood why someone would use it especially if there is only 1 signal going to the send. However, it gives you the most control in my opinion. Additionally, if you wanted to send individual components of a drum kit, minus the kick, to a reverb FX channel, that can save you CPU as you only have 1 reverb VST in use, but can apply different levels of the signal to each individual drum track.

    Hope that helps!
     
  4. jerm

    jerm SS.org Regular

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    Another good reason for using a send to a Delay/Reverb (I usually have both delay/reverb on the same FX channel) is because you could then EQ it separately from the DRY channel that you're sending out to the delay/reverb.
    Reverb can tend to add some low end muddy-ness so you could use high and low passes on this FX channel to clean it up.

    As for compression, I usually go pretty hard if it's growls. I like to use Slate's 116's. I usually stack them, using a blue into a vintage or something similar. Attack on the slowest (which is already really fast since it's an 1176 simulator), release on the fastest, 4:1 or 8:1 ratio, and about 20dB of gain reduction total.

    EQ really depends on the vocalist and the mic used. But generally i high pass around 150-200hz, and make sure to look at the low mids which can be muddy.

    One thing that you didn't mention is the use of a Desser. This is extremely helpful in cleaning up plosives and the "sssss" sounds that mics pickup too much of.

    I also run tape saturation which is great on vocals, checkout slate's VTM, softube's saturation knob (free), fabfilter saturn and Sound Toys' Decapitator. All of these are great.
     
  5. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Whenever I read something like this, I'm always left with the question of "why"?

    Why 100hz? Why those specific boosts or cuts? Is that just a starting point then you move things around? Do you do exactly those same boosts on every vocal performance you mix? Processing like this should be done to address specifics- not just as overall general rules. Don't cut at 1k because "that's what you do", cut at 1k if you need to do so because your specific combination of singer/mic/pre/song resulted in too much going on at 1k. Or if you need another instrument to fit in that space and the vocal can get away with losing it. Or because something was vibrating in the background that you need to cut out or something weird like that.

    What works for one song/mix/singer/mic/etc. will not work universally. Sometimes you don't want to hi-pass the vocal. Sometimes you don't want to boost the brightness. Ideally your goal should be to fit the vocal into "it's place", cut any problem frequencies, and match the overall eq balance and "space"/verb/delay to what the rest of the track is doing. Everything else is a matter of taste and your own workflow.

    And workflow is also potentially a very personal thing. Some people will parallel process everything. Some people break everything into submixes before doing anything else. Some people send everything to the same verb/delay track in an attempt to have everything sound like it's in the same space. I often have dedicated verb/delay tracks, but flip the panning around 'cause I find it helps things sound a little more 3d, and keeps the verb from muddying up the dry tracks.

    In other words, don't do things "because that's what people do". Process your tracks by listening, identifying something that's a problem or that you want to change, then do whatever you think is appropriate to address it.
     
  6. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    What Ted said, basically - there's not a simple formula where if you do X, Y, and Z, you get killer vocals.

    Compression is tough - if you feel like you need to smash a vocal performance to get the dynamics unbder control, well, it's one thing if it's intra-line plosives or whatever, but if the dynamics are all over the place from section to section, you're probably dealing with a singer with poor mic technique (which is a problem, but you can't always be blessed with supremely talented musicians to record, so while re-recording is preferable, if you can't do that I'd start with pre-FX volume automation or something like Waves' vocal rider. Alternately, parallel compression could work here; in some situations I've had success duplicating part of the vocal - say the chorus - to a separate track, absolutely smashing it with a limiter, bussing it together with the original vocal, and gradually bringing the limited vocal up in the mix until it fills out the original a little without being too overt.

    EQ, if you're going to high-pass, just start low and gradually bring your filter up until you're clearing up the low end but not fundamentally changing the sound of the voice (unless, of course, fundamentally changing the sound makes it sound better). The exact filter is going to vary based on the voice/mic used, performance, and rest of the mix; trust your ears. Then, expperiment with EQ to see if you can increase the perceptibility of the vocal or the way ti cuts through the mix with boosts or cuts - again, no magic bullet, as it really depends what frequencies are where in the raw track.

    I generally don't use delay on vocals as an "echo" expect for special effects, but something that can sound kind of cool is to add an extremely short slapback echo (I'll often use 0.1-0.15th of a quarter note) and mix it back -14 to -18db behind the main vocal. I'm working on a roots rock/folk project with my dad and uncle right now and this is adding an appealing rawness. May not be applicable for metal though.

    I usually try to use the same reverb settings for at least most of the mix, and bus everything into the same reverb bus. Pre-delay can help ehre by adding some distance between the dry track and the reverberation, but experiment and see what works. There are no right answers, only a whole bunch of wrong ones that don't sound good. :lol:
     
  7. schwiz

    schwiz Lefty

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