Any engineer will tell you that its the quality of instruments you choose as well as the recording that will contribute to a good mix. Early on in the recording process there quite a few techniques artist can use to get the studio quality sound in their recordings. But in order to achieve the sound you want, you'll need to know the basic fundamentals of the recording process. And knowing when to apply certain effects to your vocals. In this article I will be going over the top ten audio effects every recording artist should know.
1-Compression- Keeping the low parts loud and the loud parts low of your vocals can be achieved with compression. Another alternative would be to use automation on the volume control of your vocals. But if you're looking to use compression to alter the tone of your vocals, or tighten them up in the mix. You can do so by adjusting the threshold below the average level of the vocals. This way the compressor will be most active during the louder parts of the performance like singing. The audio will sound overly compressed at first but using a longer attack setting will fix this. However if your looking for a more up front aggressive presence for your vocal mix. The desired compression settings are threshold -2db, ratio 4:-1-6:1 ,attack 1rms, release to about 40rms and adjusting the gain output so that it matches the input level. At this output you'll need to add a considerable amount of of gain to compensate.
2- Equalization (Eq)- Boosting ,reducing and sometimes attenuating a signal this will allow you to clean up vocals by removing unwanted frequencies. Eq is one of the most important tools you'll use. Knowing where to cut and boost is vital part to achieving good sounding vocals. When applying Eq to your vocals its best to start by removing unwanted frequencies. When cutting from the low end its anywhere from 75HZ to 100Hz. Removing “boominess” and small room resonance ranges from 100 Hz to 150Hz. This will depend on the vocals your working on as the frequencies range can sometimes be used to add warmth and fullness by boosting in 100Hz to 150Hz. For lyric clarity you can either boost or reduce in the 800Hz-1k range. For open presence boosting in the 3k-6k range. For brightness 9k-11k range. For air you can boost or reduce in the range of 12k.
3-Reverb- Used to add space and depth in the mix. The idea behind using this effect is to create a natural sounding environment and space for each of the sounds in the mix. Think of live music performances and how the instruments along with the vocalist are positioned on stage. Lead vocals
will be in front of the band along with any accompanying lead instruments. Every instrument being played needs its space. When applying reverb keep in mind that subtlety is the best approach. Bring the input level of reverb effect to where you want it and bring it back down to about 2db-4b lower then you initially intended it to be.
4-Delay-Like reverb this effect is used to add space and soft instruments and vocals in the mix. Delay can be used with or without reverb to add a bit of depth to your vocals. As reverb tails can cause clutter issues in the mix if applied excessively. Whereas delays and echoes can dissipate quickly, giving you a cleaner sound.
5-De-esser- Think of it as a frequency compressor allowing you to keep harsh noises at bay. Preferably used on vocals and sometimes lead instruments. Great for removing sibilance from vocals. An extremely useful tool when mixing your vocal and keeping them clear of unwanted noise caused from speech.
6-Limiter- After applying compression for tone and compression once again for dynamics. At this point the vocal volume should be consistent. But for a more commercial sounding feel you can take the extra step and add a limiter to grab any peaks that may have gone noticed during the compression stages. Subtly is key when adding a limiter to your vocals.
7-Exciter-The idea behind this effect is to add controlled distortion also referred to as saturation, to vocals, instruments and an over all mix. There are many types of saturation that can be applied varies frequency areas of your mix. For example if you wanted to add some saturation to the highs or mid frequencies of your vocals. This effect can be achieved in one of two ways the first would be to create a copied track of your lead vocals. Using a hi-pass filter to isolate the highs while removing the low and mid frequencies of the copied vocal track. At this point the sound will be extremely thin and low so to compensate for this you may need to add a limiter or compressor to add some presence to the copied track. You'll then need to bring the level of the copied track into the mix once you've applied the effects. The next approach would be to create a bus track or an additional fx track from your main fx track. This is done because the saturation signal coming from the exciter plug-in can be extremely harsh so with that being said you'll want make that you're adding too much of it. Remember subtlety is key.
8-Pitch Correction- Primarily used for correcting notes that are sung by vocalist. Most DAWS may have some form of pitch correction but for those that don't. Can look into plug-ins like “Celemony's Melodyne”,”Izotope's Nectar 2” And “Antares Auto Tune”. The idea behind this effect is to correct notes that were sung out of key by moving them in the right key.
9-Chorus-While having the longest delay out of all modulation effects. The chorus effect is commonly used to create vocal doubling.
10- Auto tune- I'm sure by now you've heard of this effect and what it does to your vocals. But for those that don't, it's an audio processor that alters pitch in vocal, instrument recordings and performances.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the various digital audio workstation options available to you
in today's age of cutting edge music creation. I've put together a list of the ten best DAWS for music production in 2017. Although there are quite a few more DAWS to add to the list these are the ones that i've had experience using in the and present.
1-FL studio – This is one of the most popular used DAWS amongst songwriters and producers. The learning curve makes the music creation process for this program more user friendly for most beginners. As its interface is pretty straight forward there are some hidden features that can be found by through trial and error or youtube tutorials. Audio engine sounds great on a scale of 1-10 i'd rate it 8.5. FL studio works well with out board units like a compressor or keyboard workstation and easy to set up. Extremely affordable with prices that range from: $99.00-$299.00 and free upgrades for life. Read more at their website here
2-Studio One – Amazing program that allows the user to customize its keyboard functions to map to your liking or of your previous DAWS. This program is filled with its own its own useful plugins that help give your music a professional sounding mix. Works well with outboard gear such as EQ and Compressors etc. If you decide to expand your setup to a more hardwear/ softwear based workflow you can. Read more at their website here
3-Ableton Live - Widely used by producers and DJ's in the edm / trap genre this is another great program to make beats with.Packed with the usual DAW standard features unlimited midi/ audio track counts and ect. The seamless midi sequencing software and hardware integration is what makes it truly unique. You have to option to use ableton live controllers or any other standard controller will do.With over 50gb of sound library files you use if you don't already have your own sound library to work with. Read more at their website here
4-Reason- This is another amazing DAW that doesn't get enough praise when it comes to beat making. What sets them apart from other digital workstations earlier on was the fact that there were no Vst integration and you had to rely on solely rely on the devices within the program itself. With the creation of rewire allowing you to use reason with another DAW. This was the common workaround to get your beat in an audio format and access Vst's. With a large and unique sound library that was a few gigs and if that wasn't enough you were able to buy sound bank refills from their website or authorize retailer. With devices like Nnxt and NN-19 gave its users its endless creative possibilities. Both devices have there own sound banks and doubled as a sampler giving more control over your sound creatively. They even took it a step further with a device called Dr. Rex that allows you to play loops of your own or from their sound banks. Since then Reason has come a long way since it's release in December 2000.From version 1.0 to 9.5 which now supports vst. The features of this DAW have improved greatly over the years with newer devices such as thor, kong and rack extensions. This digital workstation is a powerhouse. Read more at their website here
5-Cubase -Great program, widely used in the music industry. In Fact you'd be surprised at how many studios running this DAW in their setups. Cubase a powerhouse with the type of control it allows its users to have over their compositions is truly amazing to say the least. Every DAW has its learning curve and for this program its pretty steep. Its also filled with a large sample library and a device called
sonic se that has a ton of useful settings. Read more at their website here
6-Logic pro x– Another great DAW (Mac users only). Packed with a ton of its own vsts and devices to help you create your music. Great program to produce and mix in as well.i've traced out several of my older sessions in the past just to mix in the program. Over all well rounded program for producers on the mac. Read more at their website here
7- Reaper- Another Amazing DAW with features and capabilities to help you conjure up something special. Giving you customization control over the functions and layout to your needs for better workflow. Fully integratable with outboard gear with multitrack audio and midi editing capabilities as well as mixing and mastering. Read more at their website here
8-Calk walk- Great DAW that allows you to do it all from mixing to mastering and anything else you can think of is there for you to create music. This is a windows only based DAW. Read more at their website here
9- Magix Acid- Great DAW to get into if your just starting out simple and easy to use. When I was just starting out this wass one of the many few digital workstations I had a chance to use and found it very useful for sequencing as I was tracking my own loops and sounds from a keyboard workstation I was using at the time. Read more at their website here
10-Pro-Tools- The most used DAW by industry professionals. Powerful features make its use great for mixing , editing, recording and song mastering making it an industry standard DAW. This program is not for beginners recommended user level is expert and above. Read more at their website here
All the hard work you've been putting in for your mix-tape from the recording and mixing will be for nothing if you fail to plan. Don't let your best efforts go to to waste from poor planning. This article can be used as a guide for aspiring artist based mix-tapes.
- Commercial beats- In this day an age of the internet there's no excuse for an artist not to use original beats. If your in need of beats you'll find hundreds of thousands produces online who are selling beats for exclusive and non exclusive purchase.
- Using tagged beats- Having a producer tag that can be heard playing throughout your songs is a bad move. It not only shows that you didn't pay for the beat you’ve recorded over but a blatant disregard for your craft.
- Poorly Recorded songs- Just because its a mix-tape doesn’t mean you should skim on quality. Take the time to learn new recording techniques that can help improve your sound quality. If you hear something that needs to be fixed or improved do it.
- Recycling Songs - Take the extra time to record new material. Putting songs from a previous project because you felt they didn't get enough exposure.
- No Budget – You can't put out a project without a budget. The producers who's beats you've used need to be paid as well as the engineer who will mix your songs , the graphic designer who will be doing your art work and last but not least the Dj who will host your mix-tape.
- No Dj- Technically it’s not a mix-tape unless a DJ is hosting it. Without a DJ its simply an album and not a mix-tape.
- No Promotion- All the time and energy you've spent recording your work shouldn’t go unnoticed. Paid promotion is something to consider investing in as it can boost your reach and increase the possibility of being discovered by new fans.
- Poor presentation- The art work representing your mix-tape is crucial to the extant of a potential fan considers to listen to it. There are many graphic designers online that create quality designs.
- Too Many Songs- The average listener has a short attention span and will nit sit through a lengthy mix-tape. As an artist you have about 5-6 songs to make an impression on your listener before they start to lose interest. Keeping the number of songs down 10 if its your first mix tape keeps the listener wanting to hear more especially if its your first tape.15 songs is usually the standard across the board.
- Too many features- If its your first tape you may wanna avoid having too many guest artist and give the listeners a chance to hear you as a solo artist. Now I’m not saying you should avoid having other artist on you mix-tape but more conscious of how your tape represents you as an artist.