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.