In my last post I wrote about how to excite vocals for hip hop using the Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter Plugin. But for those of you who may not have access to this plug-in, I thought I'd go ahead and show you how to excite hip hop vocals without the use of any third party plug-ins. The DAW that will be used in this guide is reason 9.5. While the program used for this demonstration might not be the same as yours. The techniques and principles can be applied to any DAW of your choice using stock plugins.
While simple yet very effective this technique can be used in other genres of music. For this process you'll need to create a copy of your vocals, while canceling out the low and some mid range frequencies of the duplicate track. This will require you to use additional processing like eq compression or a limiter and any other stock plugin of your choice, in the event you need to push or clean the signal of the duplicate track.
Step 1- Create a duplicate track of your vocals. As seen in the illustration below:
Step2- Remember to label your tracks. Depending on the number of tracks your working with it can easily get confusing if your not organized. As seen in the illustration below:
Step 3- Apply an EQ on the copied track and adjust the frequency value anywhere between 5 to 6 KHZ while Bring the high frequency decibel setting to its highest. As seen in the illustration below:
Step4- Adjust the High Pass filter and sweeping out the low end and midrange frequencies. As seen in the illustration below:
Step5- (optional) You can now add some compression or distortion (or both) to the duplicate signal. As seen in the illustration below:
Step6- Play the original track and slowing bring in the levels in from the excited duplicate track and slowly bring it in until you've reached a level you're satisfied with. As seen in the illustration below:
This technique will allow you to have just as much control if not more over frequencies that you wish to excite. It also leaves room for you to add other saturation effects to help you achieve the sound you want. And if the signal is too harsh just add a DEesser or eq , to tame those unwanted frequencies.
In my last post I wrote about the top ten effects recording artist need to know. And one of those effects mentioned where exciter. This effect is used to add presence to vocals or an entire mix. There are a variety of saturation types (presets)that will allow you to affect specific frequency areas of your vocals or overall mix. Some of the most common saturation settings will usually refer to frequencies by their characteristics. For example you're looking to excite the mid range frequencies you'd see settings like “warmth” or tube. Depending on the plug-ins or you're using of course but the reference and terminology behind the idea remains the same.
The plug-in used for this how to article is the Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter Plugin. This plug-in emulates the original mid 1970's Aphex model 402 Aural Exciter.
Control features: As you'll notice on the lower left side of this plug-in, you'll see two knobs marked as Mode and meter. The first option will be in bold letters “BP” stands for bypass mode. This feature is modeled after the original hardware unit allowing you to get subtle coloring on the signal path. “Mix1” allows you to place the exciter on an insert in case you want to affect a signal sound source (ex. Instrument, drum snare ect.). “Mix2 is slightly different as it allows you to add a not so subtle effect to your sound you'll also notice this for the aux mode as well. The ax mix knob will be movable only when mix1 and mix2 are selected. Ax mode will be best used on a send return track to an auxiliary track that your sending audio to.
How to apply the exciter to your vocals
Step 1- Select and apply the Aural Exciter plug-in to your vocal insert shown in the illustration below:
Step 2- Adjust the settings of the plug-in by selecting mix 1 with the knob located on the lower left (Mode). Choosing “AX” for the meter located just above the meter option. As seen in the illustration below:
Step 3-You'll also need to adjust the input knob as well as the Ax mix. Move the input knob to a level you're comfortable with. Usually going a little past 6 is the sweet spot but that may vary for upon users. keeping the Ax mix knob anywhere between 5 and 8. But this may differ from the vocals you're using it on. As seen in the illustration below:
You'll now notice the vocals will have a certain brightness to them that compliments your mix.However if you're hearing any harshness at all in the signal you can tame it with eg.
Adding effects to your vocals can help emphasize your point while giving your song a unique edge of its own. This can be done in many ways, from subtle to extreme and with moderation. Knowing when to use these effect will come with experience and preference. The overall benefit to applying effects to your vocals is that it gives your song(s) edge, uniqueness and helps you as an artist stand out. Whether you decide to take the subtle or extreme approach, in this article I'll be explaining how you can apply effects to your vocals to give your songs more edge.
1-Distortion-Believe it or not this is one of those most wildly used effects engineers use in their mixes. Often referred to as saturation because it adds warmth to the audio. But in this case we are looking to have the effect stand out with some harshness, that can be soften with some reverb and a D-esser (if necessary). This can be achieved by copying the lead vocals, bringing the level of the copied track down so the overall volume isn’t too loud while adding a separate bus track that has the distortion plug in off your choice. A combination of controlling the distortion signal being applied to the copied track and the volume of the copied track will based on preference. But if you want a clean sounding signal mixed with the audio then you'll want to apply as much distortion as possible. See illustration below:
2-Filter effects-Now we've all heard songs where the vocals sound thin as if their being re played from a radio or tiny speaker. Well this effect can be applied to your back up vocals or adlibs of your song as well. This can be achieved with a hi pass filter Eq, you basically want to remove as much of the low and mid frequencies as possible. The target frequency mark for the hi pass filter will be around 1.86 KHz. This effect can be applied on small parts of your song to emphasize cadence. See illustration below:
3-sidechaining reverb and delay- This is a technique used to add clarity on instruments mainly synthesizers and vocals that have reverb and delay applied to them. The issue that occurs with reverb is it can often overpower individual instruments as well as the entire mix. The remedy for this would be to side chain your reverb and delay. You do this by adding a compressor at the end of your FX bus track of your lead vocal mix shown in the illustration below:
You can mute the previous effects temporarily until you've reached your desired compression settings(optional). Once you've reached your comfortable with, enable the previous effects and adjust the threshold and release to your liking. You should be able to hear the effects being controlled and slightly pushed under the vocals. Remember to bypass and enable to compare the difference from before and after.