If you’re looking for a more advanced way to mix your vocals, start with some important editing, like clip gaining your entire vocal track section by section, and isolating sibilance to a new track. Then tune, add some upward compression, and try some creative processing like modulated saturation.
For this video, all the tips I’m listing can be used in this order as a chain. Or you take the info from this video that you like and incorporate it into what you do.
Clip gain is great at balancing your vocal’s dynamics and reduces the need for more noticeable compression later on in the chain. Find all of the aspects of the vocal that don’t fit within the dynamic range you want for your vocal - then adjust the clip accordingly.
Although this is more time-consuming than compression or a vocal rider, it’s a more professional way of balancing dynamics.
Similar to how Clip Gain controls dynamics, we can control sibilance by isolating it and sending it to another track. We can also use clip gain to reduce the volume, but you’ll get better results by placing the esses on a new track and turning it down.
Additionally, we’ll omit some forms of processing from the sibilance track, like additive EQ and saturation to keep these from becoming harsh.
If your vocal needs tuning, Metatune is a great option for this since it utilizes note stabilization - which reduces the need for a note by note tuner like Melodyne. We’ll use a medium-length stabilization setting, select the correct notes for the vocal, and use a slower timing.
These settings will keep it natural sounding and reduce unwanted tuning artifacts.
We can use an upward compressor to increase the signal from the noise floor up while leaving the peaks alone - this reduces the dynamic range while increasing perceivable detail. With multi-band dynamics processors we can use a positive range with a compression setting for this effect.
I’ll use 3 bands and isolate them on aspects of the vocal I want to amplify.
Instead of using an analog emulation plugin, try a demo of FabFilter’s Saturn 2 and utilize its modulation settings to recreate analog sounds. In my opinion, the complex routing this plugin lets you create gets you a lot closer to analog tonality than most plugins.
I made a preset called vocal bite which uses an envelope to push a distortion band on my mids into higher frequencies whenever the vocal is sung. As a result, we get program-dependent high-frequency distortion that achieves a biting sound.
Reverb on a vocal is a classic sound, but an expected one - that said we can use some creative processing to make our vocal reverb sound unique. I’m going to use a bus to send my vocal to a parallel track on which I’ll place my reverb.
Once I dial in the settings I want, I’ll insert an upward compressor and heavily compress the reverberated signal from the noise floor up. This creates unrealistically dense reverb.
If you can think of additional ways we could experiment with the sound of reverb on a vocal let me know in the comments!
At the end of my vocal chain, I’m going to subtly use both Soothe 2 and a Gullfoss EQ to reduce resonance and masking frequencies respectively. Since we separated our sibilance earlier on, we can focus Soothe2 on the mids and then use subtle Gullfoss settings to clarify the signal.
If you don’t have these plugins don’t worry about this stage of processing, but just it’s an option for adding a little polish to a vocal track.
This last part is just something a little strange that I like to do with the separated sibilance - which is to add a reverb plugin. I’ll blend in the effect, but no matter what it’ll give your sibilance and unnaturally diffused sound, which sounds more relaxed than typical sibilance.
If you’re like me and you really don’t like the sound of excessive sibilance, this is a way you can turn it into something that you actually enjoy listening to.