To make deep vocals use a formant shifter plugin and reduce the formant of the vocal. This will retain the same pitch but will reduce the perceived depth of the vocal - some good plugins for this are Vocal Bender, Little Alterboy, and Harmony Engine Evo.
When we discuss deep vocals we’re usually talking about formant shifting - that said achieving a deep vocal sound is much simpler than you might think. If you don’t have a formant shifting plugin download MAutoPitch by Melda Audio Productions - a free vocal tuning plugin with a formant shifter included.
Simple turn off the tuning aspect and lower the formant dial to achieve a lower sound that’s still the same pitch.
Let’s listen to what this function does.
A great affordable option for creating deep vocals is the Wave’s Vocal Bender, which includes both pitch shifting and formant shifting, as well as some more advanced LFO and sequencing options. Let’s duplicate our lead vocal, and using reduce the duplicate a full octave and shift its formant.
Then we’ll blend the duplicate in - let’s take a listen and notice how we achieve an even deeper sound.
Formant-shifted vocals can also be stylized with tuning and distortion - creating a sound that for the time being is still pretty unique. Let’s use little Altar Boy and tune the vocal down a full octave and fully lower the formant, but also add drive and tuning.
The sound is indicative of an early 2010s Kanye vocal but can be tweaked with more effects to sound a little more modern. Let’s take a listen.
The Harmony Engine by Antares gives us the chance to make really unique and impressive deep vocals. First, I’ll include 3 additional signals - the first will be unison, the second 1 octave down, and the 3rd 2 octaves down; I’ll then increase the throat length to its maximum setting.
Increasing the throat length in this plugin is similar to reducing the formant. Lastly, I’ll introduce the choir effect with the max of 16 voices. Let’s listen and notice how this creates an epic low vocal sound that can be further improved with more processing.
You may have noticed that when we reduce the formant and tuning of the vocal, a lot of detail is lost from it - to remedy this, let’s use an upward compressor to greater increase the fullness of the deep aspects of the vocal. MV2 is a great option for this.
I’ll use this effect on the Harmony Engine effect from the last chapter, and notice how much it improves the presence of the deeper aspects of the vocal.
Another effect we can use on formant and pitched down vocals is short, low-frequency reverb. Although we typically want to avoid reverberating our lowest frequencies, adding reverb to formant shifted vocals adds to their unnatural sound and further fills out details that got lost when they were shifted.
I’ll use a short predelay, keep the reflections dark sounding, and as I said, ensure the reflections are primarily on the low frequencies. Let’s listen to what this adds to the vocals processed with the Harmony Engine.
Another sound that goes along well with turned vocals is heavy distortion, or in particular full frequency amp emulation. By drastically increasing distortion we further reduce the intelligibility of the vocal, making it sound more like a deep vocoder or synth than a typical vocal.
Be sure the amp emulation you use doesn’t cut out too much of the lows since this will lessen the impressiveness of the shifted vocals. Let’s listen and note how this effect could be used creatively.
Going back to the Waves Vocal Blender, notice that we have the option to flatten the vocals - or in other words tune all aspects of the vocals to a specific note. First, I’ll duplicate the lead twice, tune both down a full octave and fully reduce the formant.
Then I’ll find notes I can flatten the vocal to that are in key with the song or lead performance. Once I have those, I’ll blend the vocals into the lead with the channel faders. Let’s listen to the effect and notice how it creates unique sounding deep vocals.
If we want a sound that’s even more unique then let’s do something most engineers don’t do and stack multiple formant and tuning shifting effects. This means we can shift our formant and tuning down twice or even more times, creating a truly unrecognizably deep-sounding vocal.
Keep in mind that this will cause some phase issues, but it's worth it if you’re willing to sacrifice fidelity for a new sound.
Let’s listen to the Vocal Bender being run into the Little Alterboy and notice how the timbre varies from the demonstrations in this video.
On the other side of the spectrum, you may want to make this shift as clean sounding as possible - to do this let’s first duplicate the lead then edit out some problematic aspects like sibilance, and then clip gain aggressive transients. Additionally, I’ll attenuate lows with an EQ up to the fundamental.
Let’s listen and notice how we achieve a cleaner sound that may make the overall effect subtler.
If you want to tune your vocal formant shifts, it’s best to do this prior to actually shifting the vocal down, and after editing the vocal. For example, I’d place the tuner after the EQ I used to attenuate the lower frequencies - and after a de-esser if used.
If you tune the vocal after the shift you’re going to get a lot of artifacts, so let’s listen to tuning added before the shift and notice it results in a relatively artifact-free sound.