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How to Make Fire Vocals

If you’re trying to make fire vocals, use compression, balancing EQ, an air EQ, and temporal effects like reverb and delay to control, clarify, and thicken your vocal. After your vocal is balanced and practical processing has been used, introduce advanced effects for a creative sound.


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Use 3 Types of Compression

Let’s start out with more practical steps and get more creative as we go - first, let’s add 3 types of compression; downward with peak detection, downward with RMS detection, and then upward compression. I basically want to control the dynamics of my vocal as much as possible.

By combining these 3 types, and getting a few dB of attenuation on the first 2, and about 6dB of upward compression, we get a really controlled by not noticeably compressed sound.

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Clean EQ

Sticking with practical processing first, let’s clean up our vocal by attenuating frequencies that aren’t helping. Let’s cut out some plosives with a high pass, then dip a little of 300Hz to make the vocal more intelligible - additionally, let’s cut some of 700Hz to make it less nasally.

The frequencies you need to cut may vary, but once this is done you can amplify your vocal without increasing unwanted frequencies.

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Air EQ

Next, I’m going to amplify the highest aspects of the vocal to make it crisp and add a lot of clarity - I’m going to use Fresh Air by Slate Digital which is a free plugin that sounds great. I’ll moderately boost both of the bands until it sounds right.

It’s a good idea to compensate for the gain changes with the output trim dial as well.

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Thick Reverb

With my dynamics and frequency response controlled, let’s add some quick reverb to thicken the vocal and make it sound stronger in the mix. I’ll use 2 separate reverbs for this - the first with being a room or studio emulation, the second an ambient reverb.

I’ll use the formula 60000/BPM to find a quarter note - I’ll use this number for the room reverb, then divide it by 2 to find an 8th note for my other reverb.

As you may have noticed, I set these reverbs up as sends, instead of placing them directly on my vocal. This makes it easier to blend in and avoids this reverb being fed into my next processors.

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Thick Delay

Next, I’m going to do the same thing I just did with my reverb but with 2 delays - although the times used will be the same, the delays will vary slightly from my reverb’s delay taps, which will really fill out the vocal and make it sound powerful.

For the delay though, I’m going to make 1 plugin ping-pong delay, and the other mid-side to add some signal to the stereo image.

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Perfect Highs

For a truly clear sound I’m going to set up another send, and insert 3 processors, first an EQ, then a downward compressor, and lastly a reverb. The EQ should be linear phase and we’ll use a high pass filter to isolate the highs, while the downward compressor will heavily compress.

We now have super dense-sounding high frequencies, but to make it sound even better, let’s add some bright reverb. This way the highs stay present but aren’t shrill. Additionally, this reverb will make the high end sound airy.

Then I’ll use the channel fader to blend the effect in.

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Ducked Delay

Next, I’m going to set up one more send and insert a longer delay - this delay can be whatever fits your sound, but I like to make mine a 1/4 or 1/8 note. If your delay has ducking use it, but I’ll insert a compressor after the delay.

With this compressor, use the external side chain and insert your lead vocal. This way the delay will be compressed whenever the vocal is sung, and the delay will fill the silence that follows the vocal’s performance.

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Tuning, Formant Shifts, and Tremelo

For a unique effect that you can blend in with your vocal, or solo for a dramatic effect in certain sections, try this. Use a send from your vocal and insert 3 plugins, first a tuner and formant shifter, second a tremolo plugin, and last a reverb.

With the tuner, I’ll heavily tune the vocal and reduce its formant to the lowest setting. With the tremolo I’ll time it with the song, and affect the waveform so that the tremolo occurs at the end of the note, making the signal sound reversed. Achieving this may take some intent listening and trial and error.

Lastly, I’ll use a reverb and boost the high frequencies or use a bright setting. These 3 plugins serve as a cool base for this idea but try adding some other processors to create an even more unique sound.

Watch video example


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For Creating Life-Fulfilling Mixes That Sound Better Your Favorite Artists