When mixing vocals in FL Studio, you approach the vocals similar to how you would in other DAWs - start with EQ, compress if needed, try upward compression or maximization, and then use temporal processing. FL Studio makes parallel processing easy with wet/dry insert dials, so try these as well.
For these first 6 chapters, let’s work on a vocal recording from a male singer, and use only stock plugins.
I’m going to start with an EQ, with which I’ll use a high pass up to right before the fundamental. Then I’ll use a bell to balance the area of the low-pass’s cutoff, use 2 bell filters to boost the fundamental and vowels respectively, and dip some nasal tones.
Lastly, I’ll boost a higher-order harmonic above 2kHz to increase presence, and then add air with a shelf at 20kHz, and a Q value that decreases the band to unity by 10kHz.
Let’s listen to how these curves clarify the vocal.
Next, I want to compress the vocal, but since FL Studio offers this convenient MB compressor, I’ll use it as opposed to a typical one. I’ll compress the lows and mids, and use the high band to de-ess my vocal, which for male vocals should be around 7kHz.
I’ll achieve a few dB of attenuation on each band and set the release for each band to right above what would cause distortion to the waveform - so above 50ms for the lows, 40ms for the mids, and 10 for the highs.
Let’s listen to the vocal with controlled dynamics and de-essing.
Since the male vocal’s fundamental is low, first, I’m going to lower my mids to separate the processing on my fundamental and 2nd order harmonic. I use the same technique for my release that I used in the last chapter, and then very subtly increase the midpoint.
This will increase the volume of each band from the noise floor up, but in a tasteful way, since it’s only being increased slightly. Lastly, I’ll add a little saturation to fill the vocal.
Let’s listen and notice how the vocal has more detail.
I’m going to use this delay to thicken my vocal before reverb, so I’ll set a quick delay under 10ms, use moderate feedback, and isolate the reflections to below 5kHz. Then I’ll introduce subtle modulation to make it more complex, and reduce the wet output to blend the effect.
I also add some slight saturation to the delay taps to increase harmonics and control their dynamics, making them easier to hear.
Let’s listen and notice how it thickens the vocal.
I want to use this reverb both stylistically and practically, so first, I’m going to increase the pre-delay to let the transient of my vocal though, which retains intelligibility. I’ll increase the room size to my preference, introduce very subtle modulation, and isolate the reflections to right above sibilance.
With early reflections, I’ll make the vocal sound denser, similar to the delay from our last chapter. The more stylistic sound comes for the wet signal, which will be the longer reflections.
Let’s listen and notice how this reverb gives the vocal a pleasant sound, and an identity that’s unique.
Last up for the male vocal demonstration, I’m going to use this 3 band EQ at the end of my chain to shape the vocal. I want to dip some of the lows and balance the mids, but also, bring some clarity and air out with the high-frequency shelf.
Then, I’ll use these wet/dry dials to the right of each insert to blend the effect in, essentially creating parallel processing.
Let’s listen to the full before and after of the processing we created.
For these last 4 chapters, let’s use the same processors we used for the make vocal recording, but adjust them to accommodate a female vocal performance.
Starting with EQ, you’ll notice that the high-pass is situated higher - this is due to a higher frequency fundamental for the song, which will usually be the case with female vocal recordings. Similarly, my fundamental bell, vowel bell, nasal tone cut, and presence will all be higher.
The air frequencies will stay the same, but as you can see, higher pitch singing results in higher frequencies we need to pay attention to.
Let’s listen to how this curve affects the vocal.
Next, I’m going to use the MB compressor in a similar way to chapter 2, but make some changes due to the higher frequencies being sung. First, I’ll want to increase the low band, so that my fundamental and 2nd ordered harmonic are processed separately.
Then, I’ll set my releases to 30ms, 20ms, and 10ms to avoid distortion. Since the frequencies are higher, we can use a faster release time without distorting the waveform.
Let’s listen to the vocal with controlled dynamics.
Again I’m going to use Maximus to increase the detail of the vocal, but this time shift the bands upward and affect the release times as we did in the previous chapter. This vocal has a little too much transient, so I’ll enable linear phase mode, which reduces them slightly.
Although a little unorthodox, you can use any linear phase mode on a somewhat sharp vocal to smooth out the transients due to the delay compensation needed to make it work.
Let’s listen and notice how the vocals become more detailed, and in this case, a little smoother with linear phase enabled.
Last up, I’ll insert delay and reverb just like I did in chapters 4 and 5 - you won’t notice much of a difference between the temporal processing used on male and female vocal recordings. I’ll use the 3 band EQ to dip lows, smooth the mids, and boost the highs.
Lastly, I’m going to listen carefully and blend in or out any effect that I have too little or too much of - making it easy to find just the right amount of processing now that I have the perspective of how the vocal sounds are almost finished.
Let’s listen to the full before and after of this vocal being processed.