Creative Vocal Mixing Techniques

Creative Vocal Mixing Techniques


When introducing creative vocal techniques, using mid-side processing can be used to isolate temporal processing to the side image – causing a unique sound.  Additionally,  if combined, processing such as binaural imaging, transient and tone EQ, and others are great for creative vocal mixing techniques.

Side Image Reverb

The chapters in this video are in no particular order.

Let’s start with a fun new trick I’ve been using – in short, I first duplicate my lead vocal; then on the duplicate I introduce reverb, typically with a longer release time and higher decay and EQ on the higher frequency range.  Last up I insert this free MSED plugin.

With it, I’ll solo the side image by muting the mid image.  This way I can keep a part of my vocal dry and upfront, but then add reverb to the side image, causing a unique juxtaposition between the 2 signals.

Let’s take a listen.

Tone Vocal Harmony

If I want to create a unique double or make my lead sound really distinct and unique for a section of a song, I’ll first use the SplitEQ by Eventide and bring the transient slider all the way down, just leaving the tone of the vocal.  Then I’ll use this H8000.

I typically use a doubling setting with some harmonization thrown in.  The combination of these 2 processors results in a vocal without transients and one that’s great for blending in.

Let’s take a listen.

Automated Parallel Compression

This Newfangled Audio Invigorate plugin is great for adding parallel compression, limiting, and overdrive – but what’s great is that it’s easy to automate and create a unique sound.  What I’ll do is keep it at a moderate level until I want the vocal to have a distinct character.

Then I’ll increase the mix dial using automation and occasionally position the middle icon to a more aggressive setting before switching it back to normal.

Let’s listen and let me know when you think this type of effect could be useful.

Panned Binaural Vocal

Next up, I’m going to use this free binaural plugin on my vocal, and like last chapter, automate the position of the sound source.  This makes it easy to create a doppler effect or make the vocal sound as if it’s moving around the listener in real-time.

The setup is pretty simple, but the result is really cool, so let’s take a listen.

Aggressive Distorted Tuning

Combining tuning and distortion has been popular for a little while now, but it’s still not used as often as it could be.  I’ll start with a tuner and use very aggressive, unnatural settings, before inserting a saturation plugin that distorts and adds soft-knee compression.

The combination of the 2 works really well and has a lot of potential to be even more experimental.

Let’s take a listen.

Side Image Delay

Let’s do what we did in chapter one but this time with delay – again I’ll have my duplicated vocal, and first, insert a stereo delay.  I’ll typically use a 1/8th and dotted 8th note delay, add some crosstalk and make sure the effect is more wet than dry.

Then I’ll use the same MSED plugin as before to mute the mid-image before blending in the effect with a channel fader.

Let’s listen to how this creates side image delay that would be hard to achieve with a typical delay plugin.

Crossfade Transients and Tone

As far as I know, this Eventide SplitEQ plugin is the only one that can isolate a signal’s tone and transients – with that in mind, I’ll use automation to increase the level of the tone and decrease the transients and vice versa.  This gives the vocal a distinct shifting quality.

Let’s listen and notice how this could be used in combination with other processing, like phasing or flanging to create really interesting movement in the vocal.

Classic Punk LoFi Vocal

If I want a LoFi punk or rock vocal sound, I like to first emulate heavy transistor distortion to mimic cheaper electronics found in older hardware.  Then I’ll insert an EQ and isolate the frequencies to the mids with a somewhat aggressive resonance around 3kHz to help retain the vocal.

From here you could add reverb, more compression, or whatever you’d like, but this is a great foundation for a rock or punk vocal.

Modern Digital LoFi Vocal

If I want to create a modern, more unique LoFI vocal, I’ll start with aggressive tuning before using EQ to isolate the frequencies to the mids, but with less of a high-frequency cut-off than the last chapter.  Then I’ll use this free Codec plugin to introduce lossy-file type distortion.

Again we achieve a lo-fi sound, but this time, the sound is distinctly digital and more modern.

Let’s take a listen.

Reverberated Sibilance

I like to use this trick on rap vocals a good amount – I’ll send the vocal to a parallel track, and then isolate the high frequencies with a linear phase EQ.  Next, I’ll compress to get a smooth sound to the highs before adding some reverb with a 50/50 dry wet blend.

Lastly, I’ll blend the effect in with the parallel track’s channel fader.  Let’s take a listen to it.

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