Recording beautiful vocals is fantastic, but where I have a lot of fun is being creative with effects to spice the vocals up. I just wrote an article on Processing Vocals in Ableton Live where I talk about the basics of getting a good starting vocal. In this article I am going to take you down the rabbit hole of Vocal Effects, like chorusing, reverse reverb, and other tricks I have learned along the way.
For the past 2 weeks I have been working with Heather Christie, aka Cheraki, in the studio recording. We used a Miktek c5 microphone and were able to get some gorgeous recordings. I then processed the vocals to even out levels and clean it up. From there a whole world of possible effects opens up. In this article I am going to be using some of her vocal takes as an example of what is possible. You’ll also get a sneak peak at some new music.
To start I want to show off some Ableton Nerdery. A while ago I did some videos on creatively using warp modes. This is a great example of using Complex Pro Mode in a creative way to give a unique character. The reason I would use this effect is to give a deeper, and strange thickness to the vocal. If you are looking for a very intimate and realistic effect, then this is not for you.
I start off by duplicating the vocal track. I then transpose the track by -3, -5, -7, or -12. That way it is pretty safe harmonically. I usually go with -12.
After you lower the pitch you can set the Warp Mode to Complex Pro. The advantage here is you can change the settings to get a unique quality out of the vocals that you can not get in Complex Mode, or the other Warp Modes.
If you want to learn more about using warp modes as a sound design tool, check out this article.
Audio Effect Racks:
Using your own audio effects can also add depth and interest. I’ve worked with a lot of different effects and built an Audio effect rack that makes it really easy to tweak, and get the sound you are looking for. The download is free / by donating below.
When working with these effects it’s important to know that every song will have its own feel, and needs. Let’s say you are doing a more vintage feeling track, well using an eq to give it that telephone quality might work, but it would not work well on a more lush sounding track. Experimentation is the best route. Try out the effects on your track and see what helps bring out the quality you are looking for.
A favorite effect of mine is reverse vocals. This can add a haunting and otherworldly sound to the vocals. In this case I was working on a pretty epic and ecstatic track with Heather. During the Bridge we wanted to add a unique sound. I remembered this vocal trick and it worked perfectly.
The basic idea is taking a vocal and reversing it. Then you add a reverb that is 100% wet. You bounce / freeze that down. Then you reverse that whole thing. You can then layer the reverse reverb with the original vocal.
There you have it. Enjoy using these new techniques. If you have a creative way of processing vocals, comment below. Love to hear about your secret ninja techniques. If you have tracks that you use these techniques on, feel free to share them as well.