Here’s a cool vocal mixing trick for when you want a lot of space around the vocal, but you don’t want to clutter everything up with reverb.
Step 1 – Mix the Dry Vocal
Make the dry vocal sound as good as you can with:
- Analog emulation or tape saturation
Step 2 – Send the Vocal to an Effects Bus
On the effects bus, add:
- Compression to even out the dynamics of the incoming signal
- A subtle stereo delay with a couple of repeats, 1/16th or 1/8th notes depending on the style of the song
- A medium, 1.2~ second reverb, maybe a hall or plate, to diffuse the delay repeats
- Another compressor
Step 3 – Side-chain the Second Compressor to the Vocal
Make the compressor push down the level of the reverb any time the vocalist is singing. That way you’ll get very present vocals that still sound heavy on the effects because the effects swell up as soon as the vocal phrases end.
A high ratio will push the level of the effects-send down pretty drastically, but the trick is to take the time to tweak the attack and release so that the volume of the delayed reverb swells don’t sound too unnatural.
Use that Next Time
If the typical stand-by’s of plate reverb or slapback echo isn’t quite cutting it, try this technique out next time.
Vocal production is a pretty comprehensive and important topic to get right because the right vocal sound will make or break your mix.