Top 10 Vocal Effects Tricks and How to Use Them
The easiest way to make your vocals stand out in a song is the clever use of vocal effects to make the singer jump out the speakers.
Whether you’re looking for parallel processing tricks for larger vocals, cool slapback echoes, advanced double-tracking or aggressive megaphone effects, you’ll learn them in here.
1. Vocal Widening Trick
When: For subtle widening of vocals to add depth across the stereo spectrum.
How: Send the vocal to a bus, add a compressor and a stereo widener. Add in the stereo widening until the vocal starts sounding larger
2. Tape Slap
When: For a live-sounding studio feel. It makes the vocal sound like it’s recorded in an old-school studio with the instruments all around it.
How: I use the Kramer Tape plug-in and use the slap/delay section to add it to the main vocal without using it as a send. You can replicate this without the Kramer tape by using a slap echo and some analog saturation.
3. Advanced ADT and Depth without space
When: Use this technique when you want vocal depth without space. It’ll make the vocal larger and more present without adding any reverb tail that could clutter up the mix.
How: Send the vocals to a stereo delay with 21 ms on the left and 29 ms on the right. Then use a pitch-shifter to detune or pitch up the vocal about 10 cents. Add the send under the main vocal track until you’ve achieved the desired ambience needed. An advanced way to do it is with two mono delays panned hard left and hard right with one pitch shifter detuning the vocal 10 cents while the other pitches the vocal up 10 cents.
4. Diffusing Delays
When: Sometimes you want to soften up a delay and make the delay repeats sound smoother.
How: Add a reverb after the delay bus and add a shortish delay so that every delay repeat will get diffused by the reverb.
5. The Importance of Pre-Delay
When: Pre-delay can make the reverb sound bigger without getting in the way of the vocal because it’s essentially delaying the effect of the reverb by the number of milliseconds you choose.
How: Most reverbs have a pre-delay setting. Tweak pre-delay to 20 – 40 ms to hear how the reverb pushes back away from the initial phrases of the vocal.
6. Comping vocals for Perfect Doubles
When: Singers can’t always double their takes perfectly. If you have the ability through editing, you can make the vocal track stronger by tweaking the phrases to match exactly. This is especially easy with modern flex-time editing tools. You’ll end up with a perfect double instead of two vocal tracks that sound slightly out of sync with each other.
How: Depends on what DAW and what tools you have at your disposal, but the goal is to line up the phrasing exactly to the main vocal track.
7. Parallel Compression with EQ
When: If you want to retain the dynamics of the main vocal track but add thickness and punch, you can add multiple compressors in parallel to get the best of both worlds.
How: Send your vocal to two different compressors, an 1176 FET style compressor and LA2A Opto compressor for instance. Then blend the compressed vocals underneath to taste. The different compression styles will process the vocal differently so you might want more of one than the other.
8. Side-chain Vocal Effects
When: If you want a lot of space around the vocal, but you don’t want to clutter everything up with reverb you can side-chain the reverb and delay to duck out of the way whenever the singer is singing.
How: I talked about this technique in detail in An Advanced Vocal Production Trick You Need to Try.
9. The 100 ms Delay Effect
When: This is another vocal effect that’s more about adding depth than cluttering up the mix with too much reverb or too many delay repeats.
How: Add a 100-millisecond delay with one repeat. Add it underneath the vocal. Simple as that
10. Megaphone Effect
When: For that propaganda vocal effect!
How: Use a high-pass filter and filter out all the lows and the low-mids until about 3-400 Hz. Add a low-pass filter and filter out all the highs down to 2-3 kHz. Find a couple ugly frequencies and boost them. For an even more drastic effect, add some gentle saturation for some real grainy sounding vocals. This actually works surprisingly well on hard rock as an effect.
Get the Step By Step Vocal Effects Video Inside Mixing With 5 Plug-ins
Now that you’ve read the article on these top 10 vocal effects, it’s time to watch the video.
The video will show you exactly what to do, and in which genres certain effects work better in than others. This masterclass is a collection of ten different vocal production tricks I use in multiple different genres – folk, rock, and punk to name a few – that help me make vocals stand out and sound more professional.
It’s all available inside the bonus vault of Mixing With Plug-ins you can check out here.