Want Big and Wide Vocals? Here’s a Quick and Easy Technique
I wanted to share one of my favorite vocal mixing techniques to get super WIDE vocals.
It’s an excerpt from the full Expert Home Vocals course. If you like the following article, make sure to grab the full course.
I have three go-to busses for vocal processing that usually give me everything I need. Here’s a quick screenshot of the busses in my mix template, ready to roll.
Bus 1 – Automatic Double Tracking and Doubling Bus
I usually have a few different things on my ADT bus:
- Stereo Delay
- Waves Doubler
- Waves ADT Reel to Reel plug-in
All of these plug-ins do a variation of the same thing: make vocals sound like they were doubled.
If you don’t have the time or budget to record a real double of the vocal, you can use this effects bus to create a pseudo double to thicken up your vocal track. Because the delays on the parallel track are so short, it’ll give you a larger vocal without any real “space” to it.
Here’s one way to do it:
- Send the vocals to a stereo delay with 21 ms on the left and 29 ms on the right.
- 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 down 10 cents while the other pitches the vocal up 10 cents.
You can also try to use a simple chorus plug-in instead of a delay to double the vocals. If you add a bit of the chorused signal underneath the lead vocal you’ll get a thicker sound, emulating a double-tracked vocal part. It’s a simple enough trick, and great for giving a little more breadth to your lead vocal.
Similarly, you can do the same thing with backing vocals. You can get a really nice wash of backing vocals if you have several panned vocals parts routed to a stereo chorus. Try it next time you want a dry vocal part that you don’t want to push way back into the mix.
Bus 2 – Vocal Space
I tend to process my vocals a little bit differently than the rest of the instruments. That’s why I have a separate vocal space bus in addition to the instrument reverb. The reverb is used to give a sense of glued space to all the instruments, but the vocal space bus is dedicated to finding the perfect vocal sound.
Depending on the type of sound you’re looking for, you’re going to approach this vocal space bus differently. Is the singer singing long sustained notes, scat singing, or rapping? These are some of the factors you might want to consider when choosing your vocal reverb.
The rhythm of the vocal can tell you if the reverb you’ve chosen actually works. If you’re going for “My Heart Will Go On” Celine Dion-long sustained singing then a large and long reverb might work exceptionally well. But if your singer is Scatman John then a long reverb will probably just get in the way.
However, regardless of genre and style, my Vocal Space bus always comes pre-loaded in my template with a few things:
- Compressor (in case I’d like to compress the reverbs or add some parallel power)
- Stereo delay for longer delays than the automatic double tracking bus
- A reverb. I usually have the Valhalla Room on there, but the EMT 140 Plate also comes in handy on occasion
This usually gives me enough variation to create the sense of depth and space I’d like on the vocal. Combining the delay and reverb together in various ways can often yield some interesting results so I’m constantly trying out one in front of the other to see whether the song in question likes diffused delays (with the reverb after the delay), or an echo reverb (with the delays after the reverb).
For an in-your-face lead vocal, scrap the reverb entirely and use a delay to make the soundstage wider. Delay adds space without making the vocal sound distant, something that happens all too often when you use too much reverb. Depending on the BPM of the song, style, and genre, use either short, medium, or long delays.
If it’s a ballad with long, drawn-out words then a long delay creates a big sound without overpowering the actual vocal. A fast rock song benefits from a short, subtle delay and groovy pop songs use medium delays to great effect.
Also, if you have a “verse vocal” and a “chorus vocal” you can easily use send effects to distinguish them better. For instance, if you don’t want a big reverb in the verses but you think it would be nice to have a larger space in the chorus. Just send the verse vocal to the delay and you send the chorus vocal to the vocal reverb. This will add contrast to the arrangement as well.
Bus 3 – Stereo Trick for Wide Vocals
This is one of my all-time favorite tricks for creating bigger and wider vocals. It’s incredibly simple but sounds soooooo good. It’s something I do with all my mixes to create a sense of space, depth, and width without cluttering it up with time-based effects like reverb and delay. I love using it on vocals, but you can also use it on different instruments if you’d like.
Here’s what I do:
On an aux bus, I’ll add a compressor and then a stereo widening plug-in. I use the S1 Stereo Imager, but you can use whatever stereo widening plug-in you have lying around.
Then, I’ll simply send the vocals to that bus for instant wide vocals. I usually go all out and send as much as I can (up to unity gain on the send). Usually, it just makes the vocals stand out so much more.
Try that trick in your next mix and I guarantee it’ll be a game changer for you.
If you’d like to watch the accompanying video that’s included with this part of the eBook, as well as learn the rest of my production workflow when it comes to producing vocals, join Expert Home Vocals right here before the 40% off discount expires tonight!
What Other Vocal Mixing Tricks Do You Learn?
That’s just a tiny part of what you learn from the “Mixing Vocals” chapter. Here’s what else you’ll learn just from the mixing section of the course (not including the pre-production, pre-recording, recording, and editing sections).
How to Mix Pro Vocals That Fit With All the Instruments in Your Mix
- Surprising and counter-intuitive panning guidelines for lead vocals, doubled lead vocals, and harmonies. My students never even thought about using these at first, but they are getting great results after trying them out
- How to get a rough mix before you focus on the vocals by building your mix so that your vocals can fit into it from the start
- How to apply EQ, compression and other plug-ins in the right order to get the vocal sound you’re looking for without abusing the vocals, causing them to lose all emotion and crispness
- The one video you need to watch if you want to create powerful vocals that cut through the mix with EQ…tighten up the low-end, eliminate boominess…and add thickness and weight to your vocal sound
- How to get rid of honkiness that sounds like the vocalist is singing with their hands over their mouths
- If you’ve ever felt like your singer sounds like he has a cold, even if they recorded in perfect health, you’re going to love this EQ technique to get rid of nasal sounding vocals
- The exact frequency areas where you can add presence and punch to your vocal mix, eliminate sibilance, and use masking EQ to hide problematic frequency areas that won’t leave your vocals alone
- How to find where the instruments are clashing with the vocals so you can use EQ to create pockets for the vocals to fit with the rest of your mix
- The reverse-EQ method my students love that helps them find the exact frequency and instrument that’s clashing with the vocal sound so that you can make more room for your vocals in your mix
- How to EQ backup vocals to keep them out of the way of the lead vocals
- Why separation in your vocals isn’t always the right move and what to do when you want a bigger “wall of vocal sound”
- Why you should not start compressing your vocals before you do this one very overlooked technique to make your compressor react more musically to every vocal phrase
- How to use compression on vocals to get a smoother sound that cuts through the mix without feeling like it’s tacked on top
- A walkthrough of the three most common compression styles and how they can change your vocal sound
- My favorite (and simplest!) vocal compressor I use on every single vocal track.
- How to use compression to tame your vocals so that the louder parts sound laid back and the quieter parts are audible, so that you can get fat sounding and properly compressed vocals that don’t muddy up the rest of the mix.
- The difference between aggressive compression and subtle continuous compression and how it changes your vocal sound
- How to use serial compression on your vocals to tame the peaks of your transients while increasing the overall level, resulting in a present and punchy vocal sound that cuts through the mix
- How to know whether you should use compression before or after EQ to get the best vocal sound
- The four reasons you may need a de-esser on your vocal track and why you may need more than one depending on how aggressive your vocal processing is…and my go-to setting for de-essing vocals without crippling the high-end
- The go-to method for EQ’ing and compressing backup vocals to fit with the lead vocals in a mix
- How to use parallel compression to make your vocals sound big and powerful
- How to use multi-band compression to zero in on problematic frequency areas that are making your vocals sound boxy, honky, or sibilant
- My three-bus effects chain I use for every vocal mix to add depth, space, width, and punch to my vocals. These three effects busses are permanently in my mix template because I use them on every single vocal track to make my vocals sound larger than life
- How to create automatic double tracking to make your vocals sound doubled if you don’t have a real-life double
- Why it’s a good idea to have a separate bus just for your vocal reverbs and delays so that you can process them differently than the rest of your instruments
- How to make your WIDE Vocals.
- Two effective ways to use saturation on vocals to create a little bit of warmth or grit
- Why you shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting with amp simulators and distortion on your vocals to make them stand out in a mix
- A step-by-step workflow for fitting your vocals into the mix, that helps you cut your instruments with EQ in a busy mix so that you can make the vocals fit with plenty of space without making the rest of your mix sound weak
- The three things I automate on vocals after I’m 95% done with the mix to make the vocals sound dynamic and “alive” with the rest of the mix
It took me years to understand how to record, edit, and mix professional-quality vocals from my home studio, but I don’t want you to spend all that time.
That’s why Expert Home Vocals is my shortcut for you so you can get up and running producing pro vocals right away.
Make sure you check the course out before the discount expires tonight.
Ready to Start Producing Pro Vocals From Your Home Studio, Even if You Don’t Have Fancy Equipment or a Confident Vocalist?
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