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Vocal chain advice

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Vocal chain advice

Postby Devin » Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:46 am

Learning to produce vocals after many (many) years of writing instrumental music.

I have the Slate VMS going into Cubase. A create a group track and add the Slate VMR.
I route all vocals into this group, so they they are all processed by the same VMR, unless I want a different kind of processing. I think most users probably have a VMR (or whatever their chain is) for each vocal track but I wonder how much CPU that will eat if you are layering 20+ vocal tracks.

I am still figuring out how to get a smoother vocal that sits in the mix.
My reference tracks are stuff like Peter Gabriel, Simply Red, Prince, and Fleetwood Mac.

Any advice welcome, also what is your favorite chain?

Chain screenshot:
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Re: Vocal chain advice

Postby Zukan » Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:04 am

Devin, post a link to a before and after audio grab of the vocals. That way we can ascertain if the chain is helping.

For me, most of the vocal's attributes are captured at the tracking stage. If you get this right you will barely need any processing on top.

However, I always perform corrective processes first: cleaning the vocals and removing redundant frequencies, de essing, removing plosives etc... I then apply gentle eq to bring our certain frequencies, apply two stages of compression to control the dynamics and grab peak transients and I eventually send all the vocals to a group and apply some glue compression to homogenise the vocals into a single colour. But this is not set in stone as different vocal textures require different processes to best highlight them.
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Re: Vocal chain advice

Postby The Elf » Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:48 am

Firstly I'll say that my tracking chain is invariably 'as little as possible, of the best possible quality, to get the job done'.

After that it's just about listening and reacting. A good dynamic EQ is a favourite tool, as is an SSL Channel Strip. Parallel compression can be useful, especially on softer vocals in dynamic mixes. I will sometimes split out problem sounds (eSSes, Ps, Bs, etc) and tame them, but I will often find a de-esser perfectly adequate. A little gentle compression to help the vocal 'sit' - a little aggressive compression to keep the peaks sounding natural. Mult out the vocal for verses/choruses, etc. Automation where necessary...

Listen to the mix... Is the vocal giving us what we need? No - react; yes - move on. Repeat throughout the song.

CPU shouldn't be an issue if you use your DAW's freeze function - most have this.
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Re: Vocal chain advice

Postby Arpangel » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:11 am

I'm probably not going to be popular for the old cop-out "this is such a personal thing" etc.
But it is, just posting to give another side of the coin, I'm a believer in less is more, I love folk music, but I'm also familiar with Peter Gabriel, I love his voice too.
For lead vocals, my favourite approach is one mic, no processing at all, none.
I plug a Sennhieser MKH40 straight into a small Mackie mixer, then into the computer. This produces one of the most intimate and "real" sounding vocals I've ever heard "for my music"
But I think this is a good starting point for anyone, a mic, a mixer/preamp, start with this and see how it goes, it's surprising sometimes how we come back to a mix that we've added all sorts of processing to, only to strip it off later.
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Re: Vocal chain advice

Postby awjoe » Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:49 am

Arpangel wrote:... it's surprising sometimes how we come back to a mix that we've added all sorts of processing to, only to strip it off later.

It's like stripping it off is part of a process. You're enthusiastic in the beginning, so you add too much. Then you dial it back and A/B.

Or, it can go the other way. Recently I found out that the 'orchestral setting' in Ozone's Tonal Balance Control is really useful for reading the sound of acoustic recordings. It's part of the toolkit now. So it's possible to add something as easily as stripping something off. But yes to stripping/removing. Part of a process.
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