You are here

Nick Cave style vocal reverb and effects

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Moderator: Moderators

Nick Cave style vocal reverb and effects

Postby Charan Ranganath » Sat Dec 19, 2020 2:01 am

Hello, I'm a new member, and a total amateur when it comes to home recording. I recently upgraded from GarageBand to Logic Pro and have become familiar with it, but still don't know very much, so please bear with me.

I'm doing a pandemic project with friends, where we pick out songs to cover. It started out with Joy Division covers, and then New Order, Devo, Interpol, etc. My friends send parts, I add guitars and vocals, mix it down, and we share for free on bandcamp.

In general, I find every aspect of mixing and mastering to be challenging, but I'm writing here because I've really had a problem with getting decent effects on vocals. A lot of the bands we cover use echo and reverb, and some seem to use some overdrive as well. The best sounds I've been able to get have come from running the vocals through a clean vox guitar amp emulator, but it's not great. I don't know how you get that ubiquitous reverb that people use to make vocals sound professional, let alone the more unique echo/reverb effects used by some of the musicians I've described above.

The latest song we picked out is "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and I feel like I could use some help on this. Reverb is just so essential for the Nick Cave sound, and I have not been able to get close to that kind of sound. I'm sure delay, compression, eq, etc. are part of the equation too. But anyway, I was wondering if anyone could offer any pointers on how to get into the ballpark using Logic plugins.

Thanks in advance for your help!
Charan Ranganath
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 19, 2020 1:46 am

Re: Nick Cave style vocal reverb and effects

Postby blinddrew » Sat Dec 19, 2020 12:03 pm

The first thing to ask is how you're applying your reverb(s)?
Are you adding them to each channel as you might with an eq, or are you setting them up on separate channels and sending the signal to them?
Have a shufti at this too: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... ing-reverb
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 14193
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Nick Cave style vocal reverb and effects

Postby Charan Ranganath » Sat Dec 19, 2020 8:47 pm

@blinddrew Thank you for your response. I have tried both adding reverb as a channel effect and also tried sending the signal to a bus with reverb. (ditto for compression, eq, etc). I will take a look at the link. In the meantime, do you have any insights into the kind of vocal processing that could get you into the zone for this song? https://youtu.be/KGD2N5hJ2e0
Charan Ranganath
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 19, 2020 1:46 am

Re: Nick Cave style vocal reverb and effects

Postby CS70 » Sat Dec 19, 2020 9:50 pm

Charan Ranganath wrote: I don't know how you get that ubiquitous reverb that people use to make vocals sound professional, let alone the more unique echo/reverb effects used by some of the musicians I've described above.

The latest song we picked out is "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

I've listened to that song (I like Nick Cave but have never really listened to much of his stuff) and there's really not a lot of evident reverb going on? I mean, take for example Adele's "Hello" - there you really hear the reverberation clear and upfront. In Nick's song, there's just a short hint to the vox - its sounds almost dry,

That said, however: that "professional" reverb, at least how I do, is due to just a few things. First, decide if you really want the reverb as an effect, or just as an added filter to the vocal. Meaning: do you want to hear the echoes or not? In the song above, Adele likes her echoes. Nick, not so much :)

That determines two things: the length of the reverb and the predelay: long reverb, more chance that the decay will be long enough to end up in the space between two words. The predelay is how you move it there. :) Then, the specific sound. A small room has a short reverb. A large hall has a long one.

Third, you *really* EQ the return. A "weigh" reverb, for example, you keep it loud but use a high shelf to really cut down the highs. This will give really weight to the midrange but eliminate that fake "echo" effect. An "echo" reverb is harder, you need to spend more time listening to the sound as it can quickly sound metallic and phasey at the high and that high end is what you need! I absolutely love the Lexicon reverbs for this, but there's others as well. In an echo reverb, you may want to boost the highs while keeping the midrange in check, and work the predelay the same way. Finally, you use a lowpass to cut down the echoes to where they sound controlled and beautiful as opposite to plastered on.

Note I haven't mentioned too many early reflections and decay.. if you find even the pre-delayed reverb filters your vocal too much, you can try to reduce the early reflections. Or change reverb. Or EQ the heck out of its midrange.

Of course the return level is important. In Nick's case, the reverb that there is, is not high at all. In Adele's, it's huge, and therefore you need even more attention in whacking and cutting it with the EQ.

Finally, the last bit: automation. You may want more or less reverb in different parts of the song, or to explicitly emphasize certain words. That means really careful automation of the send or the return.

On top of all this.. sometimes you don't use a reverb at all, but just a delay!

But that's for another time. :)
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7737
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Nick Cave style vocal reverb and effects

Postby Charan Ranganath » Sat Dec 19, 2020 9:59 pm

This is great advice thank you! I feel a bit dumb for emphasizing the reverb now, but I was probably confusing the ambience of the instruments with the actual vocal effects. The general advice about reverbing vocals is nonetheless helpful!

In terms of other effects, like delay and compression and dirt are there any simple tips to get into the zone?
Charan Ranganath
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Dec 19, 2020 1:46 am

Re: Nick Cave style vocal reverb and effects

Postby CS70 » Sat Dec 19, 2020 11:06 pm

It's not really that different. Most "ambient" reverb is early reflections, but choose a suitable delay length, set the fader up enough, feed it from all tracks or usually buses (the more/less send, the farther/nearer the track will sound), EQ the return.

Compressing the reverb means either lowering the peaks (but as high freqs don't have much energy, there's usually not much to compress) or use the makeup gain to bring up the details. Both might or might not be useful, but it's really song dependent, or even better vibe-dependent.

Keep in mind there's no "professional" result, in the sense of one type of sound/timbre. There can be in a genre, and perhaps some popular modern genres tend to be on the washed side (as they are more sparse, and no guitars) but if you pick ten hit songs at random you'll hear ten different mixing styles, reverb included.

You just gotta go for what you think is right.. it's only if you think that something's not right that you worry.. and in the case, you should be able to articulate what it is, that's missing.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7737
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page