What Effects Make Vocals Sound Better?

When it comes to mixing and mastering vocals, it all comes down to how well you can blend different plugins together to make your song sound great.

However, it could pose a challenge if you’re a newbie producer.

You may be wondering what vocal effects you could use to potentially improve your vocals and make them sound better.

Well the effects that will make your vocals sound better are:

Compression

Saturation

Equalization

Delay

Reverb

De Esser

Auto tune  (in some cases)

The above effects will make a notable difference in how your vocals sound (without completely changing them),

therefore let’s get into each one and see what they primarily do to your vocals.

Compression

Compression is used to control dynamic range.

It is responsible for making sure that the louder and quieter parts of a vocal all have a consistent volume through out the song.

Naturally it is difficult for a person to record vocals at a consistent volume level,

which will lead to some parts of the vocal being too loud and other parts of the vocal being too quiet.

When you play this kind of vocal it will be difficult to listen to, and it will sound unprofessional,

that’s why a good compression plugin can help you deal with the variance in the range of a vocal.

compression is not just for automatic level control,

it is also used to add transients to a vocal to make it more sonically appealing.

Therefore in other cases an engineer will use compression to control the dynamic range,

while in other cases the engineer will use compression to improve the overall tonality of a vocal.

therefore don’t limit the use of this cool effect, you can play around with it on your vocals until you find the optimal parameters that make your vocal sound better.

Saturation

Saturation is a tool that gives a vocal analog-like qualities.

In the old days you were able to capture the feel of recording using hardware like tape; that made vocals sound different.

Mix engineers that utilized tape created a some-what fuzzy feel to the vocals that displayed characteristics of a limiter and tape compression.

With digital recording it is an entirely different story;

Why?

Well, because everything above 0db is considered “clipping’,

which is not entirely true because most Digital Audio Workstations utilize what is known as a soft clipper on the master channel.

That is why you’re less likely to encounter any particular distortion when you induce some soft clipping on your vocals.

Good saturation will give your vocal the necessary harmonics, soft clip compression and warmth that will give it a full, punchy fuzzy feel.

That is why it is one of my go to effects whenever I’m processing vocals.

The good part about saturation is that you can add it to a variety of instruments or your master bus channel,

which means it’s a versatile and neat little tool that you can use in your mixing, mastering and any other processing.

EQ

Equalization (EQ) enhances the quality of vocals by ensuring that they sit and blend well with other instruments in the mix.

The EQ will deal with the 3 sections of any frequency spectrum which are; the low end, mid range and high end.

With vocals,

the low frequencies are moderately reduced,

to provide room for other low frequency elements.

Vocals will take up most of the mid-range and high end frequencies,

and EQ will help you to find any peaks or resonance that may be in the vocal,

once you identify these peaks you can easily roll them off.

EQ can be a great way to brighten up vocals and shape them to sound more smoother with great tonality and detail.

A good EQ is a necessity any time you’re processing vocals to cut away any unwanted frequencies,

reduce harshness, get rid of any low end and to add a little bit of color to them.

Delay

Delay is another useful tool that will improve and benefit your vocals.

By definition; Delay is an audio processing technique that records an input signal, then plays it back to create a repetition of the signal.

Therefore  a delay unit (which could be a vst plugin) stores the audio signal for a period of time that you specify and then sends it back out into the feedback or directly to the output.

A delay unit is controlled by feedback and time set by the user.

It is a great tool that can help you fill in the gaps,

especially when your vocal completely fades out,

which keeps your vocals interesting.

The last thing you’d want is a track sounding like a loop or monotonous.

Delay can also be used to create rhythms,

this can be done by using two delays on a single vocal,

with different feed back and times.

which is a cool way to mix things up and make your song more interesting.

Delay may seem like a simple too that you just need to slap on your vocals and get on with something else,

but trust me it pays to actually take the time to ensure that your delay is doing what you intend and want it to do.

Reverb

Reverb is short for reverberation, which an effect that mimics what it sounds like when sound waves bounce off surfaces.

Which means that the listener will first hear the original sound from the source which will then be followed by the reflected waves.

Reverb is a neat little tool that can help you add a significant wet effect to your vocals,

which is great because a rough dry vocal won’t do any good.

Using reverb is also a great way to fill out any spaces in your vocal,

plus give them increased fullness and and sustain to make them sound more natural.

You have to be careful not to use a lot of reverb because it will push your vocals back in the mix therefore washing it away,

making it lose its energy and momentum.

De-esser

A de-esser is definitely a necessary tool in audio processing;

De-esser’s reduce or attenuate sibilance or any harsh high frequencies in a vocal.

it is always a necessary step to carry out when processing vocals and it is not always an easy task one,

especially if you plan to do manual de-essing rather than using ready-made plugin presets.

But the benefits of a good de-esser will leave you with clean vocals that don’t have any distracting high frequencies and/or sibilance.

This is definitely an effect that you should invest some time in to learn and apply.

Autotune

Autotune is a pitch correction tool that corrects pitch errors especially in singing.

it is widely known now because it has been greatly adopted by most new wave musicians,

and it maybe known in some circles as the T-Pain effect.

Which is essentially an effect that makes a vocal have an electronic feel to it, usually as result of tuning the Retune speed.

but if you’re looking to correct pitch and add a little harmonics, a light touch of Autotune can make this happen.

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