Vocal Editing

Before mixing it is important to start with a clean track. What does this mean? We can divide this process in to the following steps:

1. Cut out all parts where there is no vocal/rap present.

Example 1. Unedited vocal versus edited vocal.

In example 1 you can see the unedited vocal at the top and the edited vocal at the bottom. So what is the benefit of this? By editing your vocal in this way, you will eliminate room and other noices that were captured during the recording process, and thus create a cleaner track to mix. This step is especially crucial when the vocal is being compressed, as this will even out the dynamics, and thus amplify details such as room noice and other unwanted noices. Feel free to add fade-ins or fade-outs wherever needed.

Another way to do the same but less time consuming, is to gate your vocals. The downside to this, is that you have less control and that the entire vocal recording is being affected. A good plug-in for this job is the Fabfilter Pro-G. Of course any other gate could be used for this job.

Figure 1. Fabfilter Pro-G.

The settings in figure 1 are a good starting point. Play with the treshold until you get the desired effect. This plug-in, however, is not a necessity. Manual vocal editing remains the better option, this alternative solution only provides a quick and easy way to eliminate room noice or other unwanted noices.

2. Lower the volume of harsh syllables, especially for letters such as the T and S.

Example 2. Edited vocal syllable.

In example 2 you can see that we have selected (indicated with white) a harsh syllable and lowered the volume. In addition to this we added fade-ins and fade-outs for a smooth transition. Lowering harsh syllables has multiple benifits: First and foremost this will make the vocal not as harsh. This makes it possible to boost the high-end later in the mixing process, which makes the vocal cut through the mix without being harsh. Secondly, this will prevent the compressor from amplifying these harsh syllables. And last but not least, your DeEsser doesn’t need to work too hard, which allows you to tastefully use this without creating unwanted artifacts.

3. Manually adjust the dynamics.

Example 3. Manually adjusted dynamics.

In example 3 you can see at the top a very dynamic vocal recording and at the bottom an edited version with less dynamics. When we speak about dynamics, we are talking about the difference in volume. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, since the difference in dynamics can accentuate important vocal lines, and thus it is advised to not over do this. So why do we want to manually adjust the dynamics? There are multiple reasons: First and foremost, this will prevent the compressor from slamming the vocal in certain parts and from barely compressing the vocal in other parts. This will create a very unnatural vocal performance. And lastly, when the dynamics of the vocal are manually adjusted, your vocal will cut a lot better through your mix, which subsequently makes the mixing process easier.

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