In today's post I wanted to share with you a simple yet powerful vocal production workflow. I use this in pretty much all tracks I make and I encourage you to watch, because I think you will enjoy it not only for the value in it, but for the way it is presented :)
There are a few techniques I am using on the vocals in the video above:
- Time-stretching the vocal
- Pitch-shifting the vocal
- Using Waves' CLA Vocals plugin
Time-stretch to match the BPM of the beat
Time-stretching vocal audio files allow you to fit vocals that are in a different BPM than your beat. It's a processing mechanism, which allow you to shorten or extending the vocal sample to fit your tempo without pitching the vocal up or down.
It must be used carefully, however, because time-stretching audio files with significant amounts can add unwanted artifacts, which make your vocal sound glitchy. It sometimes can be used as an effect too, as seen in the video above.
There is typically a built-in functionality to do that in most DAWs.
Pitch-shift to match the key of the beat.
I really enjoy using pitched vocals. It can give a completely different feel to your track, especially if you are making electronic music. When your vocal sample is in different key than your beat pitching the vocal up or down is one way to make the vocal fit the music.
Most DAWs are also providing an easy way to do that to any audio file by default. You typically adjust how many semi-tones you want to pitch shift your vocal up or down depending on the difference with your track's key.
For example, if your song is in D, while your vocals are in G. You will need to pitch the vocals down 5 semi-tones to match the key. Another example, to make things clearer, your song is G#, the vocals are in E - you need to pitch shift the vocal down 4 semi-tones.
Last one is for you - how many semi-tones up or down are needed if you want to match a vocal in B, when your track is in C? (Answer at the bottom)
Auto-tune as an effect
I find auto-tune working great with pitched vocals. I would say it's a must. Just be careful with the Dry/Wet fader or knob.
Distortion and Compression using the Camel Crusher - a really useful and powerful free plugin to help saturate and make the vocal warmer
The Camel Crusher is probably one of the plugins I have used the most, not only for vocals, but for anything else you can think of. It's a combination of compression and distortion, which allow you to make any sound "in your face" by tweaking a few knobs. It's a simple yet really powerful tool that can help you improve your sound. I also use it as for saturation, when I want to add extra warmth to any element in the audio mix.
Do you know what's the best things about it? IT'S FREE.
Download: Camel Crusher Download
Delay - for fitting the vocal better
In pop and electronic music, just like in many different other styles as well, using a delay effect on vocals is a necessity. It's vital indeed and it can really help fit your vocal sample to your beat.
There isn't much to say about it than a suggestion to use it subtly. Overusing reverb or delay is never good for your overall mix. Also try experimenting with different delay times and feedback values.
CLA Vocals - for extra power - low-end subtle cut, high-end boost, compression, reverb, delay, stereo width
Waves' CLA Vocals is my personally favorite plugin for editing vocals...and actually not just that. I often find myself using it on piano, pads, lead synths and pretty much anything you could think of. Only thing I avoid is using it on drums. It rarely works for me.
The CLA Vocals plugin is an extremely simple way to turn your vocals from dry vocal audio files into beautiful professionally sounding vocal. For me, this plugin is a must for every music producer.
Answer: Pitch up 1 semi-tone