Creative Vocal Processing Part 1

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

When tackling a new remix — whether it’s a full vocal or trippy dub — you can get a more cohesive sound by re-purposing sections of the lead vocal to create clever effects that range from ethereal to hooky. This has the added benefit of reinforcing the identity of the original track, so you don’t drift too far into creating a mix that might better be used as one of your own tracks.

This month, we’ll look at one technique for transforming a vocal into something ethereal that will set your remixes apart — processing the vocal until it becomes a “cloud” of sound. Often, people just slather on reverb and delay — but the real secret involves the use of other effects to blur the line between an obvious vocal and a synthetic pad. Special thanks to Winter Kills for letting us use a capella vocals from their club hit, “Deep Down.”

Next month in Part 2, we’ll try a more advanced technique I call “digital glossolalia.” It’s all about re-ordering syllables from an existing vocal into new hooks that are naturally in tune with the original track. [Note: Click on the step headings below for audio examples!]

Step 1. Copy a short segment of the vocal to a new track, then crop it to just a few words.

Image placeholder title

Step 2. Now add a cool, complex delay, such as Logic’s Delay Designer. Here, I used Delay Designer’s “Gallop” preset.

Image placeholder title

Step 3. Next, add a simple medium reverb. Nothing too complex — just a bit of hall ambience. Logic’s GoldVerb is a handy tool for this.

Image placeholder title

Step 4. At this point, we need to dirty up the vocal to make it more synth-like. Distortions, bit crushers, or a tiny touch of ring mod are all excellent choices. Logic’s Spectral Gate (shown) is a totally unique tool for this task, so we applied a modified version of its “Arctic Radio Broadcast” preset.

Image placeholder title

Step 5. The results are a little low-mid heavy, so we apply a highpass filter to tame the boominess.

Image placeholder title

Step 6. Now to make the whole thing into a cloud. Run these results into a long, fizzy reverb (such as Logic’s PlatinumVerb, shown) with few early reflections, emphasized highs and attenuated lows. Remove all dry signal for maximum diffusion.

Image placeholder title

Step 7. Finally, to give the part some bounce, add a rhythmic tremolo or auto-pan that’s synced to tempo. Here, we added a drum loop from Logic’s Apple Loops library and applied a quarter-note auto-pan to the “cloud” effect.

Image placeholder title