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I get asked a lot about what vocal effects to use in your mixes. While there is no single correct answer, there are some general best practices that I think about when deciding how to process my vocals tracks. This quick tip was inspired by a question about where to put the de-esser in the vocal chain.

Vocal Effects Chain

Transcript »

Hello again! Dezz Asante here from the TechMuzeAcademy with another quick tip for you. This one comes again from a fellow Gear Sluzt forum member named Rob. Rob asked a very simple and short question. He says, “Is it ussually better to use a de-esser at the beginning of a vocal chain or at the end of its chain. “. That’s a good question.

Just to start off with a little bit of backgound. First of all, for those of you who may not be familiar what a de-esser is essentially, its like a Ben pass compressor. What I mean with that? It’s a compressor that affects only a certain band of frequencies in the audio file. So, often times as the name implies its use to get rid of the sibilance, the S’s and the harh T’s and things like that in a vocal track. So, you could isolate the frequency where that sound is and then you can apply a de-esser to sort of dip and compress down the sibilance whenever its a little unruly or out of control.

So, in answer to the question. There’s no strict rule as to what should be done. You’ll have to sort of determine you know the right choice for the specific situation at hand. But there’s a little of backround information  that will help to you make an educated a decision.

And the one thing is…well, the first thing to consider is what is your vocal chain. If your vocal is recorded pristinely, maybe you use some compression on input, all the levels are just great and it doesn’ really need much of anything then ofcourse it might not be a relevant question. You might be just putting a little de-esser on to tame those sibilance and off you go with the rest of your mix. Now, if you are going to have a little bit of your processing going on in your signal change, some EQ, some compression,things of that nature then ofcourse at this point you need to consider the plugin order because it does dramatically affect the results.

The first thing to consider is, is that de-esser because its taming that sibilance, you want to determine if your going to be using compression after it. The reason is, is because your compressor is going to act upon the entire vocal signal, all of the frequency bands. So, if your sibilance is quiet a bit louder in volume than the rest of the signal, then you’ll have to keep in mind that that sibilance is going to be triggering the
compressor not the de-esser but the compressor to respond first. So, that sibilance is going to cause a pump, a pull down in the on the dynamics depending on how you’ve setup your compressor of course – attack, release, ratio and threshold. So, that sibilance is going to be triggering the compressor to jam down on that signal before the rest of the vocal has even reach the threshold.

So, this could potentially cause sort of a unwanted kind of pumping pushing type of sound to the mix, everytime that there’s a sibilance and as T or anythng like that. So, my sort of general best practice most of the time would be to use that de-esser, to even out the sound first, to tame and control that sibilance and then use your compressor after it, so that you’re getting a nice and even compression accross the entire frequency bands of that vocal. Okay!

So,that is the sort of general preffered method and since we’re on the topic of vocal chain anyway let me breakdown sort of a good starting point for your vocal chain in general. The way I like to begin is is I like to begin in most cases if needed with a subtrative EQ. So I’ll place an EQ first  in the path and I will remove any frequencies that aren’t musically relevant. In a lot of cases thats low end frequencies in a vocal, specially a female vocal. There’s not a lot of useful information down in the low end of the frequency spectrum. So, I’ll typically use a high pass filter and roll off a lot of that low end. And just any subtractive frequencies, anything thats a little harsh on the ear or annoying to the ear, I’ll just dip those out to the degree that its appropriate. From there, I’ll use my de-esser to tame the sibilance as we’ve been talking about today. After that I’ll use my compression typically again if need to balance out the dynamics, level out the dynamics and to sort of and add a degree of closeness that I want
because as you may and may not know, a compressor as it starts to pull down the audio and as you increase the game, the make up game back to the same level that the audio started with, you’re bring up the lower level, the lower volume level frequencies. I don’t mean low frequencies. I mean low volume frequencies. You’re bringing them up a little bit and that has the psychoacoustic effect of causing the singer to appear
more close to the listener. So, I’ll use compression for that purpose as well. and then from that after my compressor I might if again, if it’s appropriate or if it’s needed use another EQ in an additive sense. So, I might add a little sparkle, maybe boost the upper end of the frequency range above 10k or so to get some of that air and presense into the signal, or maybe I might just pull-out the primary frequency of the vocal and just accentuate that a little bit with a choice EQ.

So, that in a nutshell is how I sort of generally approach my signal chain and again each of those components are optional. Some circumstances dont require all of those elements, others do. So, hopefully that helps answer the question about de-essing and a little bit more and  I’ll give a little insight on how you might approach your vocal chain.

So, thats the quick tip for today. I just want to let you know if you don’t already know that this show, these quick tips that I publish at the TechMuzeAcademy are also a podcast in Itunes. So, if you’re in Itunes and you’d rather subscribe and just get them automatically thats the way I recommend you do it. Head on over to Itunes and search for MixLessons online and you will find this podcast. And, you can set it and forget it and get every new episode as they are released. And I believe if I’m not mistaken you will find this show in the Blackberry podcast directory and the Zun podcast directory very soon as well. Those submissions have been made. So, Head on over to Itunes, subscribe to while you’re there.

Leave me some commnent, give me some feedback. Let me know what you think of the show and we’ll see you on the next quick tip.



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