Want Your Vocal Sound to Kick A*s? Use This Simple Technique.

Vocals.  The end-all be-all of any mix.  A bad vocal sound equals a bad mix.  Period.

When’s the last time you heard someone whistling a guitar solo as they walked down the street.  Exactly.  It’s melody or nothing kids, now let’s make the vocals shine with a parallel vocal chain.

Now though using a parallel chain on vocals works for just about any mix (I use it to some degree on about 95% of the mixes I do), it works especially  well for more aggressive vocals.  So when the guys in Panic Tape hit me up to mix their EP, I knew this would be perfect for them.  Let’s dive in.

 

Here’s what we’re working with….gritty, heavy, and cool as hell.  Take a listen to the vocal in the first song:

 

So what’s going on there?  Well…a lot.


1. Make an exact copy of your lead vocal.

ParallelVocalChain

Nothing special here. Just duplicate the track.


2. Add shitloads of compression, distortion, delay to the duplicated track.

ParellelCompressionChain

Parallel Vocal Chain.  Your mileage may vary.

We’re aiming to make a gritty, grimey, dark, low-mid-rangey aggressive track.  Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to sound good on it’s own.  We’re looking to augment the lead vocal, not replace it.

In this particular song, first I’m hitting TapeHead for some of that delicious harmonic distortion.  I have this set to the darkest setting for a mid-range emphasis.

Next is the stock distortion plugin Lo-Fi.  One of my all time favorites. Not only am I adding a bunch of distortion here, I’ve also brought down the sample rate and brought up the saturation…both of which will darken this track a bit.

After Lo-Fi is the all purpose SSL Channel strip.  Here I’m crushing the track like a muthafukkin’ boss.  We’re not looking for dynamics on this track, we’re looking for filler.  The compressor is shaving off a solid 14-16db, leaving this vocal begging for mercy.  None will be shown.

Finally into the Massey TD-5 delay.  Short delays here…no need for any long, trailing delays (though that could be cool in the right song!).  I’m looking to add depth to the main vocal and to set it back in the mix just a touch.


3. Sneak the parallel track back in underneath the lead. 

Take a listen:

Lead vocal track:

Now the parallel track by itself:

And now with the parallel track tucked in underneath the lead:


Simple pimple.  It adds some aggression, some depth, and some general sauciness.  Give it a try on your next mix and let me know what you think!


3x

Jeffro is a recovering gear-aholic who spends somewhere between 2 and 300 hours per week mixing music. Going strong in the studio world since 1999, he loves long walks on the beach, baskets full of puppies, and writing in the 3rd person. Shoot him an e-mail anytime.

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