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How to Process Vocals: 3 Levels of Vocal Effects (Free Vocal Samples Included)


Hi there! My name is Yannek Maunz, happy to be back here on Production Music Live! This time with a “3 Levels of Vocal Production” tutorial - from beginner techniques, through intermediate, all the way to pro level processing. 

Let’s get started!

Level 1: Beginner Techniques

- Cutting the audio for manual gain reduction

Instead of using heavy compression, I manually turn down parts of the vocal which are much too loud. This way I reduce the dynamic range of the vocal even before it hits the compressor, which allows it to work much better.

- Cutting out pops and clicks from the audio 

If I can, I always go in manually and cut out fragments of audio which might have any distortions.

- Simple low cut EQ

Before I start doing any more complicated processing, I add a simple low cut EQ to remove any noisy or muddy frequencies that might be in the lower and sub frequencies.

- Reverb

Reverb is my first crucial effect in the chain. It’s important to turn on High Quality mode - and then control the Decay and Dry/Wet knobs. If you’re looking for more of a “feel” of reverb, then turn up the knobs slightly. If you’re looking to put your vocal into a big space, turn them up more (up to 10 seconds of decay).

- Echo (delay)

I also use delay - either just a slight one for a “feel”, or a rhythmic delay to fill out gaps. If I’m going for a slight delay, I use the “Time” mode with a maximum of 70 ms, and I set different delay times for the left and right channels. If I’m going for a rhythmic delay, I use “Notes” mode (same for L and R channels), with times like 1 bar or 1/2.

Here’s how our vocal sounds with Level 1 processing:


Level 2: Intermediate Techniques

- Using Return Tracks

With Echo and Reverb I always try to use return tracks to get much more flexibility with processing. 

With Echo, I’m able to use Sidechain Compression to take the delay out whenever the main vocal is present. I also use an EQ to cut out the mid frequencies - therefore making the echo less present in the mix.

- “Split Band De-Esser” (Multiband Compressor)

On the main track, I’m using this preset from the Multiband Compressor to reduce the sharp “S” sounds from the vocal. I usually adjust the Dry/Wet knob until I find a sweet spot.

- Saturation

I use the Saturator Audio Effect to add some extra grit to my vocals. I simply dial in plenty of drive, then reduce it at the end of the effect with the “Output Gain”. Once that’s done I mix it in slightly using the Dry/Wet knob.

- EQ Three

I also use the default preset of “EQ Three” to add some air to the vocal by boosting the “High” band by 6 dB.

Here’s how our vocal sounds with Level 2 processing:


Level 3: Advanced Techniques

- Fabfilter Pro Q 3

With this plugin I’m doing a low cut, and using some dynamic EQing to remove the “S” sounds whenever they appear harsh.

- Klanghelm DC8C 3

This plugin is an analog-style compressor and saturator which I use to beef up the vocal.

- Fresh Air

Fresh Air is a free plugin which I use to bring up some of the “airy” frequencies of the vocal.

- Echoboy Return Track

I use Echoboy as my delay of choice on the return track.

- Valhalla VintageVerb

I use the Vintage Verb or the Shimmer from Valhalla to replace the stock Ableton reverb.

- Decapitator Return Track

As for saturation and distortion, I use Decapitator on the return track. I use quite bright settings and mix it in slightly.

- Microshift

I often use Microshift to slightly increase the stereo image of a vocal - add a bit of “roomy” quality to the sound.

- Reversed Reverb

Once all of these effects are in place, I often use a long reverb (for example Blackhole) and bounce a fragment of the track to audio. Then I reverse it for a cool introductory effect before the vocal.

Here’s how our vocal sounds with Level 3 processing:

Alright, I hope I could help you out with your vocal tracks.

We’ve just released this free sample pack - Vocal Shots Volume 1 - you can download it right here in our Freebies section.

I’ll see you soon on PML!

- Yannek


See Also:

How To Create A House Beat in Ableton Live 11 (Beginners)

How to Make a "Reverse Reverb" Effect for Vocals in Ableton Live

How to Master a Track like a Pro with Free Plugins Only in Ableton Live


Vocals Vol.1 - Sample Pack

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About Vocals Vol. 1

The pack contains female and male acapellas in the style of Anjunadeep, Siamese, Infinite Depth, Spinnin', Armada, Kontor, All Day I Dream, Afterlife and many more. It was never easier to create a vocal track.

The mixture of dreamy, deep and powerful vocal recordings make this pack a real gem. Every sample is professionally mixed and mastered with dry and wet options.

You get 300+ Vocal Phrases, Loops and Fx - professionally recorded, processed, mixed & mastered. 100% Royalty Free!


What's Inside Vocals Vol. 1

300+ Vocal Samples:


  • 145 Dry Samples
  • 36 Phrases Long
  • 20 Phrases Shorter
  • 10 Whispers
  • 40 Ahs, Ohs and Uhs
  • 10 Vocal Drones
  • 20 Inhales & Exhales
  • 10 Spoken Words
  • 160 Wet Samples (With Added Effects)
  • All 145 Corresponding Samples from the "Dry" section
  • 15 FX (Riser, Pitched, Reverse)

Click here to learn more about the Vocal Sample Pack.

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