Have you ever wondered why the pro singers sound so amazing in recordings? Yes they are great singers, but there’s more. There are secrets that’s kept within the music industry, and if you’re new to singing or recording you may not be aware of them. But if you really want to know, you’re in luck!
Here is a list of the most useful software that can make your voice sound as good as a pro singer, as these are actually used by the top music producers:
- Vocal tuning and time-shifting
- Equalizer (EQ)
- Effects (Reverb & Delay)
Vocal tuning and time-shifting
If you’ve tried recording your vocals into recording software, and when you play it back it sounds a bit out of tune and not on the beat, don’t worry! There are two kinds of software plugins that can solve your problem: vocal tuning and time-shifting. But modern software plugins usually come with them combined into a single piece of software. Here are 2 of the most commonly used pieces of software:
- Celemony Melodyne
- Antares Auto-Tune
Yes, Auto-Tune is actually the name of the actual software. Over the years artists have used it so much that it became known as the “auto-tune” effect.
The difference in Melodyne and Auto-Tune is mainly the interface and how we edit the vocal recordings. For me, I use Melodyne, because I love the way Melodyne shows the notes and I find it much easier to edit. However, it doesn’t really matter which piece of vocal tuning and time-shifting you use, as their functions are extremely similar. Instead, spend the time to learn the ins and outs of the software so that you can get the most out of it.
Vocal tuning can make your singing in tune, while time-shifting can shift each word sung to match the beat. Although, a word of caution, if you tune it or shift it too much, your vocals will start to sound like robots and unnatural. I personally would try to record the vocals as close to the final result as possible, then use the mentioned software to make minor adjustments. That way, the final recording sounds professional.
All sounds are made up of different frequencies combined in certain ways. By boosting or cutting away specific frequencies, we can shape the sound to be more pleasing to the ears. If you vocal recording sounds muffled or it doesn’t “shine”, an equalizer can come to the rescue!
Most digital audio workstations (DAW) come with free equalizers for you to use. However, if you don’t have it, here are some free equalizer plugins you can add to your recording software:
- Blue Cat’s Triple EQ
- IKJB Luftikus
- TDR Nova
Learning to use an equalizer can be daunting at first, as not only the concept isn’t easy, there are multiple different types of EQ, each with its own ways of shaping the sound. But don’t let it discourage you! Once you know how to cut away “muddy” frequencies (at around 200Hz and 400Hz), and boost frequencies that make vocals shine (at around 2-3kHz), it can really make a huge difference! Also, try adding “air” frequencies (above 10kHz) to let the vocals shine, don’t overdo it.
The way humans sing involves dynamics. We sing in different volumes in different phrases, each word also has its own dynamics. That’s just inevitable since the articulation for each word is different. That means if we record our vocals and play it back, some words may sound too loud and some can be hard to hear at all. This can be a big problem when we add the instrumentals, which will make the unevenness much more prominent.
The best way to tackle this issue is by using a compressor. What a compressor does is basically taking the loudest parts of the recording and lowering their volume, so that the whole recording sounds more even. By doing so, the vocal recording will have the effect of sounding closer to the listener. This is because when we speak close to one another, every word is much clearer than if we stand further away.
Over-compressing has its own issues too. Since the compressor will not only lower the loud parts of the recording but also the quiet parts too, resulting in an unnatural side-effect. The way to combat this issue is to make sure you know how to use a compressor and just take the loudest parts off. If 1 compressor isn’t enough to do the job, you can actually put one compressor after another, “chaining” them to achieve the result that you’re after.
Like the equalizer, most digital audio workstations (DAW) come with a free compressor plugin included. If not, you can have a look at these free compressor plugins:
- TDR Kotelnikov
- TLS 1295 LEA
- AdHd Leveling Tool
If you’ve used the pieces of software above, your vocals should sound close to the professional level you’re after. However, there is a secret sauce in producing vocals, and that is saturation.
Saturation is a type of distortion that adds “color” and “taste” to the recording. Again, use it carefully. By adding saturation to your vocals, it can really make the vocal recording stand out. Not only adding certain characteristics depending on what saturation you use but also separate it from the backing track just enough so that it sits above the instrumentals.
The choice of saturation will depend on your style and genre, and also which part of the song the vocal is in. For example, for a rap song, you may have a more gritty saturation applied, while a pop song may have a slight bright saturation added to it.
Unlike the equalizer and compressor plugins above, many digital audio workstations (DAW) don’t come with saturation plugins, so here are some of the best free saturation plugins for you:
- Softube Saturation Knob
- SGA1566 Tube Preamp
- Voxengo Tube Amp
Effects (Reverb & Delay)
Finally, we add time and space to the vocal recording. Pro singers have their recordings mixed by professional mixing engineers, who would add just the right amount of reverb and delay to make them sound superb.
Because we have so many different reverb and delay software plugins today, usually during the recording phase we want to record our vocals as “dry” as possible, meaning with minimal room influence. When we have the raw, dry recording, we can then add reverb to make the vocals sound like it’s in any room, hall, space we want! Even better, we can decide what kind of delay sound we want, even the reflection time. That means, we can structure the effects in such a way that it may be less in verses, and more in choruses.
By utilizing reverb and delay, we can really amplify the feelings the singer is trying to convey. So if you’re new to this, I strongly advice you to learn how to add reverb and delay effects to your own recording. You will find that just by adding even a little bit, your vocals will sound that much better, bringing you closer to getting that pro singer level.
Many digital audio workstations (DAW) come with stock effects. If you’re looking for free reverb and delay plugins, here’s a list:
- Tal Software Tal-Reverb 4
- Voxengo Oldskoolverb
- Valhalla Supermassive
- Valhalla FreqEcho
- Voxengo Sound Delay
- Variety Of Sound – NastyDLA