Three Ways To Liven Up Your Vocals With Spot Effects
In the vast majority of productions that feature a vocal, it is one of the elements that will be front and centre of the mix. This means that it will invite the focus of your listeners. Adding spot FX to your vocals is a great way of holding listener attention, while also showing off your production chops! Spot FX are one-off FX processes that can be achieved either through automation of through a non-real-time FX process such as Pro Tools Audiosuite.
If you listen to the vast majority of vocals on pop and EDM chart hits, you will hear that they are liberally scattered with these kinds of FX. Listening to some tracks is a good way to find some inspiration, but we have got a few tips for you here too, that will help to get you started.
1. Draw Attention To Specific Words
Are there certain words or phrases that are particularly important to the message of your song? Consider highlighting them with an FX process. There are a number of ways you can do this. You can layer up extra double-tracked vocals to accentuate a word; try adding to extra double-tracks panned hard left and hard right and your lead vocal will seem momentarily thicker and wider. You can try adding harmonies to specific words too, rather than to entire lines. This can be done by your vocalist or through use of pitch-shifting effects. Finally, you could try to modulate vocals with FX such as distortion and ring modulation to make certain passages stand out. Listen below to A$AP Rocky`s vocal on the line `hello earthlings` at 1:19.
2. Add A Reverse Reverb
This effect has been around for a while - and is famously used at the start of the vocal in Depeche Mode`s `Personal Jesus` (below) – but you will still hear it in the charts today. There are a few steps to this process. Firstly, take the word that you would like to apply the reverse reverb to, and reverse it. Secondly apply reverb to that word and bounce it down. Now, reverse the entire thing (word and reverb) so that the word is now playing back the correct way again – but now with a reverse reverb tail leading up to the start of it. You may need to boost the amplitude of the reverb tail to make sure that it is properly audible.
3. Add One-Off Delays
There is a good chance that you will have added some delay to your lead vocal as part of its processing chain. However, in addition to this, one-off delays can add some real interest to a mix. Look for points in your track when there is a pause in the vocal – perhaps at the end of a line – as these are the points in your arrangement when a delay will really stand out. You might even consider dropping some other instruments out of the mix at this point, if you want to draw even more attention to this effect.