When building a track, it’s important to understand how different sources are treated and the order in which they are treated.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the order. The following is just for reference.
Generally in home studios, we will record a source by using a microphone pointed directly at our instrument. That microphone feed then goes directly into our DAW (Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools) making sure we are not ‘clipping.’
We are going to use the example of recording a ‘lead vocal’ for this breakout.
High Pass Filter.
The next step is to make sure there is no excess ‘low-end’ in your source. Inside many EQ plugins we have at our disposal will be a high pass filter. This knob filters out any unwanted rumble that we don’t need. It’s important to not filter out too much. 60hz for most sources except for bass and kick drum, is a good starting place.
Next in the list is EQ. This is going to be solely for removing unwanted resonances or frequencies from our source. Often vocalists can have a lot of muddiness in the 350Hz area. This EQ is used to carve out some of that to make our vocals have more clarity. Similarly, some vocalist’s can have a lot of harshness in the 3-5k region. This EQ can be used to bring those frequencies down a touch.
Now that we have EQ’d our vocals, we are ready for some compression.
As discussed in other modules, we use compression to bring up the quieter moments and to control the louder moments of our source.
Compressors can also have an ability to give the source a particular desired tone.
One reason we may want to put compression after our first EQ, is because we want the compression to amplify the frequencies we like about the vocal. If we put a compressor before our first EQ, we are just increasing the level of the low rumble, muddiness and harshness.
So, to this point, we have used a low pass filter to get rid of the low rumble, EQ to take away any resonances we don’t like and then added some compression.
Now we run into another issue which occurs when adding lots of compression ie. the problem of the ‘S’ sounds within the vocal. Any word that has an ‘S’ in it, will suddenly become incredibly loud. We need a way to be able to control this. Enter the “De-Esser”.
This plugin will bring down those harsh frequencies in a natural way. However, don’t use too much or your vocalist will start to sound ‘lispy’.
Once we have our finished vocal, then we can send it to a delay or a reverb. Remember that the better your vocal sounds, the better the reverb will sound. If your reverb is sounding muddy, generally it’s because your vocal is muddy. Clean out the source and the effects will sound better!