The most MAGICAL Waves plugins for Vocals
Direct, easy ways to get the lush, glittering vocals you've always wanted!
Before diving headfirst into a mix, and prior to applying any of the plugins mentioned below; it is always worth having a listen and adjusting the levels to roughly where you want them to sit in the mix, as this is a strong starting off point, and will help prevent more issues cropping up down the road.
Another thing that can save you vast amounts of time when working with vocals is removing any breaths, lip licking, smacking etc as these will only be enhanced with processing and effects. Removing dead air is also a huge help; as it will help you maintain your sanity as it makes the mix look a lot more organized, and shows you what comes in where at just a glance.
One of the main issues I came up against time and time again as an engineer starting out, was that my vocal mixes sounded thin,watery and harsh when compared to other vocal mixes; which were creamy and lush, whilst having that high end sheen (something which I could never manage to emulate) A turning point for me was watching Lu Diaz’s 3 Golden Rules for Low End Hip Hop Mixing, in which he discussed the fact that he uses multiple Eqs on some elements of this mix (in this case the kick); as each plugin adds a certain character, color and flavour to the sound it is processing, before you even do any adjustments; this concept was a turning point for me when it came to vocals, and made me a lot more aware of how the plugins I was using flavoured the vocals.
With all this in mind - these are direct, easy ways to get the lush, glittering vocals you always wanted, from someone who has had this exact issue and fixed it.
You can download fully functional 7 day free trials of all of the plugins mentioned below.
De-essing ( the control and reduction of harsh sibilance) can truly become one of the messiest and time consuming elements of a mix; and when not dealt with early on in the mix, can result in the vocals losing their sparkle as you try to reduce this harshness later on.
One of the best and most straightforward De-essers out there, which allows you to get the difficult and more boring part of a vocal mix out of the way, so you can enjoy the rest of the process.
This is the secret weapon to magical, glittering and creamy vocals in one plugin. Waves Maserati VX1 adds a lusciousness (especially to female vocals), and contains delay and reverb (which are subtle, and have a bulking effect on the vocal without making them sound too overcrowded). There is also an Air setting on this (this appears when you select Contour 3) which is exceptionally good on backing vocals, as it adds a lot of sparkle and life.
The VX1 can do a lot, and can also be used on other instruments due to the inbuilt effects. A lot of power is packed into one plugin here, and if your music is played on the radio or playlisted by Spotify, having this in your mixing chain will allow your vocals to hold their own against other commercial mixes.
Another powerhouse - CLA Vocals is one of the plugins from Chris Lord Algae’s ( Bruce Spingsteen, Greenday, Tina Turner) CLA collection with Waves. There is so much packed into this one plugin, which saves you from having to use multiple plugins and effects, which helps cut down on CPU.
In addition to compression, you can control the bass and treble, add reverb, delay and chorus/doubling. Comes with tons of free presets so you can use this on multiple elements of your mix if you want. The subtle slap effect also really adds life to vocals, without dominating or muddying the mix.
Distortion is not just for industrial or in your face vocals; in fact distortion a lot of the time simply helps vocals cut through the mix, by giving them a slight edge. Waves Berzerk Distortion comes with tons of free presets from Dave Pensado, Lu Diaz, and more; the Subtle Vox Distortion is amazing and is one I have gone back to time and time again - as it adds warmth and character to any vocal, in any genre; that allows for it to be used even in the most sultry and romantic RnB.
Doubling adds a fullness and texture to main vocals and backing vocals without being too cloudy (for main vocals I would recommend putting this on a send) It also works extremely well with backing vocals, giving them a full presence in the mix without sounding too robotic and crowded. This will really fatten up your vocals, and allows you full control as to where you would like this effect added.
Are there any more Waves plugins or tutorials you would like for us to write about? If so feel free to get in touch.
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