Waves: Mixing an ENTIRE track with just one Vocal Plugin

Note: This was done out of genuine curiosity to see if it could be done, as this is a time where budgets are tight, and it was a fun experiment to see if this was possible on one of my own tracks. The only tools at my disposal for this mix are the Waves Maserati VX1 plus panning and volume automation. 

By Eimear O SullivanMusicngear Editor

Article photo - Waves: Mixing an ENTIRE track with just one Vocal Plugin


Article photo - Waves: Mixing an ENTIRE track with just one Vocal PluginThe Vocal Plugin: Waves Maserati VX1

Waves Maserati VX1 is a vocal plugin - created in collaboration with multi-platinum mixing engineer Tony Maserati (Mary J. Blige, Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, and Queen Latifa) as part of his signature series with Waves. A super useful part of this particular plugin is that it has a built in 2 part EQ (treble and bass) with FX (delay and reverb).


THE UNMIXED TRACK

A dreamy, electronic pop/disco song; layered female vocals, rich synths from a Roland Juno DI with smooth electronic drums. 


Observations:

  • Synths and vocals are competing for space
  • Vocals are a bit drowned out
  • Kick is a bit watery
  • Doesn’t gel together as one
  • Overall a bit overcrowded and muddy


Step 1: Cleaning up the mix

Prior to adding the VX1 to anything - I began with some light volume adjustments; attenuating the volume of the synth, slightly bringing up the volume of the vocals, snare and kick; in addition to panning the synths, claps and guitar.

VOCALS: May seem like an obvious choice, but as they are the centerpiece of this song, it is best to start there. I increased the volume of the vocals slightly; and attenuated the synth. I then placed the Maserati Pop Voice preset on them; and instantly the vocals sounded richer and were brought to the forefront. 

SYNTHS: This would have to be approached with caution - as the synths were rich, warm and full, I didn’t want them sounding too thin or muddy. I used the RWL Close GLAMMY Adt* and reduced the treble ( as my options are limited here and I wanted the high end to mainly belong to the vocal to reduce overcrowding and to allow them their glossy sheen at the front of the mix). However - the bass was slightly enhanced, in order to maintain the fullness of the synths.

KICK: This was by far the most challenging part as I was obviously using a plugin for something that it was never really intended for. However with a bit of fiddling - the results were immense. Upon initial placement - the whomping and boxiness of the kick was enhanced. However, upon isolating the kick from the rest of the mix and simply turning everything on the VX1 down to zero and building the kick’s sound back up from scratch yielded a smooth, electronic kick drum.

CLAP: I had several layers of claps - for these I added SlapAmp ClapDrums, and increased the air (air is a macros setting available on Contour 3) to give them an extra sizzle. 

BASS: I availed the Contour 3 section of the VX1 here, with a tiny bit of air and with relatively neutral settings resulting in a nice strong bass that didn’t overly clash with any of the other elements. 


Step 2: FX

I thought the synth was sounding a little lifeless so I decided to give it some extra life. Usually, around here I would add saturation, delays,reverb and a doubler, but in this instance I had just the one option.

I put Waves Maserati VX1 on a send, put it on contour 2 and ramped up the effects. This added a nice fullness to the synth without it being muddy or crowding the mix.

Next, I added a send with the Air setting turned up almost to the max; in order to add a bit of extra breath and shininess to the vocals and it sounded great.


MIXED TRACK

 

Conclusion

For a tool that was primarily built for processing vocals - Waves Maserati VX1 went above and beyond in every capacity and demonstrated immense versatility.

Aside from vocals - this plugin works very well on synths, guitar, bass and claps. Using this in tandem with free or stock EQs (and doublers, delays etc) in order to get a commercial mix is fully doable. The mix did involve a lot more thought and sweating, as when your tools are limited - you make choices a lot more carefully. 

About Eimear O Sullivan

Eimear Ann O Sullivan is a multi-genre music producer, audio engineer and vocalist. After receiving a Masters in Music Technology from the CIT Cork School of Music, she went on to operate as a producer under the name Blakkheart. Her releases have received critical acclaim from Ireland's biggest music publications, such as District Magazine and Nialler9, alongside receiving heavy commercial radio airplay. She currently works in Cork recording studio Flashpoint CC. Previous clients of hers include the likes of Comedy Central’s Dragony Aunt star Candy Warhol, rapper Darce and Outsider YP. (Photo credit @Fabian Boros)

Contact Eimear O Sullivan at eimear.o.sullivan@musicngear.com

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