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Voice Processing

Voice acting, singing vocals, narration… just about any flavor of recorded human voice can benefit from signal processing. I’ve developed some typical things I do whenever I’m taking a raw voice recording toward a finished audio product.

I heard Alex U. Case wisely suggest that audio practitioners not seek recipes, but strategies instead. Each voice and project may need different approaches so there is no perfect EQ setting, no perfect compression preset that can be used every time. So consider this a set of strategies – ideas worth your consideration to use or omit with a great sounding voice as the goal.

Randy Coppinger Voice Processing Chain: Cuts, Miscellany including gate and de-esser, Compression, Boosts, and Limiting

1 CUTS – Remove parts of the recording that won’t be audible, or that you don’t want audible. I am more likely to apply cuts to a voice recording than any other process. This seems to work much better when applied early, if not first, in the processing chain.

2 MISCELLANY – If a gate or de-esser is needed, I prefer to apply before compression.

3 COMPRESSION – Most voice recordings benefit from manipulation of the dynamic range. A range of audible effects can be achieved with compression, and there are various techniques for applying it. Most people get better and better at using compression over time, with a lot of trial and error in the early days. But the benefits are worth the effort.

4 BOOSTS – More obvious than cuts, EQ boosts can bring out parts of the spectrum the might otherwise be missed. Boosts are a double edged sword that can cause as much damage as benefit. It’s good to consider the larger audible context to use boosts effectively.

5 LIMIT – Voice may not need a limiter. They seem to work best when used judiciously, and last in the processing chain. True peak limiters are especially useful for finishing audio and avoiding distortion.

Most voice recordings benefit from some form of dynamics processing, AKA compression

10 Comments

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  1. David Das / Oct 13 2013 3:36 pm

    I agree with all this. I was looking forward to a discussion of more non-traditional processing to achieve certain effects. For example, what do you do when you want it darker and huskier? What do you do when you want various vintage effects, e.g. 60’s Motown girl groups, or 80’s highly processed vocals, or acoustic jazz vocals…

    Would love further articles on things like that. I’ll even volunteer to track some stuff to demonstrate (with a good singer)!

    • Randy Coppinger / Oct 13 2013 11:19 pm

      Thanks David. In short: choose a period microphone. There are many other techniques, but I like to start my sonic shaping at the mic.

  2. David Das / Oct 14 2013 10:01 pm

    I don’t disagree, but I do find that I can do much more character shaping after the recording (presuming a good full-frequency vocal mic), via compression styles, EQ, verb, and other tools. Those are areas I’d love to see explored.

    • Randy Coppinger / Oct 14 2013 10:35 pm

      Sounds like you’ve got a great beginning to an informative article. I’ll look forward to reading it. I might be able to recommend a collaborator if you want one…

      • David Das / Oct 14 2013 11:15 pm

        I foresee an entire curriculum based on this one discussion. 🙂 It would morph into dozens and dozens of offshoots into different effects styles. Definitely something I’d love to do at some point, and always open to collaboration.

Trackbacks

  1. The Complete Guide to Mixing Vocals: Dynamics
  2. The Complete Guide to Mixing Vocals: EQ
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  5. ASSG – Stephanie Sheh AT5040 / U87 Mic Comparison

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