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mksprior
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Any suggestions on the order of my insert fx?

Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:19 am

I am creating a channel strip setting for vocals. I've decided that my channel strip will contain the following ingredients but would appreciate suggestions about the order they should be placed in (in other words, what is the ideal signal chain for these effects)?

COMPRESSION
DE-ESSER
GENTLE DISTORTION
AMP SIMULATOR
PITCH CORRECTION
REVERB
DELAY
NOISE GATE
EQ
EXCITER

Thanks,
Matt
 
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David Nahmani
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:10 am

Hmmm let's see, I hope I'm not offending, but your question is little bit like: "I've decided that I was going to write a song with the chords C#min, D#min7, G and F#7. What is the ideal order for those chords?"

Answer?
1) How did you come up with that decision?
2) There's no ideal order.

The reason I ask 1) is because usually, you don't decide which plug-ins you need, then think about the order in which they should be. You decide what your sound needs (or doesn't need) and add it (or take it away). So as you sculpt your sound you should be able to tell if you want to first EQ, then compress, or first compress, then EQ....

Having said that, here is how I would usually work with vocals - but keep in mind that it's an artistic decision, so it may vary depending on the vocals, the way they were recorded, the song, its genre, the result I want, and my mood of the day!

1) EQ
2) Compress
3) Send to delay using bus
4) Send to reverb using bus

I've never used a Noise Gate on vocals. I don't like using De-essers - maybe because I've never used a good one? Anyway I de-ess manually: automation.

If I add gentle distortion or exciters (not always) then it's going to be between 1) and 2) most of the time, sometimes after compressing if I want a more consistent distortion.

If I use an amp simulator like Guitar Amp Pro, I'll use that on an aux to mix some of the dry signal with it.

Pitch Correction should be first or just after EQ.
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fader8
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:48 am

Pursuant to David's excellent response, I have to agree that it would be difficult to prescribe a setup and insert order that could always be used for any vocals. The difference between vocalists is just too extreme. If it was always the same vocalist, always with the same mic and preamp, in the same place, (and state of mind) then yeah, maybe you could settle on something you like. Then the song itself becomes a variable though.

For example, I'll tend to use eq before compression if I'm going to cut, but will use it after compression if I need to boost something. Also, you need to consider an aux channelstrip setting too for those times when you have a lot of vocal rides. Inserts are pre-fader. By setting up your dynamics post-fader , they don't have to work as hard, ie they're less noticable, because you've handled the worst of it with automation on the track channel. My vox track channelstrips usually have no plugs at all.

Good luck with it!
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:12 am

fader8 wrote:
Also, you need to consider an aux channelstrip setting too for those times when you have a lot of vocal rides. Inserts are pre-fader. By setting up your dynamics post-fader , they don't have to work as hard, ie they're less noticable, because you've handled the worst of it with automation on the track channel. My vox track channelstrips usually have no plugs at all.


Good point, in fact I use that technique sometimes. I used to do that all the time, and somehow thought I invented the trick (we probably all thought that at some point unless it was shown to us I guess).

My trick was to insert the compressor on the Aux, set it to be in the ballpark, then ride the vocals until the gain reduction meter on the compressor was barely doing anything anymore. Then sometimes I would actually get rid of the compressor altogether!
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carrmar
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:45 am

David and Fader8,

You guys are both right...to an extent.

Consoles have a a 'set signal path' and people have been using those for the majority of modern production history.

A typical path of a console channel strip might be: mic/instrument preamp, high- and lowpass filters, a compressor, gate and an equalizer

Just thought I would share...
 
carrmar
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:57 am

If you would like to create a template with pre-made channel strips, I would stick to Compressor, EQ, and Filters. Things like delay, reverb, and distortion are dependent upon the song.

I use a template everyday with pre-made channel strips. However, I send each channel out to three AUX channels (1 for monitoring and 2 for FX) and leave those AUX channels clean.
 
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:09 pm

carrmar wrote:
I would stick to Compressor, EQ, and Filters.


See that's funny: my default channel strip has EQ and filters, then compressor. If my track has some low rumbling that I want to filter out, I don't want that energy triggering the compressor - or you can get some very odd unnatural results.
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:43 pm

The very 1st thing I would put in is the Noise gate and let it do what it was intended to do, keep out any unwanted noise and shut the mic off when you aren't speaking/singing into it. This will save you the trouble of removing the noise AFTER you have inadvertently recorded it. It keeps all that background noise out like cars, birds, air conditioners, and the occasional and/or accidental fart.

The best thing is an awesome microphone that will reproduce the most natural uncolored sound in your recording. If you cannot afford that, then make use of the Compressor, Limiter, and Expander. The order will depend on what you want to achieve. Most of the time I have it set up so that I can SCREAM or whisper, and it will all be about at the same level.

That is the basis for me. After that it is on to the effects processing.

One other key for me is to keep things sub grouped in the mix. Drums grouped, Instruments grouped, and vocals grouped (Main vocals grouped separate from harmonies).

Everyone has a different method and that's mine.
 
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:32 pm

David wrote:
I used to do that all the time, and somehow thought I invented the trick

LOL! I'm perfectly fine with you taking credit for it! That way, if it happens to occassionally sound like like hell, we can blame you. :wink:

David wrote:
carrmar wrote:
I would stick to Compressor, EQ, and Filters.


See that's funny: my default channel strip has EQ and filters, then compressor. If my track has some low rumbling that I want to filter out, I don't want that energy triggering the compressor - or you can get some very odd unnatural results.


The very reason good consoles allow you to swap the eq and comp in the signal path. We're very fortunate with DAWs that we can have it any way we like. It's not unusual for me to sandwich a comp between two eq's. Cut the bad stuff goin in and bump the good stuff goin out!
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David Nahmani
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:40 pm

fader8 wrote:
David wrote:
I used to do that all the time, and somehow thought I invented the trick

LOL! I'm perfectly fine with you taking credit for it! That way, if it happens to occassionally sound like like hell, we can blame you. :wink:


Well there's quite a few amazing things I invented in my youth, only to realize later that it had been invented way before my time :mrgreen: .

Take, for example, my first electric guitar: frustrated by saving money for years to finally be able to buy my dream $150 first guitar, and realizing I would have to wait another few years to buy a guitar amp, I decided to plug the instrument into my dad's reel to reel 1/4" tape recorder. With the line in gain all the way up I got that great horrible fuzz that I loved so much. I thought I had invented distortion!

Later when I finally got an amp I was so disappointed by the "real" guitar distortion sound. :wink:
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nikkik
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:21 pm

*Most* of the time I go Dynamics, then EQ/filter(s). However, I have also done EQ/filter(s)->Dynamics->EQ/filter(s) as well. EQ->Dynamics is a lesser used chain for me.

I think the main reason was since boosting/cutting can lead to enough alteration of how the dynamics side is "working," whereas after dynamics, it cannot.

Yet other times will end up with, as David said, dynamics being pulled altogether. Yet other times, the EQ setting is "there" for the most part, insert dynmics after to level it out a tad, and then find I want to do just a bit with EQ after.
Strict filtering I will often do before dynamics if it is to clean something up, or to remove it so as to NOT affect how the dynamics will perform...such as using an LPF to remove some low-end "push" that I just know will influence the operation of the compressor; then, EQ/filter after to add back in a little. So many ways and reasons. Experiment, and then what sounds best...is best :D
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carrmar
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:35 pm

ShiverMeTimbers --

I haven't bothered to learn the quote feature on this site yet, but you wrote:

"Most of the time I have it set up so that I can SCREAM or whisper, and it will all be about at the same level.
That is the basis for me. After that it is on to the effects processing."

Aren't you scared that no matter how many FX you send your vocal to and no matter how many tools you use to distort it, your voice will be squashed? I am a freak for vocal dynamics. I like them to shoot up from out of nowhere sometimes when the singer is opening up...

How much compression are you applying in order to have whispers and screams at the exact same level?
 
mksprior
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:47 pm

Thanks for all your interesting answers. However I still feel a bit overwhelmed by the masses of possible orderings of these effects. Maybe it's easier if I break it up into smaller questions...

1) Say I add reverb and delay through a 'send', is it the norm to add the reverb to the post-delayed signal (i.e. the original vox plus added delayed vox) or just the original signal? Surely there's a 'normal procedure' here?

2) Say I have enhanced the vocal take with a gentle distortion or exciter, should this 'wet' signal be fed to the reverb or is it generally the case that reverb is generated from the original dry signal?

3) On a slightly different note - would you ever use an expander on a vocal? If so why? Would you use it on top of compression? Seems strange as they are working in opposite directions....

4) Does Logic allow me to adjust the order of the inserts once they have been put in place? E.g. I have compression at the top of the list and I need to move it to second place... How?

Thanks,
Matt
 
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Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:22 pm

mksprior wrote:
Thanks for all your interesting answers. However I still feel a bit overwhelmed by the masses of possible orderings of these effects. Maybe it's easier if I break it up into smaller questions...

1) Say I add reverb and delay through a 'send', is it the norm to add the reverb to the post-delayed signal (i.e. the original vox plus added delayed vox) or just the original signal? Surely there's a 'normal procedure' here?

Typically I use reverb(s) n a mix on Aux tracks, fed via sends (assigned to busses in Logic; naming busses and Auxes is highly recommended IMO). Believe it or not, unless an instrument is using the delay as a part of a special effect, I will typically do that on an Aux, and send to it as well. Why? Allows me to isolate ANY effect (delay, reverb, chorus, etc), send THAT effect to another (such as sending the delay Aux to the reverb), and also allows me to mix the effected signal and dry signal to taste, and also allows me to buss several instruments to that one effect, if desired.

Another example is doing the "parallel drum mix" thing, and iinstead of outputting to two Auxes, I will output to one (main drum submix), and then use sends on the drums I want to slam to the second drum sub. I might even do a third sub, high pass it, and add some overdrive. As has been said- SOOOO many choices, and with DAWs, the sky is nearly the limit now.

mksprior wrote:
2) Say I have enhanced the vocal take with a gentle distortion or exciter, should this 'wet' signal be fed to the reverb or is it generally the case that reverb is generated from the original dry signal?


I would go mix by mix. I might create a copy of the vocal track, leave the one dry(ish), and then use the second to beat the pee out of with effects like distortion and stuff inline. This way, I could then control how much of which vocal (dry or effected, or both) goes to which Aux with whatever effect(s) I have on them. I might want the distorted vocal to go to a reverb with a high pass, EQ, and dynamics to give it a far, far away sound. Then send to the main reverb as well (less signal), and where ever else i want. With the number of tracks we can do now, and so long as signals are verified to be in phase (delay compensation, which Logic has), copying tracks is easily handled, and an excellent idea. Freeze em, print em, whatever even. Flexability is king, and we have the facilities for it!

mksprior wrote:
3) On a slightly different note - would you ever use an expander on a vocal? If so why? Would you use it on top of compression? Seems strange as they are working in opposite directions....


Not normally, but ya never know! Experiment, have fun. Isolate something, and slowly play.

mksprior wrote:
4) Does Logic allow me to adjust the order of the inserts once they have been put in place? E.g. I have compression at the top of the list and I need to move it to second place... How?

Thanks,
Matt


Yes. Hover the mouse, and then Control or Command (cannot recall which offhand, sorry) and the mouse will change to a hand. Drag the insert up or down, and drop. they will reorder automatically. Also, you can that plus Alt to copy an effect (including the settings) from one insert to another, same track or different track. Cool stuff!
nikki :D

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Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:53 pm

carrmar wrote:
ShiverMeTimbers --

I haven't bothered to learn the quote feature on this site yet, but you wrote:

"Most of the time I have it set up so that I can SCREAM or whisper, and it will all be about at the same level.
That is the basis for me. After that it is on to the effects processing."

Aren't you scared that no matter how many FX you send your vocal to and no matter how many tools you use to distort it, your voice will be squashed? I am a freak for vocal dynamics. I like them to shoot up from out of nowhere sometimes when the singer is opening up...

How much compression are you applying in order to have whispers and screams at the exact same level?


For the 'Quote' function, simple click on the Quote button and edit what you need.

The Screams and whispers are not exactly the same, but in the ball park so that I get a fullness rather than the loudness. It isn't only the compressor doing the work, it's also the expander and limiter. It is more like a compander.

Using an audio version of photography 'Depth of field,' I wanted to have only a specific space picked up by the mic. It was also in the analog world with analog equipment. I can get a similar effect in Logic and it is not a sound you want on every vocal recording.
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donteatcats
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Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:46 pm

EQ
COMPRESSION
DE-ESSER
GENTLE DISTORTION
AMP SIMULATOR
NOISE GATE
PITCH CORRECTION
DELAY
REVERB
EXCITER
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Jfever
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Re: Any suggestions on the order of my insert fx?

Fri Aug 12, 2016 4:30 am

" By setting up your dynamics post-fader , they don't have to work as hard, ie they're less noticable, because you've handled the worst of it with automation on the track channel."
Old thread ... Can someone help me understand this statement? Thanks
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David Nahmani
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Re: Any suggestions on the order of my insert fx?

Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:08 pm

Jfever wrote:
" By setting up your dynamics post-fader , they don't have to work as hard, ie they're less noticable, because you've handled the worst of it with automation on the track channel."
Old thread ... Can someone help me understand this statement? Thanks

Let's compare the two situations:

1) Insert a compressor in the Audio FX section then automate the volume on the channel strip fader: 
If at some point your singer screams a super loud note, the compressor will squash it down. There won't be much for you to automate because the compressor already took care of it. If the compressor has a certain color, it will impart its color to that loud note. Even if you feel like turning that note further down with automation, you'll hear the the color of the compressor. 

2) Automate the volume on the channel strip fader then compress further down the line (for example route the output of the channel strip to a bus and insert the compressor on the corresponding Aux). 
In the same situation, you will automate your loud note to taste, and the more volume automation you use, the more consistent the audio signal will be at the input of the compressor - therefore the less the compressor will work, and the less you'll hear it. 
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angelonyc
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Re: Any suggestions on the order of my insert fx?

Mon Aug 15, 2016 9:46 am

I believe less is more..  If the music is loud enough background noise from the mike won't be an issue.. I do on occasion, delete the audio out of vocals and instrumental tracks.. i prefer not to use noise gates. However, if the song file gets corrupted (and it will happen to you at some point).. one of the first thing to go is the pointers of where the parts were.. So audio will not be in the place it was.

Although some might disapprove, I go into the audio file, and change gain of small offending sections..  My experience has been.. over a long period of time..  Plug-ins come and go. and eventually some will not work.. To be safe, I would make a copy of your processed track, and leave in song as a safety.  

Between mikes, singers, plug-ins,  the number and order of plug-ins will change. However it doesn't hurt to have a template already to save time..   

I have a subtle hardware limiter on RME interface and use that.. 
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