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Vocal Delays- Without the Mush!


fader8

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I've had a request to write up how to do tempo based vocal delay effects that can be prominent in the mix, yet not turn your vocals into total mush at the same time. This is an old and simple mixing technique and you'll recognize it from various pop songs from the eighties.

 

Simply create a send on your audio track and go ahead and set it's send level to unity, (option-click the pot). Populate the aux return path with a Tape Delay or Delay Designer. Set this to full wet. In the slot after your delay plug, insert Logic's Compressor and set it's sidechain to the audio track that's sending to your delay bus. Set the compressor to a high ratio like 20:1 and a fast attack.

 

As you've probably already figured out, the compressor will attenuate the delay signal when the vocal track is hot, but will allow the delay effect to just "sneak in" between words and in quieter passages. Thus keeping the main vocal signal clearer of interference from the delays.

 

The interesting thing about this technique is that you really alter the musicality of the delay effect when changing the threshold and release settings of the compressor. So it can add another dimension of control to your delay effects.

 

The attached Logic 8 project molests and victimizes the Irish lasses from the Apple Loops collection.

 

Have fun, and keep mixing!

f8_Delay_NoMush.zip

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I usually send the dry vocal to another bus as well, and use that as the trigger, not the audio track itself. The idea and advantage is that this way you can compress or brickwall-limit the trigger signal really harshly (because it's not heard), so that the trigger stays solid the whole duration of the vocal part (word/phrase) so the ducking won't "flutter" (attack/release values can be used to prevent this, too). Even if the dry vocal is levelled and compressed decently on the audio track and sounds great, the transients and amplitude differences can trigger the compressor unevenly, or fluctuations on longer notes might also result to uneven trigger and to the delay rising noticeably mid-word/phrase.
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I usually send the dry vocal to another bus as well, and use that as the trigger, not the audio track itself. The idea and advantage is that this way you can compress or brickwall-limit the trigger signal really harshly (because it's not heard), so that the trigger stays solid the whole duration of the vocal part (word/phrase) so the ducking won't "flutter" (attack/release values can be used to prevent this, too). Even if the dry vocal is levelled and compressed decently on the audio track and sounds great, the transients and amplitude differences can trigger the compressor unevenly, or fluctuations on longer notes might also result to uneven trigger and to the delay rising noticeably mid-word/phrase.

Excellent point, darudevil, and illustrates a good use of the "Bus" channel object. By placing this sidechain processing directly on a bus object, you won't use up another precious aux channel, and yet another bus. The sidechain tap for a Bus channel object is directly post-insert. See THIS post.

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When you mention that we would be familiar with this sound from popular '80s songs, can you mention a few? I would love to hear it in context.

 

Can't think of any specific tunes at the moment, but if I do I'll post them. There were at least a couple of rack delay units that were popular that had this feature built in. Some guitar pedals too. Although I can't recall the names of those either. Some of my brain cells from the eighties have a file corruption problem!

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Hah! Some of my brain-cells from the NINETIES are in the same boat... I totally understand. Thanks for commenting, though.

 

Perhaps... was the Tear For Fears "Shout" verse vocal (after the initial chorus) was an example of this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgJbSyd9tTo

 

I mean, the whole song is completely covered with effects, but I do sense this somewhat there...

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Excellent for reverb, too, and I'm assuming for all other FX, esp. for letting the vocal be really upfront and present and the FX nicely behind.

 

Thank you. Exactly what I've been looking for.

 

I've always been bothered by just putting reverbs on a vocal and being stuck with having to do the best with that mushy-ness, or spending way too much time trying to find the right one.

With this technique I'm feeling way more in control to do the vox justice.

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