A cool way to produce a dance/rock/electronica vocal using effects.
Sometimes a great sounding vocal doesn’t just come off the mic. At least not the type of sound you were aiming for. There is a great deal of contemporary rock dance and electronica vocals that have undergone some major “rewiring”, and sound actually quite a bit different than as recorded by the microphone and singer. Additionally to just “auto-tuning”, there are other tricks to possibly achieve what you may be looking for in cool tone.
Here at Leopard Studio, Max Siegel and John Lortie and I set out to try to replicate a vocal sound that we thought sounded both very interesting and cool, very modern sounding with electronica influences. Yes, this is what we do for fun here. In particular we used the song “Walking on a Dream” by Empire of the Sun. This song just sort of appeared on our radar, and the vocal sound is super sweet, so we used it.
Fortunately Max could hit the notes, and we had him try to sound like the original in character too. It was funny – the band is Australian, Max not so much. Then we doubled the track with another layer of the same line. Then we tuned it – who wants out of tune electronica vocal? Then we did a huge eq cut to the low end of the vocals, cutting the intimate warmth. Just cut it right out – boom. It actually sounded pretty nice already, using these standard lead vocal techniques.
We then sent each of the tracks out of pro tools and into a delay pedal, in this case a Line 6 DL4. Really though, what is important here is that it is a guitar type effects unit, with the sound that goes with that. It does degrade the sound. We used the setting called “tube delay”, and set it with almost no actual delay repeats. But it really distorted the tone in a very nice, though gritty, way. We weren’t looking for actual delay here, just to change the tone of the vocal itself, to color the sound with the pedal. So try anything. Just realize that a distortion pedal will really blow it out a lot, and you may not want that.
Then we did it again. Took the vocal out of protools and through the pedal again, with a different setting. This time we did use a bit of clean delay. It added a nice bit of spacial quality.
Back inside pro tools we now actually muted the original tracks and used just the ones recorded through the pedal. Our new vocal tracks provided a really cool modern electronic feel now. Again we cut all the lows too. But it still needed something. Something subtle yet robotic/techno vibe like. So we ran back out one of the tracks to a vintage guitar flanger/filter pedal, the Electro Harmonix “Electric Mistress”, and into pro tools with the others.
Then we used all 5 vocal tracks recorded through pedals and combined them using pro tools bus system onto one grouped stereo fader, and compressed it down just a hair.
Now the vocal popped! It frankly sounded fantastic! We tossed in a bit of reverb, to match the track and called it a day.