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Get in the Mix: De-essing a vocal track

From: Foundations of Audio: Compression and Dynamic Processing

Video: Get in the Mix: De-essing a vocal track

We now know that de-essing is frequency specific compression. Take a listen to this vocal passage, >> Tonight I feel asleep at Many de-essers allow you to preview the side chain >> Tonight I feel asleep

Get in the Mix: De-essing a vocal track

We now know that de-essing is frequency specific compression. Let's put a de-esser to work on a vocal track. Take a listen to this vocal passage, paying particular attention to the ess sounds. >> Tonight I feel asleep at the wheel. I woke up just in time with chills darting down my spine. >> Because these ess sounds will likely get a bit crispy as we add some top end EQ to the mix, especially on the words asleep, chills, and spine, we can use a de-esser to tame that sibilance.

I like to use my de-essers before applying compression in EQ. So I can get the bad stuff out of the way before it hits my other processors. Now listen again as I activate the de-esser. >> Tonight I feel asleep at the wheel. I woke up just in time with chills darting down my spine. >> It's subtle, but effective.

Using a high frequency only de-esser, all I'm doing here is just taking a bit of the edge off those particularly sibilant words. Many de-essers allow you to preview the side chain signal and tune the frequency band to match the track. So you might trying selecting a particularly sibilant passage to play back in a loop and sweep through the frequencies until you here it get really nasty and resonant. Setting up the target frequency is key because you don't want the de-esser to react to non-sibilant passages of the vocal. In this case, I've set my target frequency to 6k, a good starting point for a male vocalist.

By dialing down the threshold, I can choose the amount of gain reduction or overall de-essing that I want to achieve. I want to pay particular attention during this stage as too much de-essing will create a lisp in the performance. I find that on vocals, I like to use split band de-essing so that only the high frequencies are compressed during the sibilant sections. This helps the de-esser sound more transparent to my ears, and I can get away with more gain reduction, without introducing a lisp. Take a listen to this passage as I dial in too much full range de-essing, giving the singer a lisp.

>> Tonight I feel asleep at the wheel. I woke up just in time with chills darting down my spine. >> Now, unless I'm playing a cruel trick on the vocalist, I hope you could hear that I don't want to abuse the de-esser like this. Ultimately, you may find that no matter how well you set your target frequency, other non-sibilant material will trigger the de-esser too.

This is normal, so use your ears and find a sweet spot that does the best job without triggering significant compression on the non-sibilant passages. One trick I like to use to evaluate my sibilance is to listen to the mix on smaller speakers, as they tend to exhibit harsh sibilant sounds in a more pronounced way. On particularly tough sections, I might also use volume automation to reduce the specific sections of extreme sibilance. If you're constantly struggling with overwhelming sibilance in your vocal tracks You might try re-recording the track with a different mic as certain voices do not work well with certain models of mics.

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  1. 4m 56s
    1. Welcome
      1m 49s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      32s
    3. Using the exercise files
      53s
    4. Using the "Get in the Mix" Pro Tools and Logic Pro session files
      1m 42s
  2. 13m 47s
    1. What is amplitude?
      1m 51s
    2. Measuring amplitude
      1m 57s
    3. What is dynamic range?
      4m 8s
    4. What are dynamics processors?
      3m 36s
    5. Hardware and software dynamics processors
      2m 15s
  3. 38m 40s
    1. Introducing compressors
      1m 45s
    2. Understanding threshold
      1m 29s
    3. Utilizing compression ratios
      3m 0s
    4. Understanding makeup gain and gain reduction
      3m 13s
    5. Understanding attack and release
      2m 12s
    6. Applying attack and release
      5m 22s
    7. Demystifying compression controls: soft knee vs. hard knee
      2m 43s
    8. Get in the Mix: Using compression to even out a vocal performance
      4m 55s
    9. Get in the Mix: Using compression to add punch and sustain to drums
      4m 39s
    10. Intelligently using compression presets
      3m 6s
    11. Recording with compression: Why or why not?
      2m 53s
    12. Recording with compression: How to do it
      3m 23s
  4. 18m 50s
    1. Introducing limiters
      1m 59s
    2. Types of limiters
      4m 17s
    3. Get in the Mix: Maximizing mix loudness with brickwall limiters
      5m 58s
    4. Solving common mix problems with limiters
      2m 58s
    5. Using layered dynamics processing
      3m 38s
  5. 26m 49s
    1. Understanding and using de-essers
      3m 46s
    2. Get in the Mix: De-essing a vocal track
      3m 30s
    3. Understanding and using gates
      4m 41s
    4. Understanding and using expanders
      1m 35s
    5. Get in the Mix: Gating a drum track
      3m 18s
    6. Understanding and using multi-band compressors/limiters
      3m 31s
    7. Controlling frequency content with multi-band compressors
      3m 3s
    8. Understanding and using transient shapers
      3m 25s
  6. 36m 38s
    1. Effectively using side-chain inputs
      2m 6s
    2. Using side chains creatively
      5m 4s
    3. Keying gates and compressors (and/or ducking)
      4m 12s
    4. Managing gain staging and headroom and fixing over-compressed tracks
      3m 20s
    5. Compression first or EQ first?
      2m 56s
    6. Understanding mix bus compression
      3m 26s
    7. Get in the Mix: Using mix bus compression
      2m 47s
    8. Get in the Mix: Working with parallel compression
      3m 46s
    9. Working with "modeled" vintage compressor/limiter plug-ins
      5m 57s
    10. Building healthy compression/limiting habits
      3m 4s
  7. 14s
    1. Goodbye
      14s
  8. 5m 51s
    1. A session with Brian Lee White
      5m 51s

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