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Recommended prerequisites: Pro Tools Essential Training and Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering
- Setting up the mixer
- Layering kicks and low-frequency management
- Enhancing the lead vocals
- Working with rap "stabs" and "adlibs"
- Processing vocals with EQ, compression, and other effects
- Warming up bass and low-frequency tones
- Re-creating a "sampled vinyl" sound
- Creating "width" and "depth" in the stereo field
- Adding automation
- Mastering the track with compression and limiting
- Bouncing out a stereo mix
Skill Level Advanced
So last thing I need to do to wrap up my vocal sound here is address my Adlib vocal, and this comes in at the final chorus, let's just go ahead and listen to that. (music playing) So this actually plays some fairly important roles in this song.
One thing that is very common with urban R&B, hip-hop music arrangements is that unlike a lot of rock and traditional pop where the production or the arrangement grows significantly throughout this song, chorus you keep adding more and more instruments. It's fairly common in a hip-hop track to see the beat kind of just stay the same 16 bars, some elements come in, some elements leave during different sections, but the way that the track really gets built is through the vocals.
So the dynamic change over the course of this song really happens in the way the vocals are stacked. So more background vocals, more Adlibs coming in towards the end of the song to really take it home or make it big. Now in this case, our Adlib is also serving the function of being the first thing that you hear coming back into the last chorus. (music playing) So in that case, it is going to be a lead instrument, so I'm not really going to treat it so much in the background as I did let's say those Bridge parts.
And it's also the last thing that we hear in the song. (music playing) I really have this unique situation where I want to treat it as a lead instrument, but I'm not going to process it exactly the same way that I processed my hook lead vocals or the rap lead vocal because I do want to create a unique space for it that as a little leaner, maybe a little wetter with a little bit more delay.
So it really draws the emotion out of these oohs and aahs that he has here in his Adlib. He's really pouring out all of his emotion here, so I really just want to take the idea of that hook. I cried, I cried all day, I cried all night and really put it into this Adlib as a vocal treatment to really put the listener in that mood, in that feeling. And so the first thing I want to do is I see that I have some really strong transients.
And those strong transients here are going to limit the way I can compress some of these softer oohs and aahs. I'm going to really have to dig into the compressor to get those oohs and aahs to really come out and be forward. However, I have some parts that they're really quite aggressive here, like this plosive. Now what I like to do in those situations is take something like an L1 and just cap off just kind of use it to cap off anything. Now very similar to how I treated the 808 kick drum, I'm not going to be using any makeup gain here, all I'm doing is looking to cap off that transient.
(music playing) So you can see it's not working all of the time, it's really just working on these hard parts. (music playing) Otherwise, it's extremely transparent, and that's why I like to use limiters like the L1 in these instances, because it is very transparent. It's not going to add anything to the signal, but it is going to tame those plosives before I run that into my next compressor in the signal chain.
In that case, I'm going to use the C-L-A again here, kind of my really quick vocal sound that I can get. And so I'm going to get a little compression, going to get a little bit of EQ here, pull down some of those low frequencies just a bit. I'm going to use another EQ after this, I'm not so concerned with what's going on here. Really like this tight reverb sound, but I am going to use some of my own reverb.
Let's listen to that. (music playing) It's a little loud. (music playing) Like I said I'm going to add my own EQ to this here so I can further refine that and get the specific sound that I'm looking for. I find that and a lot of these plugins where you just have general tone controls those are great for brightness, darkness or for low end general kind of shelf-in EQs.
But when you really want to hone in, you're going to need to bring up a dedicated parametric EQ. In this case, what I'm thinking I want to do is kind of a half telephone, and I call it a half telephone because I'm kind of really cutting out all the low frequencies and kind of giving it that telephone style bell shape, but I'm not cutting out the high frequencies like you typically find on a regular band-pass telephone style vocal effect, let's listen to this.
(music playing) To really take this Adlib home I'm going to need to use some of my return effects that I've already created.
In this case, I'm going to use some of that long verb, some of that long delay. I'm going to use some of my harmonizer and some of that dirty effect that I created for the hook vocal. And in general I'm going to process this a bit more wet than everything else just to kind of really take it home, really give it that emotion. Harmonizer there, push up a little of that, and let's just take a listen.
(music playing) And let's just check that here to make sure that sounds good. (music playing) Cool. And I might need to automate that a little bit to really bring out those first and last words of the chorus and so they're fairly important, and I might want to adjust my EQ a little bit.
Now one last little trick that I like to use on Adlib vocals is I like to kind of get them out of the center because that's kind of where my other lead vocals are living, and I want to kind of put it slightly off center just to give it a little space of its own. A trick you can use is any kind of sound fill processor. I'm just going to go ahead and use the S1 Imager here to do this. And I'm just going to set the rotation slightly to one side, and that's just going to kind of kick it off just a little bit, I don't want to pan it hard right or hard left.
I just want to kick off its center to the left or right so that it is not right in the middle of the other vocals. And it actually comes through a lot more, I might even have to adjust the volume. (music playing) Cool. So that sounds really good.