Vocals are super-important, because they form the primary connection to your listeners—so we’re always looking for ways to make those vocals more effective. This week’s tip is something I’ve overlooked for years, and now, I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner. Maybe I’m just a little slow sometimes…or maybe every other Studio One user has figured this out already!
As you may have noticed from previous articles, I’m not a fan of using lots of compression or limiting on vocals because it can detract from a vocal’s natural sound. However, in a dense arrangement with a lot going on, sometimes you need dynamics processing to maintain the voice’s parity with respect to the other instrument levels. Because the vocal is in context with a lot of other sounds, you don’t really notice the compression, let alone the associated artifacts.
I was working on a song with a lot of percussion, and limited the vocal pretty heavily. It sounded fine, but then at one point, the arrangement became sparse and the vocal really stood out…so you could hear the dynamics processing at work. Ugh.
Of course, I could have automated the limiter controls, but it was much easier to split the start and end of the verse that needed fixing, and lower the Event envelope so that the vocal hit the limiter less hard in that section (Fig. 1). I tweaked the Event envelope level just below the point where the limiting sounded obvious—yet the vocal seemed equally strong as it did in the rest of the song, due to the arrangement’s sparseness in that verse.
This technique works with any sound where you want to dial back the perceived level, not with a fader or track automation, but by lowering the amount of dynamics processing. It works well with acoustic guitar, percussion, drum tracks…you name it.
What’s more, this technique is also a natural for amp sims. You can bring down a guitar’s Event Envelope to reduce the amount of distortion for a chunky rhythm effect, then slam the level back up when you want the sound to cut more.
As mentioned, there are other ways to achieve the same results. But taking the Event envelope route is fast and effective—try it!