Last updated on October 1, 2019 by

Looking to upgrade your gear to get a better vocal sound?

You’re in luck.

Over my many years of mixing, I’ve tried out hundreds of premium plugins. Today, I decided to cut through the crap and give you my recommendations for the best vocal plugins.

You can use any of these to get a radio-ready sound.

But before we continue, I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make music that sounds professional in your home studio.

Finding good plugins for vocals is important, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.

That’s why I created this new free workshop for people who want the entire framework for pro mixes.

Inside, I share the only 7 steps you need to go through if you want your mixes to sound professional.

You will also learn the #1 mistake that musicians make when it comes to recording their own music​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

So, if you just want a shortcut to pro-quality mixes, watch this free training now:

But if you just want to learn about the best plugins for vocals, keep reading.

 

But before we start…

PRO TIP: You do not need better plugins to get a better mix! What you do with the plugins you have is 10 times more important than what plugins you have. The best advice I can possible give you is to get good at your stock plugins, then begin to upgrade. You’ll get better mixes faster if you focus on what you have rather than blowing thousands of dollars on fancy new gear.

That said, if you are good with your stock plugins, then upgrade away. Here’s my recommendations for the best vocal plugins on the market.

I can help you filter through the list to find the plugins that work best for you.

Check it out:

 

What kind of plugin are you looking for?


 

What’s your budget?


 

What did you think of this post? Please give it a rating below.

Boz Digital Hoser XT ($149)

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EQ
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$101-150

The Hoser XT is great for many things, but what I use it for most is warmth. With a lot of digital EQs, boosting the low mids really muddies up your vocal. But the Hoser XT shines here, adding some of that smooth analog low end character.

If your vocal is sounding thin or shrill, the Hoser XT can help.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Boz Digital Hoser XT here.

Softube Trident A-Range ($199)

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EQ
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$151+

Modeled after the legendary Trident console, this analog EQ has an extremely smooth sound on vocals. The best word to describe it: musical. You can really push your boosts and cuts farther before it begins to sound overdone. Where I might boost a certain frequency by two or three dB’s on another EQ, I can easily boost it four or five on the A-Range.

Plus, the saturation knob adds extra body and color to your vocal.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Softube Trident A-Range here.

Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 ($179)

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EQ
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$151+

The Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 has become the industry standard for digital EQ. And it’s a well-deserved honor – this equalizer is maybe the most versatile and clean on the market.

There’s not a lot you can’t do with the Pro-Q 3. You can create up to 24 bands, use their different slopes to sculpt a seemly-impossible EQ curve, and retain amazing sound quality the entire time.

If you’re looking for an EQ to not only use on vocals, but on EVERYTHING, this is the one.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 here.

PSP Audioware NobleQ ($69)

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EQ
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$51-$100

The NobleQ is modeled after my favorite analog EQ unit of all time – the Pultec EQP-1.

It’s really, really hard to make something sound bad with this piece of hardware. Use it on bass for some extra low end warmth. Use it on your snare for a little extra upper mids snap. For vocals, I use it to add a little top end presence. You can’t really go wrong with this one.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the PSP NobleQ here.

Slate Revival (Free)

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EQ
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Free

I’m still shocked they give this one away for free.

Slate’s Revival plugin is a simple shelf EQ – but don’t let that fool you. There’s some secret sauce inside that Slate won’t tell anyone. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it sounds amazing.

I’ve used this for years to brighten up particularly dark vocals, and it works wonders. If your vocal sounds like it’s living under a blanket, Revival is for you.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Slate Revival here.

Fabfilter Pro-C 2 ($179)

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Compressor
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$151+

If you’re looking for a compressor to replace your DAW’s stock one, check out the Pro-C 2. The designers at Fabfilter have made one of the cleanest and most versatile digital compressors on the market. It can handle just about anything you throw at it.

Plus, it has several compression algorithms, including one focused entirely on keeping your vocals upfront in the mix. If you’re looking for control, the Pro-C 2 is your best bet.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the FabFilter Pro-C 2 here.

Waves CLA Classic Compressors ($59-559)

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Compressor
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$51-$100

Waves has dominated the audio plugin industry, and for good reason. They’ve found a way to balance high quality with low price.

The CLA Classic Compressors consists of three plugins – the LA-2A, the LA-3A, and the 1176. These three compressors are some of the most commonly used of all time. Name any pro record – they probably used one of these compressors to mix it.

The LA-3A is more tailored to vocals (in my opinion), and offers a slow, smooth character. It’s pretty hard to make this plugin sound anything but great.

If you’re wanting aggression and excitement, the 1176 has some of the fastest attack times in the world. Try using its “all buttons in” mode on rock vocals. Your mixes will thank you.

WAVES TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy any plugins from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed by LA-2A:

 

Processed by LA-3A:

 

Processed by 1176:

 

Check out the Waves CLA Classic Compressors here.

Cytomic The Glue ($99)

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$51-$100

Cytomic’s The Glue is modelled after the now-famous SSL-4000 bus compressor. That console’s bus compressor (nicknamed “The Glue”) has become legendary for sonically “gluing” tracks together.

It’s best used on instrument busses, like drums, electric guitars, or (my favorite) background vocals. It’s also commonly used on the entire mix to tighten the whole song up.

If you’re trying to make several recordings sound like one big instrument, try out The Glue.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out Cytomic’s The Glue here.

 

Klanghelm DC1A (Free)

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Compressor
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Free

If you’re looking for something simple, consistent, and free, try the DC1A. It does exactly what you’re looking for  – levels out your vocals while giving a little extra character to-boot.

And it’s only two knobs! Try out the “Relaxed” mode for some smooth RMS compression on your vocals.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Klanghelm DC1A here.

Fabfilter Pro-DS ($179)

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De-Esser
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$151+

I love this thing. I’ve only used it for a short amount of time, but it’s become my go-to de-esser.

It compresses your sibilance so cleanly that I hardly know it’s on. Plus, it has a solo button so that you can listen to ONLY the things being compressed.

It’s a fantastic tool to make sure that you’re grabbing only sibilance and not extra notes.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the FabFilter Pro-DS here.

Eiosis E² De-Esser ($149)

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De-Esser
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$101-150

If you’re wanting versatility, this is the de-esser for you.

The applications for the Eiosis E² go far beyond just vocal sibilance. They have several different algorithms to target voiceovers, guitar string squeaks, cymbals, and even mastering. The most creative part of the E² is what it compresses. You can create your own EQ curve, so that if the de-esser is triggered, several different frequencies are brought down by different amounts.

It’s extremely powerful if you’re looking for total control.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Eiosis E² De-Esser here.

Waves Renaissance De-Esser ($29-79)

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De-Esser
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$1-$50

The Waves Renaissance De-Esser is one word: simple.

With only a few sliders and buttons, it gets the job done quickly. While it’s not the cleanest de-esser on this list, it’s perfect for any producer who wants to “set it and forget it.”

WAVES TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy any plugins from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Waves Renaissance DeEsser here.

FabFilter Saturn ($149)

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Saturation
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$101-150

Two words to describe the Saturn: warmth and thickness.

Saturn does a great job of making thin sounds thick again. The Saturn is also great for adding more presence to the top of your vocals. It has a multiband feature that allows you to only saturate the upper mids of a sound, leaving the rest untouched.

If your vocals need a little extra life and character, this is a great unit to try.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the FabFilter Saturn here.

Waves Kramer Master Tape ($29-249)

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Saturation
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$1-$50

Despite being the less popular tape emulation from Waves, the Kramer is more versatile and fun to use on individual channels. Plus, it’s extremely simple. Adding excitement, warmth and character to your vocals is possible in just a few knob turns.

Just don’t expect it to be an incredibly versatile plugin. Sometimes it’s the perfect tool for the job, but not in every mix.

WAVES TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy any plugins from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Waves Kramer Master Tape here.

Sonnox Oxford Inflator ($150)

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Saturation
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$101-150

The Oxford Inflator is a unique plugin on this list. The point of its saturation isn’t to be audible, but rather to increase the perceived loudness of an instrument without increasing the actual volume.

There’s some magic in this plugin that I don’t fully understand. If I’m mixing a vocal that I can’t keep from hanging around in the background, the Oxford Inflator brings it forward nearly instantly. It’s a fantastic problem solver.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Sonnox Oxford Inflator here.

Klanghelm IVGI (Free)

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Saturation
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Free

The IVGI rises well beyond its station as a free plugin. Most free saturation plugins are pretty low quality. The IVGI, however, brings subtle warmth and definition to vocals.

It can also be a beast of a distortion plugin if you’re wanting more aggression.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

Check out Klanghelm IVGI here.

LiquidSonics Seventh Heaven Pro ($299)

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Reverb
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$151+

Seventh Heaven has meticulously recreated the sound of the Bricasti M7, a beloved reverb unit in studios all over the world. It’s smooth, warm, and most importantly: FULL. It really helps to thicken up a sound without being too obvious.

Plus, the controls are simple, meaning you don’t have to get stuck in your reverb creation. Tweak your desired preset a little, and you’re good to go.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out Liquidsonics Seventh Heaven here.

Soundtoys Little Plate ($99)

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Reverb
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$51-$100

Less functionality than the Seventh Heaven but MUCH easier to use. And it sounds incredible.

I love plugins like this that are easy to use but still sound great. This has been my go-to plate reverb for a while now.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out Soundtoys Little Plate here.

Valhalla Room Reverb ($50)

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Reverb
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$1-$50

For a long time this was my go-to reverb for my whole mix (I now use FabFilter Pro-R more often). However, it still appears on the vocals all the time. When you want a lush reverb tucked underneath the vocal, this plugin does the job. The tone is fantastic and the plugin is a joy to use. Try any room around 1-2 seconds – this is my go-to setting.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Valhalla Room here.

Voxengo OldSkoolVerb (Free)

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Reverb
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Free

The Voxengo is fantastic if you’re looking for a free, simple reverb. You can easily (and quickly) create the sound you’re looking for. It’s even got reverb damping to allow you to shape the type of room you’re in.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Voxengo OldSkoolVerb here.

Soundtoys Echoboy ($199)

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Delay
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$151+

Soundtoys Echoboy is the industry standard for a reason. If there’s a delay sound you’re wanting, it’s got it – especially if you’re looking for something vintage.

The Echoboy has over twenty different delay styles, from tape, tube, analog, digital, telephone, and even weird ones they made up themselves. This plugin sounds great, but more importantly, it’s as complicated as you want it to be. You can either set-it-and-forget-it, or you can take a deep dive into their “tweak” panels to get the exact sound you’re looking for.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Soundtoys Echoboy here.

Soundtoys PrimalTap ($149)

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Delay
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$101-150

In contrast to the Echoboy, the PrimalTap is very specific. It has the best lo-fi sound in the industry. Thanks to its creative usage of sample rates, the longer you make your delays, the more the quality of the delay degrades.

Plus it has an “adjust” knob to create some weird movement effects. This one was MEANT to be automated – you can make some crazy sounds!

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Soundtoys PrimalTap here.

Waves Manny Marroquin Delay ($29-99)

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Delay
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$1-$50

Wow, I just love this plugin. It doesn’t do anything special, but it makes dialling in a great delay really fun and easy. It takes seconds to set up a timed echo delay or stereo slapback and dial in your filters.

Then the fun begins. Within the plugin you can add distortion, reverb, phasing and doubling. This makes it really easy to make the delay sound 10x more interesting. Get creative with it!

WAVES TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy any plugins from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Waves Manny Marroquin Delay here.

Voxengo Tempo Delay (Free)

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Delay
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Free

If you’re looking for a simple, get-the-job-done delay, check out the Voxengo Tempo. It’s got everything you’d need out of a stereo delay, plus a few extra bells and whistles – namely the tremolo and saturation you can put on your delays.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Voxengo Tempo Delay here.

Polyverse Manipulator ($149)

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Modulation
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$101-150

This thing is a beast. The Manipulator is a pitch plugin that allows you to change the pitch of your vocal in the strangest of ways.

Honestly, there are hundreds of sounds you can find in it – the few sounds in our example aren’t enough to show off its extensive capabilities. If you’re wanting to morph your vocal into something never-before-heard-on-earth, give the Manipulator a shot.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Polyverse Manipulator here.

Izotope VocalSynth 2 ($199)

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Modulation
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$151+

If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to achieve modern vocal sounds, this plugin is the answer.

It’s hard to describe exactly what’s possible with this plugin. You have to hear it to believe it. You can get anything from whacky pitch shifting to convincing vocoder-style effects.

Seconds after downloading and installing, I was getting incredible sounds that would have taken me hours to design myself. This plugin is super fun to use and extremely powerful.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Izotope VocalSynth 2 here.

Waves Reel ADT ($29-249)

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Modulation
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$1-$50

This one is a treat. You know The Beatles’ famous doubled vocal sound? John Lennon actually hated doubling his vocals. So their engineers got creative with a few tape machines, and ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) was born.

I use this on tons of vocals when I want a thicker, “vibey-er” sound. The nice part about it is that it can be used to create both subtle thickness and balls-to-the-wall weirdness.

WAVES TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy any plugins from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Waves Reel ADT here.

Acon Digital Multiply Chorus (Free)

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Modulation
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Free

If you’re wanting a little more control in your chorus, try the Multiply. It gives you much more room for variation than the TAL. It’s great for creating a doubled sound and helping background vocals to “sink” into the main vocal line.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Acon Digital Multiply Chorus here.

TAL Chorus (Free)

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Modulation
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Free

Based on the famous Juno-60 synth chorus, the TAL Chorus is maybe the most simple plugin on this entire list. It’s only a few buttons and a knob or two. But there’s lots of character hidden behind the simplicity.

Try this if you’re wanting to thicken up your vocals.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the TAL Chorus here.

Melda MAutoPitch (Free)

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Modulation
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Free

If you’re wanting a simple autotune effect, grab the MAutoPitch. You can make it subtle, or go full T-Pain-in-2008. It’s also got a great formant shifting section for some wonky vocal sounds.

Original Vocals:

 

Processed Vocals:

 

Check out the Melda MAutoPitch here.

Celemony Melodyne 4 ($499)

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Editing
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$151+

Melodyne is in a tight battle with Autotune for control of the vocal editing industry. But between the two, I’d have to give them my recommendation. Melodyne allows you to fix the tuning of your vocals in a natural way, allowing you to focus on emotion and excitement in your recording sessions rather than pitch.

Melodyne Editor is the most popular version, but if you’re okay with only being able to tune monophonic sources (that means no chords), then Melodyne Assistant is a great, cheaper option.

Check out Celemony Melodyne 4 here.

Waves Vocal Rider ($29-249)

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Editing
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$1-$50

One of the secrets to a professional-sounding vocal is gain automation – the practice of automating the gain of a sound BEFORE it gets to a compressor, making the compressor sound more natural.

While it’s a pain to do this line by line, the Vocal Rider takes the bulk of the workload off your shoulders. It “rides” the gain of the vocal based on the parameters you set, giving you that even-keel vocal sound in 10% of the time. I use this on 100% of my vocals.

WAVES TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy any plugins from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit.

Check out the Waves VocalRider here.

Melda MAutoPitch (Free)

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Editing
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Free

MAutoPitch is fairly simple for a tuning plugin, but it does the job well. It’s not as advanced as Melodyne or AutoTune (i.e. you can’t tune individual notes), but it’s a great set-it-and-forget-it tool. Just make sure to use it subtly, or it will start to sound like an autotune effect.

Check out the Melda MAutoPitch here.

Do plugins really matter?

So, now you know the best plugins for mixing vocals.

But this is just one small part of the process. You can do this perfectly and still end up with mixes that sound like bedroom demos if you’re missing a crucial step (it took me 10 years to learn this).

There is SO MUCH that goes into a good mix. It’s actually pretty overwhelming.

Once you’ve got awesome plugins, there’s a lot of other stuff you need to get right if you want your music to sound professional.

But what if I told you that you don’t have to be an expert (with years of experience) to make radio-ready music at home?

Well…

That’s the truth.

It’s likely that you’ve already wasted time, money and effort on the wrong things. I know I did. I wasted years focusing on the wrong things.

So, what should you focus on if you want fast results?

Inside this new free training, I share the secret to making radio-ready music at home.

After I stumbled upon this new approach, I knew exactly where to spend my time and energy. I was no longer confused and overwhelmed by the recording and mixing process.

Honestly, I was annoyed I didn’t learn this stuff sooner. It would have saved me at least 7 years.

This new approach hasn’t just worked for me either…

One of my students – his name is Patrick – was pretty new to home recording when he came to me for help. I shared this idea with him and he went from his first ever home recording to high-quality, professional mixes in just 2 and a half months.

This same approach has worked for hundreds of other musicians too.

Now it’s your turn.

If you want to learn the *exact* steps that will take your mixes to a professional standard in under a year…

Watch this free workshop now:

It’s only playing for a limited time – we’re always updating the site and this could get removed soon. So go and check it out now.

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