Last updated on March 13, 2018 by Rob Mayzes

Struggling to make your vocals sit right in the mix?

Watch now, because in this video you’re going to learn a simple trick, using just a plate reverb, that will instantly make your vocals sound loud and clear, while sitting perfectly in the mix.

 

Struggling to make your vocals sit right in the mix? Keep watching because in this video you are going to learn a simple trick using just a plate reverb that will endlessly make your vocal sound loud and clear while sitting perfectly in the mix. But first be sure to grab my free vocal effects cheat sheet if you want to learn how to apply effects like delay and reverb like a pro. There’s a link in the description below or on the screen now.

So I was just playing around with this track that a student sent me. It’s a pretty cool song and I haven’t mixed it yet, I’ve just got some balancing going on and some mix bus processing, I’ve got some effects going, and I just wanted to quickly show you how this plate reverb trick can really make a vocal sit right in a mix. So first let’s just take a listen. So this is with no processing on the vocal, not much processing overall but we’ve got a bit of reverb going on in the backend vocals, the drum and some of the guitars.

[Music Being Played 00:01:09]

So it’s pretty unique, it’s got some Queens of Stone Age vibes going on, it’s pretty raw, and it sounds great considering it hasn’t been mixed yet, we’ve got a really good sound. We just got some mix bus processing. That just goes to show the strength of that. So this is without any mix bus.

[Music Being Played 00:01:27]

This is with mix bus.

[Music Being Played 00:01:34]

But now let’s get back to reverb. So, on the backend vocals we’ve got a room reverb and we’ve just got general room reverb bus set up.

[Music Being Played 00:01:44]

But right now there’s nothing on the lead vocal, and it’s just not really sitting right.

[Music Being Played 00:01:53]

With sticking out the mix, it needs some space and I think this is the perfect place for the plate reverb trick. Now, plate reverb is interesting because it isn’t made to sound real. Now, at this point you are probably wondering – well, why plate, why not hall, why not a room reverb? And honestly, there’s no right answer, there isn’t a case where you should always use a hall in this situation or always use a plate in this. It really just depends. And what I recommend you do is just go through and try them all. If you’ve got a reverb that has all three within it, even better, because you can just flick through them and see which sounds best for the track. And once you get used to how these different reverbs sound, then you know which to reach for. Before you even try them out, you’d go, huh, this track will probably sound quite cool with a long room reverb or a short hall, etc. So there’s honestly no answer to that question, but plate reverb is interesting because it isn’t made to sound real, it’s literally a metal sheet suspended with some microphones on it, it’s not room reverb, it’s a plate, it’s a fake reverb. And this makes it interesting because it sounds really smooth, it sounds super smooth and it works really well with shorter decay times.

Now, another character of plate reverb is that it sounds really bright, because it’s literally a metal plate suspended in a frame. So what this means is on something like vocals, it completely changes the tone of a vocal. Reverb has a big impact on the tone of the source. If you are adding reverb to a vocal, you should think, do I want to make this sound duller, do I want to make it sound brighter, and then you can shape the tone of that reverb to in turn shape the tone of the vocal without having to apply any process entirely to the vocals. So it’s a really subtle way to bring out the top end or the warmth in a vocal. So, in this case, I think it’s going to be a great way to bring out some of that top end in the vocal without getting a pop kind of sound to it, because this is a very gritty rock track. But I still want to add some brightness, plate reverb is going to be good for that. And in general, that’s why plate reverb works well on vocals.

Now, let’s go back to the idea of short decay times, because shorter decay times also work well on vocals, because we don’t want to make the vocal go too far back in the mix. So when we use a plate on the vocal and just the normal room on everything else, first what stands out, because we’ve got a different reverb on the vocal is everything else, but also we can use shorter decay times, so we can add space to the vocal without putting it further back in the mix. So, this is going to add brightness, this is going to add shimmer, it’s going to make it sound professional, and it’s going to make it sit right, but it’s not going to make it too far away.

Now, a quick disclaimer before I go through the four steps involved in this trick. Don’t use it in every mix just for the sake of it. It’s not one of those tricks. It’s just something to have in mind. Like I said, when you need to add reverb to a vocal, try hall, try room, see what works, and if the plate works, awesome, you can use this trick.

So let’s dive right in with step number 1, which is to add loud reverb on a bus. So, we’ve got the vocal here, it’s dry, nothing is happening, and I’ve already set up a plate reverb bus here. And the reason I’ve done it on a bus is because now I can add a send on the vocal so we can get bus plate and I can just set this to 0. So we’ve got everything going to the plate, so I am not going to use this for anything besides vocals. Now, the reason I do this is because I can add EQ now to the reverb. So, normally if I just added the reverb directly to this channel I will just start with whatever settings that are in here, and in this case I am using space designer in logic. But because it’s on an Aux, I can add this EQ and I can start to shape the tone. Now, this was just the start setting that came with it for some reason, so let’s recall default, and we will come back to that in a second. So let’s close these. But that step number 1 is set up your Aux or your bus or your effects title, whatever you want to call that and then bring up the send.

Now, you also want to make sure that it’s nice and loud, because what we are going to do now is tweak the space and the tone and we are going to have this plate really loud in the mix to make that easier, and then we can just drop it down to the level we want. So let’s hit play and see where this is sitting in the mix.

[Music Being Played 00:05:55]

Okay, so it’s overpowering, it sounds awful but that was good because we can really clearly hear what’s going on with this reverb and now we can tweak the tone.

So step 2 is adjust the settings. We are going to open up our reverb and we are also going to open up the EQ in case we want to do any tonal shaping. And notice, I’ve got the EQ set before the reverb in the effects chain. And that’s great because it means it’s going to sound a bit more natural because we are going to change the tone of the signal going into the reverb and this is going to sound nice and natural; whereas if we had it afterwards, sometimes that works better but normally it can sound a bit odd because we are changing the shape of the reverb. So instead EQ before normally works.

So let’s start with the reverb. Now, in space designer, I’ve got a few different options for plates. So the first thing I am going to do is just scroll through these and see which sounds best in the context of the track.

[Music Being Played 00:06:59]

So already some thoughts that this longer plate is starting to sound a bit more like a room reverb. I think I’ve actually got my room set quite short, so it’s getting close, I think the room is around one and a half as well. So that’s a bit too long. And this medium one, even though it’s called the vocal plate…

[Music Being Played 00:07:18]

…it might work in a lot of situations, but in this case, I actually really like the sound of that short drum plate.

[Music Being Played 00:07:29]

It’s just got a really interesting characteristic and I think it sounds cool in the context of the mix. So the next thing is to think about the tone. Now, like I said, this vocal is a bit muddy. We haven’t actually done any processing on the vocal yet, but I can start to shape the tone already with this reverb. So I could cut some of that mud and let’s try boosting some of that top end. And you can be quite aggressive if you want, because this is going before the reverb.

[Music Being Played 00:08:11]

So getting rid of some of that body, some of that muddiness and really boosting that top end. Let’s compare, so this is with no EQ…

[Music Being Played 00:08:21]

This is with…

[Music Being Played 00:08:27]

So it’s really cleaned up and let’s just get rid of some of that low-end as well.

[Music Being Played 00:08:38]

Cool. Then finally, step 4 is to set the level. So we’ve got a tone that we want and now we just need to get the level at this plate in the mix. So we are going to start by dropping this down to 0 and make sure we’ve got the vocal at the right place for that.

[Music Being Played 00:09:07]

And now what we are going to do is bring up this plate until we notice it. And that’s probably going to be about the right level. If we want it to be quite subtle in the mix, which is normally the case, then as soon as we notice it, we can stop and that’s probably going to be a good point. From there, it’s completely down to you. I would urge you to err on the side of caution with reverb especially when it comes to lead vocals, because it’s easy to go too much and then the vocal is going to get a bit lost in the mix. But, with this kind of track, it might add an interesting twist to the vocal or maybe it’s going to sound cool. So, obviously be creative but err on the side of caution. So let’s start, bring this up until we notice it.

[Music Being Played 00:10:20]

So it’s pretty subtle but let’s just mute it and go back and forth a few times to see what it’s doing to the track.

[Music Being Played 00:10:47]

Still making the vocal sound a little bit duller. So let’s try exaggerating this EQ.

[Music Being Played 00:11:18]

And there you go. That’s pretty much there. Now, we might want to do some final tweaking now that we’ve got it at the level we want, we could experiment with those different settings again.

[Music Being Played 00:12:08]

Let’s have a quick listen to a different section.

[Music Being Played 00:12:38]

So it’s definitely adding that shimmer that we warned is bringing up that top end and adding some space to the vocal without putting it too far back. And I think in the context of this track, it really works. We have to see what happens as I move forward. Once we’ve got the vocals sitting at a better point tonally, this might change. But I just wanted to show you that trick because I think it’s a really quick and easy way to make your vocals sit right without putting it too far back in the mix.

So, now that you know how to apply plate reverb, there’s of course so much to learn about applying effects to vocals, because it’s such an important part of getting that vocal right. When you get the vocal right, the hall mix is going to sound better. But you need to understand how to use other forms of reverb and also delay if you really want to make your vocal sound professional. So that’s why I put together a free vocal effects cheat sheet for you. You can download it, reference it, use it, learn more about the different effects and that’s going to help you to make sure your vocals sound awesome every single time. So there’s a link in the description below or on the screen now, just head to that link, it’s completely free and you can download that.

So now I want to hear from you. What’s your favorite reverb to use on a vocal? Or do you use delay? Leave a comment below, tell me more and I would love to hear from you. That’s all from me. See you same time, same place next week and remember create regardless.

 

Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.

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