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The main problem my finished tracks have is a poor quality vocal sound. I generally try to apply a dynamic range compression filter first and then add some reverb/chorus as appropriate but I can never get results that are good enough. What do you suggest is the best way to treat a good, untouched vocal take?

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

Definitely EQ. if you're not using a super-high quality mic then there's going to be a need for frequency compensation, and a good bit of EQing can make even simply lightly-reverbed vocal tracks sit much nicer in your mix.

Also, don't drown your vocals in FX (unless that's the aim of the track, or you're using a vocoder ;) ). A good plate reverb, maybe a smidgen of delay (with automation to accentuate key words/sounds) and a little EQ will generally do the business.

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I've got some guidelines for the frequency ranges to use for various instruments including vocals. Should I just boost the volume for that range? –  jeebs Dec 8 '10 at 11:19
3  
Yes, to start with. I find the best way to do my EQing is to overboost where I think there's a deficit with a high Q, then sweep the frequency to find exactly where the problem is. Then, I just dial it back down in both gain and Q and compare it to the dry singal a couple of times. Wash, rinse, repeat :) Plus, I'd suggest not accepting this answer just yet, someone else might have a much better suggestion :) –  Ed J Dec 8 '10 at 12:24
    
@Ed woodcock: exactly the way I do it. –  Pelle ten Cate Dec 8 '10 at 12:57
    
Thanks Ed. I've unticked your answer for now but I'll re-award it to you later if no-one comes back with anything more definitive/popular. –  jeebs Dec 8 '10 at 14:36
    
Generally with vocals you can take out a little of the midrange (around 300 Hz or so) to get a cleaner, more distinct sound. –  BenV Dec 8 '10 at 15:59

What happened to dynamics?

Depending on the situation, I use the following:

EQ -> A little compression -> [monitor out for singer] -> Multiband compression aka de-esser -> compression -> reverb

Everything pre-fader except for the reverb.

The first compressor is just making things a bit more comfortable for the singer and really shouldn't do much. The de-esser is not always necessary, but some singers need it, especially when recorded with a large diaphragm condenser. It should not be set up to make a huge difference either. The last compressor actually does the 'real' job. :)

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+1 de-esser. It's not always a necessity but for some singers you will need one. If you don't want to multiband (can make things a little flat if you get it wrong) you can always side-chain compress with the vocals notched on the accentuated frequencies as the side-chain source. –  Ed J Dec 8 '10 at 14:48

Compression, for me. Properly adjusted, will make your vocal more punchy giving a bit more impact to the song, as vocals are the most noticed things to listeners.

A very good sounding, easy and cheap compressor is in TB Ferox. Notice this will also bring up whatever is between the words, such as background noise.

If the voice is a bit muffled, you can try adding EQ above 15 kHz or such. It will sound more aggresive.

Generally, however, other FX won't help with a not so good voice recording. If you feel the voice can't be made to sound decent, you definitely need a better recorded sound, probably in the order: better mic > better preamp > better room (taking the actual singer's voice out of the equation).

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