I have some vocal tracks where the vocalist's breaths between phrases are quite loud - enough to be distracting. Is there a relatively easy way to lower the breath sound short of riding the fader between phrase?

  • For migration to SD please Tim
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 27 '14 at 16:07

Use a noise gate, if the breathing is too loud, and triggers the gate, then use a ducker and trigger it with synth sound through a the side-chain. Be careful though, you don't want to get rid of it competely, that'll probably sound just as bad.

what prodcution suite are you using?

  • I'm using Pro Tools
    – BenV
    Jan 28 '11 at 14:49
  • Unfortunately I've no experience of Pro-Tools, sorry.
    – bot_bot
    Jan 30 '11 at 8:51
  • Do realise that you might only need to substract 1 dB to make a difference turning the breath from 'to loud' into 'well audible'. I would start not using a synth + sidechain at all, just apply a gate with the correct threshold that starts substracting one or two dBs, and you might well solve the issue entirely.
    – Pelle ten Cate
    Feb 2 '11 at 14:02
  • I'd start by taking down breath noises by about 3 dB. Try to make sure it's not a simple shelf cut, attempt to get a bit of bezier curve into the automation - you can do this by applying automation in Touch mode whilst playing the track back -- if you're not linear with your gain adjustment it'll sound really awful. If you can get the adjustments on target, it will sound even more realistic as you'll be able to hear your singer breathing away from the mic then moving back towards it to sing the next phrase. I find it far more pleasing than completely cutting all breath sounds. Dec 5 '11 at 16:45

If you are open to tweaking, you can use a volume envelope in most DAWs to automatically "ride the gain" control for you.

In the illustration below, a volume envelope is being used to turn the volume down on steel guitar part that is too loud in a couple of places:

enter image description here

  • I'm not sure if this will work for my scenario. The breaths aren't louder than the vocals, they're just louder than breaths should be.
    – BenV
    Jan 28 '11 at 15:35
  • 1
    You don't have to put the volume drops at the loudest parts of the audio, like the picture illustrates. You can put the volume drops anywhere you want. In your case, the volume drops would occur at the places where you believe the breaths are too loud. Jan 28 '11 at 15:57

Other than riding a track/writing automation, can't see much there. If it's too loud for an expander (which you can set the range that you wish to drop the level by) it's also too loud for strip silence. And I would think you'd want to use an expander, not a gate, since you mentioned that you don't want to get rid of it completely.

One thing I'd be curious to try (albeit never used it for this purpose): Waves vocal Rider?

  • Now that I think about it, maybe vocal rider is not such a great idea but DeBreath could do the trick if you don't want to go the manual route
    – jlebre
    Feb 2 '11 at 19:40

sometimes you've just applied too much compression to the vocal (or a similar effect -- limiting, proximity, saturation).


3 simple things to try:

1) Automate the volume. This means changing the volume when the breath is too loud. You can draw it in manually or "play" it in by enabling "Write" on the automation and then dropping the volume of the track when you want it while while the file plays.

2) Gate the breath. Noise gates don't have to mute the entire signal - in fact, most of the modern ones allow you to set the ratio or amount of noise reduction. This may not be practical without turning the gate on and off with automation since you don't want to gate the entire vocal track (And you shouldn't if the rest of the song doesn't need it).

3) EQ the vocals. This should be a last resort as it affects the timbre of the vocals a bit, as well as how they sit in the mix. If you have to use this option, make sure you make the EQ unique for this example, and automate it on and off.

As previously stated, if you have a lot of compression, or a compressor that really hits the vocals hard, this can make the breaths seem too loud. Make sure this isn't the case for you (Or if it is and you like how it sounds across the whole track, do option 1). If you have any questions about automation, gates, or any of the terms I've used, just ask!

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