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  • Philip Marsden

10 Quick Production Tips | #4



1. Thick Vocals

Want a thicker vocal sound? Duplicate your track twice and pan the duplicates ever so slightly slightly left and right. Then, pitch the left track down about 5 cents and the right track up about 5 cents. Compress heavily and blend these to taste with the original, middle vocal. 



2. If Everything’s Loud, Nothing’s Loud

If you want your chorus to sound louder and more impactful, try taking something away from the previous section, before adding more layers to the chorus itself. 



3. We Can Only Focus on Three Sounds at Once

The human ear can only focus on three sounds at any given time, so make sure your arrangements aren’t excessively busy. Think of a painting, sometimes when there’s a lot of blank space, you can focus on the colours a lot more. The more space in your arrangement, the more you can make certain elements shine.



4. Use Templates

If you have certain instruments, plugins or tracks that you use on every song, set up a template in your DAW. It will save you set up time and allow you to focus on creativity, with fewer distractions.



5. More Realistic MIDI Strings

To make your sampled, MIDI strings more realistic, use volume automation to swell legato parts. You can draw this in, or record it live by setting the automation track to “write” and moving the fader yourself as the track plays. You should also make sure that the layers in your string section aren’t 100% robotically in time with each other. Throw in some very subtle differences to give it a more realistic sound, particularly on staccato parts. 



6. Sidechain Compression on Vocal Reverb

Do you want a nice, big reverb sound that doesn’t smother your vocal? Put a compressor on your reverb channel (after the reverb) and send your vocal to its side chain. Adjust until the reverb ducks slightly when the dry vocal is playing, but comes back up in the gaps. You could also do this with volume automation, but it’ll take way longer.



7. Record Your MIDI Parts in Time

As tempting as it is to roughly record MIDI parts then hit the quantise button, I’d encourage everyone to take the time to record them in time initially. Snapping everything rigidly to a grid quickly starts to sound unnatural and cheap. If you do need to correct the timing, make sure you leave a little bit of the human touch in there. 



8. EQ your Electric Guitar with Mic Placement

If you’re recording a guitar amp, the mic position will drastically affect the tone. Try to “EQ” your guitar with mic placement to get your tone spot on at the source.



9. More Realistic DI Sound (Acoustic Guitar)

Recording your acoustic guitar by plugging it directly into your interface is quick, easy and cost effective, but it can sound unnatural. To give it a more realistic, “mic’d up” sound, use a super short room reverb on the channel. This will give it a more natural sense of space. 



10. Free Plugin - Valhalla Supermassive

Valhalla make some incredible reverb and delay plugins and they’ve just put out “Supermassive” which as the name suggests, creates huge, luscious reverbs and delays. It’s totally free - here’s the download link.



Read the previous instalment here.


Want to get better at producing vocals? Download my free guide - Vocal Production Start to Finish



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