Vocal Reverb Sidechain Trick

In this video, I’m going to show you a really simple trick that uses sidechain compression on your vocal reverb to make sure the vocal stays loud and clear in the mix.

Let’s dive right in!

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In this video I’m going to show you a really simple trick that uses sidechain compression on your vocal reverb to make sure the vocal stays loud and clear in the mix.

So let’s dive right in.

I’m going to start by just showing you really quickly what this trick entails, and then I’ll go into it in a bit more depth.

So here I’ve got a lead vocal ascend on that that’s going to this vocal reverb channel here, and this is vital, it needs to be on ascend, otherwise this trick won’t work. So it needs to be on an aux channel via a bus. Let’s listen to what we’re working with.

[Music Being Played 00:00:41]

Okay, so it’s kind of dreamy, very atmospheric, quite soft, and I want to have some nice lush reverb on the vocal. I’ve got this mono delay, let’s listen to the vocal in solo.

[Music Being Played 00:00:55]

But let’s just mute that for now while we play around with this. So then I’ve got this vocal reverb channel, so send 28 is coming in here, then I’ve got some reverb on it. And then just a bit of EQ to kind of shape it and bring it out in the mix a bit more by boosting that top-end. Let’s have a listen to that.

[Music Being Played 00:01:17]

So quite a long tail there. And when I do this in the mix, if I bring that reverb up too loud, as I bring this up, listen to how the vocal gets pushed further away in the mix.

[Music Being Played 00:01:40]

Sounds just kind of swamped, it’s getting pushed back in the mix, but I still want to have that nice lush tail on it, the end of the reverb that we can kind of hear delaying out because it’s going to give it that dreamy sound.

So what I can do is add a compressor to my bus and this is what has to be on a bus, and then set the sidechain to the vocal which we already have going to bus one. That’s how I’m sending the audio from my actual lead vocal channels here, I’ve got two, it’s split across two, and they’re both going to bus one, so I know that’s where my lead vocal is.

So it’s triggered by the vocal but it’s going to dip the reverb. So now if we adjust the threshold…

[Music Being Played 00:02:21]

You can see it’s recruiting to the vocal even though we’ve got it on the reverb channel. So now, if I solo this, just so you can hear what’s going on more clearly, we can hear that the reverb will just come up at the end of the phrase and between the words.

[Music Being Played 00:02:39]

Let me make that more drastic so you can really hear the reverb pumping in and out.

[Music Being Played 00:02:51]

If we play at the release time so it sounds a bit more natural.

[Music Being Played 00:03:01]

So between the words, we can hear that reverb coming up and especially at the end there, versus without that compression…

[Music Being Played 00:03:13]

And I’m just going to gain stage this a bit so that the level with this in is the same as the out, so we should have something like this.

[Music Being Played 00:03:33]

So now this is without any sidechain compression.

[Music Being Played 00:03:42]

And then with…

[Music Being Played 00:03:49]

Make it even more drastic.

[Music Being Played 00:03:58]

So now we can only hear the reverb between the phrases. So that’s a pretty over-the-top example. I’m going to tweak this a bit now.

I’m happy with the release time and the attack time, that sounds quite natural, fast attack. So I want the reverb to dip down really quickly and then a slower release because it sounds quite unnatural if it’s pumping in and out too much between the phrases. So I’m going to just tweak these settings a bit more.

[Music Being Played 00:04:56]

So now the reverb tail is there, we have the dreaminess with that reverb, but the words aren’t get swamped by it.

Now let’s listen in the context of the mix, so this is if I didn’t have any sidechain compression, and the reverb is still really loud here, it’s going to be really noticeable. We’re going to make this much more subtle in a second but just so you can hear what’s going on.

[Music Being Played 00:05:18]

Sounds quite swamped, whereas now…

[Music Being Played 00:05:46]

So without…

[Music Being Played 00:05:52]

And with…

[Music Being Played 00:06:00]

But it’s still pretty drastic. So now I’m going to bring back in that mono delay and tweak these and I’ll do it in solo first just so you can really hear what’s going on, but I would normally do this in the context of the mix without hitting that solo button.

[Music Being Played 00:06:48]

So now I’m getting it down to the point where it’s not a really obvious effect. I’m still just trying to get it to sound like a bit of a reverb on the vocal, but because we’re dipping it during the actual phrases at the vocal it’s not getting pushed too far back in the mix.

But we still get to keep that nice tail, and that’s really the situation where you want to use this trick is where you want to have that kind of noticeable reverb tail or quite a lot of reverb on the vocal but you’re noticing that it’s pushing it too far back in the mix and the vocal itself is a bit too swampy, bit too messy, it’s getting in the way of the words, the vocal isn’t as clear with that reverb. This kind of gives us the best of both worlds.

[Music Being Played 00:07:34]

So let’s listen to another phrase now. We are getting a bit sick of that. So let’s go to this different phrasing here.

[Music Being Played 00:07:58]

So let’s do a comparison. This is without any reverb at all.

[Music Being Played 00:08:08]

And with…

[Music Being Played 00:08:14]

So now it’s just got a bit of space around it, but it’s not pushing the vocal back too much, and we’ll do that in solo as well. So no reverb…

[Music Being Played 00:08:26]

And with…

[Music Being Played 00:08:33]

We can really hear that tail at the end there’s, a really lush tail coming in, because of that compression there, we are not losing the definition of the vocal.

So that’s it. That’s basically the trick. You can use it as a really obvious over-the-top effect where we’re kind of pumping in the vocal like this.

[Music Being Played 00:08:57]

To really get that tail.

[Music Being Played 00:09:05]

Or you can use it subtly like I did before, more like kind of a mixing context where I would just add in some space to the vocal, not as an effect, but to make it sit better in the mix. And then just using some sidechain compression to manage that definition and manage the actual way that the reverb interacts with the vocal itself.

Of course this is just one part of the mixing process. I’ve got some mono delay here, I was also playing around with some stereo delay, and that’s not even including EQ, compression, everything that goes into making this vocal sound professional.

So I put together a vocal mixing cheat sheet that would take you through all of those steps and will be a handy reference for you to use when you’re mixing to make sure you go through everything you need to do to make that vocal sound radio ready.

So it’s completely free. If you want to get that vocal mixing cheat sheet, just head to the link that’s on screen now or the link in the bio.

So that’s all for this video, I’m Rob for Musician on a Mission. If you’re new around here, don’t forget to subscribe and hit the notification bell, and I’ll see you next time.


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