How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?
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Old 02-06-2017, 07:23 PM   #1
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How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

So I've been attempting to work with my vocals lately, and am running into an issue that I can't quite figure out. I don't want my vocals to pop, or stand out in the mix, I'd rather have them in the background...functioning almost as an instrument or like a pad/drone. I've tried the google...but all articles seem to be about making vocals stand out. Apparently I'm the only person in the world that wants them to be somewhat buried.

Anything I do that makes the vocal sound good, makes it stand out.
If I try to subtract in a way that the vocal is able to fade into the back, I lose quality.

Any ideas?

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Old 02-06-2017, 07:31 PM   #2
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

That's something I try to do all the time, but I think most of it is a combination of feeling weird about my own singing voice and being a fan of shoegaze music.

With that, what often works for me is lots of reverb, filtering out some of the higher frequencies, and just mixing it lower. Helps if you're singing sustained notes in simple melodies, as well.

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Old 02-06-2017, 07:34 PM   #3
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

Potentially also band bass filtering and severe compression? Band pass might help hollow out the vocal. I was also going to say getting rid of some of the highs. Reverb is probably the best option. @[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
, do usually do insert or parallel reverb? It would seem to me insert, not 100% wet would get the job done best?
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Old 02-06-2017, 07:41 PM   #4
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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Originally Posted by relic View Post
Potentially also band bass filtering and severe compression? Band pass might help hollow out the vocal. I was also going to say getting rid of some of the highs. Reverb is probably the best option. @[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
, do usually do insert or parallel reverb? It would seem to me insert, not 100% wet would get the job done best?
I suppose if you were just concentrating on the one sound, but if you're worrying about it standing out too much you'd want to use your reverb send, imo.

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Old 02-06-2017, 07:45 PM   #5
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

filters reverb and light distortion and just gain staging.
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Old 02-06-2017, 08:03 PM   #6
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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filters reverb and light distortion and just gain staging.
this
lots of studio use a pultec on vocal so slight distortion and reverb to put in the back of the mix

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Old 02-06-2017, 09:06 PM   #7
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

most obvious thing would be a high shelf.. or maybe just a bell that cuts some high mids. It really depends a ton on the voice itself and how it was recorded. Definitely want to remove any weird resonances in upper mids.

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Old 02-06-2017, 10:01 PM   #8
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

There's lots of ways to do this, but it really depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you want that post-metal I'm-screaming-at-you-from-across-the-room sound, it's just low gain and some reverb.

If you want to completely destroy the actual content of the words you can EQ out around 5-800Hz and 1k-5k. That makes it sound like you're talking/singing into a pillow, but you can turn it up as much as you want. Can be good for a basis for effects.

You can also drench it in reverb, delay, distortion or whatever until it becomes a weird wreck of sonic destruction that doesn't really sound like you trying to be Steve Perry. Could be anywhere on a spectrum of Skinny Puppy to silly aggrotech.

I think the first one is where my head goes where I think of vocals in the background. Just turn it down and blend it with reverb until it's barely there above the music.
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Old 02-06-2017, 10:20 PM   #9
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

excess reverb, and turn down mid range

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Old 02-06-2017, 10:23 PM   #10
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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Originally Posted by Artificer View Post
There's lots of ways to do this, but it really depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you want that post-metal I'm-screaming-at-you-from-across-the-room sound, it's just low gain and some reverb.

If you want to completely destroy the actual content of the words you can EQ out around 5-800Hz and 1k-5k. That makes it sound like you're talking/singing into a pillow, but you can turn it up as much as you want. Can be good for a basis for effects.

You can also drench it in reverb, delay, distortion or whatever until it becomes a weird wreck of sonic destruction that doesn't really sound like you trying to be Steve Perry. Could be anywhere on a spectrum of Skinny Puppy to silly aggrotech.

I think the first one is where my head goes where I think of vocals in the background. Just turn it down and blend it with reverb until it's barely there above the music.
Going for more of the early VAC style vocals where you can hear a vocal track but it so "spacey" and buried that you can't tell whats being said. At this point I'm assuming the main component to this is lots of reverb?

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Old 02-06-2017, 10:31 PM   #11
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

vac vocals are far from subtle, split channel, pitch shift them far, not just few semitones but more or less octave apart, use different reverb and different separation on each,

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Old 02-06-2017, 10:55 PM   #12
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

dont use any pre-delay on your reverb (that places the sound on the back wall of the virtual space).

id use two verbs tbf.... one to push the sound further back in the mix, that would be a plate reverb with like a decay of 0.75sec (if you really wanna push it REALLY far back use a and a second one to wash the sounds out, that would be a long hall reverb with like 20-40ms of pre-delay and like a 7 sec or so tail....

also hi-pass at like 5000hz

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Old 02-06-2017, 11:36 PM   #13
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

If you want them buried, you can always just turn down the volume.

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Old 02-07-2017, 12:04 AM   #14
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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If you want them buried, you can always just turn down the volume.
It more of a spatial issue I'm trying to address.

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Old 02-07-2017, 12:23 AM   #15
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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It more of a spatial issue I'm trying to address.
distortion reverb stereo shapening and compression.
wave arts power suite has an excellent plugin called panorama for this type of stuff.
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Old 02-07-2017, 12:26 AM   #16
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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Going for more of the early VAC style vocals where you can hear a vocal track but it so "spacey" and buried that you can't tell whats being said. At this point I'm assuming the main component to this is lots of reverb?
It depends. Yeah, there's reverb, but that's mostly to make it sit well in the mix and maybe push it back a bit. I don't think of those vocals as being incredibly reverbed so much as distorted, EQed into a very midrange band and then maybe phased or flanged a bit. Then leveled like just another instrument without the common boost that front and center vocals often get. Reverb's there, but I think it plays less of a role that you might think.

It might help if you cited an example of what you're going for. VAC didn't have a standard vocal effect or sound that I know of; it differed between albums and individual songs. Some of them did just wash out with reverb but a lot of it was way more complicated than that.
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Old 02-07-2017, 12:32 AM   #17
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

was gonna say, gimme a link VAC vox is all over the place.

these days it sounds a lot like "no money for tour, how much merch should i make.. etc"

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Old 02-07-2017, 12:50 AM   #18
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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Originally Posted by Artificer View Post
It depends. Yeah, there's reverb, but that's mostly to make it sit well in the mix and maybe push it back a bit. I don't think of those vocals as being incredibly reverbed so much as distorted, EQed into a very midrange band and then maybe phased or flanged a bit. Then leveled like just another instrument without the common boost that front and center vocals often get. Reverb's there, but I think it plays less of a role that you might think.

It might help if you cited an example of what you're going for. VAC didn't have a standard vocal effect or sound that I know of; it differed between albums and individual songs. Some of them did just wash out with reverb but a lot of it was way more complicated than that.
I really feel EQ has to be a big part of this. Usually front and center vocals. Like Top 40 pop stuff, that all sounds to me like everything else is EQ'd to sit around the vocal, so to push it "back" I would do the opposite of that, in a sense.

VAC takes me back...there was a minute where I was doing just-push-play DJing for some local fetish events. That was always a favorite.
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Old 02-07-2017, 12:51 AM   #19
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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Originally Posted by relic
I really feel EQ has to be a big part of this. Usually front and center vocals. Like Top 40 pop stuff, that all sounds to me like everything else is EQ'd to sit around the vocal, so to push it "back" I would do the opposite of that, in a sense.
Yeah, I think that's right. I guess to me it's about treating the vocal as just another sound source or instrument and downplaying the importance that people usually place on it. So you carve out a space for it, but not at the expense of anything else. It's equal to the synths and drums and tuba samples and whatever else - maybe even less so. It's vocals for effect as opposed to vocals with a message and as a centerpiece.

Specific to a lot of that 80s-90s industrial, I think a lot of it was EQed fairly narrow banded midrange which was further emphasized by being distorted. So you retained the meat of the vocal where the punch and syllables are, but that's then so distorted and modulated that you just get the impression of speech instead of the speech itself, which thus treats the vocals as instrument or effect. It's still mostly happening in that 800Hz-3k range. Most of those guys didn't go for full throated deep vocals, more thin and resonant. Except for Laibach, because they just had to be different. Weirdos.

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these days it sounds a lot like "no money for tour, how much merch should i make.. etc"
Is there a Waves plugin for that?

Last edited by Artificer; 02-07-2017 at 01:02 AM..
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Old 02-07-2017, 04:35 PM   #20
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Re: How do I make vocals NOT stand out and NOT "pop"?

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Originally Posted by chasedobson View Post
was gonna say, gimme a link VAC vox is all over the place.

these days it sounds a lot like "no money for tour, how much merch should i make.. etc"
But he only sold 10 shirts at Bar Standard, Chase, only 10! In a room of 700 people who bought tickets. Geez you don't get it.

Also, I was one of 10....$20 for a shirt at a show is cheap as hell these days. What other artist is selling $20 shirts? The struggle is real.

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