Hey VP fam,
There are loads of creative effects out there. A lot of them do similar things. For example; at first glance a phaser and a flanger have similar sounds to them but ultimately are different. The devil is in the details with how some of these effects sound different than one another.
Let's go over the VocalPresets top 5 best effects for vocals in 2020.
Flanger and Phaser – These effects are different from one another but we're putting them together because they’re very similar. Flangers and Phasers make the audio signal sound like it’s either moving up and down or in and out. These can be super useful with a high mix setting when adding a more creative effect to a sound, the song “Tell Me Baby” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers” uses a fast modulating phaser on the hook guitars. These effects can also be used with a low mix to give a sound some movement. A low mix Flanger can sound great on bass guitars. I typically would only use these plugins on vocals on low mix. I probably wouldn’t use it on a 2020 rap song. I would however experiment using Flangers and Phasers on vocals by The Weeknd. These plugins take experimentation. In small doses they can really upgrade a sound and give it another dimension.
Chorus – This is my favorite stereo imaging plugin. Chorus with a low mix can make a sound wide without that overly “Chorus” effect that can sometimes sound corny. I use Chorus’ on vocals often. When listening to your vocal in the mix try introducing a chorus in the vocal chain and go from a 0% mix and start bringing the mix up. When the vocal sounds like it’s in its own stereo space, stop. Sometimes if you have a cluttered mix a chorus won’t help you but if you have a sonically great sounding beat and the vocal is sounding too mono or not sitting right, introducing chorus can really put the vocal in its own space. The way you know when a vocal is sitting in its own space is when it sounds like a gap has been filled in the mix. I typically end up applying 0%-10% mix of chorus on lead vocal.
Soft Clipper – This is my favorite plugin hands down, the secret sauce. Soft Clippers are a type of distortion but I like to think of it as a creative effect. In short, soft clipping simulates the type of distortion found in analog audio systems. When people talk about loving that analog warm sound, a soft clipper will get you there. There are stand-alone soft clipper plugins, they also exist inside some of your DAWs distortion plugins. You will typically see a setting where you can turn on soft clipping. A quick google search will show you which plugin in your DAW comes with it. Soft Clipping can take your vocal, master buss or individual instrument tracks (including drums) to the next level. This effect just sounds great to the ears. I try not to use it on every instrument in the track as I like to create contrast but I will use it on my master buss in small doses. This will surely take your track to the next level. It’s also a great way to make vocals stand out and sound professional. A soft clipper can take a Billie Eilish type vocal, quiet and whispery, and give it a hard texture so it doesn’t sound weak. Use this effect! When I learned how to use it many of my questions for how producers got their tracks to sound so professional were answered.
Autotune / Pitch Plugins – These are essential. Even in small doses (for popular music). Our ears have become so accustomed to great pitch over the years that an out of pitch vocal can quickly irritate an average listener. Usually they won’t know what’s wrong with the vocal but they will be able to identify it being out of pitch. This is because we have been listening to perfect vocals on the radio for the last 10+ years. Much of rap music today has overly autotuned vocals as a creative effect. This can sound great, it used to sound unprofessional years ago. Some listeners now enjoy the sound of perfect vocals so much that they like these types of effects when applied creatively (extreme settings). Pitch plugins are also extremely effective when applied in small doses, with a slower response. With a slower response, instead of automatically setting the vocal into perfect pitch, the pitch plugin will slowly nudge the vocal into place. So if you have a sustained note the plugin will start to nudge the vocal into pitch after a couple milliseconds. This sounds more natural to the listener and can be heard on everything from Maroon 5 to Rihanna.
What creative effects do you like to use?