- VOLUME RIDING
Vocalists, or any live performance, may become fairly dynamic prompting the use of one or two compressors. Albeit a great method of practice chaining two or more compressors together, another stage that will help control the extreme dynamics is something called volume riding. Volume riding is automation written for the track fader where a slight volume reduction is created over loud parts and a slight volume increase is applied over the quiet parts. This a manual way to level off the dynamics before letting your compressor take care of the rest.
- FILTERING, SUBTRACTIVE
Filtering and subtractive equalization is the first recommended step in improving the quality of a recording. A high pass filter is almost always used to a varied degree on all recordings as sub frequencies tend to leak into the recording from various sources such as rumbling, large vehicles nearby, structural noise, mechanical fans and equipment. Breaking the frequency spectrum into relative characteristics will help direct your attention towards one specific band of frequencies should that characteristic be too present. From low to high; rumble, fullness, nasally, honky, crunch, harsh, piercing, bright, and air. Each of these terms belong to a band of frequencies and making the connection is an excellent training method when first working with EQ’s.
- TRANSIENT CONTROL; ARTICULATION OR SOFTNESS
After correcting any problems in the frequency spectrum with filtering or EQ attenuation, you may begin applying the first compressor to react to the articulation and consonants of words. Typically, fast attack and release times will take care of the transients and articulation. The more compression applied here, the less defined words will be.
- COMPRESSION; BODY CONTROL
For the second, chained compressor, use slightly slower attack and release times to begin working on the body of the words for dynamic cohesion. In both of these compressors, be aware of release times as they can ultimately incorporate artefacts related to release times. Release times that are too fast will produce in consistent dynamics and sporadic volume changes rendering unnatural sounds.
After corrective EQing and dynamic range control through a variety of compressors, you may choose to apply additive EQ to enhance a favourable tone or characteristic of that recording. Listen for any characteristic that is perhaps lacking such as fullness, clarity and air.
Using a multiband compressor or a standard compressor with input EQ functionality will allow you to control the harsh “s’s” and “t’s” a vocalist may create. These consonants reside in a very sensitive part of the frequency spectrum, 2kHz to 7kHz. This area is harsh for the human ear and microphones tend to pick these frequencies up very well. An EQ will simply attenuate those frequencies consistently across every word whereas a de-essing compressor will only react to a surplus of that frequency range.
Opposite of compression is expansion. Expanders can be used on consonants that appear to be lost in a recording piece of audio. A loss in these articulations can be from the performer offsetting the direction of their voice or an incorrectly aligned microphone. This process is not always a necessary step in vocal editing but when used, be diligent. Ultimately you are creating dynamic range and extracting transients, this process is delicate.