Tips for Processing Vocals in Reason
After the initial arrangement of your music, the mix should be dry, untreated and should sound raw and natural. As a rule, these vocals are originally recorded with minimal treatment (EQ, compression, reverb etc.). It is at the mixing stage that effects and processors are usually applied. The human voice is more dynamic than musical instruments; in the sense that it can drastically hit high/loud and low/soft notes within split seconds. That is why vocals must be processed for them to sound more musical. This post is meant to provide you with some tips for processing vocals in Reason.
Figure 1: Overall Mix Processing Signal Flow.
To simulate the analog tape warm saturation, use the Scream 4 Distortion effect device from the Create menu. Note this device is connected between Reason Hardware Interface and the mixer.
Figure 2: Simulating analog warm saturation with Scream 4 Distortion.
Your starting point should be loading a predefined patch, which you could later tweak to get the desired sound. In this case, we’ll be loading the CompressMaster.sm4 patch. Follow this navigational path to locate this patch: Reason Factory Sound Bank Scream 4 Patches Warm Saturation.
Now it’s time to start tweaking this patch. First of all, disable CUT and BODY options; while the Damage Type is still set to Tape. Start with a low Damage Control setting. Adjust P1 (Speed) and P2 (Compression) to taste. Raise the Damage Control for more tape saturation distortion, adjust P1 to get the desired brightness and raise P2 for more compressed sound. Adjust the Master button as required.
In this case, we’ll be using reverb as Send/Return effect device for global treatment of all instruments. We need to set up two reverb devices of two groups of instruments (percussions and legatos). Thus, create RV7000 Advanced Reverb from the Create menu. To auto route this device, select the mixer before creating the reverb device.
To set up reverb effect as auxiliary send/return device, select the mixer and create the reverb device (RV7000 Advanced Reverb). The reverb device will be auto routed (as stereo connection) to the mixer. Start tweaking by loading the VOX VocalSpread.rv7 patch (which is located through this path: Reason Factory Sound Bank RV7000 Patches).
Table 1: Reverb settings for mixing vocals.
For the want of richer lead vocal sound, create an auto-tuned copy from the original dry (unprocessed) lead vocal line. You can use pitch correcting plug-ins, such as Antares Autotune to create the auto-tuned copy. Playing the two versions (auto-tuned and original) of the lead vocal line will produce a punchier sound; and this eliminates the tedious task of trying to get several exact takes of the vocal line during recording.
Figure : Lead vocal processing signal flow.
These sounds are then routed together through the Line Mixer 6:2. Notice however, that the original dry sound must be louder than the auto-tuned copy. The resultant sound from the line mixer is passed on to the Unison device. Unison simulates the sound of several detuned voices playing simultaneously. The voices are individually slightly delayed and pitch-modulated to produce a rich chorus effect with the voices spread across the stereo field. However, in this case, use low DETUNE value with more dry signals sent out of the Unison device. In all, this connection guarantees richer vocal sound.
The sonic quality of the vocal line is further enhanced by passing it through the Scream 4 Distortion device that creates additional harmonic content to the sound. To equalize and compress the lead vocal line, see Equalization and Compression sections for more details.
Finally, the sound is passed through DDl-1 device (as stereo connection). Note that a long delay (above 200ms – that matches the song’s tempo) will reinforce the vocal line and make it stronger. However, a short delay (around 20 – 45ms) enlarges/doubles the sound. Note that the level of the FEEDBACK and the wet signals should be kept very low. This will make the vocal line fatter and upfront, without adding artifacts.
Processing backing vocals is much identical to that of lead vocal; except for the fact that backing vocals sound softer, distant and behind the scene. Therefore, it means more effects/processors will be applied here.
Figure 4: Backing vocal processing signal flow.
After equalization, an audio splitter is required. Create the Spider Audio Merger & Splitter device from the Create menu. Route the sound from the MClass Equalizer to the input channels of the Splitter section. Connect one of the audio splitter channels to the left input of the filter (ECF-42 Envelope Controlled Filter). Route another output from the audio splitter to the left Carrier Input of the BV512 Vocoder.
Tweak the filter to your desirable taste and route the resultant sound (modulation signal) to the Modulator Input of the vocoder. Set the BV512 Vocoder device to process signals as a vocoder (not Equalizer) and make the remaining tweaking according to the sound you are looking for.
Figure 5: Reason BV512 Vocoder device.
The resultant sound from the left output channel of the BV512 Vocoder is then connected to the left input channel of the MClass Compressor; while right input channel of the compressor is routed to one of the output channels of the audio splitter.
The outputs of the compressor are connected to the left input channel (as mono) of the Chorus/Flanger and DDL-1 FX devices respectively. The resultant sounds from these effect devices are then routed (as stereo) to their respective channels on the Line Mixer 6:2. On this line mixer, the sounds from the Chorus/Flanger and DDL-1 are pan to the left and right respectively.
Figure 6: Processing vocals with Chorus/Flanger and DDL-1 FX devices.
The backing vocal processing setup (discussed in the previous section) could be modified to turn one or two voices into a complete backing ensemble by simply cloning the original vocalist(s). This processing arrangement is more appreciating where you need enough backing vocalists/choir singing in harmony. It creates rich and lush vocal sounds by simulating the slight pitch and timbre variations experienced when more than one person is singing in harmony.
To achieve this pseudo-ensemble, let every original backing vocal line have its processing arrangement (in a separate Combinator device). From here, these Combinator devices are then outputted to a line mixer. Now, to mimic the slight timing differences use random delay settings of around 50 to 150ms on different original backing vocals.
Figure 7: Creating Pseudo-Ensemble submix.
This blog, Tips for Processing Vocals in Reason, culled from this eBook: Music Arranging and Mixing with Reason by E. J. Garba