Mixing Vocals: Easy Dynamic Vocal FX in SONAR

by Dan Gonzalez

A word on Vocal FX

Mixing vocals is a tricky process since it is the most prominent element in any song. Vocals can be processed a very specific way to achieve an effect of sorts – or they can be processed in subtle ways to fit nicely into an overall mix. Most of the time you’ll be dealing with the latter of the two so it’s important to figure out ways to enhance your vocals without overpowering the other instruments.

Critical attention to detail is what makes any track sound like a polished mix and to achieve this a lot of engineers approach each section, instrument, entrance, exit, etc. dynamically. Obviously one way to do this is by mixing with tons of automation, but there are other ways to setup your mix so that you don’t have to write loads of automation data.

Setting up a dynamic vocal effect

Let’s take a pretty dry vocal track and add a dynamic effect to it. Here’s an example of a verse that we can use.

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Making The New York Impulse Pack for the SONAR “Braintree” Release

by Dan Gonzalez

Impulse responses (IRs) are small bursts of audio data that represent the frequency response of a real life space. By using convolution reverbs we can use them creatively in our productions to increase depth and ambience.

 

The concept

To accurately represent a real life space, you need to excite it with a frequency sweep or a loud sound rich in complex frequencies like a starter pistol or snare drum hit. For my IR samples in the New York Impulse Pack I used a sine sweep. The sine sweep is the easiest way to make sure you get an accurate representation of a space.

Once you capture that space, you must process it with a utility that shortens the
frequency sweep into a state that convolution reverbs can use. Typically this audio data is no more than a split second long.

I used this workflow to produce the Impulse Responses you’ll receive in our content for users that are a part of the Braintree Release for SONAR Platinum and SONAR Professional.

The equipment you’ll need, and what I used

– Speaker, Studio Monitor, or Full Range Flat Response Speaker. I used a Cerwin Vega P1000.

The P1000X is a two-way, bi-amped, full-range bass-reflex speaker. It employs a 10-inch woofer and a high-frequency compression driver, powered by a custom Class-D amplifier. With a power rating of 1000 watts, the P1000X is one of the most powerful PA product in its class. A proprietary hemi-conical horn provides premium sound clarity over an even and wide coverage area. A built-in mixer with convenient I/O connections allows for simple and fast setup, while Enhanced EQ, VEGA BASS boost and High-Pass Filters enable exact tuning and exceptional performance for any application. The P1000X is a versatile product that can be used as a single speaker for small venues, set in pairs or installed with threaded hang points, and combined with the P1800SX Sub for a larger venue needing more coverage and SPL. Its compact size makes it ideal to operate as a floor monitor as well.”

– Pair of microphones, the flatter response the better. I had the benefit of borrowing a pair of Earthworks QTC40s.

– The ability to create a sine sweep. I used this free utility and then bought the license for $40.

– An audio interface to simultaneously play the sine sweep and capture sound of the excited space. My RME UFX worked out wonderfully because it has very clean preamps and multiple inputs and outputs.

– Of course, SONAR Platinum

The Microphones

The Microphones I used are pretty high-end reference microphones that have a frequency range from 20Hz-40kHz. These are great because they represent the sound of the room without any color. Since we’re in the business of capturing the sound of room – they make a perfect companion for this type of project.

Setting up the spaces

I setup the microphones in a few initial spots to get an idea of how the space sounded. On my first try it was clear that the space was going to sound good no matter where I placed the microphones and the source speaker. Both spaces are not highly reverberant, they just have quality sounding early reflections – which makes them great for getting initial sounds of drums and vocals.

The goal was to capture the room in various positions. I setup the microphones in close stereo pairs, distant stereo pairs, and subsequently moved the source speaker around them to bounce the sine sweep off different walls. During the processing stage, I then split these stereo IRs out into mono signals so that users could have a choice between stereo or mono processing. For example, here’s a rough diagram of how I setup the microphones in the center with various speaker locations for one set of IRs.

 

 

 

 

The IRs themselves

To excite the space I created a sine sweep with Voxengo Deconvolver.

BE CAREFUL WHEN PLAYING THESE, THEY ARE LOUD

Once the signal played through the room it sounds like this:

Large Room IR Example

Not very exciting on first listen, but when you process the tracks and apply some instruments you start to understand their sound. Here is a drum passage without the impulse response:

Now, here’s the same drum passage with the ambience of one of the “Big Room” IRs that I captured. You can hear how it doesn’t necessarily add reverb, but more an ambience.

Lastly, here’s just the ambience:

Small Room IR Example

Here’s a synth passage without any IRs applied:

Here’s the same patch with one of the SmallRoom IRs applied:

ProChannel Convolution Reverb with REmatrix Solo

by Dan Gonzalez

Convolution Reverb, now in the ProChannel

New to SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum is the increasingly popular and imaginative REmatrix Solo. REmatrix Solo uses convolution to mimic real life halls, rooms, plates, and other reverberant spaces. In order to do this, engineers use something called a sine sweep or starter pistols to excite a real space like a church or bathroom. Typically you need to use a space that has a particularly natural short or long decay and does not have artifacts like flutter verbs or cancelling frequencies. You can even capture the sound of other reverb plugins and import that sound into REmatrix Solo.

This version is based off of a the full REmatrix plugin by Overloud. Currently, REmatrix Solo allows users to play a single IR but in the full version, you can play up to 5 IRs at once – allowing you to cross-pollinate your favorite reverbs into one lush space.

What’s the difference between Breverb and REmatrix Solo

Breverb and REmatrix Solo actually use different technology to create reverb. Breverb is based on a famous digital reverb found in almost every major recording studio. Breverb uses a dedicated or similar algorithm to recreate things like Early Reflections, Late Reflections, Pre-Delay, Decay, and other elements of a reverb. Breverb recreates a digital reverb whereas REmatrix uses the aforementioned convolution methods to convolve passing sounds with data from real life spaces. Breverb lets you tweak the elements of reverb and REmatrix creates a space around your sound.

Here’s a in depth look at the REmatrix Solo plugin brand new to SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum.