Optimizing Vocals with DSP

Optimizing tracks with DSP, then adding some judicious use of the DSP-laden VX-64 Vocal Strip, offers very flexible vocal processing. 

By Craig Anderton 

This is kind of a “twofer” article about DSP—first we’ll look at some DSP menu items, then apply some signal processing courtesy of the VX64—all with the intention of creating some great vocal sounds. 

PREPPING A VOCAL WITH “MENU” DSP 

“Prepping” a vocal with DSP before processing can make the processing more effective. For example, if you want to compress your vocal and there are significant level variations, you may end up adding lots of compression to accommodate quiet parts. But then when loud parts kick in, the compression starts pumping. 

Here’s another example. A lot of people use low-cut filters to banish rogue plosives (e.g., a popping “b” or “p” sound). However, it’s often better to add a fade-in to get rid of the plosive; this retains some of the plosive sound, and avoids affecting frequency response. 

Adding a fade-in to a plosive can get rid of the objectionable section while leaving the vocal timbre untouched. 

Also check if any levels need to be evened out, because there will usually be some places where the peaks are considerably higher than the rest of the vocal, and you don’t want these pumping the compressor either. The easiest fix is to select a track, drag in the timeline above the area you want to edit, then go Process > Apply Effect > Gain and drop the level by a dB or two. 

This peak is considerably louder than the rest of the vocal, but reducing it a few dB will bring it into line. 

Also note that if you have Melodyne Editor, you can use the Percussive algorithm with the volume tool to level out words visually. This is really fast and effective. 

While you’re playing around with DSP, this is also a good time to cut out silences, then add fadeouts into silence, and fadeins up from silence. Do this with the vocal soloed, so you can hear any little issues that might come back to haunt you later. Also, sometimes it’s a good idea to normalize individual vocal clips up to –3dB or so (leave some headroom) so that the compressor sees a more consistent signal. 

The clip on the left has been normalized and faded out. The silence between clips has been cut away. The clip on the right fades in, but has not been normalized. 

With DSP processing, it’s good practice to work on a copy of the vocal, and make the changes permanent as you do them. The simplest way to apply Continue reading Optimizing Vocals with DSP

SONAR 8.5 Earns Excellent Ratings in EM Review

sonar-main-460-80Electronic Musician’s Brian Smithers highlighted just some of SONAR 8.5’s many strong suits in his latest review, stating that “although SONAR was already a strong platform for groove manipulation, its new arpeggiator and Matrix view, along with the improved step sequencer and AudioSnap function, bring it to a new level of flexibility and power.” Smithers goes on to say “add to that the Session Drummer 3 improvements and the PX-64, and SONAR 8.5 is sure to bring a smile to the drummer in you.” Additionally, the review sings the praises of the Matrix view touting “Project5 users will feel right at home, as will Ableton Live users. The ability to have cell-based (nonlinear) triggering of audio and MIDI loops within SONAR’s sequencing environment brings significant new workflow possibilities.”

Read the rest of EM’s SONAR 8.5 Review on their website.

Create Record Label, High-Quality Productions With SONAR 8.5

MatrixViewFor Chris Maguire, upgrading his DAW to SONAR 8.5 was a no brainer. For $99, Chris made the move from SONAR 8.0 Producer and immediately began to see the improvements made to the DAW’s feature set and functionality.  In his review at Altsounds.com, Chris explains how he used the VX-64 Vocal Strip, PX-64 Percussion Strip and the Matrix view (the brand new mixing and arranging tools in SONAR 8.5) to create high-end, professional sounding productions.

To Chris, these three additions to SONAR 8.5 alone, “were worth the upgrade price so when you throw in all the other updates, tweaks and functionality you get for your money, there should be no question (to upgrade to SONAR 8.5).”

Read Chris’s full analysis of  SONAR 8.5 at Altsounds.com.

Hits Keep Coming for Wendy Starland & the V-Studio 100

Wendy Starland, VH1’s Best Emerging Artist, has landed numerous songs on the Billboard charts and on primetime TV. She’s currently working on a new album and is using the V-Studio 100 to record and enhance her vocal tracks.

Wendy was recently honored by The Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame for her top 10 hit song, Dancing With The Sea, her self-written & produced single which was released in Europe alongside multi-platinum artists, Norah Jones, Feist, and Edie Brickell, just to name a few. Her song landed at #8 on the charts, giving her the opportunity to tour throughout Europe to thousands of fans. She is a featured lead vocalist on multi-platinum artist Mobys Grammy nominated album, Last Night, which went to #1 on the Billboard charts.

Her songs have been heard in hit TV shows, including Las Vegas and ABC’s Regis and Kelly. Fashion diva Donna Karan, celebrity clothing line Boy Meets Girl, Mobile Vision Player, Milestone Brand beverages, and skin care/ makeup line, Beauty Society, are all using her music and image in their ad campaigns on network TV (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) as well as in print (Teen Vogue, Teen People, Cosmo Girl, Elle Magazine, and The New York Times).

Her new single, Love Will Come To You, is being released on dPulse / Universal, along with 4 remixes, at The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater to an audience of 12,500 people.

An Affordable & Comprehensive DAW: SONAR 8.5

sonar85_asIn the Autumn issue, Computer Music magazine gets to the bottom of the new point release for Cakewalk’s flagship DAW, SONAR 8.5. As stated in the article, chock full of new features and engine optimizations SONAR 8.5 is ‘far from just a collection of under-the-hood tweaks.’

The new version packs a wealth of plug-ins including two seven-stage processors for treating drums and vocals, a non-linear cell based Matrix view and a fully-loaded Arpeggiator (based off of tools in the now extinct Project5) plus a Media Browser that supports a variety of files (REX, anyone?) which can be used natively in SONAR’s track view. Also available in SONAR 8.5 is a tool called Bitbridge, allowing SONAR to use 32-bit plug ins in a 64-bit environment and guaranteed compatibility with Windows 7 (release date: Oct 22, 2009).

SONAR 8.5 is available for purchase as a download and as a boxed copy with a variety of pricing and upgrades options to fit every musician’s budget.

Pick up the latest issue of Computer Music to see the news article

Chuck Carr Mixes The Hoff’s Vocals for Video Game Release

Producer and Songwriter for video games, Chuck Carr, posted this video to his YouTube account and we wanted to share it with you. In the video, Chuck uses the brand new VX-64 Vocal Strip (included in SONAR 8.5 Producer) to tweak The Hoff’s rendition of ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ for an upcoming release of the Playstation 3 game, PAIN.

Get Amazing Add-Ons With A SONAR 8.5 Producer Upgrade

MatrixView

If you’re ready to take the ultimate step to SONAR 8.5 Producer, there has never been a better time to upgrade! SONAR 8.5 Producer includes all of the innovations, instruments and effects that were included in version 8 plus a host of new features including:

 • Matrix View – simple and flexible cell-based, non-linear audio and MIDI arranging with live triggering capability
Session Drummer 3 – latest version of Cakewalk’s virtual instrument for easy and fast creation of drum tracks with a new UI, stellar sounding kits and patterns from top sound designers and drummers, more
PX-64 Percussion Strip – seven-stage processor designed specifically for use with drums and percussion
VX-64 Vocal Strip – seven-stage processor optimized for shaping and sculpting vocal tracks

We would also like to let you know that there are a number of Elite Upgrades available to existing SONAR 8 Producer customers at an incredible price! For years, SONAR has been a completely open system, meaning you can add virtually any third party software program to your studio with the peace of mind that it will work flawlessly with SONAR. In that spirit, we have partnered up with some of the industry’s top third party manufacturers (including TruePianos, IK Multimedia, Native Instruments, Notion, Izotope) to create special upgrade options in hopes of rounding out your SONAR experience!

You can find more information on these Upgrades here