Vocals are one of, if not the most important elements in a mix. They add a unique, organic touch that you can’t get with programmed drums and VSTs. Of course, you’re probably here because you’ve struggled to get your vocals to sit right in the mix.
The good thing is that there is no reason to waste your money on tons of expensive third-party plugins
Today, we’re going to dive in and show you how you can treat your vocals using the tools available in FL Studio.
One of the first steps to any professional vocal mix is pitch correction.
Making sure that the singer is in the key of the song is crucial. No singer is perfect, and even the best singers will often have moments of pitch fluctuation, missing notes, or sitting a bit flat/sharp.
Luckily, we have tools like newTone or Pitcher, which we can use to tune our vocals. In our opinion, newTone is much more flexible, giving you more control over your vocals. While it’s not as in-depth as top-of-the-line tuning software, such as Melodyne or Antares Auto-Tune, it allows you to simply set the scale of your song and adjust a few parameters to keep your vocals sounding natural yet in the right key.
Getting Rid Of Noise
Depending on what environment you’re recording in, noise might be a major issue. The last thing you want to do is compress your vocals only to have a ton of noise come up and muddy your mix.
Noise can include anything from traffic passing by to the music from your headphones bleeding out to computer fans and beyond. By using the Noise Gate in FL Studio, we can get rid of this unwanted noise. To find this noise gate, navigate to the Fruity Limiter and select the Vocal Gate preset.
Carefully set the threshold while listening closely. The gate will either mute or reduce the volume of anything that sits below the threshold, so it’s important that you make sure it’s only muting the noise and not any quieter portions of your vocal.
PRO TIP: To get the most natural sound out of your noise gate, you’ll want to adjust the release knob so that your gate doesn’t cut off the vocal too fast. The gain knob on Fruity Limiter tells you the amount of dBs you’re reducing with your noise gate.
De-essing is a crucial part of any vocal mix, as it removes harsh sibilance or hiss sounds that are often present in vocal recordings. When a vocal is compressed, these harsh “ss” sounds will increase in volume. They can stick out like a sore thumb in a mix if you don’t tame them. Even if obvious sibilance is not painful to listen to, it can be extremely annoying.
You can think of a de-esser like a multi-band compressor, though one that works in the upper-mids and high-frequencies, typically from around 3kHz to 12kHz.
While there isn’t a dedicated de-esser in FL Studio, you can tame sibilance using Maximus, which has a de-ess preset with adjustable bands depending on where your sibilance lies.
It’s best to adjust your threshold so that it tames the sibilance on your vocal without making it sound like the vocalist has a lisp. This can be a delicate dance, as some sibilant consonants get louder than others.
It’s often a good idea to go through your vocal tracks and turn down your sibilant syllables using clip gain so that they all hit the de-esser at the same level. This way, you don’t have to do as much de-esser threshold automation to get your sibilance to sit properly. It’s also important to do this in the context of your mix.
While your de-essing might sound heavy-handed in solo, it might be the perfect amount when the rest of the mix is in.
PRO TIP: I often find myself using two de-essers, one to tame the most prominent sibilant frequencies around 5kHz to 7kHz, and another to tame the super high-end sibilant frequencies around 10kHz.
Once you’ve tamed your sibilance, it’s time to start EQing your vocal recording. For this part of the vocal treatment, you can use the Fruity Parametric EQ.
I often like to start by getting rid of any unnecessary low-end. To do this, I’ll loop a vocal section in the context of my mix and bring up a high-pass filter on the vocals. What I’ve found is most helpful is taking the high-pass filter up to a point where it is too far and bringing it back down until you have just the right amount of low-end energy in your vocals relevant to the mix.
Once the low-end is taken care of, I’ll begin listening for any other problems that are arising. For example, there might be a bit of mud in the low-mids, anywhere from 100 to 300Hz. If so, I’ll put one of the EQ bands in this range and dip it out a few dB until it sounds right.
PRO TIP: I see a lot of misinformation online these days about creating a small Q and sweeping for “bad” frequencies. The problem with this method is that a super high Q and a large dB boost will make just about anything sound resonant and “bad.” This kind of advice only makes sense if you already hear some resonant frequencies in your recording and you want to sweep around to pinpoint them and get rid of them.
Once your unwanted frequencies are all taken care of, it’s time to start working on the vocal’s dynamic range. Vocals are one of the most dynamic instruments out there. Without proper dynamic control, they can bounce all over the mix, leaving some words unheard and others way too loud.
To control the dynamic range of a vocal, we can use the Fruity Limiter. I often like to start with a ratio of about 3:1 or 4:1, a medium attack (which allows consonants through while maintaining a sense of control), and a relatively fast release time (one that doesn’t clamp down on a vocal throughout an entire phrase).
Of course, these settings will change depending on the vocal, and some vocals will call for heavier compression than others. These are simply starting points.
For EDM, trap, and hip–hop, heavy doses of compression are pretty standard. It’s not unheard of to have about 20dB of compression on a vocal to lock it into a mix. If you need tons of compression, I recommend doing it in serial.
What I mean by that is using multiple compressors, each of which takes on a smaller piece of the dynamic burden, rather than having a single compressor that is responsible for the entire dynamic range. By using multiple compressors when applying heavy compression, you get the best of both worlds — dynamic control and a natural tone.
Is FL Studio Good For Vocals?
FL Studio is great for recording and mixing vocals, as it has all of the necessary tools to get high-quality results. Of course, it is equally important to pay attention to the recording environment if you are in charge of the recording process, as it can have a major impact on the way a vocal sounds.
How Should You EQ Vocals?
While there is no one-size-fits-all EQ setting for vocals, there are general steps that many engineers take to get a professional sounding vocal. Here are some of the frequency ranges to look out for when EQing:
Final Thoughts - Mixing The Perfect Vocal
By following the steps above, you should be closer to getting that pro vocal sound that you’re after. However, you might still be thinking
Where in the world do I start when processing my vocals?
If so, you’re not alone. For this reason, we’ve developed a number of high-quality vocal presets to get you started. You can use these vocal presets as starting points to mix faster and smarter.