Even vocalists with really good control can be way too dynamic when recording. Controlling the vocals so you can hear each word evenly throughout the song without the sound of any pumping or compression artifacts can be difficult. Heres some methods used on the latest mix that i’m working on. We wanted to vocal to sit in the front of the mix the whole way through so it was important that the dynamics were right.
Using compression first can result in certain parts hitting the compressor too hard, causing a ducking sound. To get the vocals to be as level as possible before the compressor, try volume automation. It is important to use your ears during this part but It can also be helpful to use a meter to make sure that the peaks are relatively even. This process can get quite tedious but it’s worth it!
Add a super fast compressor with the fastest attack and release settings, hitting it at – 3dB max. This clamps down any peaks that got through the automation.
Then move on to another 1176 style compressor, this time with fastest release and fairly slow attack, hitting it about – 7dB. The waves CLA blue stripe works well for this, it adds some cool harmonics to the high end. This really starts to sit the vocals at the front of the mix.
Now you can add an LA2A style compressor, hitting it pretty gently at about – 1 -3 dB this is a slow compressor and added after a fast 1176 can add some nice glue to the vocals. This compressor can also be used on the vocal bus with all the different vocals channels being sent to it.
You could even take this a step further but adding some parallel compression. Send your vocal to a separate bus and slam it through a compressor. The waves CLA 76 works well for this on the fastest release, slowest attack with the all in ration hitting it so the needle stays past 20. Then just blend it in to taste!