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How to Add Sparkle to a Lead Vocal in a Pop-EDM Record

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How to Add Sparkle to a Lead Vocal in a Mix
How to Add Sparkle to a Lead Vocal in a Mix - youtube Video
Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here —,, and

I want to show you how to add sparkle to a lead vocal in a Pop-EDM record. So let’s give the vocal a listen.


So, this is just a faders up mix. There’s no processing on anything yet, and I think that the vocal sounds good. It sounds like it was well recorded, but it needs a little bit of sparkle. So this is what I came up with.

[mix with sparkle vocal]

And now I’m going to walk you through the process of how I got there, because I think that sounds pretty darn good.

What I did was I used a lot of hardware equipment, and after I did it, I was like, “gosh, how would anybody on a reasonable budget be able to recreate this? Can I redo this in the box using only software?”

And I got this.


And it’s not exactly the same, but it’s pretty darn close, I think, and you know, we’ll compare and contrast at the end and you’ll hear some of the differences, but that’s a pretty good sound.

So what I’m doing with the software is pretty much exactly what I was doing with the hardware, and I’m going to break it down.

So, the first step was de-essing, and I did that using this exact de-esser, the FabFilter DS. It’s a pretty standard move right there, as well as a high-pass filter at 85Hz and a slight bit of attenuation at about 450Hz. All pretty standard stuff.

Then we go to the outboard gear. In the box, I’m using a PuigChild, the Waves Fairchild clone, and outside the box, I’m using the Electronaut M97 which is a Fairchild clone. It’s soft-knee compression. I’ve mimicked the time constant set on my attack and release using this time constant too.

It’s really not doing a whole lot of gain reduction.


That’s about the same as what the M97 is doing.

Now the difference between the 660 – The Waves 660 and the M97 is that the M97 adds a little bit of roll-off to the very super treble, so my next step is to go to a Pultec clone, which is my TubeTech P1C, and in the box, I’m using the Waves Pultec clone.

I’m doing – this is almost exactly the same settings that I did on the TubeTech here – the slight bit of attenuation in the low end, the approximately four on the boost at 10kHz with this same bandwidth, and the only difference is that in the box, I’m using a little bit of attenuation at 20kHz, because that’s going to compensate for not having the roll-off of the M97. So it creates a similar tone.

Then lastly, I’ve got in my analog chain, I’m using my dbx 160SL. It’s sort of just acting as a utilitarian maintenance kind of compressor. Here, I’m doing the same thing with the FabFilter C2 dynamic processor. Auto-release mode on, very soft-knee again, and the very last step is a peak stopping limiter, just to catch the absolute peaks.

I’ll show you what I mean by that.


Notice the only time that meter kicked in was right on that word, “I,” and that’s just to lop off the fact that it kind of jumps too far forward.


Now, the next step is what’s interesting in my mind. It’s the parallel return that I’m calling the sparkle track, and it sounds like this.

[sparkle track]
And I’ll play the main sound, and then I’ll bring the sparkle track in and out.


And what it is – I’ve got it on this track as well – is the attenuation in the low end is turned all the way up to 10, and the boost on the top end is turned all the way up to 10. I did a little bit of additional compensation.

The other difference in that sparkle track is that the M97 – the Electronaut – has a bias control on the front, and by turning it, I can distort and get more harmonic distortion from it, so I did that a little bit, and to emulate that in the box, I just took the stock DigiDesign distortion plug-in, and I just added a little bit of saturation.

This thing is very strong. A little bit goes a long way. That’s how I created that.

Then the very last step, and one of the most important ones is the reverb return, because this actually has reverb on it, even though it doesn’t sound like it does.


So one more time, when I take it away, you’re not going to hear reverb, but when I take it away, you’re going to miss it.


It just loses a little bit of dimension and polish to it, and what it is is a tight plate reverb that is being fed only from the sparkle track, meaning only the track that has all of the low end taken out of it.

So it sounds like this.

[vocal plate]

And I’m recreating it in the box using the Manny Reverb, and it sounds like this.

[vocal plate]

So, to sum it up, the key here to creating this sparkle track is a parallel return with all of the low end sucked out, and a little bit of extra harmonic juice to it, and then a tight reverb that’s being fed only from that parallel track as well to add a bit of pop and polish to it.
What I’ll do is I will mute the parallel tracks – the sparkle track and the reverb track – and then I’ll bring them in and you’ll hear the difference.


So, I think that sounds fantastic, and I hope that you take that technique and you roll with it.

The other thing that I hope that you take away from this is that you don’t need all of this really fancy stuff to create something that sounds really, really great, and I want that to be really encouraging, because it shows that through skill and study and practice and experience, you can get results that compete with people who are using the best gear, which I think is awesome.

It shows that we really, truly live in an area where the playing field is very close to level. So I hope you learned something, I hope that you’re encouraged. Take care. Until next time.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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