Tips for Mixing Rap Vocals with Multiband Compression
Now the most common use of multiband compression on the vocal is the de-esser? The d-esser is a multi-band compressor. It acts very fast and it’s generally set to attenuate high frequencies. I’m going to play a vocal for you. This is completely untreated, and then I’m going to show you how I’m using de-essing and multiband compression and why. The artist is Jean Grey.
So the first thing is that there is some pretty sharp tingy esses popping up in that. I caught one at about 7K and I caught another one at about 9.3. And even the very, very top, top end of things that are over 10.4 is where I set it, so about 10K. All of that stuff is jumping around too much. Here’s with the de-essers on.
[female rap vocal]
Now it sounds like it’s underwater, you’re probably thinking. Well you’d probably be correct. However, once the top end is controlled, then I can actually boost the top end quite a bit.
And the esses never really get overwhelming. That is the power of de-essing. Now in this particular case, I’m using three de-essers. That is not standard. That is only because that’s what sounded right for this particular vocal. You have to always react to what you’re hearing. Usually one de-esser, not even using a de-esser but actually just manually turning the esses down, or maybe even no de-essing at all is sometimes fine. It really depends on what you have in front of you.
All right, I’m also using multiband compression in another instance here. As I was listening, I felt that the mid-body, about 400 hertz and also something in the upper mid-range, which turned out to be 3.3, was just too bouncy.
The first one that’s mainly apparent is the boxiness at 427 Hz.
And here’s without the 3.3 one. Now with the 3.3 one, with both of those frequencies actually, I’m boosting them as well. I’m attenuating and boosting so that when it’s too much it’s being pulled back but when it’s not enough it’s being pushed forward. That’s kind of the coolness of multiband compression. It’s sort of an advanced technique.
It can get you in a lot of trouble because you have to focus on things like attack time, release time, and the frequency and tonality. But it can be a very useful tool when you want to retain as much of the frequency as possible but reign it in when it’s becoming too strong.
A little rudimentary EQ, a little rudimentary compression, a little more touch of EQ and we get this.
So there is how I would use multiband compression on a vocal. It’s very case specific. A lot of times, I would say, maybe seven out of ten mixes, I mix without any kind of multiband compression at all outside of de-essing a vocal. So it’s something that is available to you if you choose to use it.