Vocal Thickening Trick in Studio One
The vocal thickening trick has been one of our more popular videos. It’s only been out for a few months now, and a lot of you have watched it, and a lot of you have commented on it, but also the thing we’ve been getting is people email requesting, and in the comments asking how do I do this in other DAWs?
So David Mood is one of our Academy members, actually, and he also is very active on the forums, and is a very talented producer and engineer in his own right, and he works exclusively in Studio One, and he’s really good at it, and I have toyed around with it, but I’m not really — well, that would be an understatement. I know almost nothing about it, when David knows a lot about it.
So David has taken the vocal thickening trick that we showed you how to use in Pro Tools, and applied it using Studio One. So the video you’re about to see is David very kindly doing a tutorial for everyone out there who is a Studio One user.
So please leave a bunch of questions and comments below. I will endeavor to answer, and I will also get David to be involved, because he’s very talented and very generous with his time.
So once again, please subscribe, go to producelikeapro.com, sign up for the email list, and if you can, try out the free Academy for 14 days. So enjoy the video and I’ll see you again soon!
David: Hi everyone! It’s David Mood here with my first video for Produce Like a Pro. I’m sure many of you have seen Warren’s video called Vocal Thickening Trick, where he showed how you can get a really fat vocal sound in your mix. If you haven’t seen it yet, we’ll put the link in the description below so you can watch it.
Now, in the video, Warren used the plugin Waves Doubler to achieve his thickening effect. In many DAWs, it’s actually possible to recreate this effect without any plugins, and I’d like to show you how.
I’m using Studio One version three here, but I’ll explain the basic principle behind this technique, so hopefully you’ll be able to recreate it in the DAW of your choice.
Let me quickly outline the four basic steps that we will need to do. Firstly, we’ll need to make duplicates of the original vocal track. Secondly, we’ll pan the duplicates hard left and hard right to create the stereo widening effect. Thirdly, we’ll apply a short delay time to each track. Fourthly, we’ll apply some pitch shifting to each track to detune them slightly.
Okay, so let’s get started.
Warren was kind enough to send me the vocal track which he used in his video, so we can work with the same material here. Let’s have a quick listen.
Great. I just added a little bit of plate reverb so it doesn’t sound quite as dry.
Let’s create some new tracks. I will call them Vox Pitched. Now, Warren used four stereo tracks, but we will use eight mono tracks here. We can give them a nice color, so we don’t have to do it afterwards and we can pack them in a folder, and we will need mono tracks.
Hit OK. Expand the folder and zoom in a little bit.
Next we’ll need to copy the event from the vocal track down to these tracks. So just select it, hold on Alt on a PC, or Option on a Mac, and drag it down, and repeat this for all of the tracks.
Okay, we’re done. Let’s open the mixer and pan the tracks alternating hard left and hard right. Left, right, left, and right.
Okay, let’s close the mixer again. Next, let’s open the inspector, select all of the tracks, because what we need to do first is select the appropriate time stretching algorithm for our purpose. Now, what you want to do here is pitch shifting, but time stretching and pitch shifting are just two sides of the same coin, so if you choose a time stretch algorithm in your DAW, that will always have also effect on pitch shifting.
In Studio One, we can do it here. We have four to choose from, and for this purpose, the Solo Elastique Performance will work usually the best.
Now, let me outline the following procedure first, because it can be a little bit confusing. So we have four tracks on the left side, four tracks on the right side. As a delay time, I will use 10 and 24 milliseconds each, and I will alternate between them. So if one track on the left side is delayed 10 milliseconds, then on the right side, I’d delay the track 24 milliseconds.
For the next two tracks, because I started with 10 milliseconds on the left side, and I don’t want them to be all 10 milliseconds on the left side and 24 on the right, I’ll also alternate the times. So the next tracks will be 24 milliseconds on the left, and 10 on the right side, and I continue until we have all the four tracks.
The delay times don’t have to be exactly 10 or 24 milliseconds, just to be kind of in this ball park. I wouldn’t go much lower than, let’s say, seven milliseconds, because otherwise, they’ll get comb filtering type effects, which sound quite horrible, and if you go much higher than say, 30 milliseconds, then our ear can depict the delay clearly, and this is not what we want. You want this to all sound like one big fat voice.
So you could even vary the times for each track if you want. Just experiment a bit and see what sounds best to you.
For the pitch shift, we’ll use the exact same values as Warren did in his video, and again, we alternate the values between the sides so we don’t have just flat tracks on one side and sharp tracks on the other side, but have a nice mixture of both.
Now, in order to implement this, you’ll need to look out for two parameters in your DAW. The first one is usually called delay, or maybe it’s called time offset, but most of the time it’s just called delay. In Studio One, we can find it here, and to not confuse you and most importantly myself more than necessary, I will first set the delay times for all of the tracks, and then set the pitch shift amount for all of the tracks.
So let’s select just the first track and start with 10 milliseconds. Then select the next one, now we need 24, and now for the third track, because this is now on the left side again, to alternate, we need 24 again. For the fourth track, we go back to 10 milliseconds. Then one more time, 10 milliseconds, and then we have 24 milliseconds two times. And we finish with 10 milliseconds.
Okay, let’s move on to the pitch shift. Let’s select the first track. You need to go to the inspector again. This time to the event area. If you don’t see it here, you need to drag this divider up like this. Now we see here, two parameters. Transpose and Tune.
The event is the same as clip or region in other DAWs. In Studio One, it’s just called event. In the transpose field, we can transpose the event by semi-tones. That’s not what we want. We just want to change the pitch by a slight amount. This can be done here with the tune parameter.
Now, this parameter in other DAWs can also be called detune, fine tune, or maybe it’s called pitch shift, or micro pitch shift. Now, this changes the pitch in cents, and 100 cents equals one semi-tone, so as you can see, we will only change the pitch by a very slight amount, but it’s enough to give us this widening and thickening sound.
For the Cubase users out there, here’s how you can find important parameters in Cubase. The delay time you can find in the inspector just like in Studio One, and then in the info lane above, you can find the parameter for the pitch shift here. It’s called “fine tune” in Cubase, and then on the right side, you can choose the appropriate algorithm, which would be standard vocals.
Okay, moving on. So let’s detune the first track by -3 cents. Select the second one, which is panned hard right, so we bend this up by 3 cents. Then the third track is again on the left side, so we started with the flat track, so now we tune this up by six cents, and on the right side, we will have -6. Then we have -9 on the left, plus 9, and finally on the left side, we have plus 12, and on the right side, minus 12.
Okay, let’s close the inspector again, because we don’t need it anymore, and if you watched carefully, you might have noticed that the little icon appeared on the lower left corner of the events. This icon always indicates that there is some kind of real-time processing going on. Of course, it’s pitch shifting in our case, but it could also be time stretching or a sample rate conversion, or whatever, so it’s best to bounce these files down.
In Studio One, we just need to select them all, then hit Control+B, or Command+B if you’re on a Mac, and boom. Studio One bounced these events down to audio files, so there is no real-time processing going on anymore.
Okay, great, so let’s have a listen to the ones we just created, but first, let’s open the mixer, because of course, now this will be crazy loud, because we duplicated the vocal track 8 times, so let’s select them all and create a buss for them. Right click and choose add buss for selected tracks, so we can control them all with just one fader.
Let’s call this buss also, “Vox pitched.” We need some nice color. So there it is. Let me show you quickly a very cool trick in Studio One. If you go back to the arrangement and go to this folder of these tracks, and assign the folder to the buss we just created, then look what happened in the mixer. We got a nice folder icon, and with this, we can expand all the tracks, but also hide them all at the same time.
This is very handy, because in an arrangement with let’s say, 100 tracks, we don’t need to see all these tracks we created for the vocal thickening, so it’s a very cool way for Studio One to handle multiple tracks.
So let’s reduce the volume of this buss by a fair amount and have a listen.
[vocals with thickening]
Turn it down.
[vocals with thickening]
Now of course, when you are setting levels for such effects, be it this vocal thickening, or be it a reverb, or delay, or basically any effect, it’s obviously important to do it in the context of the mix, otherwise it’s very difficult to judge how much of it you need.
So let’s do just that. Unmute our instrumental and go back and let’s see what we have.
We could try giving a little bit of the same reverb we have on the lead vocals also on our pitched vocals. So let’s just drag this send and copy it over. This is one more advantage of a buss is we don’t need to copy the reverb over to eight tracks. We can just copy it to the buss and we’re done. Let’s have a listen.
Okay, cool. We will now go to the start of the verse and then switch the effect on and off, so you can hear the difference. I will start with it muted.
[mix, no thickening, then with thickening]
Okay, great! Now, maybe I would put it a little softer in a real mix, but you know, it was just for demonstration purposes so that you can clearly hear the effect.
Now of course, you could now do all kinds of cool stuff with it. You could automate it so that it gets a little louder in the chorus, or you could insert an EQ and filter off the top end, or maybe insert a little bit of saturation. You know, have fun with it. Experiment with different delay times, different pitch shift amounts, and make the effect your own.
Okay, I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below, and I will do my best to answer them all. Thank you very much for watching, I’ve been David. Bye bye!
Warren: Thank you ever so much for watching, I hope you had a marvelous time. David did a great job there of explaining how to do the vocal thickening trick in Studio One. I really appreciate your time David, and thank you ever so much everyone for all of the comments and questions and stuff you’re going to leave below. I really appreciate it. We will give as much feedback as possible, and Studio One is becoming a very, very popular DAW. A lot of people I respect are moving towards it.
One very famous writer/producer at the moment is actually moving over from another DAW to Studio One for many, many reasons, a lot to do with the flexibility of it. So I really appreciate all of you taking your time to watch this, and please leave the comments and questions below, and I’ll speak to you soon. Have a marvelous time recording!