Vocal Recording, Pt. Five: Time-Domain Effects & Track Automation

By Mitchell Sigman


In part four of our vocal recording series, we talked about using compression and EQ as channel insert effects. In this entry and video, we’ll show how to add chorus and reverb using send tracks, then automate vocal levels for the final mix.

Insert Effects vs. Send Track Effects
The compression and EQ plug-ins we’ve used so far have been used as insert effects. This means the effect is essentially “inserted” into the signal path between the raw audio signal and the channel volume fader. The important thing to remember is that these are 100% “wet,” in other words, the raw signal isn’t mixed with the effected signal – only the effected signal is heard. This is because we want to hear the entire effected audio with none of the unaffected audio mixed in. Under most (but not all) circumstances, mixing the dry and compressed or EQ’d signal would defeat the purpose of using them.

Conversely, the effects we’re about to add are often referred to as “time–domain effects,” and include reverb and delay, as well as modulation effects such as chorus and flanging. These all extend the length of sounds to varying degrees (sometimes very little), and add dimension and size. Typically it’s best to mix these effects in alongside the dry signal. For example, if we add reverb to a sound, we don’t want the entire signal to be the reverb effect, because it would turn our vocal into a mucky mess – instead, we want to mix the reverb in alongside the dry signal. The best way to do this within Mixcraft is by using a Send Track. This allows us to run a variable amount of dry signal to an effect on an independent mixer channel. It also offers increased flexibility. As an example, you could pan the dry signal to one side of the stereo spectrum, and pan an effect to the other channel for stereoization effects. And because the effect is on its own mixer channel, the effect level won’t affect the volume of the dry signal. For details on how to add and use Send Track Effects, check out the video above starting at 1:45.

Automating Volume Levels
Once the vocal has compression and EQ, as well as time-domain effects using send tracks, all that’s left is to automate its volume to ensure that it sits in the finished mix properly. In the example in the video, portions of the vocal were recording louder than others, so automation lets us compensate for this, as well as emphasizing or de–emphasizing particular words and phrases. Check out the video around 6:08 for full information on using Mixcraft’s track automation.