I’ve been using VocalSynth 2 now for a few weeks now and I’m in love with it.
I am really impressed with the jump from v.1 to v.2. The new features and improvements keep bringing me back to it and delivering me impressive results.
And don’t even get me started on MIDI mode!
While it is easy to get that immediate rush of exhilaration when something starts to sound great when processing vocals though VocalSynth 2, you might find that after that initial excitement wears off and you really need to hunker down and focus on making things sound perfect, you might start to notice some unwanted elements and artifacts. Not to worry though, with a bit of ingenuity we can make things sound exactly how we want them to.
I wanted to take a few minutes to share a few tricks I’ve found that really improve my results when working with this powerful plugin.
Turning a vocal into a lead is all the rage these days and obviously, VocalSynth 2 lends itself to that endeavor. Major Lazer much? Especially if you are using that sweet, sweet MIDI mode! However, I found that while I was getting incredible results and completely transforming a vocal into a lead, upon soloing the track and listening closely something wasn’t sounding right.
For a while I couldn’t figure out what it was. I tweaked everything that was tweakable in the plugin. Nothing was fixing the issue I was hearing. Then, eureka! Turns out it was the dynamics of the vocals. By their nature vocals are far more dynamic than leads generally. Their peaks and valleys are unpredictable and sound nothing like a lead synth patch. So, what I was hearing was VocalSynth 2 (VS2) processing the vocals and spitting out super dynamic lead synth sounds, which sounded funny to my ears.
Don’t worry, the fix is easy. Drop a Glue Compressor – or any compressor really, just RMS is probably best – on the channel before VS2 and squash those vocals. Bring the dynamic range way down. Sure, that would sound terrible if we had to hear the original vocal but running it through VS2 and processing the heck out of it we don’t need to hear it at all. All we are going to hear is that lush unique lead synth sound only VS2 can create.
If you are like most normal producers, you don’t have access to a vocalist and/or you can’t sing. Don’t be upset. That’s my reality too. That means you usually are going to be using samples packs to get your vocals. That’s perfectly OK. I’m not here to tell you it’s not. I’m here to point out the main issue with that - most sample pack vocals come wet. Wet meaning that there are effects baked in; reverb, delay, etc. That presents an issue when using VS2.
VocalSynth will process those reverb tails and delay lines just like the rest of the vocal. The result on VS2 on reverb tails is almost always undesirable. There just isn’t enough information to be properly processed by VS2’s algorithms.
Now obviously, dry vocals are the way to go but you can make some serious headway if all you can get your hands on is the wet stuff. You will want to use a gate. VS2 has a Gate parameter build in and it does a great job of cleaning up most of the unwanted mess.
However, for more surgical work you might want to drop a Gate plugin on the channel before VS2 in the device chain. Something like Live’s Gate device does the trick rather nicely. Having more control over attack, hold, release and all the others is a no-brainer over the one knob found in VS2. Just make sure the gate is closing after the principle vocal section has stopped and opens only when it starts again. It might take a bit of time and patience to get it perfect, but you’ll be much happier with the results.
This last tip is Ableton Live-specific, so you’ll have to forgive me if you aren’t using Live.The quick and dirty of it is that if you are going to be using a vocal at any BPM other than its original you’ll want to use the Complex Pro warp mode. It just sounds better. However, that isn’t to say you won’t get some creative and interesting results using some of the other warp modes and adjusting their various parameters. Don’t be afraid to get in there and experiment.
That being said though, if you want super silky smooth and realistic sounding vocals going into VS2 you’ll want to stick to Complex Pro.
VocalSynth 2 is incredible and it has a ton of features packed right into it, but that doesn’t mean you need to forget about all the other tools in your toolbox. If something is a bit off, the blame need not rest solely on the shoulders of VS2, think about how you can help it do a better job for you!