Lead, Backing, and Vocal Separation (Backing)
Are your lead vocals getting buried by your backing vocal tracks? In this episode of the Home Music Studio 1 Podcast, David gives several tips on creating separation between the lead and background vocal tracks.
Don't forget to add your comments and or questions to the section below.
Allow me to return the favor by sharing my favorite ducking technique. It automatically “rides” the delay level, and can be done in any DAW that supports side chaining.
1. After you get your vocal delay and reverb working as desired, create an aux next to the delay aux. I named it “Delay Ducker”.
2. Send the delay aux to the ducker aux. Set the send level at 0 for now so you can hear the ducking.
3. On the ducker aux, add a gate, and something to invert the output. (The output must be inverted to cancel out the source track.)
4. Wire the gate’s sidechain to the original lead vocal track. Set a short attack (3ms) and long release (800ms) on the gate. Play the song and set the gate’s threshold so it always opens whenever the lead vocal is present. The delay echoes should now be totally cancelled out whenever the the singer is singing.
5. On the delay aux, reduce the send level to the ducker to increase the echoes during singing.
6. You can fine tune the gate’s release time to speed up or slow down the volume transitions.
This concept also works great for ducking instruments during vocals. It’s benefit over side chain compression is that the amount of reduction is consistent. It does not change with how far over the threshold the source goes. Plus, you control the amount of ducking to individual tracks via their send levels.
Thanks for the tip Dan!
Thanks Dan, Glad it helped. Ya, I did cover a lot of info fast so thanks for the questions to help fill in some holes.
My setup for all delays/reverbs is this.
The lead channels includes the Lead track, the Lead Double track, and the Lead Octave track. Each of those lead tracks has it’s own stereo aux send going to a stereo bus called Lead Delay, the same for Lead Reverb. The key with the FX’s is keeping the dry signal out of this send. I do this by the plug-in itself. But this step is key.
I’m also using EQ, compression, de-essing, and gating in a bundled plug-in (VX-64 Vocal Strip) directly inserted on each lead track respectively.
The Lead Delay/Reverb buses then output to another Stereo Bus I call the “Lead Vox”. The lead master then outputs to the Master Stereo Bus. Sonar allows for panning of the stereo aux sends in each track as well as the standard track outputs. When it comes to FX panning I do so with the send and leave the buss it outs to panned at center. I also use the send to control the amount of Delay/Reverb for each track respectively.
The same setup above is true of my backing tracks. I have 2 backing vocal tracks with this setup. The only difference with the Backing is I’m only using an FX send for the Delay. The put the Reverb on the main Backing Vox Bus and processed them both together. The the Backing Delay Bus and the 2 Backing vocal tracks output to this Stereo Backing Vox Bus. The Backing Vox Bus outputs to the Master Fader.
On the Delay times and settings. I’m getting the quarter note delay feel but a lot of things. Here is a screen shot of my settings as that will be simpler than telling you. I added a few more screen shots to that may help.
Lead Delay Settings
Lead Rev Settings
Backing Delay Settings
Backing Rev Settings
Tracks and Bus Screen Shot
Thanks again, and let me know if this helps or if you have more questions,
Wow, I really appreciate the detailed response. Your “Tracks and Bus” screenshot didn’t link correctly, but I think I understand your setup now. The missing link might be Sonar’s ability to pan sends. I’m using Samplitude, and it only allows me to send L/R sides of a stereo track evenly to an aux.
Most interesting was that your reverb widths are at 200%. I’m going to play around with a stereo widener after mine, plus some of your other suggestions. More questions may follow, lol.
You bet Dan, on the image try refreshing your browser. I had to change to name of the file for that link.
Do you have any automation or ducking on the delay effect at -10:45 in the podcast? The echoes sit nicely under your lyrics, and seem to stand out more when the singing stops.
In my experiments today, either my echoes are too loud and interfere with the lyrics, or too quiet when the singer stops.
BTW – I learned my DAW *does* support panning individual sends. That’s cool! Another weapon in the arsenal. :D
Cool on your DAW! And yes on the automation. I’ve automated most of the Delays to make sure it comes out in those spots without killing it in others (Forgot to mention that). I’m automating the aux send itself for this on a per track basis.
I use automation a lot for this. Even “riding the sliders” to make the vocal sit nice as well. Compression helps but often the track still has a few spots that need assistance. Hope this helps
Awesome. I learned a lot today. Thanks a million Dave!
You bet! Have a great day!
Loved these last two podcasts. Thanks for touching on this topic!
I’m a little confused about how you used the delay and reverb. You said there is a stereo bus containing all the BG vocals, and aux for reverb, and an aux for delay.
1. Do you send from the stereo BG buss to the auxes?
2. Do you pan the individual vocal tracks feeding your stereo BG buss, or do you pan the reverb and delay auxes?
3. You mentioned, the delay was using quarter notes, but how long was your reverb tail?
4. Does the delay aux feed the reverb aux at all? (That was my first impression when I heard it.)
I really like the result you achieved with those effects, so hope you don’t mind my asking for more details.