Explore this article’s session file to dive into a fully formed vocal production in the Spire app.
With the rise of economic DIY music hardware and software, production methods have changed since the vintage days of big-money studio productions. Many up-and-coming artists, as well as established recording artists and producers, have resorted to home studios and have adopted their own unique approaches to vocal production. With modern tools, it’s easier than ever for artists to record their own vocals and collaborate with producers or engineers on vocal tracks.
In this article, we’ll show you a few examples of how to get creative in your vocal production with Spire Studio and how to further tweak your Spire project with iZotope plug-ins Nectar and VocalSynth 2. First, let’s start with production in Spire Studio.
Recording vocals in Spire Studio is as simple as plugging in and recording, though you may want to take a few extra thoughtful steps in your production to get your vocals sounding just right.
You’ll first want to make sure your space is free of unwanted noise and interruptions. Then, plug in your XLR and microphone to input 1. Soundcheck your voice; it helps to play the track you’ll be singing over in a part where you’ll be singing the loudest. Once you press play on your track, press the Soundcheck button as if you’re recording a take. Soundcheck will automatically correct your input gain and add clarity to your voice.
Once you’ve settled into Spire Studio with your proper gear and input level, it’s time to start recording.
The newest addition to Spire Studio’s features are a group of vocal-specific effects (these can be found under the Vocals tab in Recording Effects). In this group you’ll find four effects: Bright Voice, Warm Voice (relocated from Spaces), Rowdy, and Wormhole.
Using the Bright Voice vocal effect is a great way to get bright, lively vocals into your mix. Artists looking for a slight boost in their voice would highly benefit from this effect. When mixing, keep your Bright Voice track fairly square in the mix and not pushed up to loud; let the natural room sound and reverb creates space in the mix for you.
The Rowdy effect is a great effect to create drama and tension in your mix. Rock, indie, and even hip hop artists would benefit from this effect. Rowdy crushes vocal tracks into a hard driven crunch that feels like a bitcrusher or a tube screamer pedal.
Warm Voice is the best all-around vocal effect for vocal production. With an added reverb option, Warm Voice adds a custom EQ that pulls out more depth from your voice. It’s great for all vocal performances, from intimate takes to belting chorus lines.
Wormhole adds reverb, delay, and a touch of tremolo to your vocal track. Use this effect for a desired wetter effect or to create more space in the field. Wormhole is great for a haunting or spacey approach to vocals.
What’s the vocal sound you’re going for? How do you want your vocals to blend with your instrumental mix? How can you achieve your ideal tone working with Spire Studio effects? Having a better understanding of your vision will help you achieve your goals in a more efficient way. In the case of our vocal production project, we wanted to get a wet vocal sound to blend with the wet instrumental mix. To do so, we used some of the vocal effects.
This track features three vocal tracks: two background vocal tracks and one lead vocal. To achieve a fuller vocal sound, the two background vocals are panned to either side of the stereo field and were recorded with the Wormhole effect to add space and wetness. The lead vocal was recorded with Warm Voice with both effect parameters turned all the way up. Now keep in mind, sometimes recording with effects is not the right path—rappers and topliners should try recording their vocals dry into Spire to get the cleanest audio possible for production.
When you’ve recorded your vocal tracks, make sure they’re properly trimmed and be sure to cut out any unwanted noise. Mix your project to your liking, and export using the option “individual tracks;” this will consolidate your project into a .zip folder. You can then send the folder to be uploaded into Pro Tools.
The first plug-in we’ll take a look at is Nectar 3. Nectar 3 includes a set of sophisticated tools designed to make your vocals sound clear, professional, and beautifully situated in the mix. It includes a variety of mixing and mastering features that can do everything from pitch correcting to harmonizing, and uses Assistive Audio Technology to create custom EQs and suggested mixes for your vocal tracks.
For our Spire vocal tracks, we decided to begin by using Nectar’s Vocal Assistant which created a custom EQ, added a de-esser and compression, and added additional reverb. Then, we used Nectar’s Pitch module to even out any pitch fluctuations in our two background tracks. Listen to the A/B comparison below; the first track is our Spire recording, the second is with Nectar:
It’s important to establish a solid framework to work from whole producing, which is why Vocal Assistant and Pitch Correct are both excellent starting points.
Another creative step to take in working with Nectar is Harmony. Harmony can add up to eight additional voices to your tracks within your vocal register and can be manipulated by shelving filters and MIDI controllers.
In our example, we added perfect fifths to our two background vocal tracks to beef up our vocal mix. Listen to the difference below.
Here’s the Spire mix, and then the Nectar mix with Harmony:
Harmonizer can take two simple background tracks and turn them into a symphony of voices. It’s ideal for rappers looking for vocal manipulation or singers trying to make their voices much thicker in the mix.
VocalSynth 2 adds color and shape to vocals with five unique and blendable processors. It features a variety of presets that can morph vocal tracks into futuristic sounds and cutting-edge effects.
We used a VocalSynth 2 preset called Reinforced BGVs on our Spire project to add some color and grit and additional pitch correction to make our background vocal tracks sound like a blend of vocals and synthesizers.
For reference, here’s our Spire project and our reinforced BGVs:
This creative tool adds depth to vocals and a splash of interesting color. Try adding this preset to call and response vocals or vocal harmonies that are tucked into a mix.
VocalSynth 2 has a wide variety of options for taking vocals to the next level. But instead of starting in the deep end, try starting simpler and working your way up to the intensity.
The preset For the Chorus is a great place to start with lead vocals. It adds some of the lush grittiness that VocalSynth 2 has to offer, but also expands upon this sound with an added chorus option that allows you to control the width of the effect.
Pro tip: Try automating a fade on VocalSynth 2 on your lead vocal track to blend the two in an interesting and dynamic way.
Here’s our Spire project vocal mix, and our VocalSynth 2 vocal mix:
We used For the Chorus on the lead vocal track of our Spire example to add width to the lead vocal in the mix, and to add a bit of crunch to elevate the vocal above the instrumental mix.
To finish off our Spire Project, we decided to run the whole project through Balance in Neutron’s Mix Assistant to clean the whole thing up.
Here’s our entire Spire project, and then our project after Mix Assistant.
We’ve covered how to get the best vocals from Spire Studio, but your vocal production doesn’t have to end there. Using iZotope’s creative vocal plug-ins, you can creatively manipulate your vocals to your heart’s content. Starting with Spire Studio’s vocal effects, remote recording capabilities, and simple exporting, you can take your vocal production to new heights with the huge variety of presets from plug-ins like Nectar 3 and Vocalsynth 2.