Vocal Effects While Recording on Pro Tools


Avid's Pro Tools is one of the most popular digital audio workstations today. It enables users to record, edit and mix music in a digital environment. It also contains a wide range of built-in effects. These effects, known as plug-ins, can add a polished, professional feel to your vocals.

Types of Effects

  • Pro Tools features many of the same vocal effects available in a commercial studio. The EQ3 plug-in can boost or cut individual frequency ranges from your vocals. The Compressor/Limiter plug-in tames peaks and smooths out an inconsistent vocal take. Delay and reverb effects add depth and space to a performance. Modulation effects, such as AIR MultiChorus, provide dimension and width to backing vocals. Pitch correction effects, such as Antares' AutoTune, can correct out-of-tune notes, and, with extreme settings, give vocals a robotic, synthesized feel. You can even enlist distortion effects, such as the SansAmp emulation, to add bite and edge to a lead vocal.

Insert effects

  • The simplest way to process a vocal is by adding a plug-in to the insert section of its channel. This sends the entire signal through the plug-in, playing the resulting effect through the mixer. This allows for precise control on individual tracks, since no original, uneffected signal remains. Audio engineers typically place equalization, dynamics and distortion effects in the insert section of a vocal track.

Auxiliary effects

  • Another way to add effects to a vocal is through an auxiliary audio path. In this method, the user sends a portion of the vocal to a separate audio path, called a bus. The bus plays through a new channel containing the desired effect, along with the original, unaffected track. Engineers usually employ the auxiliary approach to send one or more vocals to a reverb or delay.

Tracking with effects

  • Often, a vocalist will ask to hear reverb on his or her voice while recording. This can help the singer hear the pitch of notes more easily and set the mood for the performance. To hear effects while recording a track, ensure that Low Latency Monitoring is disabled in the Options menu. This can, however, introduce a slight delay in the singer's headphones. You can reduce this latency by setting the hardware buffer in the Playback Engine screen of the setup menu as low as possible, usually 64 samples.

Offline effects

  • Create other vocal effects, such as reversed and time-stretched vocals, using Pro Tools' Audiosuite plug-ins. These tools work by taking a section of audio, processing it offline, while the track is stopped, and writing a new file containing the resulting effect. Also, use the Edit window to slice, rearrange and repeat vocal lines, creating a stuttering effect.

Automating effects

  • One of the most useful features of Pro Tools is its ability to automate any component of a vocal track. For example, use automation to add echo to certain words of a vocal line with a delay, or bring in a reverb effect for certain parts of a song. There are two methods for writing automation to a vocal effect. Using the touch/latch function, record automation moves as the song plays through. Alternately, draw in automation moves in the Edit window using the pencil tool while the song is stopped.

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