Vocal Processors Can Make a Difference When Recording Your Songs

Writing and recording songs can be a tough task. So when it comes to producing songs with vocals in them, you want to put your best foot - or voice - forward so to speak. One way to get those vocal parts sizzling is to use a vocal processor.

A vocal processor is simply a piece of signal processing gear that is designed to handle voice tracks effectively. Like other effect processors it can be used in a live music environment and in the studio. When it is used in the studio, it can be placed into the signal path during recording of a vocal track - for instance, by inserting it into a digital mixers effects loop - or during the mix down process.

Like most processors, price is dictated by features, the quality of the components and the equipment's design. A high quality effects processor will have the ability to reproduce the signal with little latency and excellent clarity. You will be able to tell if the unit is quality simply by listening to the output. When there is little audible discrepancy in the output, you know you have a good processor. But like any equipment you purchase, your personal taste and budget will play a huge part.

Remeber the old adage, garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). If your microphones are of poor quality or have not been properly cared for, don't expect the processor to fix the signal. However, if the vocal line is a bit flat, many units have the ability to correct the pitch. Some even monitor the instrument signal that is complimenting the vocal and use this signal to correct pitch as well. Personal monitors are the best way to combat pitch problems, but this feature can come in handy when you are in a high-volume live situation.

Harmonizers and Vocal Processors: Not Necessarily the Same Animal
Many products that are vocal processors are also harmonizers, meaning they have some ability to create signals that are harmonized with the original signal. However, not all harmonizers are vocal processors. The human voice, when reproduced through an electronic signal, will fall within a frequency range of 300 Hz to 3400 Hz. This range is often referred to as the Voice Band. A good vocal processor will be optimized for this frequency range. On the other hand, standard multi effects processors may not be optimized for this frequency range. While many can handle the work, they may not reproduce as true a signal as a processor designed for voice.

Live Vocal Processing
The low cost and easy access to affordable components has brought the price on vocal processors down in recent years. Traditionally used in mixing or mastering in the past, processing vocals in the live environment has become more common.

A live vocal processor - like the TC Helicon Voiceworks Vocal Processor - will allow you to control various aspects of the vocal signal. This is much easier today as most processing units are MIDI controllable, making them easy to use with a sequencer or MIDI controller. When an engineer wants to EQ the signal, add thickness to the sound, or control the dynamics, processors are an easy way to accomplish this.

Alternately, singers can now have some control over their vocal sound while on stage using a vocal floor processor. Though use of a device like this is only recommended for small venues, it opens up a whole new spectrum of possibilities for vocalists.

Using Vocal Processors in Digital Recording
When recording vocals - or any track - you should always use as clean a signal as possible. Especially with the abilities of digital recording, any effects you wish to add can be done when you produce your final mix. It doesn't matter if you are using real instruments or a sound module loaded with virtual instruments, the thinking is still the same. A good strong, clean signal can be modified at mix down easily and changed any time you want a different mix.

If you are confident of how you want your final track to sound, you can insert the processor between the microphone and the recording device. The only downfall to this arrangement is, if you don't like the sound of the completed track you will have to record it over. If you choose to record the track "dry" you can then insert the effects during mix down giving you more control over the final sound.

Using Mastering Processors
A mastering processor can make your final mix sound sharp. It can add headroom to the final mix and will help your song sound polished - like the big time. These signal processors "finalize" all of the tracks, helping boost the clarity to the vocals and remove the over-processing that occurs in digital production, when used right. So in short, to get awesome vocal tracks in your final song mix, employ a good mastering processor!