5 Essential Vocal Production Tips
K-pop is a very popular genre in today’s music and is best known for extreme attention to detail when it comes to the production of the track. Artist and producer Alina Smith has worked on many big K-Pop artists, such as ITZY, Red Velvet and Mamamoo – and she certainly knows her stuff when it comes to polishing off vocals.
In this video, she reveals for us her five top vocal production tips – featuring time-saving vocal alignment tool, VocAlign Project 5.
Tip #1: Aligning vocals with VocAlign in Ableton [02:40]
At number one, Alina explains the importance of using VocAlign, and how she uses it in almost every track she produces. With her newly released pop track ‘Moody’, her harmonies and doubles are aligned with ease.
“Tight timing on dubs, harmonies, gangs and doubles is part of my style as a pop producer. I really like when you hear vocals and they just sound so tight - it makes me very, very happy.”
Later on in the walkthrough Alina demonstrates how, as a producer, the ability to control the ‘tightness’ of the vocal alignment is a great feature when dealing with different genres of music. Some styles of music call for more ‘organic’ vocals, like rock or country, but with Alina’s track, she shows how getting looser in timing in her case isn’t the right decision for her style of track.
Here’s Alina’s opinion on aligning vocals: “I strongly recommend [VocAlign] for doubles specifically because I really dislike it when I can hear that the double is a double, I just want it to feel like it’s one vocal… and for harmonies, it’s to taste depending on how you like it”.
Tip #2: Reverb Throw Effect [12:53]
A reverb throw, also known as a ‘verb throw’, is duplicating a piece of vocal and adding reverb to it, which has a longer tail. Adding this subtle effect can make the track sound bigger and emphasise parts of the vocals; or as Alina puts it, “creating a moment”. Doing this on ad libs can be super effective and polish off the mix nicely!
Tip #3: Automate reverb & delay [14:46]
A tip for adding texture to the lead vocal is to automate essential effects like reverb and delay, which Alina says gives you “a lot of control over your vocal effects”. When applying a ‘bus’ on the lead, it sends the dry signal to another channel with the applied effect. The benefit of this is that you can ‘automate’ the strength of the effect on the stem whilst retaining the clean signal – and in Alina’s track, she states how important it is to her to make the choruses sound bigger, and in response, she will dials up the gain of the reverb and delay to enhance the feeling of “it’s huge”.
Tip #4: Adding ‘gang’ vocals [17:45]
Used commonly in metal tracks, gang vocals are a great way to add depth and add ‘oomph’ to the bigger parts of your track. Typically, if there is a male singer, you might want to opt for a female singer. The technique is to be further away from the mic, and turn down in the mix. Alina’s extra top tip: emphasise the gang vocals by thinning it out and adding distortion effects.
Tip #5: Layering ‘airy’ vocals [21:44]
“The voice is the only instrument in your track that no one else has – anyone can recreate a patch, the vocal, not so much”.
Alina’s final tip is to add vocal pads to create a unique texture, a technique that works great with ‘airy’ vocals. In this example, Alina layers a three part harmony with top-end EQ, panning hard left and right to create a ‘shimmering’ effect.