Advanced Vocal Processing | Aaron Carstensen | Skillshare

Advanced Vocal Processing

Aaron Carstensen, Keep making music

Advanced Vocal Processing

Aaron Carstensen, Keep making music

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5 Lessons (40m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Initial EQ

    • 3. Compression

    • 4. Saturation and Stereo

    • 5. Reverb and Delay

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About This Class

In this class I will be demonstrating how to take your vocals from dull to full and lush. This tutorial will cover a chain of around 10 effects to get a clean, big and modern sounding vocal track. The goal is to teach you why we use each effect so you can apply these techniques to any style of track you have.

Meet Your Teacher

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Aaron Carstensen

Keep making music


Hi! my name is Aaron and I am an electronic music producer with 8 years of experience. I have completed my degree in electronic production from the Berklee School of Music and am currently working on my trap metal project Xstitch.

The most recent release here is my Quick Mix: Low End video tutorial. I am starting the Quick Mix series as a way to quickly showcase practical techniques so if you like the first one I'd be happy to make more.

If you've gotten any use from my lessons it would be super helpful to get a follow on Instagram, I'm most active there.

As always let me know if there is something you are stuck on or want me to cover I would be happy to make a tutorial on the topic.

Keep making music!

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1. Introduction: What's up, guys? Aaron here. Um, I wanted to do a vocal processing tutorial. I know. I've been gone for a while, basically, just working on my e p, which is, uh, the example. I'm gonna show you from that today. Um, today, the effects I'm using are all pretty standard. I have some outboard stuff. Um, like ozone and stuff. I don't know if you've heard of that. That's ah, mastering suite. Um, but besides, their dynamic e que, um, all the stuff is pretty standard. It's like saturate er's and let's see. Um, yeah, I want to say it's just this this saturated amusing I'll go over there dynamic E Q. Two. But if you don't have that, that's OK. Most of this stuff is enabled in, um so this one might be kind of long. There's a lot of steps because vocals are really hard to work with, just cause they're so dynamic and they move all over and it's not nice and process like a synth. Um, but I think it's really important. Um, and I wanted to show you how to get him sounding good because strong vocals air Just I mean , mostly vocals are the lead or like the center of your whole track. So, um, I'm gonna play. I'm gonna go and start with Thea kind of the initial processing, and then we're gonna do the effects, like the re verbs and stuff. Eso This might be like to chunks, but it's it's gonna be pretty meaty. So, um, I hope you stick around pizza. 2. Initial EQ: What's up, guys? Um, this is the first section of the vocal processing tutorial. What I'm gonna do right now is show you in this video just the gate. I have this dynamic you, which I'm using as a de Esser and the equalizer. So I'm trying to break up this video. Just so it's not so big, but they kind of go together, so I'll just kind of arbitrarily do that. Um, so I mean, plays vocal in the mix 14 left inside of me. So Sure. Okay, um, now I'm gonna solo it and show you what these processes vocals sound like on their own. One thorn left inside of me So sharp as has been seen. All right, so it's big. It sounds, um, modern. Um, clean. That's kind of like I like that clean sound. Um, So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna mute all these effects because I want to show you, um, each thing one at a time. So this is what the vocal sound like? Uh, dry. This is what I put into the thing One thorn left inside of me so sharp as it lays been if Okay. Um, so obviously that the take sounds, uh, good as the way Like how it is. Um, this is post pitch correction, by the way. I'm not a perfect singer. Um, so that's important, though beyond pitch beyond processing, you need to make sure that the performance you've put into the your d a W is something you're happy with. So I must have done this take probably, like, 30 or 40 times just because all the changes in the performance, like at the beginning it's kind of like a little gruff. And then, you know, I yelled the first word, not yell, but it's there's emotion in the first word, and then I eat back all that kind of stuff. You cannot fake any of that with distortion or reverb or any of that. Um, so it's really important just to put in a well performed, uh, vocal line and performed in a way that matches your style or matches the style of music you're trying to dio Um, So what I'm gonna do now is show you these 1st 3 effects first is the gate, but the gate is doing is removing unwanted noise. Um, so I said threshold in negative. 45 db. Uh, the attack. Very sure. I short it could go 0.2 milliseconds. It holds for 100 and 50 milliseconds around, and it releases at around 125 milliseconds. So what? That is basically, I didn't I want this gate to come in at the end of my performance. What? The hold and release Our is basically like, how long it takes the gate to kind of become effect come into effect. And the hold is how long it'll hold after a signal's gone through before it activates. Um, so I didn't want this. I want a long holding a long release because I and a short attack because I don't want this gate to affect my performance at all. I just wanted to get rid of those little mouth noises in between each each section. So I'll play this with the gate. One thorn left inside of me. As you see, we watched the bar. It kind of faded in her that, you know, faded down and got rid of that kind of, like, sniff thing. You know that? Whatever. Um, so that's the gate bats cleaning up your like take just basically removing noise from unwanted noise. That's like I said, um, so second, I'm gonna look at this dynamic e que, which is basically an e Q and A compressor kind of mashed together. If you don't have this, you can get a lot of free DS or plug ins. Um, which work just fine. Um, it's more about how you use it than what you're using. Um, but basically, what this is doing is clamping down on the S. Is the teas all that loud siblings to make the whole performance more, um, even And it's it won't hurt toe. Listen to basically. So I'm gonna show inside of inside right there when I say inside, Inside. Inside. You see, I put this at seven. K 7.3 k Um, and then I did a fast attack, uh, medium release and then a, um, high threshold. So what this is doing is basically when the s happens inside of me inside of inside inside , it's pretty subtle. I honestly could probably bring this down. I have that issue where I don't do things side inside inside of me. So when that, um, s hits as around you know seven k this dynamic you fast attack. It's quickly, um, pushing down, that s and then medium speed letting off so that we're not compressing that whole like section in general because the acid think about If I said inside the S is only there for a quick second. You don't need to compress it for a day. Um, but it does happen fast. So you want to get there quick? That threshold is pretty high because I don't want, um I don't want this DS or to activate, um, when I'm saying other when other things were happening in that area. So usually the esses will be pretty loud, which is good, which means your threshold will be inaccurate, like way to, um, you know, it'll be separate. It'll be seven from the rest, which is which is good. Um, the range of esses is probably gonna be around like, let's see, four Fourtou toe 11 k maybe maybe 10-K and what I've noticed is around 77 kilohertz is gonna be where it hurts most. So your s is my hit around 10-K Teoh him. It might be better to hit the seven k area just because the 10. Kate, once you start getting up into 10 to 12 k r years, stop hearing it as well. Um, but another thing I'd like to say is that I use a couple. I'm going to DS again. Um, so this is kind of just getting the harsh won the big harsh one. Um, so that's the DS, sir. Third, um, after your gate. And DS ing is kind of like the meat now, So, um, I'm gonna show you this e que inside of me so I don't play the whole thing. One thorn left inside of me. So that's no e que one thorn left inside of me. Okay, so what I did is basically rolled off at around 219 Hertz. Um, for male voices. You don't want anything rumbling around? Ah, like below 200. Um, sorry below. Yeah, like 1 50 Sorry. Yeah, it's okay to have a little stuff down there, but basically, if you're listening on headphones, you're not gonna be able to hear the effect it has. The low end of the male voice will really stick out. Um, once you start getting too low, eso That's that what this second EQ you point is is kind of I kind of shelf it into a roll off, because if you just roll off, I noticed the frequencies right above it are going to start sticking out just because the way like everything shaped. So this kind of makes it more even, um, makes it a more natural roll off, and you don't get a big bump at, like one thorn left inside of me. You don't get that effect, which will happen if you just, um if you just roll off because you're taking away a section of someone's voice and as soon as you start taking away sections Thea, other parts are going to stick out. So basically, that's just rolling that, making this a nice, easy roll off and what you can do enable tin is select multiple things and drag it around like this and you'll be able to find the prime spot. So do that, um, these air little bumps that I just saw where it needed something. Um, so that's kind of the initial processing. The next video. I'm going to talk about the compressors I have on here. Um, so continue on 3. Compression: All right, guys, this is going to be the compression part. I dedicated this one to its own video because I can talk for a long time about compressors , but I'll try to keep a short um, so I have a few compressors on this vocal take. I'm gonna show you the reason for this 1st 1 Um, so this compressor is, um, basically clamping down at the at this this point in the vocal performance, I'll play the last two sections. This failed. Now you toe the damage done. All right. So at that last part, I yell, Um, so that's super hard to deal with. Um, if you just used one compressor because the volume so different, it's going to start affecting the sound differently. So I did an initial compressor before my multi band dynamic compressor. Um, and what this is is is ah, high threshold. It's not super low. Um, and then pretty hard ratio 3.321 I brought the knee down, um, which makes it less transparent. Um, but the reason I did that is because I didn't want it like I didn't want these other parts that are quieter to kind of be, like wandering into the compressor. You know what I'm saying? So the knee kind of is like a ease into the compressor, which doesn't make a sound more transparent. If you have, like, you know, it's it's easing the transition into it. But I didn't want that in this this particular moment. I did a quick attack. Two milliseconds. And then there releases at 1 25 1 21 around. Um, so that is basically matching the BPM in my song, um, so that you can find out by, um, you know, playing the Metrodome and then finding a release time that it kind of releases into the next beat. Basically, um, so I'm gonna play this FIS veil covers a cilia not much affected there. It's pretty minimal. And then telling parts the damaged there, that's where it clamps down. If you see this, um, I know if you can see it, but it it's basically mostly affecting that yelling part. So what this is doing is making the whole performance. It's keeping the energy. You know, I like that yelling energy, but it's it's making it, um, mawr even more uniform. Basically, that's kind of like the goal here is making everything mix. You're mixing it. That's what it's doing. Um, so from that compressor, I went into the multi band dynamics. Um, and I'm gonna show you how I picked the frequencies and everything on this. So what I'm going to do is take this off, and then I'm gonna play these few sections. One thorn left inside of me so sharp as it lays beneath. Okay, that's enough. Just to show you what I was talking about. Um, but if you see it, look at this spectrum. Right here is what was talking about earlier. Um, you know, you can pick these frequencies however you want. The way I'm doing it is I see right here at 700 hertz, you can see it's like it's one area basically, um and so I made my low section of my multiple an compressor as it cuts off its 700 hertz. So this chunk is one chunk second. I saw it. I picked around three K just cause there's this, um, dip there. Yeah. I mean, you could choose probably five k to, um but I kind of like I like having my mid range, not super huge. Just cause mids. I don't know. They're just I just like him smaller. Um, as far as processing just, um, the way I'm mentally blocking it out. Not that this these frequencies don't affect the sound at all. It's just where you're making each chunk for the compressor toe work with, um So first things first. After you pick your frequencies, you're gonna want to look down here. Um, it says sophonie or not Peak or RMS. So I did pick soft me for this one. Um, because I want this to be a smooth compressor, but I changed it from RMS to peak Are messes default root, mean square. It's gonna be, like an average rather than the peak, um, volume, which I want to work with. The peak volume in this one. I want the the ah, this compressors doing heavy lifting. I want this to be kind of like the center compressor. Just kind of like, really jelling everything together. So I want to work with the peaks. So for my low end, if we look here 15 millisecond attack 125 millisecond release one thorn left inside of me. Um pretty. You know, the threshold is negative. 30. Um, And then it's gonna be pretty easy on the only a couple db. Maybe we're sorry. Maybe one or two db of gain reduction. Um, so the ratio isn't super high, either. Um, so this is kind of just, um, squishing down the low end and making the louder low in parts more even with the lower low end parts. Basically volume wise. Um, there's not crazy peaks in here that I needed to work with. And it's that big. That pre compressor was kind of doing the heavy, Some other lifting. Um, so this is just kind of evening. The low end out what I also do with this multi band dynamics is all equalized with it. Um, So as you can see this this I don't want this to be as, like, clear. I don't want to sex. I don't want clear sections of my vocals. Basically, so it's good to process. Sorry. This is like a side note, but, um, you know, you want to make it an even kind of experience. So that's what I do at the low end. The mid range one thorn left inside of me. The mid range is pretty volatile. Like it moves around a lot. Um, so I just put the lower threshold. Still not super hard ratio. Um, but it's basically same idea is squeezing things together a little bit. Um, these thes low thresholds are like, how you squeeze things together. Um, you know, the ratio doesn't have to be insane. You don't have to just put, like, a 4 to 1 ratio and then kind of like a medium threshold. It's OK to get down low, but it's like a trade off. Just think about what your goal is and what each thing is doing and how they Basically, the relationship between them is super important to know because, you know, like most of the people like, don't go overboard. I hear that all the time. And now I go under board all the time about that. That's saying, but, um basically like knowing the relationship will let you, um, used these things how they're supposed to be used. So the high the high band is where I start changing things up. This one, as you'll see the threshold, isn't nearly as low one Thorn left inside of may. Um, and what this is doing is basically my secondary DS ing. So the ratio is higher. These is these. This is how you pick the ratio? Um, it's more visual. I mean, it can look at it, but, um, I do this more about year. Ah, 123 Sorry. 3 to 1. I don't know why it's written out like that. Um, but basically, so high thresholds, it's not down at the bottom. It's up near the top. And then it's hard, um, ratio, which means it's clamping down hard. It's coming down hard on the S is on the high end. Um, so this one, this attack and release I had five milliseconds, which is way shorter than the 12 or the 15 on and then 100 millisecond. You know, it's kind of like, good and good for ah, Asir a t. Um And then, like I said, you can do the output of each one. These are all pretty even. But maybe like 10.2 point one, you know, difference. One thorn left inside of me. One thorn left inside of me just sounds more lively and thicker with it on, you know, one thorn left inside of me. Eso those with compressors. Next video. Now 4. Saturation and Stereo: our guys. Welcome to video three, um, side note. If it feels like I'm rushing through things, uh, remember, you can go back and don't be afraid to pause and play around. Um, I kind of tend to rush through things because I have a lot of ideas in my head. Um, but so also, re watch a video, if you need. It's I don't expect you to know what you're doing through the first time with all this stuff. Um, I legitimately will do a ah, full rack like this one day deleted the next day and do it again. So I've done this hundreds of times. Um, so I just want to be, um oh, like, conscientious of the fact that people are learning. And it's like, You know, a lot of some teachers won't be respectful of that. Um, so this video, I'm gonna do the I'm gonna do this, uh, a couple of these effects. Um, so this is called a saturate. Er, um, you have a saturate er available to you in, um, able tune, so but basically what this is doing after you've done the eq. You You know, we've cleaned up the audio with the gate. We've done ds ing. We've compressed it. It's all kind of like becoming a, um, a cohesive vocal performance, um, toe where nothing sticking out. We're getting like, it's it's ready to be played with. Basically, that's where it is. It's It's in, it's it's ready. Um, I know it feels like we've done a lot already, but now is when the point where you can be, like, creative with vocals, that's that's very important. So what I like to do is throw on a saturate. Er, what this does is adding harmonics, making it brighter, Um, breaking more interesting to listen to because this is a central part of the track. Um, you're gonna want to bring this out. So I'm gonna play this, um, with the saturate er off, and then I'm gonna turn the sound trader on one thorn left inside of me. So that's it with it often to turn it on one thorn left inside of me. So this is gonna be kind of hard to hear. It's not gonna be a super obvious change. Um, partially, because I didn't put a lot of input Dr into the whole thing. Um, it's almost hard to describe its It's making it more present, more lively. Listen to the high mids Don't try to listen for, like, a big change in the vocals Listen to the high mids of this performance and I'm gonna do this, um, on and off again. So this is with it off one thorn left inside of me is with it on one thorn left inside of me. So yeah, listen to that high mid. Um, listen to the way it it it almost feels thicker, as they say it feels, um um, it's more present, but without without, like, e queuing without, like, it's not like I'm bumping a frequency. So it's sticking out. It's livelier, but in a cohesive way, it's jelled. It's it sounds just more present. So that's kind of what I did there. I'm gonna ignore these two processors just because what I did with these thistles for a later section, um, that the performance was different. Uh, So what we're gonna do now is put on this big goal stereo. This is gonna be ah, a way to widen your vocals. Vocals should be pretty centered, but because of the way things are musically. Now, having them 100% mono is going to sound out of place just because I think personally the way I feel, Um, audio and songs are their super wide, especially modern. So I'm gonna play this effect on and off. This one might actually be easier to hear with headphones on one thorn left inside of May. So that's with it on is off one thorn left inside of me. Okay, so the gain, the gain is changing a little bit. I'm gonna try to get rid of that. Just because I don't want you to listen to the change in volume. I want to listen. In the change of stereos Field one Thorn left inside of me. One thorn left inside of me. One thorn left inside of me. Okay, so now that we've listened to it, if you can't hear it, by the way, go back and listen. Now I'm gonna show you how to do this. This is an split e que, um, stereo effect, where basically what you're gonna dio is pullout Aneke you from able turns chain. Um, once you have an eq you or any effect? If you press control G on that effect. Um, here, I'll do it right now. I'll show you if you press control G on in effect, it'll put it in a group. So we're gonna do is press this button show high device chain. And now that you have is a parallel, basically the ability to make a parallel chain. So what you're gonna do? I would I just for this cause the same effect. Control click drag. Now you have a a parallel chain of eq use. So basically, these this is doubled. Like this chain and this chain are both gonna play at the same time. Um, you know, they have their own volume. They have their own panning, and that's called parallel. It means it's it has split the signal, and they're working parallel. Um, so next, what you gonna do is drag the one chain all the way left and one chain all the way. Right? This is where I didn't do this in the other one in my final one. But you can do this if you press. If you put him back at both negative two, it's gonna match the gains around. I mean, you confined. That's not perfect. but it's gonna be around there. Um, so this is what happens. What now that these air split left to right. Um, just because we did that doesn't mean it's going to sound super big now because they're the same thing. The same thing. Split left and right, Um just means it's going to be sound louder basically. And we had just for that, so it should sound the same. What we're gonna do now is change the EQ. Use a little bit on each, um, channel. So, like, for this, what I did is I just on the left eye dropped out some lows. Let's say around 300 just like 1.5 db and on the right channel, I dropped out some highs. So let's say it's somewhere harsh like 1.5. And so now one thorn left inside of me. One thorn, left side of me, one thorn left inside of me. That's with it off. So what we can do just to play with it? One thorn left inside of May. The more different you make it, the more like it's gonna sound wider. One thorn left inside of me. That sounds bananas and it wouldn't sound getting to mix. So that's basically what you want to be aware of. The reason I do it so suddenly is because I don't want my vocals to sound weird. And that sounds out of place. That almost sounds like it's behind you. So basically like one or two db on each chain in different spots is going to give it a little bit of ah, um, stereo boost just to match mawr with Thea those the rest of your track. So that's important. Um, last video is going to be reverb delay. I'm all mashed into one. Um, so continue on. 5. Reverb and Delay: All right, guys. Welcome to the last video. There's going to be the final reverb delays all that stuff, You know, the fun stuff. Um, so just jumping right in. Um, so we just did the stereo spread. Um, we've done all the other ds ing all the EQ use compressors, all that stuff. Um, so what I did after this stereo split, um is I put on a reverb with 30% dry, wet, super small decay? Um, yeah. Basically, this is what this is doing because that stereo effect, um, it kind of makes it sound less cohesive to me. Um, it almost Ah, you know. So what I'll do is put on a super subtle reverb to just kind of, like, mix it like, um, you know, make it sound kind of as one again eso I'm gonna play this to dry, wet hair. This is on and off. One thorn left inside of May. So that's with tiny reverb. One thorn left inside of me. And it's gonna be hard to hear. Um, one thorn left inside of me. That's what I'm adding in. So I just did 31 thorn left inside of May and to me now I'm like, Okay, it's back at its whole state. Um, that's up to you though. This river moon skip over that because that's also for a later part. So this is the final effects. I'm gonna turn this on. This is what you're gonna You're gonna hear this one. So this is with it off one thorn left inside of May and is with it on one thorn left inside of me so that when you heard and it's kind of like intense when it just pops in like that, but same thing as the stereo spread. What you're gonna do is control G and effect. You're gonna have this. It's gonna create a chain. You thrill the chain list, um, create you if you right click. It says create chain. So we're gonna do is get you're gonna have one chain with nothing on it because you want to keep your dry vocals. The 2nd 1 you're going to do a reverb with 100% dry wet. Because if you think about it, these are parallel. You're not. You don't want a mix in part dry, part wet. If you're already doing parallel. Basically, this dry, wet knob is doing that for you. Um, as in when it's on its own. So when you're in a parallel chain, you wanna have this parallel this section B ah, 100% effects, cause we're gonna mix that in with the volume. Then you could make 1/3 chain. That's gonna be 100%. What? Ah, delay. Um, so now we can turn them on and off One thorn left inside of may. We don't even play just the effects. Eso that's cool. You can kind of section it out. Eso with this reverb. Um, I have a long decay time. Um, medium pre delay, big size, pretty dense. Um, and then the scale turned scale up. This almost feels like the size of the grains. Kind of it. Kind of. Just how it makes it more subtle when you turn the scale up. Um, because I'm using a large decay time. I want a kind of higher scale. Um, So what I'm doing with this is basically because this the way the way of this vocal performance is, um, like, vocal hook kind of space. I want this long decay time. The issues you have with long to K time and a lot of reverb is that is going to start washing out your vocals. So the cool thing about these chains is that you can put effects. You can put all the effects on this verb, Jane, like you could do as many as you want. So what we're gonna do is put down a compressor on that reverb chain, and then if you open up the this button right here is gonna show the like, side chain options. Um, So what you gonna do is click Green Side chain we do outside chain. And where you going to do that? You're gonna side chain to itself. Um, so what? You're what? You're gonna find the vocal track and pick that vocal track. So this is X box just cause that's what I haven't named as. And so what this is doing is it means when the vocals play and now we center we sent our, um, compressor when the vocals play, the, um the reverb, which it's being side chained to the main vocals, is going to duck. So why are we doing that? Were doing that because we want that big reverb tale to make it sound big and e t m e But we don't want this giant reverb to be washing out our vocals We still want our vocals to sound strong and centered and just, like, focused and clean We wanted clean Um, So I'm gonna take off this compressor real quick and I'll show you Sorry. I said we set our compressor. I will show you. I'll tell you what I did to set that. That was just kind of Ah, help me complete the idea One thorn left inside of me. So the river's big it sounds, you know, it's big. You're like, Oh, sweet, but, um, it's definitely washing things out. So what I did, um, is basically did a low threshold One thorn left inside of me like the vocal just cuts through now. And it sounds sweet, low low ratio. So there's only 1.75 to 1 ratio. But the thresholds let also low quick attack because I don't want river sneaking in the front. I don't want it sneaking off at the back. You know, I do want it to fade in. So 1 74 1 75 released time. There's a little longer than the BPM of the song. But it's more to fill the space between these vocal areas, then to match with the BPM. Um, so I'm gonna do this again. I'm gonna show you what this sounds like with the with without the compressor. First one thorn left inside of me and then with the compressor one thorn left inside of me . Okay, um, I had I used to have this issue where I'd put too much reverb on. And I keep trying to turn up my vocals too. Two, Once they get washed out, you're gonna want to keep turning them up to make him sounds more centered. And then you're gonna be confused because your vocals air too loud. Um, and then you'll try to turn everything else back up, and then you'll feel like your vocals are lost, and then it's like this self defeating cycle. It's just the worst. So this sightseeing compression reverb is gonna make their vocals cut through but still give you that like big reverb sound. So this is super handy. I don't always do this with my reverb if I'm doing a more subtle reverb. Um, but I always do this on my delays, because these delays air pretty, pretty intense. Um, side note. I mix my reverb around negative four db. Well, the drives at zero db um, do that to taste. Just remember, you don't want your ducking reverb to sound like it's disappearing and then reappearing out of nowhere. You want just kind of You want to match the, um, the like, the ebb and flow, you know? So you want the reverb to be present the whole time, and you just want the compressor to just kind of pull it back when it needs to and then let it fly when it needs to. So you don't want to turn this way up and then have a super hard compressor just kind of balance. Um, um, so with the delay, um, that's gonna be the same idea. Um, I turned this delay down to negative 14 9 of 13 db. Um, and then with this similar, I put this, um, setting a little harder. One thorn left inside of me because the ladies, they just kind of bounce around a lot. And then for the feedback, same ideas, the reverb, um, it's filling the space. Basically. So this is kind of the big parallel chain that's super fun to play with. So play around with that. Um, use the what you learned from the reverb to do your delay. Um, and keep making music. Guys peace out.