Vocal Production - Editing: How to Prepare a Vocal for Mix | Byjoelmichael | Skillshare

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Vocal Production - Editing: How to Prepare a Vocal for Mix

teacher avatar Byjoelmichael, Music Creator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (28m)
    • 1. Course Intro

    • 2. Background Noise

    • 3. Breaths

    • 4. Plosives

    • 5. Sibilance

    • 6. Comping

    • 7. Rhythmic Alignment

    • 8. Project

    • 9. Course Outro

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About This Class


Hey there, I’m Joel and I’ve been a music creator for over 15 years now.  And in the span of my music career so far, I have worn many hats from performer to engineer and producer.  To this day, some of the most consistent and rewarding work I have had is in the realm of vocal production (with over 150 songs I’ve worked on in this past year alone).  In this course, I want to share with you my experience in vocal editing.  

Regardless how clean a recorded vocal performance is, when it comes time to create a pro sounding piece of music (with vocals), there will need to be vocal editing 1st and foremost.  In this course, I have narrowed the focus down to 6 main areas so you can get great results fast.  The areas of focus will be the ability to edit background noise, breaths, plosives, and sibilance.  I have also included sections on comping and rhythmic alignment of vocals.  Also, regardless of what DAW you use, these techniques will work.

Whether you are a producer, engineer, vocalist, or all of the above, this quick and concise course will get your vocal editing chops in shape in no time, and your music sounding much more pro.  I look forward to helping you on the journey.  See you inside. 

Course Outline

  • Remove Background Noise
  • Breaths
  • Plosives (P and B sounds)
  • Sibilance (Ess and Sh)
  • Comping
  • Rhythmic Alignment (Quantize/Groove)

Meet Your Teacher

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Music Creator


Hey all, I'm Joel!

I'm a music creator, producer and guitarist that strives to make music unique and inspiring. 

My musical journey began in St. Louis where I earned my Bachelor's in Music Technology and Master's in Jazz Composition.  I then spent years as the Director of Education at Nelly's music production college in St. Louis.  Throughout those years, and to this day, I have developed many artists and musicians to become the best musical versions of themselves and release music that is creative, unique to them, and of a professional caliber. 

Currently, I am travelling and finding inspiration in life abroad.  As a result, I am creating music that is introspective, instrumental, and painting sonic images of my experiences.

My ... See full profile

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1. Course Intro: Hey there, I'm Joel and I've been a music creator for the lower 15 years now. And in the span of my music career, I've worn many hats from musician and performer to engineer and producer. To this day, some of the most rewarding and consistent work I have is in vocal production with over 150 songs released just this past year. And in this course, I want to share with you my experience in the 0 so important field of vocal editing, regardless of how clean or professional recorded voice may sound. When it comes time to creating a pro production, you're definitely going to have to do some vocal editing. It's inevitable. And in this course, I've narrowed it down to the six main areas of focus will need when editing a bobo. The areas of focus will be the ability to edit background noise, civil and plosives, breaths. And I even included sections on vocal copying at that of rhythmic alignment or quantizing. And regardless of what dog you used, these techniques will be applicable. So just open up your job choice and follow along. This course is quick and concise. So whether you're a vocal producer or a vocalist or an engineer or whatever your role may be. This'll be easy to follow along with and give you six tried and true approaches that will get you better sounding vocals. I look forward to helping you along that journey and I'll see you inside. 2. Background Noise: Okay, so the first thing you wanna do is to import the audio file or files. And for this example, I'm going to simply be focusing on a lead vocal, okay, I'm not gonna worry about harmonies or any sort of background vocals. However, keep in mind that any of the techniques learned that we apply to this lead vocal can't be applied to the backgrounds and harmonies to and should be. Okay, so first thing is we can see it's pretty small. So let's bring it into our view a little bit better by just enlarging the track. I can do that even more by double-clicking, double-clicking, and they clip, go into the gain over here and raise it up all the way. So now we can really see that right here, there's obviously no audio happening. It's safe to say that here we see some, some audio happening. But in comparison to the main performance is pretty miniscule and is probably just background noise. And at this point, this is our main goal, is just the macro editing, just clean up any of the silence or the main background noise we can easily see. So I'm gonna go ahead and set this to grid mode. About one bar is probably safe. We don't wanna get into close to the waveform. And I'm going to select just the amount needed that the audio is happening. I can then hit Command E or Control E on a PC. And then I can just delete that. And then I can just delete that. So pretty straightforward. Now again, if you were importing 816 vocal tracks, you'd want to go one-by-one and apply this technique to them. Let me kinda back it up and give me an example that'll able to tip. So if i just going to duplicate these for the sake of an example, and if I want to apply that to all of these, I can shift click. I've selected them all, and I can hit the gain up and look all of the gain raises on there. So everything in regards to the actual audio is visible to us. So then we just apply the same technique and we can just go one at a time and keep in mind your, all of your different tracks might not be lined up and rhythm. So for example, this might be like a course section is, might be background for the course section. This might be a bridge, so on and so forth. So you'd want to go one-by-one and apply the same techniques. And Command E, get rid of this silence. Okay? So that's the first step there. 3. Breaths: Okay, so now that we have the sound is removed and any of just the basic background noise, we can zoom in a bit. Let's go ahead, double-click the waveform and bring the game back down and you can just double-click that gain up. That way we're not blowing our ears out. So when I'm editing, I'm typically using headphones almost always because I can really, really, really isolating any background noise that I went to remove or any of these sort of tiny details that when we start adding compression and really mixing, we can assure that those nuances don't start to appear later down the line. So I do also recommend listening at a relatively audible, kind of loud level. Nothing that hurts your ears obviously, to get started into this phases. So at this phase we're going to deal mainly with breaths. Okay, so I'm gonna go ahead and take off grid mode because I want to be able to zoom way, close right into the waveform itself. Okay, so let's go ahead and start that PTK. Okay, So we see there we don't want any of that noise where you breathe in. So I can just trim in or I can select and delete. Either way is fine. Okay, and so now, do we want to keep the breath before or do we want to take it out? So that's personal preference for certain scenarios, I will completely remove breaths and or only keep a very vital breaths that help keep the performance intact. The reason is, is because as we have more compression on the line, these little details really start to peak out and bite us a bit and translates to a pretty harsh vocal. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go ahead and show you a way that I handled breast to keep them in there but to make them subtle. So I just go to the beginning of the breath. Okay, It's a little long. I don't want one that long. I can shorten it. That sounds good. I'm going to draw a fade in and I'm gonna make that fade a bit steep. Okay, you can hear a little breath. Let me back it up a bit. Pk. That's cool. That's all I want. Okay. There's little right in there. That's fine. Okay. So I'm moving through and I'm going to listen to all the phrases. And what I mean by a phrase is the singer typically marks there phrases by breaths. And if they've rehearsed the song and have a down really good, you're going to hear that they don't breathe too often, but they breathe at the right points. And it's basic natural human nature for a singer to do that. But sometimes that might not be the case and that the entity becomes a little more detail. But for now let's just roll through and catch all the breaths. You beat a match will be a few right there. So I'm going to zoom in right where that begins. Make sure I make sure I don't clip out the end of the previous word Control E or Command E. Let's take it down a bit faded in, make it steep, zoom out. Okay. Sounds pretty natural. You can play with the length of the FE to make sure it sounds exactly as you watch, I will beat a few, boom. There we go. The big breath. So this technique, I'm keeping the breaths in here obviously, but I'm just minimizing them. And they'll too steep of a fade there you can see pain. A very good, That's pretty good. Painter baby. And there's another one. Say that n. All right, thanks. I'm doing, Let's shorten that. If bits, pretty big breath. I'm doing. Alright, let's make that less steep but gradual. I'm doing part a baby news because she was cigarette. Okay. Well, that app oops, Command Z, we don't want that. I would have pulled this back. I'm doing. Okay out there that's fade in this breath. Cigarette, smoke. Yeah. Thank you. Okay. As I'm doing is I'm always hitting Command S as I go along to save it. So basically I'm going to go through and repeat this process until all the breaths are cleaned up on this. And we'll go on from there next. 4. Plosives: Okay, so now that we've taken some time and edited the breaths, either by removing them completely or keeping them in, but drawing fades to help ease them. In. The next step will be to consider plosives. Plosives or the p and the b sounds that we hear. Regardless of the caliber of the artist or the engineer, you're always going to get tracks that have Pops and booms and, and the, it's just the reality of it. So you're going to have to learn how to fix them. Okay, some are easier to fix than others. So basically I'm just going to roll through and I'm going to listen through four Ps and B sounds, pk. Okay, So on band, we get here p, If you don't have headphones on, definitely put those on because you probably won't hear it without them. Okay. So this instance, this is not a bad one, right? So I wouldn't be too worried about it. What I'm gonna do is I often just throw on an EQ. So I just open up like AQA, right? Okay, now that's open, I'm just going to throw in high-pass filter. Let's make it steep. Okay, We're going to roll it up and we're going to see if we can still too about, I don't know, somewhere close to one k, right? Doesn't mean that's pretty extreme. We don't need to go that high, but you get the point. So basically, I don't hear a B. Let's take it down to like say somewhere around 200. Okay, I don't hear the p very bad. So typically in what will touch later on in the mixing section of the course, we'll learn that we can overcome some of these Pops simply with EQ. But in his editing phase, Let's be particular and not assume that we're going to be able to get it out with the EQ. So I'm gonna go here, okay, and I'm going to zoom in. I'm going to cut. And I'm gonna do a little fade here, right? This isn't the most natural thing all the time. If you get it close enough. There you go. It doesn't sound like it, especially when you un-solo it and put it in with the track. Probably you're not going to hear that little cut there, but those Ps will definitely stand out again. The more we add compression and start mixing things is little sounds are going to become pretty prominent. We definitely don't want those in there. Okay, so I'm going to do pretty steep fade. Let's listen through. You beat a match. I will beat a few spoon, feed a few, a few. Reference or your keys will be a few. That one's fine. Who beat a few? Boom, painter baby. Okay, there's a bigger one, right? We can hear that. And we can see it, right, right, and the waveform, we can see that. So I'm just gonna go ahead and start by just straight up deleting that pain. And that pretty much fixed it right there. Okay. And the breadth still sounds connected, but if not, I can just scoot that breath up a bit, right? I can even bring it back a bit to allow it to still kinda stay closer to on rhythm to his breathing pattern. Spoon. Then a baby. I'm doing part a baby. Porter. A big one there and we can see it. Alright, let's do the same thing. I'm just gonna go ahead and cut here. All right, I'm going to get this. Let's just see if we can just pass it up with the phase plot. Babies can hear pretty strong baby. Ok, It's OK. Try it the key and bought a baby. All right, We're cool. Now, make sure you don't go too far on these where you completely lose that sound because in the intelligibility of what he's saying is gonna get lost a lot of baby, right? So if I did it like extreme, lot of baby, sounds like crap, you know, so let's not do that. That's why you want to zoom in close. Definitely be off the grid so you don't know how to do that? Turn off the grid right here. Okay. Lot of baby beating news consumer cigarette, smoke. We always bad because you would a joke check TO hue or a child can be to Blackboard. You can talk board, Blackboard. Blackboard. You can hear it there. So I do it one more time. All right. So I think at this point you're starting to get the picture. I just speak careful, make sure you don't cut off the end of the previous word. That goes with breaths to if you're editing the breaths, you probably saw that you had to be careful how you trim the word before the breath. So you want to hear that at the end of that. And if we cut it too far back, you're not gonna get that also, the steepness of the Fade Out of that word still doesn't sound natural like that. So we want to make sure we keep a lot of that and retain that decay of his voice Blackboard. You fix the pop, their simple, we can bring it closer even to, let's be real precise. You can beat it. Saw can bill he even wanted to Skype calls fall. Okay. So basically we will go through the whole track and eliminate the plosives, all right, and we'll continue on from there next. 5. Sibilance: Okay. So we've taken care of the breaths and we've taken care of the plosives all very carefully to make sure we haven't lost the clarity of what the cigarettes trying to say and keeping intact with the way the voice sounds naturally without assigning to artificial. So that this point, arguably this next phase, can really be part of the mixing phase, but I often like to include it, at least the first part of it in the editing phase just to assure that the mixing phase can go really smoothly. So now we're going to focus on the civil. And so the Ss and the sounds and rolling going to focus for the ones that really start to peak out here. Or maybe there are too long or the Einstein a little bit distorted or something. So I'm going to roll through and just listen. You are a child. Can act could be to Blackboard, you can could beat. It's all. Can be a lot. He even wanted to Skype calls fall. Okay. So let's take a look at Sky comes fallen, right? So if we're going to control some of those because they're pretty vibrant, if you will. And they could equate to being harsh when we add more compression and the mixed phase, we could use DSA, right? But the idea here is to not rely on plugins for, from the get-go at this point at least. So I'll show you how to do it without that. So he even wanted to Skype, Zoom in finders the sky, sky, sky, sky. So we can hear the end of the scale and we want it to where Scott. Okay, cool. We can't hear that. I'm going to trim that. I'm going to trim the end of it, right? This is the S here. I'm gonna double-click that clip. I'm just going to go and clip and I'm going to bring it down about three dB for starters, right? Like to think in increments of three until I get to the close audible range that I can fine tune it from there. You don't have to do it via clip like this. You could go in and you could select volume and you could automate the volume. But I don't recommend that and the editing stage because then you're really getting into the steps of mixing. And if you start to automate the volume at it, very particular parts are going to have to automate the whole thing if you just want to turn the whole thing up or down. You could also go into plug-ins. And you could do a utility and we could add it on this track here. And with that utility, we get, automate the gain here. But again, let's save any sort of automation in that light, the mixing stage. All right, and let's just go back to at the clip level, okay, because we're just editing just the waveform here. We're going to sky costs fall it. Okay, So that product down, it's a little bit less harsh from here. Let's do son. And she said sen, Sun, sun. And that it's kick it down about three dB. See how that's sudden onset. Shows that that bad. But let's do it for the sake of the example. Now, again, some tracks you get, you're going to be way more obvious that you need to turn the S is down. And some art, this one is not bad at all. So I probably would even waste my time doing too much of this. But for the sake of giving examples, that it is a vital step when you can audibly hear harsh civil and speaking through which he even went down to two I have here what we could do a baby seat belt and play. This this slop is a shared thing. Okay, chef, maybe there will be this really zoom in there and this particular cut it down about three dB. Give it a listen. Again, 3D views is what I start with, but you might eat less or more than that. Islam is a shared thing. Okay, Cool. The key is to make sure you refine it so that was too narrow of a cut. We can bring it out to find the beginning of that shit. Show, which that brought in the ending of the previous word and we don't want that to happen. Okay, So I want you to go through and use this and practice on some vocal tracks that you have. And I will continue on from here. 6. Comping: Okay, so you got your breaths all under control and we've got the plosives under control. We even talked about situations where you might want to control some Ss and the editing stage before we get to the mixing stage though, not always necessary, just something I wanted to point out to you. Now, this point, another thing that's always not necessary for the editing of a vocal, but oftentimes we wear multiple hats and kinda do production decisions as well. So you might get multiple takes of the same section of a song. And what you're going to have to count them, are compiled them together and choose the best bits from each. Oftentimes, this isn't the editor's job, but it is something that will probably lead on your plate. Want to know how to do. So typically when I went to listen for is consistency across the board so that take that has the most consistency I could just keep. Or if the beginning of one is good and the second half of the other is, is good. I put them both together and you count them. Okay, so let's listen through these four takes and what the goal of this is. This phrase is to be looped four times over and over. And so we're going to see if we can find one that's good and or compile couple together to get one. Here we go. Bad debt, never gone to sweat day. Okay, let's go to the next. You can bet that never gone to sweat debt. Alright, you can bet that never got to sweat. That one's got a more kind of chill energy to it. You can never going to sweat. I thought was cool because it's got a breathy, sort of throaty vibe to it. I like that, but there was an obvious sound and they're never, never, never, never going, yeah, that pop there and that's not at the end of it. That's actually going to something that's going to be hard to edit out. So maybe I'd take the first half of this and then this take was also kind of throaty, going to sweat. Never going to do is take that I'm going to make a new track. Man t. I'm going to go ahead and take the first bit of this. You can bet that got that down here. I'm going to come up, I'm gonna do the second half of this one. Asu a good bet. Debt. Never going to sweat. Sounds cool to me. You can. Never going to sweat. Okay, so then at that point, we'll do the same thing. We'll kinda make sure we get rid of any of the background noise. You can bet that we can then retitle it like something that makes sense like comp, so we know, and then we can minimize these or we can even get rid of these however you want to do it. But it's typically save multiple versions of this section of this session and tidal it, you know, comped or edited. So I know that this take as the edited stuff in it. And then I can delete this after I've saved a new version of it. And that's the basic just a, and that's sorry, That's the basic gist of copying and sky's the limit there. Obviously you might get sessions that need a lot of that and then you might get some that definitely don't need that. So just wanted to show you. All right. We'll continue on. 7. Rhythmic Alignment: Alright, so now the last little bit I want to talk about on this editing focus is that of rhythmic alignment or quantizing. So couple of ways to do this. If you're using Ableton, you can do the time warping and use that approach, right? So here's the phrase that I comped. I'm going to join them. Command J to sort of consolidate them into one. That I can set the grid 16th notes that say, since it says a 16th note, feel, I can select down here, hit Control a or Command a to select all Command I to insert mark points. And then I can select all again, hey, command to you, and then it will quantize it to 16th notes, right? Let's make sure we're on. Let's redo that. And I want to set the 16th notes in this clip setting. It's kinda weird. It doesn't automatically sync with that. Maybe there's a maybe there's a setting. You can't do that, that I just don't use. Anyways now, Command U. And if you see there's marker points all line up with the 16th notes. Let's see how that sounds. It sounds very digital like it's been altered. You can go through the different algorithms. And I get some cool effects here. But a lot of times you can bet it is hard to get a very accurate representation of it. So I'm gonna go ahead and undo all of that fun stuff. Get rid of these markers, right? I'm gonna go on the old school way. Before the war markers was an option and a DAW you can do this with, I'm going to take it off of the grid mode and I'm going to just basically look at peaks in the wave form. So I'm going to kick this up a bit, just so like we did with the stripping silent section. And I'm going to look for peaks. And I'm going to break that clips by hitting Command E at the beginning of this clips, right? And that's basically the beginning of each transient or each word, I guess. And then I'm going to use that to snap to the grid sort of in a more old-school fashion. Sometimes the warp markers work really nice for instruments or for other sounds. And sometimes for vocal, it works really good, but I can almost always, you're stretching in it and I can't quite get over it. So it's cool. But use it tastefully. Just a is what I recommend. Okay, now we've got all the words separated, right? I'm gonna go back to grid. Let's just say 16th nodes, right? And make sure, okay, yeah, you can. And let's go on and add basically snap these for starters, two closest 16th notes, if you can see that I'm doing that. All right. And let's see what we get. He can never you can never going to swell guy. So yeah, now we're gonna get really tight rhythmic feel with this. And maybe you don't want it to strictly quantize, right? Maybe you want to use this for quite the opposite effect of making them feel more loose and behind the beat, right? Give some push-pull between elements in a track and you can do the same thing. But you know, to your liking. All right, let's hear this now. You can never going to sweat. All right, so then you've got that. And then once you've gotta all edited, if you'd like it, you can basically duplicate the track is what I'd recommend and then consolidate it. The reason I say that, It's because if you go back and like wait a second, that's not group in high one it you can re-tweak it and come back to it later. All right, so I hope that helps and that all of these ideas help you sort of refine your productions or you're mixing or your fear vocalists, your, your vocal takes and help you track sound a little more. Bro. 8. Project: Okay guys, so for the vocal project is going to be pretty straightforward. You're gonna apply those six techniques we've talked about in the course to your own vocal session. All right, so first off, attain a vocal that can be yours. It could be an artists. You can even download free multi-track. So if you just Google it, and I think Telefunken has loads of them on their website. It could be one lead vocal like used in the course examples, or it could be multiple. So utilizing stack stabs, backgrounds, harmony is all that fun stuff. Just apply the techniques to all of those. If you're gonna use multiple tracks step to apply the six steps to the vocal file or files. Remove the background noise, edit the breaths, edit plosives, edit the sibilant it's copying, and the rhythmic alignment. Last, you can snag a screenshot of this session and describe which of the six steps was most challenging for this particular vocal edit. And then share this in the project section. And you can also upload a link to the final product if you desire, and I'll check it out. All right, have fun. 9. Course Outro: Hey there, I hope this quick and concise Corps helped you gain some valuable insight on the O, so important topic of vocal editing and that you're going to use these techniques and your future productions to make more pro sounding mixes. If you enjoyed the course, be sure to leave a review forming. And you can also link with me on socials at, by Joel Michael. I think there's links in my profile. Also, be sure to follow me on Spotify or we can keep up to date with all of my releases. So hope to see you soon. Take care.