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5 Voice Effects to Add to Your Song

When you’re a singer, your voice is your instrument. It sadly has its limitations because, well, you’re human. Many times, your voice is perfect; other times, it could use a little something extra to spice it up. In this article, we’ll take a look at five common vocal effects to use while recording your song in the studio.

Doubling

This is one of the simplest and most subtle vocal effects on this list. Essentially, you’re singing the exact same part twice. This creates a slight chorusing effect and can help thicken the sound of your voice for more impactful parts like choruses. I’m sometimes asked, “Why don’t you just duplicate the track?” If I were to just duplicate the vocal take, all I’m doing is making it louder. The slight variation in two separate performances is what creates the effect.

Telephone Effect

Given the name, this effect may seem pretty obvious — it sounds like you’re coming through a telephone! Think of the mechanics of a phone speaker: it’s tiny, so it can only reproduce a small band of frequencies. We achieve this in the studio with an EQ. We’ll cut out the high and low ends and only leave a small band of your voice so it sounds like you’re coming through a phone. This effect can be great to use in bridge sections, on ad-libs, or for call-and-response sections (pun intended).

(Over) Tuning

T-Pain really did change pop music forever with his use of auto-tune. With this effect, our goal is to use extreme settings on auto-tune or a similar tuning plug-in to get that robotic, stepped sound when changing notes. Lots of modern hip-hop and pop music use this effect to varying degrees from a light push/pull to the fully robotic sound. If you want to use this effect in your song, think of how prominent you’d like it to be.

Distortion/Saturation

From a subtle grit to full-fledged audio mangling, distortion and saturation can be great ways to add some vibe and energy to your voice. With light saturation, you can really add a nice color to your voice, and it can be a great way to make sections of song distinguishable. As you crank the gain up, you can get an unbelievably aggressive sound, better suited for quick effects rather than an overall vocal sound. Make sure you specify what sound you are going for so the engineer can craft it for you.

Pitch Shifting

From Alvin and the Chipmunks to Flo Rida, pitch shifting vocals is a great way add some flair to your song. Pitching a vocal up will instantly give you that Chipmunks sound, while pitching down gives a deep, almost mean-sounding effect to your voice. Both can be great if mixed in with the original vocal. You can also consider pitching your voice only on certain phrases as an accent.

Knowing how these common vocal effects are used is a great starting point. As you become more familiar with them, you may find yourself using them as writing tools, knowing you want hard tuning in this section and a bunch of distortion in that section. When you come into a recording session, you’ll already have a vision for what you want your song to sound like. And communicating it to the engineer is essential for your end product.


Bobby Dellarocco

Bobby is an avid Reason Studios user who has taught a Master Class and released tons of tutorials on the software. As an audio engineer, his Pro Tools proficiency, knowledge of sound design, and expertise in modern production techniques work in tandem with the other engineer skill sets to produce the best product possible for clients.

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