10 Ways to Make Vocals Sound Modern & Professional

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Rob Mayzes, producer, mix engineer and founder of Home Studio Center, a site dedicated to providing valuable tips around recording from home studios.]

 

In most genres, the vocals are the most important part of the mix.

Especially in modern pop styles, there are a number of techniques that make a vocal sound modern, expensive and professional.

Once you apply these ten techniques, your mixes as a whole will improve.

1. Top-End Boost

This is perhaps the easiest and fastest way to make a vocal sound expensive.

Most boutique microphones have an exaggerated top-end. When using a more affordable microphone, you can simply boost the highs to replicate this characteristic.

The best way to do this is with an analogue modelling EQ, such as the free Slick EQ. Use a high shelf, and start with a 2dB boost at 10kHz.

Experiment with the frequency and amount of boost. You can go as low as 6kHz (but keep it subtle) and boost as much as 5dB above 10kHz. Just make sure it doesn’t become too harsh or brittle.

2. Use a De’Esser

When you start boosting the top-end, the vocal can start to sound more sibilant. To counteract this problem, a de’esser can be used.

These simple tools are a staple of the vocal mixing process, and required in at least 80% of cases. I find they usually work best at the very beginning or end of the plugin chain.

3. Remove Resonances

If you’re recording in a room that’s less than ideal, room resonances can quickly build up.

Find these resonances using the boost-and-sweep technique and then remove them with a narrow cut.

4. Control the Dynamics with Automation

For a modern sound, the dynamics of vocals need to be super consistent. Every word and syllable should be at roughly the same level.

Most of the time, this can’t be achieved with compression alone. Instead, use automation to manually level out the vocal.

I prefer to use gain automation to create consistency before the compressor. But regular volume automation works well too.

5. Catch the Peaks with a Limiter

Using a limiter after compression is another great way to control dynamics.

You don’t need to be aggressive with it (unless you are going for a heavily compressed sound). Aim for 2dB of gain reduction only on the loudest peaks.

6. Use Multiband Compression

As vocalists move between different registers, the tone of their voice can change. For example, when the vocalist moves to a lower register, their voice might start to sound muddy.

Instead of fixing this with EQ and removing the problematic frequencies from the entire performance, you could use multiband compression to control these frequencies only when they become problematic.

For any frequency-based problem that only appears on certain words or phrases, use multiband compression rather than EQ.

7. Enhance the Highs with Saturation

Sometimes EQ alone isn’t enough to enhance the top-end. By applying light saturation, you can create new harmonics and add more excitement.

8. Use Delays Instead of Reverb

For a modern sound, the vocals need to be upfront and in-your-face. Applying reverb to the vocal does the opposite of this, so is undesirable.

Instead, use a stereo slapback delay to create a space around the vocal and add some stereo width.

Use a low feedback (0-10%) and slightly different times on the left and right sides. I find that delay times between 50-200ms work best.

9. Try Adding a Subtle Plate Reverb

To add more width and depth to the vocal, try adding a subtle stereo plate on the vocal.

You don’t want the reverb to be noticeable, as discussed in the previous tip. Instead, bring the wetness up until you notice the reverb, then back it off a touch.

Start with the shortest decay time possible and a 60ms pre-delay to give the transients a bit more definition and room to breathe.

10. Try Adding a Subtle Chorus Effect

Another way to give the vocal a bit of depth and shimmer is to apply subtle chorusing.

Again, you don’t want the effect to be noticeable. Add a stereo chorus to the vocal and increase the wetness until you notice the effect, then back it off a touch.

Conclusion

The vocals are extremely important and will require more time mixing than most other instruments.

But once you apply the 10 techniques in this article, you can take a big step closer to a modern, professional sound.

TuneCore Partners With Pandora

TuneCore is excited to announce that we’ve officially partnered with Internet Radio powerhouse Pandora!

Pandora became a household name for music lovers in the United States, New Zealand and Australia as a revolutionary source for music discovery and carefully curated radio stations based on the artists its users love.

Now, they’ve launched their brand new Pandora Plus platform – a non-interactive subscription service (meaning Pandora selects the music being played next) free of ads that introduces features like replays, skipping more tracks, and offline station access.

Independent artists of all stripes have been asking TuneCore about access to Pandora for years, and now we’re thrilled to be able to offer an avenue of submission for music makers hoping to reach the Internet Radio service’s 78+ million users.

It’s important to note that while TuneCore Artists will now have the opportunity to submit as many releases as they’d like to Pandora, the service is still ultimately curated by Pandora, and we can therefore not guarantee that delivered content will go live on Pandora or Pandora Plus. Read more about delivery to Pandora here.

How do I get my music delivered to Pandora if I’m a first-time TuneCore Artist?

It’s simple – when getting ready to distribute your first release, make sure to ‘opt-in’ to Pandora when selecting which stores and platforms you would like your music delivered to.

I’ve already distributed a release(s) via TuneCore – how can I deliver it/them to Pandora?

To send in your previously TuneCore-distributed releases to Pandora for consideration, simply log in to your TuneCore account and visit the TuneCore Cart. Your releases have already been placed in the cart for “Pandora Store-Add”, all you need to do is complete the checkout process (if you have Store Automator, there is no action needed)!
Got more questions? Learn more about Pandora Plus or get in touch with our world class Artist Support team.

TuneCore Closes Out Strong Year of International Growth With Launch of TuneCore Italy

Streaming Is On The Rise Across All International Markets

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – December 13, 2016 – TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration service provider, caps off a strong year of sustained and international growth with the announcement today of TuneCore Italy – the service provider’s fourth launch in the European market and sixth international expansion. Since the company’s inception in 2006, TuneCore artists worldwide have earned more than $783 million collectively from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams. As the only major global distribution service with a dedicated Italian offering, Tunecore.it features local content in the native language that caters to the Italian independent artist community.

As part of its continued commitment to support independent artists around the world, in 2016 TuneCore launched three international sites including TuneCore Germany (April 2016), TuneCore France (October 2016) and now, TuneCore Italy (December 2016).

TuneCore’s global expansion efforts have led to an overall increase in its year-to-date international customer base. Further, TuneCore’s local offerings in international markets have seen significant increases in customer growth, specifically in the France and Germany markets. TuneCore also identified Hip Hop and R&B/Soul as two of the fastest growing genres in each of its key international markets (U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and France). Additionally, TuneCore has seen the growing popularity of streaming reflected across its international markets, with a 340 percent year-over-year increase in streaming in Canada, as well as year-over-year increases in Australia (92 percent), Germany (71 percent) and the UK (67 percent). Streaming also continues to grow in the U.S., with a 65 percent year-over-year increase.

“As we head into 2017, global expansion is pivotal in furthering our mission to bring more music to more people worldwide, while continuing to establish TuneCore as a leader in the international digital music distribution market,” says Scott Ackerman, CEO at TuneCore. “Our global expansion into Italy – a market that previously lacked a dedicated local offering from a global distributor – is a natural fit as we continue to support our artists by giving them the local resources and tools they need to be successful.”

In addition to keeping 100 percent of their revenues, and retaining complete creative control and ownership of their music, Italian customers will have access to TuneCore’s robust portfolio of artist services, as well as local Italian partners such as Music Raiser and MusicOFF, and world-class customer service. TuneCore Italy artists can also opt to include their music in storefronts controlled by TuneCore’s extensive network of more than 150 digital partners across the globe, including iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and Amazon Music. In addition, TuneCore Italy customers will be able to take advantage of the company’s strategic partnership with Believe Digital. With an already existing office in Italy with more than 30 employees, Believe Digital will offer TuneCore Italy customers access to a variety of advanced artist services, such as international campaign management, trade and online digital marketing, video management and distribution, physical distribution and more.

With its expansion into Italy, TuneCore now offers local musicians in seven countries outside of the U.S. – UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy – the opportunity to collect revenue from streaming services, digital download stores, songwriter royalties, and sync licensing opportunities, all in their local currency.

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About TuneCore

TuneCore brings more music to more people, while helping musicians and songwriters increase money-earning opportunities and take charge of their own careers. The company has one of the highest artist revenue-generating music catalogs in the world, earning TuneCore Artists $783 million from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams since inception. TuneCore Music Distribution services help artists, labels and managers sell their music through iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play and other major download and streaming sites while retaining 100 percent of their sales revenue and rights for a low annual flat fee.

TuneCore Music Publishing Administration assists songwriters by administering their compositions through licensing, registration, world-wide royalty collections, and placement opportunities in film, TV, commercials, video games and more. The TuneCore Artist Services portal offers a suite of tools and services that enable artists to promote their craft, connect with fans, and get their music heard. TuneCore, part of Believe Digital Services, operates as an independent company and is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY with offices in Burbank, CA, Nashville, TN and Austin, TX, and global expansions in the UK, Australia, Japan, Canada, Germany and France. For additional information about TuneCore, please visit www.tunecore.com or https://youtu.be/TSjGACrJyiY.

Engagement: Myspace’s Real Legacy for Indie Bands

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.] I came of age in the world of independent music at a time when the key to launching a new band was a successful Myspace page. A diverse array of artists from Fall Out Boy to The Arctic Monkeys to Lily Allen owe a tremendous debt to their days creeping into millions upon millions of fan’s “Top 8”. In what was most likely unintentional defiance of the traditional business model for breaking a band, Myspace allowed artists direct access to promoters to book shows, connect with fans and other artists and create a viral spike all without the help of a label, publicist or radio campaign.

The biggest aspect of Myspace’s legacy, at least in terms of music, is likely that “viral potential” and “direct-to-fan” connection it created. Today, we have major streaming sites and social media to hold bands down in this manner even if Myspace has largely shifted their music focus to editorial.

Perhaps the biggest thing that new artists can learn from these Myspace success stories is that it takes time, effort and commitment to make the most of these services and parlay them into a financially viable career in music. There is much, much more to creating a ‘viral’ hit and amassing hundreds of thousands of streams than just putting up a catchy song and asking people to share it.

Here are five things that today’s independent artists can learn from the “Myspace Bands” of the mid aughts.

1. Use Your Page to Build A Brand

While pop-punk and other ‘local music’ wasn’t started on Myspace, it did become exorbitantly more popular because of it. People became “Myspace celebrities” and millions of ‘ego swoop’ haircuts flooded the site as a direct result of kids trying to be like the bands they loved.

Your band does not need an emo swoop.

What your band does need is a definitive approach to the vibe of your online presence. In fact, many savvy new bands and managers are forgoing a presence on all social media sites to focus solely on Instagram. The reason for this is twofold:

  • (a) the ability to really create a distinct visual, and
  • (b) to take advantage of the opportunity for reaching a new audience via direct interaction and proper tagging (both hashtagging and geo-targeting).

2. Sell Without ‘Selling’

Not to sound all “business-y”, but Myspace was great due to the fact it created a viable direct-to-consumer situation for bands.

Is your band playing in a new city for the first time? Go through people commenting on similar band’s pages and reach out directly. If you do it right, you’ll be playing in front of some fans that are familiar with your music instead of an empty room. You can still do that today, but the key is to keep that casual approach that Myspace bands were built on.

“Hey I saw you were a big fan of Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates is one of my favorite records of all time!” is a better first impression on a fan than “Hello, I play in Band X. We are playing in Aurora, Illinois tomorrow. Buy tickets now!”. Myspace taught us the key is to make people realize they want to be at your show, not just making them aware you’re in town.

3. Engage! Engage! Engage!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re an unknown band (or even a mid-sized one), talk to your fans. If you don’t another band will. It helps to reach out to new fans as well, but if you’re uncomfortable doing so at least reply to those that care enough about your work to reach out to you on Facebook or shoot a Tweet or Instagram comment your way.

4. Promote Your Promoters

Something bands and their teams often forget is that press and radio are two way streets. Yes, they are happy to promote your music, but they also have bills to pay and their own fanbase to grow.

I’m not saying you have to post every blog about your band to EVERY social media site but at least shoot them a tweet or retweet thanking them for writing the post. Same goes for radio play and YouTube, Apple or Spotify playlisting. This is something a lot of Myspace bands did great at and that’s why so many writers and radio DJ’s have been so loyal to them throughout the years.

5.Consistency Is Key

Myspace band accounts seemed to always have that green “Online Now” text flashing on their profile. This is because they understood that the more time they spent interacting with fans and building their network on the site the more it would translate to better attendance at their shows and more records and merch sold.

Don’t just sporadically post a Facebook status that you’ve got new music coming and then disappear for a few months. You don’t have to spend all of your time maintaining your band’s online profiles, but definitely make it a point to be active on it for a little bit each day.


You’re trying to grow a loyal fanbase. The best way to do so is to get fans onboard early and let them feel a sense of ownership towards your band. If you can’t afford to drop everything and tour 200 days a year, then social media is your best way to do so.

Just ask Tom.

How To Prevent Psyching Yourself Out Before a Show

[Editors Note: This article was written by Anthony Cerullo and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

It’s a quiet Thursday night, and you’ve just gotten home from a long day of giving music lessons. Now that the distractions of the day have dissipated, it’s just you and your thoughts. Yes, those pesky thoughts that bounce off the empty walls in your room, teasing you with every chance they get.

This time, they’re focused on the big gig tomorrow night. It’s at a high-profile venue and a large turnout is expected. The opportunity is substantial, but instead of excitement, your brain focuses on the stress. Memories of last week’s show haunt you as every wrong note, missed cue, and voice crack dance around your brain.

You try to block out these negative feelings by thinking of rainbows and unicorns, but even that’s helpless. Sleep becomes a wasted attempt as the sensation of public humiliation before a large audience is all but a burning reality. Worst-case scenarios continue to repeat themselves throughout the night and even the next day leading up to the show.

Some may think feelings like this are nothing more than a little anxiety, but psyching yourself out can have a major impact on a performance. If the bulk of your time leading up to a show is filled with negative thoughts, that will likely lead to a poor performance.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. A solution exists for even the most anxiety-plagued musicians around.

Seeing is believing

Say what you will about visualization, but there’s some truth to it. That’s not to say that just by thinking about a boat, you’re going to get it, but thinking positively can certainly help with a musical performance.

If you still are skeptical about this, though, introduce yourself to Michael F. Scheier and Charles S. Carver. These two men brought the science of optimism to the forefront in 1985. Before that, this type of thinking was nothing but theory, but now researchers have embraced the research and have confirmed the powers of positive thinking.

Just like intense negative thinking can lead to a dramatic decrease in quality of your playing, the same is true for the opposite. By reinforcing positive thinking, an actual increase in performance quality is possible. That’s right – simply imagining how you’re going to play will translate into reality. It sounds crazy, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

For example, think about when you practice an instrument. You’ve probably heard the term “muscle memory.” By practicing the correct patterns repeatedly, it’s as if your fingers remember the movements easily. Eventually, by practicing these good habits, they become more natural until you’re hardly thinking about the notes in a given scale. Now, think about when you practice a pattern incorrectly. Poor habits are developed which are much harder to get rid of.

Well, it turns out this same occurrence can be found in our mentality. By reinforcing your brain with positive thoughts, it becomes a more natural feeling until positivity practically bleeds from your pores.

Again, this may seem like some mumbo-jumbo made up by some two-bit psychologist, but there’s truth to it. A few years ago, psychologists at Purdue University tested this theory out among professional golfers. Their conclusion showed that with positive thinking, golfers’ performance actually increased. If it can work for them, it can work for you.

What not to do

Now that you have some idea of how to think positively, it’s important to know what not to do.

When you have negative images in your head, it’s not just a matter of blocking them out. In fact, blocking them out actually makes the situation worse. You may think you’re thinking about them less, but suppressing negative thoughts mean you’re only increasing the chances of them invading your head once again.

For example, for the next minute, try not to think of a metallic purple magic school bus. So, how long did that take before you thought of it? Using that logic, you have to reinforce the ideas that you actually want, not what you don’t want.

When you’re thinking about an upcoming performance, it’s important to think about specific words you want to use. Avoid words like “don’t” (e.g., “Don’t play the chorus too fast this time”). Instead, say something like “Be mindful of the tempo during the gig.” That way, you aren’t just focusing on the thing you want to avoid and therefore making it more likely to occur.

Put a stop to that evil voice in your head

We all know that evil voice – its sole job is to pollute your mind with negative images, but it’s really up to you whether you want to put up with it. You’re going to see images, both good and bad, no matter what the situation is, so you may as well make them positive ones.

When a thought pops up in your head, ask yourself if this is a constructive thought or a negative one. If it’s a negative one, then simply redirect your focus to something that will help you become more successful.

The thing is that negative thoughts tend to be more natural. We can thank our survival instincts for that one. According to Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University, negative thoughts are processed more thoroughly than positive ones. As a result, we tend to contemplate unpleasant events with stronger words than we do with pleasant events.

Because of this, we have to try a lot harder to direct our focus to positivity. Over time, your ability to focus on good images will become better conditioned, not unlike practicing an instrument. Eventually, you won’t have to try so hard to think positively, and you’ll have more control over your mind during important moments like that big gig coming up tomorrow night.

Top 10 Websites & Apps Aussie Independent Artists & Musicians Should Check Out Now

By James Murphy

So as technology seems to be making more and more of an impact on the music industry everyday, more and more online opportunities are popping up for musicians everyday. Attempting to make it easier and easier for artists and independent musicians to do many things. The main one that springs to mind is fan engagement. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have already proved this to definitely be the case.

Here is a collection of 10 websites and apps that may help you. Whether it is to engage more fans, book more gigs, improve your sound, live record, join a community of musicians, or take your music career to the next level.

1. Music Gateway

Music Gateway is specifically designed to allow creative and music industry professionals to connect and work together in a global capacity very easily.

Developed by industry professionals from all sectors, musicgateway help break down barriers that hinder career development by empowering individuals and companies alike.

Once joining, you’ll be given 3 pitches per month, you can use this free mode to start with and pitch on various projects, such as film, TV, A&R, Topline writing, and many more. You also have the option to upgrade to Pro, which gives you access to more pitches.

2. APRA

Apra is the Australian Performing Rights Organisation (PRO), and are responsibly for collecting performance royalties on songwriters, producers, etc behalf. APRA AMCOS has 87,000+ members who are songwriters, composers and music publishers. They license organisations to play, perform, copy, record or make available our members’ music, and we distribute the royalties to our members. This is a must if you are a working musician, it gets you the money you are owed for performing your songs.

3. Studios301, Sydney 

Studios301 is a studio in Sydney, they offer various services including online mixing and mastering. You can work with the best producers, mixers, and mastering agents from around Australia all at a reasonable price.

In recent years 301’s services and facilities have been used by Flume, The Jezabels, Matt Corby, 360, Megan Washington and Angus & Julia Stone.

International artists that have recorded at 301 include Skrillex, Kanye West, Lana Del Ray, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Muse, Jay-Z, Metallica, The Black Eyed Peas, U2, Snoop Dogg, Tiesto and Bruce Springsteen.

Dating further back, David Joy Bowie, Prince, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Duran Duran, The Easybeats, John Farnham, Icehouse, The Divinyls, Slim Dusty, The Angels, INXS and Midnight Oil have all recorded, mixed or mastered at Studios 301.

So if your looking to take your record to the next level, this is the place for you.

4. Triple J Unearthed

Established in 1995, Triple J Unearthed has kicked off the careers of thousands of musicians. With well over 120,000 tracks, it’s also a great place to discover your new favourite band.

You can upload and share your tracks with fellow artists and music lovers by signing in and creating an artist page.

Triple J Unearthed also has a full time digital radio station playing the very best music from triplejunearthed.com.

Every musician needs exposure, and this is the place to get a great start. Your           Songs also chart on the unearthed website in your genre, this is also a great   way for new fans to find you and love your music.

5. AIR – Australian Independent Record Labels Association

AIR negotiates with industry and government, lobbying on behalf of its members and the broader independent recording sector, to facilitate commerce and achieve fair market access and parity of terms with the major labels.

AIR is staffed by a professional team that knows the industry, and are available to give advice and referral.

AIR Membership provides access to tools and information to help you run a healthier, more profitable music business, in addition to the following services:

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

  • AIR’s collective bargaining arrangements mark the first time the majority of independent labels and artists have access to music video royalties from MTV, Foxtel and Nightlife Music and Video.
  • AIR has an agreement in place with XYZ Networks ([V] Hits, Music Max and Country Music Channel), MTV and Nightlife Music and Video.
  • AIR received the first ever payment from MTV for royalties from music videos on that network and in 2015 came to an agreement which sees total member royalty revenues triple, whilst significantly increasing the amount of independent music videos to be broadcast on the network.
  • AIR continued its agreement with Nightlife Music and Video ensuring that all indie artists played on their background music systems will receive royalties.

AIR is looking to negotiate broader powers with the ACCC with a view to expanding its collective bargaining program.

6. Taxi Music

Taxi is a Company that provide A&R services to various types of business including film, TV, Record Labels, Production Companies, Music Supervisors, Music Libraries. As a taxi member you are given opportunities to pitch your music for various projects. The only downside to Taxi is they charge to become a member, so you cannot first try out their service. However if you are serious about getting your music synced in film, TV, etc then this is a good investment. Taxi will critique your submissions and give you great feedback on where your at and what you need to do to land placements.

7. iRig – Iphone/Android App

iRig is an app created for recording live performances, as well the ability to record an instrument directly into an iPhone, iPad, or Samsung device. The thing that makes this app great is the fact that you can control the input and output levels of your recording depending on how close you are to the performance. This can make recording your own rehearsals very easy.

Recording a bands rehearsal on an iPhone/Samsung in a house environment can be hard on most occasions, so being able to alter the volume levels of the input and output is extremely handy for new musicians recording at home on their iPhone or Samsung device. Prices start at $59, so it’s a great way to start recording your tunes.

8. LANDR Mastering Service

LANDR is a mastering service dedicated to top quality at a fast turnaround. They are an online service; this makes it a very easy process.

9. Spotify Artist Insights

Spotify Artist Insights is something fairly new, it lets you view all your spotify statistics in a new way.

Fan Insights helps artists better understand:

  • Who their fans are, including demographic information.
  • Where their listeners are in the world and how this audience is evolving and growing over time.
  • How their fan base is listening and their other music preferences.
  • The level of passion and engagement of fans and how these behaviours differ between passionate and casual listeners.

10. TuneCore Publishing Administration –

When the songs you write are downloaded or streamed worldwide, you may be earning royalties you don’t even know about. TuneCore Music Publishing Administration finds and collects these royalties and pays them to you.


I hope these 10 websites and apps help you in some way with your music career. It’s definitely getting easier and easier to network with other musicians, producers, music supervisors, record labels, etc. Musicians also have a great amount of technology at their fingertips in this somewhat future age. So get discovering.