Automation

If you’re working with a more traditional vocal arrangement, a technique for giving the chorus sections a bigger feel is to automate the vocal level for those sections. Rather than automating the mixer fader itself place a Utility Gain plugin on the channel, this will make it easier if you want to go back and tweak the overall level post automation.

Alternatively you could break the vocal take up into clips/regions, and turn up/down the relevant sections to change the feel. Such gain automation could also be applied to help control dynamics on a vocal, rather than using a compressor to do all the work.

Processing for a Wider Sound

For a wider vocal sound, get your vocalist to sing some ad-libs or harmonies. Use 2 different takes, and pan each one left and right, they don’t need to be hard panned, maybe just 50%, but as always experiment. This will give the vocal a really wide image that should still retain fidelity when collapsed back to mono, if you’re hearing some phasing when collapsing the vocal to mono EQ off some of the low and low mid frequencies from your panned vocals.

Another technique for widening the stereo image of your vocal is to use bus send processing. Apply a reverb to your vocal via a bus send, and place a stereo imager post reverb, ideally use a multi-band imager and only spread the higher frequencies. This again will keep the vocal focused in the middle, whilst giving the impression of a much wider sound.

Reverse Reverb

Try using the reverse reverb effect to create an ethereal or haunting sucking effect on the vocal. The technique is created by reversing your source audio, applying a reverb, bouncing it in place and then reversing it back again. Thus applying the reverb is reverse. Big reverb time and decay settings work well for reverse reverb, adding longer tails, you can always tweak these once you’ve rendered the audio, if necessary.

A great technique for creating uplifters or downlifters with otherwise ordinary sounds, you can use it on a vocal to create a ‘suck’ in between phrases or words. Apply the technique to your whole vocal phrase and chop out the sections you want, and tweak the timing and level of the sucks to taste, the louder the more haunting.

Modulation Effects

Used sparingly modulation effects such as chorus, flanger or phase can add real sense of depth or movement to a vocal. Ideally your modulation plugin will have mix and EQ controls to add more precision over the applied effect. You could even add them into your bus send effects for a more unique sound. For example add a chorus effect post reverb or delay on your bus channel, or even using the reverse reverb technique mentioned above and add a flanger post reverb and tweak the Flangers LFO settings for added movement.

Parallel Processing

Whilst parallel compression can work wonders for many a sound, vocals included. Try using some parallel distortion for a grittier sound. Similar as with parallel compression, go big with your and turn the drive right up, but then dial the mix back for a thicker vocal. Fabfilter’s Saturn plugin not only makes such a workflow painless, but also allows for multi-band processing. Allowing you to dial in different distortion and mix levels for different frequency bands, and even includes a Dynamics control to add some further dynamic shaping as you go.