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Lana Del Rey’s songs have burst onto the pop scene in recent months, and she’s quickly building up a loyal fanbase.
This is no surprise: her vocal style and the supporting productions have quickly developed an instant-recognition factor, with the rich pianos and string lines in her tracks echoing film soundtracks, and her vocal delivery having a slightly slurred, almost drowsy quality to it.
Pleasingly, Del Rey’s tracks are remarkably free of the over-tuned quality of so much modern pop, and as she dramatically bends from one note to another, her bluesy tuning brings a wonderfully natural quality to her tracks.
If you want to record and process vocals in this way, do bear in mind that automatic pitch correction software simply won’t work on vocals recorded with the same qualities. Any automatic tuner will try to tune the notes as they bend from one pitch to another, so the portamento sound will be lost.
If you do need to tune the vocal you’ve recorded, use an application like Melodyne or the graphic editor within Auto-Tune, both of which allow you to ignore notes to leave them un-tuned. Take care too to avoid the temptation to tune the notes that you do correct to perfect pitch, as Del Rey’s style is to sing slightly flat, which helps create her trademark melancholy sound. Instead, it’s best to push the notes to be tuned gradually towards their target pitches and then keep auditioning them until you’ve got them close enough to be acceptable.
In terms of effects treatments, you’ll see how we’ve processed our recorded vocal in the following walkthrough, but the main point to bear in mind with this type of sound is that if you’re looking to create a track that’s as atmospheric and film-like as one of Del Rey’s, you’ll need to match the sense of space that you’ll program in the backing track to the vocal part.
Often, blending two different types and depths of reverb treatment, particularly with automation, can yield great results. As ever, careful use of EQ and compression will prove crucial too. Read on to see how it’s done.
For more vocal processing and other tutorials, check out Computer Music Special 52 - the Singer-Songwriter Production Guide - which is on sale now.