How to process vocals using a guitar amp sim

(Image credit: Turbo/Corbis)

Driven vocal sounds are primarily associated with brazen, aggressive pop tracks - the characteristic sound of Pink’s Get The Party Started, for example.

Even if you’re working on more delicate, fragile vocals, though, there’s nothing to stop you blending in some amped grit. In fact, this is an extremely effective technique if a vocalist has sung quietly, as the increased harmonic range and slightly biting sound can help make a ‘less pure’ treatment, often blending well with more introspective (or downright miserable) lyrical content.

Parallel chains are often more effective than inserts for this, as they make it easy to blend the original vocal with its re-amped alternative, and this is almost always a case of ‘less is more’; even ultra-quiet treatments can sound great.

For more on amping and re-amping, pick up the July edition of Future Music.

Step 1: We’re starting with a simple arrangement featuring sparse beats, a pad sound, some strings (doubled from the pad) and a vocal. The latter features EQ, compression and a little reverb, it’s still quite fragile-sounding in the context of the mix.

Step 2: We’re setting up UAD’s Fender 55 Tweed Deluxe plugin with the SM57 as our first mic, and the Ribbon-121 in an Off-Axis position as our second. We have it on an Auxiliary channel and route the vocal to it. The GB25 Speaker give the vocal a driven, biting tone.

Step 3: FabFilter’s Pro-MB multiband compressor tames the volume of frequencies between 2kHz and 8kHz, and we use their Pro-Q 2 EQ to roll off upper frequency content generally. We drop the output level of the auxiliary channel so that it’s a more subtle flavour in the mix.

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