Use of Expansion on Vocals (vs. Compression)

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by mark4man, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. mark4man

    mark4man Active Member

    hello again...

    On vocal takes that have an above normal variance in dynamic range...(in this case what I'm talking about is a vocal track where low level phrases are quite a bit below the loudest passages)...I've found that if I merely compress the peaks...enough whereby to then raise the makeup gain flattens out those peaks too some cases pushing those flattened peaks into distortion...

    ...I get better results if I rope the low volume passages w/ automation envelopes...& then bring them up closer in volume to the peak passages.

    this means I don't have to hit the compressor as hard & it doesn't have to work as hard...& I get a much more balanced (& undistorted) result.

    trouble is...this represents a h_ll of a lot of work & takes up too much time.

    since what I'm accomplishing w/ the gain envelopes amounts to the same thing as Expansion...since I'm expanding the low level peaks upward in volume...(& please...ME's...correct me if I'm wrong about this)...

    wouldn't it be better (easier) if I simply use an expander (plug-in) on the track ???

    A) Is it the same animal ???

    B) Any recommendations on software and/or techniques ???

    thanks again,

  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    No not the same animal. What you can use is parallel compression.
  3. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Alternative solution:

    Two tracks.
    Gate one so that the low level passages are gone.
    Duck the other so that the higher level passages get muted.

    Now raise the master of the track of quieter passages.
  4. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    wouldn't that leave you with a REALLY screwed up master?
  5. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    It could probably be made to "work" in about a minute. But yeah, it would result in mush.

    On reflection it's just parallel compression taken to extremes, I think.

    (By master I meant the master fader, my bad)
  6. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    No. Actually its the opposite of what you want: if you reduce the difference between loud and quiet passages you are compressing the dynamic range not expanding it. The term you are looking for is upward compression, ie: compression that increases the gain for signals below the threshold.

    Parallel compression results in a type of very gentle upwards compression, so Michael's suggestion above is a good one.

    You could also try chaining multiple stages of compression. Eg: RMS compression followed by peak limiting. If you reduce the dynamic range in multiple stages it can often sound more transparent than the same amount of gain reduction from a single compressor.

    There may be other ways to approach the problem, depending on the song. eg: if its the choruses that are too loud while the verses are all more restrained you could split your vocal across two tracks and treat each differently. (This also allows for other production tricks, such as using different FX treatments for the different section. eg: subtle warm reverb for the verses, but a slapback delay in the choruses, or whatever.)

    You don't mention your platform, but I can highly recommend Stillwell's Rocket compressor:
    This can provide very firm control over vocal dynamics while still sounding good. (Its great for lots of other stuff too!)

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