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Hip-Hop Music

Member for

21 years 2 months
I'v been producing Hip-Hop for a couple of years now and have some questions that i cant seem to find anywhere so here they go:

What type of compression and how much should i use on hip hop vocals?

What type of compressors work best on both vocals and electronic drums from drum machines and keyboards?

How much reverb should be used on those same vocals?


Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Sun, 02/10/2002 - 08:53
yikes. the first question is a lot easier than the rest of them.

you'll want a really smooth vocal performance. since a lot of hip hop artists' vocal volume will change from word to word, you should try to compress them so that most words are at the same volume.

of course you could also automate the volume on the tracks if you have a DAW, but that depends on how much time you are willing to spend on this track.

On a lot of drum machines, you won't need compression because the sounds are already pretty smooth. (unless you're using an MPC, then it depends on the sample). In this case, you'd probably using compression more as an effect to change the sound of the drums. For example, set up a pretty heavy compression setting on your bass drum in a track. (say 6 to 1 setting with a fast attack). Start lowering the threshhold and listen to how it is effecting the sound. Sometimes this change will be good, sometimes bad. You should have an idea of what you want the track to sound like ahead of time and then try to do what it takes to get those sounds...sometimes it means compression as an effect.

Also, if you are using a lot of samples from different places to form a loop, you might want to bus all of these pieces (the kicks, hats, snares, etc) to one aux. track and then apply a light compression to them all as a whole. This will help gel the tracks together a little more rather than sounding like 10 sounds from 10 differnt places.

As far as reverb on vocals...again, it depends on the track. I personally like a more in your face sound so i like to keep a really short verb so that the vocals don't get pushed back in the mix. If you own "Things Fall Apart" by the Roots, you can really listen to a lot of differnt techniques on that album. Some songs have heavy verbs on the vocals, while some are much cleaner.

So the answer is, do what sounds good! But you are better off not overdoing anything, that's for sure. If you think you are using too much verb, you probably are. So back off a little bit. Less is more.

I hope this helped a little bit.

Member for

20 years 9 months

drumsound Sun, 02/10/2002 - 20:52
I haven't done a ton of hip-hop, but have done a few projects. I've found that heave compression on the vocal sounds great. I also like to compress the mix bus during mixdown. I tend to have a stereo track of the beat and I like to compress that on the way in. I use a Drawmer 1969 in big mode to get the bass nice and big and the rest nice and tight. Instead of reverb I like to double the vocal and use that as my effect.

Good Luck and have fun.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Tue, 02/12/2002 - 16:52

Thanks for this great post. You're getting questions answered for other such as myself. I'm gonna keep it going.

Drums from MPC, and drums from Korg Triton. How do you guys compress? As an individual sound and as a group? Are the kits in the triton compressed already?


Member for

21 years 1 month

e-cue Thu, 02/14/2002 - 20:48
My favorite compression on most of my hip-hop vocals is the "Crunch" preset in the renasaince compressor. Sometimes I'll yank the ratio up above 8 to 1 depending on the vocalist... I roll off a lot on low end (usually around 200htz) post compressor unless I'm going for a proximity effect (ala Wu Tang style). If I'm using a multiband compressor, I'll squish 7K or so to prave over excessive 'ess's
Sometimes I put a gate on a rythm part (a guitar line, sample, etc.) and duck it with the vocal as the trigger so everytime the rapper spits, it gets more of the spotlight.
As far as compression on drums out of an MPC, the DBX160XT is the shizzle. This compressor is killer for that "thwack" sound. The stock digidesign 'compressor' is WAY underated for hiphop drums. Don't sleep on it. I always screw with any stock triton sounds I come across, as the usual suspects have already used those sounds to death, and I don't want my drums to sound dated. Lo Fi is great for giving triton drums more edge. I usually go to like an 8-10 bit sample to emulate the 12-bit sound of the SP-1200 back in the day.