The classic vocal mix trick every producer should know

There’s one effect that was (and still is) in every mixing engineer’s bag of tricks that help give a vocal more presence, depth, life and lift. This effect was used on countless top-charting records since the late 80s and was made possible and popularized by Eventide’s H3000 Ultra Harmonizer.

eventide-h3000-2

The H3000 is a multi purpose, programmable digital audio signal processor released in 1986 that changed the game for digital audio effects. The unit featured digital reverbs, phasers, delays, and most importantly full stereo pitch change – a ground breaking technological feat at that time. It allowed diatonic pitch shifting (a pitch shifter that stays in key), dual shifting (two separate shifters), and reverse shift (backwards-talking pitch shift). The power of pitch shifting is that, it allows one to create a chorus effect — that’s when two or more people sing together but are slightly out of pitch, by a few cents. The human ear perceives it as multiple voices, thus making a chorus sound big and full.

Among the many presets that were available on the H3000, there was one in particular – preset #519~MICRO PITCH SHIFT~MULTI-SHIFT– that was the default effect for vocals. According to Eventide’s preset description it describes preset #519 as “This is the perfect effect to fatten up or widen a sound without adding any color.”

In this week’s tutorial, we’ll go through the steps to understand and re-create this preset within Logic Pro X. You can use any DAW to do it as long as you have the same tools.

Sign up for a free Splice account to download the project or stems and follow along.
The preset involves combining two concepts:

  1. The Haas effect: When a sound is followed by another sound separated by a sufficiently short time delay (below 25ms), listeners perceive a single fused auditory image and not two separate sound sources.
  2. Pitch Shift: The process of shifting one’s pitch higher or lower without affecting the duration of the track.

What you need to do to get the effect working:

  1. Set up two aux tracks. Pan one to the Left and one to the Right.
    mix-delay-vocal-effect
  2. Delay Setup: On the left track, set up a 15ms delay and on the right track, a 20ms delay (the delay times are really up to you to decide, but keep it below 25ms).
    vocal-effect-pitch
  3. Pitch Setup: On both tracks, initialize a pitch shifter plugin and detune the left by 7 cents and pitch up the right by 7 cents.

In our project above, we sent the vocal to both aux tracks to re-create the effect. You can hear that the vocal thickens up and has some shimmer while maintaining mono compatibility. This trick can also be used to any mono sound that you want to beef up such as guitars, bass, and synth sounds.

It only takes seconds to set up this effect and you definitely should be trying this on vocals in your next production.

October 6, 2016

Reuben Raman Marketing Manager at Splice