Grammy-winning producer explaining how to add grit to vocals
Vance Powell is a hit-making machine credited by Phish, Chris Stapleton, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, and The Raconteurs. His timeline consisted of reinforcing bands as a front-of-house engineer, studio engineer, monitor engineer, chief engineer, record producer, and mixer. His expertise in music production rewarded the producer with a total of 6 Grammy awards. He decided to share his knowledge in an in-depth explanation video about making Rock music vocals.
Powell takes us on a journey through his musical process of creating the song ‘Loaded Dice & Buried Money’ by Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. The vocals on this song are recorded specially by using a combination of 2 microphones. The RCA 77 microphone has been used as the main recorder capturing every detail of the vocal, and a special Ampex mic which will be fed into an amplifier. The Amp box is coming from a company based in Illinois called Analog Outfitters. Vance mentioned using the Super Sarge Amp which drives a hot plate causing an extra layer of harmonic content. Blending these clean and distorted sound sources together will already add character to the vocal recordings without even touching a processing chain.
The vocals mixing process consisted of routing a mono track into 2 channels which included a UAD Fatso Jr. Tape/Compressor and the UAD 1176 Limiting Amplifier. Both compressors hold account for a fair amount of compression: “I really just want these 2 things to open up the vocals and fill up the emptier spaces of the vocals.” The vocals will be directed to Vance’s desk, into an Equalizer plugin chain. The Teletronx LA-3A Audio Leveler adds a soft amount of compression gluing the overall vocal sound together. The Pulteq EQP-1A makes sure that the vocal sound has presence and warmth. A FabFilter De-Esser removes any harsh content found within the vocals and the Massenburg EQ removes any extra harshness at 3.18 kHz and rumble at 389 Hz. To top it off, Powell grabs one of his favorite Tape Echo Fulltone devices and merges the vocals into a warm space of echo.
Make sure to check out the David Bottrill article about his method of approaching vocals with Auto-Tune (linked below).
Vance Powell – Recording Rock:
Image Credits: Puremix