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Getting vocal samples

Hi Daniel, I was wondering how do you create the melodic/mystical female vocal effect in your music. What kind of acapella loops do you use or do you get it recorded from a singer? Are there any specific loops to buy? I’ve tried gating and pitching up or down a few vocal samples but I am not satisfied with the way it sounds. Any insight on the topic would be useful. Thanks a lot.

Vinayak Jayaram

Well, basically, there are three ways of getting vocal for your production.

Record vocal. Recording your own sound gives you full control over the content and the form of the vocal, whether it be a song or a speech. Although this seems to be the most obvious way, it requires a vocalist — someone who will actually sing or say some phrases for you. Getting the right person is probably the most difficult thing because technical part of recording such kind of vocal is quite simple: you can record vocal even on a $100 USB mic in a regular room. But the better sound quality you have in the first place, the less time it will take to make your final voice sample sounds clean.

Solar Kid recording her voice
for a track with Zyce

Buy sample packs. Sample packs are the most affordable way of getting a vocal: they come in all possible varieties and costs around $30 per pack with hundreds of sounds, on average. Most samples are recorded by vocalist on professional-grade equipment, which makes them sound nice and clean. You can also find vocal samples on some free website that distribute sounds under creative common license, is one of such websites. As a downside, you have no control over the content, and plus other producers may use exactly the same vocals in their productions as well.

is one of the many stores that offers vocal sample packs

Synthesize / buy NI Kontakt libraries. This is a sort of mixture of both methods above. On the one hand you can make a unique sound tailored for your project, but on the other hand, it’s still not that flexible as a real voice recording.

Exhale by Output
is a vocal engine synthesizer

Speaking of myself, so far I’ve been using the second method, with a regular voice sample packs. But being honest, it’s more because of my budget limit rather than I really love those samples, and overall this is the last way of getting vocals which I’d recommend. If you are looking for a mystical ambient vocal, I would suggest go for the third option mentioned above.

And two more tips.

First, I don’t know what DAW you’re using, but in case you are an Ableton user, make sure to choose “Complex Pro” warping. I find this algorithm work the best for warping the vocals.

Choosing “Complex Pro” warping for the best results

And second, be creative. Learn how to use reverb, delay, compressor, vocoder, and other audio processing devices to make your production sound good. Getting a good vocal in the first place is definitely important, but what can you achieve having that raw material is no less important. Remember the importance of sound design.

Vocal Chops tutorial from Airbase. It’s 8 years old, still works perfectly

If you have more specific questions about using some vocal processing techniques, don’t hesitate to ask it too.

 322   2016   Advice   Music production

This post is a part of the “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as music production, sound design, performance, management, marketing, and career advice in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions via Google Form.

© Daniel Sokolovskiy, 2021
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