One of the hallmarks of home recording is thin tracks. Thin drums, thin guitars, thin bass…..But when the vocals sound like they were sung by a two dimensional singer, that’s when it’s time to do something about those tracks.
As you’ll see, one of the best ways to fix this problem is to record it properly. Try some different mic positions and if it still sound thin, try aiming the mic towards the chest. If you’re using a condenser, trade it out for a dynamic mic and see if a little proximity effect helps. This might take you into territory where plosives get to be too harsh but a skilled singer should be able to work the mic just right.
Inevitably, there are situations where retracking isn’t an option or we just get lazy. It happens, though it’s not pretty. But there are still some tricks to help you out.
Harmonic boosting? Yep. EQ in the mids and low-mids? That can do the trick. Another common trick is to double track the vocals, which is a cool effect, but doesn’t really fix things. Two thin vocals doesn’t always make a thick single lead. You can also slap some tape saturation on it. Or try using a subtle pitch shift on copies of the same vocals. Stereo delays with slightly different delay times can work, but watch out for phasing.
Anyway, this article from Better Music has some good ideas, like the one they call the Ricky Martin:
Copy the vocal recording onto two mono tracks. Pan one of the copies hard right, and the other hard left, then pitch shift the right channel by +4 cents and the left channel by -4 cents. Experiment with pitch shifting, but don’t make it too severe on a lead vocal as it will stand out like a Ricky Martin.
It’s also worth looking at the other tracks. A vocal often sounds tiny against huge, lush synths. Maybe just playing with balance and panning, as well as knocking instruments down to mono, is all you need to reduce the contrast that’s making the voice so small.
What’s your favorite vocal fattening trick? Share it in the comments and let’s see if we can’t learn a few things.