compression/EQ while tracking vox

chris carter

New member
I posted this in a thread on GS. But I thought it would be really useful to cross post it here as I think it has some very helpful info.

Tracking vox with compression is a very useful skill. It’s not necessarily required to get a great vocal, and it isn’t always the best thing to do in every single situation. But it frequently can be very beneficial if you can do it right.

I track vocals with compression the majority of the time. There are a number of benefits:
1) Getting analog compression before any digital conversion.
2) Being able to use an analog compressor you like on every single vocal track instead of being limited to one track at mixdown via D/A – A/D insert.
3) As a producer/engineer, having a more complete picture of what the vocal will sound like in the end during tracking.
4) Can make it easier for the artist to get more emotion into the song by being able to use a much broader dynamic range without feeling like they can’t hear themselves or like they are blasting over the music.

There are also some drawbacks you should be aware of:
1) If your analog compressor sucks for the application, don’t use it obviously.
2) You can’t realistically undo compression very effectively. So if you are going to do it, don’t f*ck it up!
3) Requires a lot of confidence and experience to avoid f*cking it up.
4) If you are unsure, err on the side of too little compression rather than too much because you can always add more, but it’s damn near impossible to remove.

You can take things a step further by EQing vocals on the way in, but this adds a level of complexity and even more potential for screwing up. The only real advantage is not having to EQ so much at mixdown and getting to use an analog EQ you like on every track. There is little impact upon the singer as generally the mic choice and position should get you so close that the differences in a singer’s headphones will be relatively ineffectual. The biggest difficulty with EQing on the way in is monitoring. If you are monitoring on headphones and/or tracking vocals in the control room, fuggetaboutit. You just can’t make an accurate call on the EQ with headphones. You need the singer isolated and you have to monitor on speakers. Additionally, you need a fairly accurate room… no bedrooms covered in idiotic egg-crate type foam products. You just can’t make a judgement call about how EQing a vocal will sit in the mix when you aren’t hearing the mix accurately to begin with. One other issue to be wary of is that when you compress a vocal, you will bring up the noise ambient noise the mic picks up. So the quieter your recording environment the better. But this is an issue regardless of whether you are compressing during tracking or mixing.

Here are two recent pop/r&b records I wrote/produced/mixed for Christabelle two months ago. I compressed and EQd all her vocals on the way in. I compressed fairly heavily on the way in and only used additional compression here and there at mixdown… in particular on the lead vox as the amount of gain reduction was rather heavy (I used a couple T-Racks compressors on leads on top of the tracking compressor… probably totaling up to 20dB of gain reduction when she’s crushing it). As many know here, I’m a huge fan of judicious amounts of compression on lead vocals LOL. Although there were a few backup vocals here and there that required very very minor EQ tweaks at mixdown, most of the vocals, including all of the lead vocals, received no EQ at mixdown – only the EQ I used during tracking.

Christabelle - Say - say.mp3

Christabelle - Fall For you - fall for you.mp3


Am good
Hello mr chris...have gat a question to ask you is it good to add effect on every channel and Eq on each vocal cos am using nuendo to mix or is there any thing i can do to get a perfect mixdown

washap ice

New member
Mr chris I use cubase I'm having truble in the use of my equ and compressor. I don't know which is the rit frequency and ratio to use.


Manipulator of energy
There is nothing wrong with adding eq and effects on every channel but the thing you should be concerned about is why you put it there in the first place.

As far as what frequencies to Cut goes.. This sounds boring but there really is no one way to do it. You don't just cut anything because someone tells you that this is a good thing to do. It is highly dependant on the individual track you are working with.