Top Vocal Effects Fails

Vocal effects processor at someone's feet
Ensure that vocal processing enhances your performance by learning from these common mistakes

This article comes from The Ultimate Guide to Singing, the most comprehensive book on the market for covering on all aspects of singing.

Singers all over the world are now using vocal effects effortlessly, much like as guitar players have been using effects pedals. Yet, any music performance requires intentional and deliberate application of ideas to be effective. This definitely applies to vocal effects!

Here is our list of the most common “fails” singers make when using vocal effects. 

The Over-done Effect

Don’t leave a distinctive effect on for an entire song, set, or performance. Remember that contrast is king; you need to vary your sound to keep people engaged. You would never go to hear a writer read the same word over and over again — think of your effects as words you do not want to overuse. The most common mistakes are to keep your harmony processor on through an entire song, or to crank up your reverb or delay: and never crank it down. 

Trying to be T-Pain

Constant pitch correction from song to song is an epic failure for almost anyone. With the exception of T-Pain and others who effectively use pitch correction as a defining effect, many vocalists make the mistake of turning pitch correction up too much so that the voice sounds just beyond authentic.

Cranked Up Reverb and Delay

If these effects are cranked up too loudly and for too long a duration, your vocals can come across as “mucky” and “muddy,” like you are singing at the bottom of a well. Now, there are exceptions to any rule; you may intentionally be trying to create a certain sound for your performance — but, in general, you would be wise to be careful with these effects.

Moving ahead with Vocal Effects

But don’t let these ‘fails’ deter you – vocalists everywhere are using well-placed effects to enhance their performances.  Take information from these the thoughts of these three music pros:

“A well-placed effect could take your vocal interpretation to a new level, causing your voice to be remembered over the many other singers in your genre.” —Tom Lang, product manager at TC-Helicon, singer-guitarist

“The key is to use effects so that they do not call attention to themselves, but enhance the emotion of the song.” —David Frangioni, technical consultant & engineer, works with Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Shakira, Bryan Adams and many more

“We’ve created amazing tools to enhance all aspects of our modern life. Is that cheating? My answer is also a question: why not improve things if you can?” —Dot Bustelo, internationally recognized music producer and music technology strategist

—from The Ultimate Guide to Singing: All aspects of a singer’s life are covered in this ultimate companion to your singing with Top Actions for Moving Ahead with Your Singing, Sound and Career. Contributed to by Over 100 professional contributors with 94 Grammys and Grammy nominations, 193 Books, 1,772 Albums and 280 million YouTube hits!

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