1) Add Energy To Lead Vocals With Tape Delay
There are a few ways to do this, but the easiest and most common way is with a distorted delay or with a saturated tape delay plugin. You can also do this with a tape delay and an Echoplex as well. Tape delay add a unique kind saturation which our ear has become very accustomed to, with industry standard recordings from ABBA, The Beatles, Michael Jackson to Zeppelin (and everything in between!) heard each and every day.
You can put a Tape Delay Plug In directly on your vocal track, however, I typically create a new auxiliary track- a mono auxiliary track, as we want this to be purely an energy track and not create stereo effects that detract from the Vocal itself. Whatever your DAW you use, removing the top and the bottom off the delay keeps the energy up without adding more Esses and muddying the low end, both of these things would create issues in the vocal track.
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If you don’t have a tape delay plug included with your DAW then any available delay combined with Distortion and Saturation will do the trick, it may be exactly the same as a Tape emulation, however the Distortion/Saturation with High and Low Passing will dramatically help shape it into a great tool for adding energy to your Lead Vocal!
2) Creating More Energy In The Chorus Vocals (Overlapping and Doubling vocals)
This is the simplest, most obvious thing and many of you are doing this already; the big chorus comes in and a double vocal comes in with it. Having overlaps keeps it punchy and that really kind of keeps the energy up! So doubling of vocals and also a separation of lines and not being afraid to overlap are to really really big things and then, of course, I put some harmonies down as well. There’s a couple of these little tricks they’re obvious ones but don’t be afraid to have the vocal pushing up against itself.
Overlapping the vocal will not work with a live sounding Acoustic vocal, however for a big Pop track or a hard hitting EDM or some Metal songs it will keep the vocal front and centre! The constant energy of a lead vocal that is unrelenting is a very simple but hugely effective effect!
3) Mimicking Vocal Lines
This may seem like an obvious one! Adding synths, keys, guitar, or other instruments imitating the vocal line will help create excitement.
This seems like a straightforward thing to do it not only creates energy and excitement but reinforces a vocal hook and makes us want to sing along even more! Don’t be afraid to like take hooks and vocal lines and mimic them with instruments and vice versa. I know that seems like a really really obvious thing but you’d be surprised at how much it changes the song!
4) Getting out of the cookie cutter way of writing songs
This next one you might argue is more of a songwriting tip, but the way so many songs are created these days, songwriting is production. Modern Songwriters are also Producers!
One of my favorite songs is Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie. The story goes, they wrote the verses in isolation, Bowie went off and wrote his verse and Freddie went off and wrote his. That’s the reason why the first verse and the second verses are so different.
When you’re working in pop we have this tendency to write a verse melody, a chorus melody, repeat that second verse melody. If there’s a pre-chorus, repeat that pre-chorus and it might be hooky immediately because you love how is repetitive is. But let’s face it we get bored of the song pretty quickly. With so many songs sharing the same chord sequences, 6 4 1 5 for instance (in C Major that would be A minor, F, C and G) we are constantly looking for different ways to add intersect to our songs. Great sound design is one way, however great song writing will always win! After all, as Quincy Jones famously said, the most important thing in music is ‘The Song, The Song and The Song!’.
5) Make The Song Build
This one’s really straightforward. Build your songs excitement, keep the listener engaged.
Build your song so there are additional elements coming in that make things more exciting.
For example, using keys that get bigger and bigger as the song goes along, so by the time you get to the last chorus there’s a ton of additional stuff in there!
These kinds of subtle differences really can make a huge huge difference! So let your song grow exponentially.
I know this sounds like obvious stuff, it is, however I often get caught up in the song and it’s Production that the obvious things just slip by me! It’s really important to sit there and think about how can you make your production more and more interesting.