Can a compressor correct vocals that are at different levels?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Wednesday August 14, 2019
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A question from a Audio Masterclass reader...

"When I was recording a CD with my band, vocals day, I asked the producer what about the different levels of the vocal regions. The vocalist during the recording was moving a little, and there were some parts where the vocals were not at the same level. He told me, "When mixing I'll put in a compressor and all the vocals will be at the same level". My question is how I can do this? I have some metal vocals (screams and guttural vocals) and I want them all to be at the same level. Is this method correct?"

The simple answer is, "No - a compressor is not the right tool for this particular job."

Suppose you have a song where some parts are sung in a low key, in a dark and moody style. Then during the choruses the singer screams at a high pitch. This scenario is not uncommon in the metal genre. There is going to be a huge difference in level.

Technically, a compressor could be used to bring down the screams to the level of the quieter sections. Now however, the screams would sound very compressed, while the quieter sections would hardly be compressed at all. This is unlikely to give a pleasing result overall.

One easy solution is to separate out the sections onto different tracks. You can then process the sections according to their own individual requirements and set the faders so that the vocals blend correctly with the instruments all the way through the song.

Some songs might benefit from breaking up the vocals onto three tracks.

There are other ways of evening out a vocal that varies in level, but this is a quick and easy solution that works very well.

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