How To Process Vocals Like Drake

By December 8, 2018 December 10th, 2018 No Comments

Lets Analyze The Vocal Take

Drakes singing vocals are unique and similar processing to the rap vocals takes with subtle differences.  Let’s break down both vocal tracks by using reference tracks and checking reverb, EQ, compression, stereo image, delay – I’ll be some of the stock plugins in FL to check this processing.

1. EQ Curve

ok lets check the cut off.. usually a vocal will be cut off below 70hz where low bass is… but he’s cutting from 100 below, but it doesn’t seem to be like a brick wall cut, there is some information from about 80-100 but its really barely noticeable.  The capture is from the singing part of the song, something really interesting is happening between 100 and 200, none of that information is present at all…if i notch that frequency range and bypass (a,b) back and fourth the vocal track sounds the same.  most of the vocal is coming from the top end 2k and up with some random fading in and out of the mid range somehow and very select and consistent frequency in the low end .  dynamic EQ probably playing a big part in this.. c6 waves maybe. idk. also, everything after 15k is brick-walled off.

* Something to think about -> It looks like they are cutting frequency based on the key of the vocal for the song.

Few things to note is the recording is done really well.  I think the use of auto-tune is minimal if any at all is being used,  it sounds like a lot of the repeat phrases are being looped for consistency… if I had to describe the vocal in a word it would probably be consistent I think. There is a lot of information between 2 and 10k with select bass and mid frequency’s only allowed through, something to think about.

2. Compression

So you can tell the vocal is compressed and the limiter isn’t cutting the vocal off like a brick wall.  There is a good amount of dynamic range, but the vocal is really full with seemingly minimal reverb and delay, sounds to me like a great compressor was used to get this sound.. its what a lot of radio station use for limiting.. I can give you a starting point settings for this vocal.. here

Try these settings

  • 20:1 Ratio
  • -30DB Threshold
  • 50MS Attack
  • 1MS Release
  • 3MS look ahead time
  • +18DB Compensation Gain

Make sure there isn’t much room noise, this will be added in using this type of compression

3. Reverb / Delay

Okay, The reverb on this track is really minimal but it’s present for sure when you play back the vocal track.  For the sung part of the track it sounds like a really dark chamber reverb with a 1000ms or so tail. Using a plugin like Izotope Dverb you can isolate just the reverb of a track which is really interesting. I don’t have this plugin, but you can see it being used on some Youtube videos.  I’m just listening for this part of the analysis.

The rapping section of the song still has this dark chamber reverb effect, BUT the tail is much shorter – maybe 10ms or something. You wouldn’t even be able to tell its their in the mix of track, since we have the vocal isolated you can hear the verb, its just really subtle. like 90-10 ratio wet to dry. and if there is a delay its a slap back real quick delay, but its really subtle too.

Drakes vocals are always far upfront in the mix and usually adding a reverb delay will give the illusioon that a sound is farther back in the mix, and is why this effect is used minimally.

Good reverb plugins imo are Some of Waves Stuff or Vallhalladsp plugins are nice for dark chamber! Check the link to download the demo version and try it out today before you buy it. It’s definitely worth checking at least! They some other cool plugins too.

4. Stereo Image

This one is just as important as the rest of the processing, and I’ll add the fact that is subtle harmonizing background vocals on the chorus part of the song. only on the last two measures, though – to keep things interesting. “Till its ova – Till its ova” specifically. The other harmony’s have a lower note, but all of the vocals are in a specific place in the spectrum. The chorus of the track is set to slightly more stereo width then the rap vocal is… the rap vocal is extremely straight and narrow. I would say the chorus is about 15-25% width left and right channels,(not just the background harmony either, the whole passage is set that width) where the rap vocal is probably set to 0 no panning at all.  I was surprised to see how narrow the actual vocal is being represented, but good to know… check out the image for both.


the chorus part…

the verse part…

Keep in mind there is much more you can do. This article is really just to give you an idea of what kind of things can be done to reverse engineer what any artist and engineers do to get this kind of mix and effect processing. The artists is obviously using high quality microphones and amplifiers, but these days HQ can be had for $1000 dollars or so.

The most important thing here is that the processing is VERY deliberate – You can tell the engineer and mixing team is making moves with precision and for a reason.  If you are recording in a sub optimal space you should look into things like Izotope RX to remove harsh sounding room reverb ETC.  once the vocal is clean you can do anything you want to it and apply these techniques successfully. If you’re not sure about your room.. clap your hands loud or yell a little louder than normal – then ask yourself, is the room adding any effect to your voice or clap? If it is, even if it sounds good to your ear that may not be what the track your working on needs. I hope this helps, or at least sparks some ideas in your head!

Frank Mvnik

Muhfuckin OP