How to achieve even volume on your vocals

There are a few techniques to achieve more even loudness across your vocals. But why is this step more important than most people think, and which technique is the best?
Vocal rider, automation, clip gain

Why consistent volume is important

When working with vocals, we usually apply at least one compressor to our track—often two. Imagine this scenario: You want to use a fast compressor to catch the peaks. With the compressor’s threshold, you can determine the boundary at which the volume should be reduced. To catch only peaks, you would set the compressor just above the waveform. But where should the threshold (white line) be placed in this example?

Threshold - overcompressed

In picture one, some parts will be overcompressed, and in picture two, some parts will remain untouched. This will result in a very inconsistent sound…

How can we solve this problem?

1. Clip Gain

Clip gain in studio one

Clip gain is one of the simplest ways to address our issue. By using this technique, you slice the file into many parts and adjust the loudness of each segment by changing the clip’s gain to achieve a more even signal.

To do this, zoom into your file, cut where the loud part begins, and either boost the quiet part or reduce the loud part to level them out.

This method is straightforward but time-consuming, especially with longer files like podcasts or audiobooks. So let’s explore another option…

2. Volume Automation

Volume Automation

You can also write a pre-fader volume automation. “Pre-fader” means that the volume automation is applied before any plugin processing in our chain. This ensures that your compressor or any other plugins in your chain receive an even signal, allowing them to work more consistently and maintain uniform sound across your vocals.

 

This also requires significant time to adjust each part manually. So let’s move on…

3. Vocal Rider

GainAim - Vocal Rider

A vocal rider automates the process of writing volume automation manually. For example, you can use our vocal rider, GainAim. Set up the speed mode and target loudness, and you’re done in just a few seconds.

However, vocal riders have a significant disadvantage: they can’t look into the future. This means when you hit play, the vocal rider starts by boosting the quiet parts, but as soon as the loud part hits, the first few milliseconds will get boosted before the vocal rider begins reducing the signal to match the previous level. This can create pumping artifacts, similar to those from compressors. While vocal riders speed up the process, they must be used carefully due to their limitations.

To address this issue with GainAim, set the target loudness to balance boosting and reducing the signal evenly. GainAim should not be continuously boosting or reducing the signal. Additionally, its fast mode is designed to react to significant loudness differences, providing an effect close to manual editing.

Best of both worlds: GainAimPro

GainAimPro - DeEsser Settings - Relative Threshold -40dB, Range infdB

GainAimPro, the Pro version of GainAim, automates the entire process of writing volume automation. It can be used with ARA, AudioSuite, or Transfer mode. Because it accesses the entire clip upfront, GainAimPro already knows when your signal is about to get loud. This allows GainAimPro to start reducing the signal before a loud part begins, resulting in much more natural vocal riding. 

It combines the precision of manual work with the automation of a classic vocal rider like GainAim. In addition to its vocal riding feature, it also detects breaths, sibilance, and pauses.

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Adjustable Volume Automation

Multilay gives you all the possibilities to create your own sound.

Split your signal into three frequenzy-bands or into transient and sustain, and add up to six FX-modules inside the feedbackloop.

The ducking function, different mix modes and delay time in seconds give you the control you need to find a unique sound faster.

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