Vocals are an essential part of almost every musical genre. Even tracks without lyrics will often contain vocal-like elements such as breath sounds, vocal chops and vocal-based textures. But for many producers, vocals are the hardest part of music production to get right. That human element that the listener connects with so much? It doesn’t come easily.
Fortunately, we live in an age where solutions are available all over the place. Thanks to the internet and the capabilities of modern software, we don’t have to go far to make vocals easier, cheaper, and better. In this article, we’ve rounded up some top resources for producers to navigate it all and find new tools.
VST Plugins for Mixing Vocals
Software for Isolating Vocals from Full Tracks
Websites and Tools for Getting Acapellas
Software for Creative Vocal Production
Software for Creating Virtual Vocals
iZotope’s Nectar 3 is a fully fledged vocal mixing powerhouse. Designed for both beginners and professionals, Nectar will equip you with all of the essentials, plus many advanced features in order to level up your vocal mixes.
Whether you want to use the entire suite, or take advantage of its effects independently, it has you covered. One of Nectar’s unique features, such as its AI assistive technology will be sure to help get your vocals to sit right when all else fails.
Nectar is available on its own in either its basic Elements package or complete Plus variation. It is also included in many of the bundles that iZotope offer.
No audio engineer’s toolkit is complete without a reputable de-esser. There are plenty of these available on the market, with many opting for FabFilter’s Pro-DS due to its intelligent ‘Single Vocal’ detection algorithm, intuitive design, and friendly user-interface.
FabFilter Pro-DS is highly regarded by many professionals in the industry, and with very good reason... It’s easy to use, and does the job it is intended for. It can also be used to limit the harshness in the high-end frequencies of other instrument tracks.
If you are seeking an almost all-in-one plugin to slap onto your vocal tracks, Waves’ CLA Vocals has got you covered. It features an eight-slider interface that includes both an input and output fader, an EQ band for bass and treble frequencies, a compressor, a reverb, a delay, and a pitch control.
Each of the six main effect controls have three different presets, and can also be disabled individually, allowing you to use the plugin in multiple combinations.
This innovative AI-powered tool allows you to separate various stems, including vocals in a matter of minutes, making it an excellent choice for those planning to sample acapellas. Since its launch in 2020, LALAL’s AI has become much more sophisticated, resulting in greater quality and audio separation.
In some cases, tracks may retain some background noise, however, you are able to hear a short preview of the isolated track before spending any money. The background noise leftover is usually minimal and can be further treated with a tool, such as iZotope’s RX audio restoration. This tool is not to be taken lightly, and they also offer a free trial to get started.
iZotope RX is a powerful audio restoration suite that features some of the most reputable plugins on the market for their intended purpose. RX’s Music Rebalance module is what we’re thinking about here, though. This attempts to separate your music into four categories – Percussion, Vocals, Bass and Other – and gives you sliders for each material type.
Results can vary, and while the tool isn’t specifically intended for isolating vocals – it’s meant to be about re-levelling them, louder or quieter – it can do quite an incredible job. iZotope RX is available in three tiers, and the Music Rebalance module we’re concerned with here is available in its the Standard and Advanced incarnations.
Loopcloud has a choice of over four million samples, so there are countless vocal recordings in our library. On sounds.loopcloud.com and within the Loopcloud desktop app, you’ll find vocals for a huge variety of genres, some with harmonies, some with processing options, some that are one-shots and ad libs, some that are loops… the list goes on!
Recent sample packs like Flowdan’s Writer Blocks, Sammie Hall in Liquid Drum & Bass Vocals, and Robert Owens - The Voice of House Music 2 mean that you’ll easily get the caliber if vocals that top artists are used to working with.
Vocalfy is an innovative website which grants the producers direct contact with professional vocalists. Simply select an artist and write them a small brief on your track to allow them to create your own bespoke vocal samples.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, pre-recorded sample packs are available. These come with dry and wet vocals as well as MIDI and audio stems. Vocalfy’s central ethos is exclusivity, so these packs will be removed after a certain amount of downloads. This ensures your purchases will retain their uniqueness.
If free acapellas is what you’re looking for, then Looperman is the platform for you. This website allows any artist to upload their vocals to be downloaded free of charge. With over 300,000 uploads and a huge selection of search tools, there's a lot of choice here.
Unlike previous websites, this platform has no content mediator so audio quality can vary greatly. Despite this, with some patience and good ears, this platform can offer some diamonds in the rough.
Probably the most famous – or maybe infamous – music effect plugin of all time! The trademarked and most popular Auto-Tune plugin belongs to Antares, but Waves also offer an equally valuable plugin called Waves Tune Real Time, which performs the same function.
Real Time is a true competitor when applying the processing live (in studio, or on stage), but Auto-Tune is preferred by most engineers for post-processing, so be careful to consider this before purchasing. Antares’ Auto-Tune does, however come in three different subscription tiers (compared to Waves’ one-time-purchase, single version), and with their always-innovating team adding new accompanying effects to the highest tier, it is no secret that if you can afford it, this should be the option you opt for.
Melodyne is an advanced editing tool that allows the user to manually change the characteristics of individual notes within a sample or voice recording. It’s primarily known for its vocal tuning capabilities, but it can change timing, pitch drifts, alter vibrato, and even timbre. One of its most powerful features is its ability to process notes in a polyphonic recording – not just a monophonic one.
There are some similar tools out there that can provide the same function, however, Melodyne’s vast toolset, advanced functions and innovative design really make it one of the most impressive. Melodyne is available in four different tiers, each providing you with varying features at different entry points.
Newtone is a VST native and exclusive to FL Studio users. If you are an FL user, you may consider using this over Melodyne due to it being generally more affordable than the higher Melodyne tiers. It may already be available to you if you have the Signature or Producer version of FL Studio.
Although not as comprehensive as Melodyne in its advanced functionality, Newtone can perform manual alterations of pitch to vocal samples, which is the main purpose of this plugin.
Yet another iZotope plugin to appear on this list. VocalSynth 2 allows the user to shape vocal samples in a very unique way. Like iZotope’s other plugins, VocalSynth 2 is available as an entire kit that can be applied to your vocal track, or as independent effects.
The creative potential of this tool is almost limitless, allowing you to add highly efficient and effective industry-standard processing effects to your vocals in an all-in-one interface. Effects include vocoders, delays, distortion and chorus processing. When experimenting with these combinations, you are sure to develop a vocal sound right for your mix.
With a saucy-looking user-interface and great harmonious compatibility with iZotope’s other toolkits, VocalSynth 2 is a great option when working with vocals.
If you can’t get exactly the acapella you’re after and don’t have the ability to record a vocalist yourself, then how about conjuring your vocals out of thin air? Synthesizer V allows the user to completely synthesize human-sounding vocals by selecting one of the many vocal presets and entering notes using a MIDI panel display.
There are many customisable characteristics that can be modified to either the whole vocal section, or individual notes. The tool is capable of delivering speech in English, Chinese and Japanese! Or you can use it to produce simple harmonic tones. It is an impressive feat in music production technology and offers a free version for you to get familiar with. However, the full version is affordable too.
Emvoice is a similar tool to Synthesizer V, contained within a unique GUI and offering its own creative flare and vocal templates. Emvoice offers four versions available for purchase, each with their own vocal preset. There are two female presets and two male presets. You can also download a demo version of the plugin which is limited to a seven-note range.
Perhaps not as expansive as Synthesizer V but definitely just as polished and even easier to navigate, Emvoice sits within a reasonable price range at $39-$69 USD, depending on the version you choose. It is a great choice for producers looking for creative vocal elements to their tracks, no matter the genre.
What audio plugins do professionals use?
Most audio professionals will have at least one of the following types of audio plugins in their library:
What are the best audio plugins?
Some of the best audio plugins are:
How do I make my vocals sound professional?
There are a few techniques you can use to make your vocals sound professional:
Do plugins work on every DAW?
Yes, plugins will work in all professional DAWs, however, not every plugin format will work in every DAW.
Most DAWs will support VST, VST 2 and VST 3 plugins. However, there are some exceptions. Logic Pro X only supports AU plugins. Pro Tools only supports AAX plugins.
Which DAW has best plugins?
Almost all DAWs have a lineup of stock plugins. Some DAWs with great plugins include:
What does VST stand for?
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. The VST format was first introduced by Steinberg for their Cubase sequencer and DAW in 1996.
What do singers drink before they sing?
Water is the best option for singers but noncaffeinated drinks such as herbal teas and honey and lemon are also good options.
Do vocals need reverb?
Reverb can help elevate vocal recordings, making them sound natural and helping them to fit into a track.