Vocals are the centrepiece of a song.

They need to draw listeners in and hold their attention all the way through the track.

That’s why inventive vocal processing has become an important part of modern vocal production.

Vocal processing means the creative production techniques that transform raw vocals into stylish studio sound design.

In this article I’ll go through 10 processing types that will give your vocals a unique texture—and even turn them into something completely new.

1. Double tracking

This first vocal technique is one of the oldest production tricks around—but it’s still incredibly effective.

Double tracking vocals simply means recording a line two (or more) times. Why would you want to do this?

Multiple takes stacked on top of each other thicken the sound by creating a chorusing effect.

Multiple takes stacked on top of each other thicken the sound by creating a chorusing effect.

You’ll never be able to sing a part exactly the same way twice. The subtle variations between takes create slight inconsistencies and pitch modulation that can really thicken up the sound.

Once you try it you’ll start to hear how often double tracking is used in vocal production.

Hot tip: Several techniques have been developed over the years to simulate the effect of double-tracked vocals. One of the most famous is the ADT (automatic double tracking) effect  developed at Abbey Road. There are even plugins that can help you get the classic effect of Abbey Road ADT in your mix.

2. Stereo widening

Stereo widening is the more subtle cousin of manual double tracking that’s often meant to be felt more than heard.

Vocals are naturally mono since it’s best to record your voice with a single microphone close up.

But in a dense mix with lots of activity at the left and right extremes, a mono vocal track may feel a little too narrow.

Stereo widening effects can help bridge the gap with the rest of the mix and extend the vocal out in the stereo field.

Stereo widening typically works by delaying and modulating a copy of the signal. But unlike stompbox-style chorus effect dedicated vocal wideners have a more subtle sound that works like glue in a mix.

Try Soundtoys Microshift or Arturia’s Chorus Dimension D for a great vocal widening effect.

3. Reverse audio

There will always be something captivating and confusing about audio played backwards.

There will always be something captivating and confusing about audio played backwards.

There’s no consensus on why exactly it sounds so alien to us, but the unsettling effect is clear.

It’s especially uncanny to hear spoken words or sung vocals reversed into gibberish. It’s a simple technique to instantly transform vocals that often gets overlooked.

Luckily, reversing audio is one of the easiest operations to do in your DAW.

Try reversing vocal lines to see how they can boost your arrangement and draw attention to the vocal sound.

4. Lo-fi Effects

The human voice is instantly recognizable to our ears and brains. We’re so used to it that altering the texture can radically change how we perceive it.

Lo-fi plugins take advantage of this phenomena to create feelings of space, place and nostalgia.


Telephone filters, tape effects or gritty tiled room reverbs can change how you situate the singer’s voice in your mind.

Use lo-fi effects during buildups, breakdowns or other moments where you need to shift up the context of your vocal.

5. Distortion

Speaking of lo-fi, distortion is the ultimate lo-fi effect. The abrupt waveform clipping that occurs with heavy distortion can make a voice sound completely different.

But overdrive and distortion can be used musically too. Some of the most iconic vocal sounds ever were recorded using guitar amps cranked to their melting point.

Distortion adds edginess, character and midrange cut to vocal a track—in heavier genres it’s a must.

Distortion adds edginess, character and midrange cut to vocal a track.

Luckily, you no longer have to redline a Marshall stack to get quality distortion in your DAW.

There are plenty of fantastic saturation plugins that can go anywhere from subtle harmonic enhancement to sheer sonic mayhem.

6. Ambience effects

Delay and reverb are pretty standard vocal effects, but they both fall under the umbrella of ambience processing—which can get pretty far out if you push the boundaries.

Standard delay and reverb styles like slapback or plate might seem tame, but they can still sound fresh if the context is right.

But reach beyond the basics and ambience effects can get highly creative.

Reach beyond the basics and ambience effects can get highly creative.

Today’s reverb plugins are capable of simulating impossibly large spaces with modulation that could never occur in the real world.

And modern multi-tap pitch shifting delays can create some incredibly lush and ethereal effects.

7. Sampling

Sampling might not totally fit the definition of an effect, but you can use it to create amazing new textures with your vocals.

Chopping a vocal phrase into slices and playing them with your MIDI controller will give you a whole new perspective on the sounds you can make with your voice.

Chopping a vocal phrase into slices and playing them with your MIDI controller will give you a whole new perspective on the sounds you can make with your voice.

Try playing around with the pitch, loop points and playback direction of each slice in your sampler.

Add synth style ADSR and filters and you have an incredible sound design sandbox for vocal effects .

8. Aggressive pitch correction

Everyone knows pitch correction plugins like Antares Auto-Tune were designed to patch up pitchy vocal takes.

Building up harmonized lines, shifting the formants, and separating the notes are just a few of the unique techniques you can use with pitch correction.

But they’re better known for the robotic hard tuning effect heard in modern pop and hip-hop.

This classic technique is still a super effective form of vocal processing.

But it’s just the beginning of what’s possible when you dig into the creative potential of pitch correction.

Vocal processing power

Creative vocal processing is a must in modern production.

Luckily there are plenty of ways to discover your own unique approach to it.

If you’ve made it through this article you’ll have some great ideas for how to get started with vocal processing.