Managing Breaths in Your Vocal Production

Managing Breaths in Your Vocal Production

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A lot of people new to mixing pay a ton of
attention to the vocals, but not enough attention to the most human part of the voice, the breath. Hello everyone. This is Dylan with Musician on a Mission,
here today with another mixed tutorial. Today I’m going to show you how to easily
take your singers’ breaths out of the equation by putting them on their own track. And all it takes is a few minutes. So keep watching, and don’t forget to download
the free vocal mixing cheat sheet. It covers some of our best tips to mixing
your vocals to sound radio ready. Plus we added our three favorite techniques
to create a thicker vocal sound. Click in the link in the description below
to grab it. [Music]
So the big question is this, why do we even care about our breaths? Why am I even making this video in the first
place? A lot of new mixers, new producers don’t really
understand how important the breath is for a singer’s recording. Now, it could be the thing that can make your
vocals sound intimate and authentic. It could also be the thing that makes your
vocals sound harsh, unnatural, and overly processed. Now let me show you what I’m talking about. Part of the problem is that whenever you process
your vocals without dealing with the breaths, the breaths can get turned up. They can start to sound distorted. They can start to sound too bright. They can start to sound unnatural. So let me show you a few examples. So I’m going to compress this vocal that I
have right here. I’m going to compress it pretty hard just
to show you what happens to the vocals. Now let’s listen to the breaths without compression
on it. [Music]
Let’s listen to it solo just so you can really hear it. [Music]
So you could really hear that breath. It’s very loud. You know, the singer really felt the need
to, you get a good breath in to get those notes out. Now if I compress the vocals, it’s going to
become a lot more obvious how loud those breaths are. [Music]
So can you see how much it turned those breaths up? That’s because compressors naturally turn
soft sounds up and loud sounds down. That means those breaths are going to get
turned up and the peaks are going to get turned down. So let’s say I want to go in here and add
some EQ. Now let’s say I add a high shelf to give the
vocal a little bit of air. Let’s see what this does to the breaths. So without it. [Music]
And with it. [Music]
Okay, and let’s say I want to add in a little bit of upper mids as well just to get this
vocal to start peeking out of the mix. [Music]
Okay, and even more on top of this, let’s say I want to add some saturation. And obviously, I’m going to add a little bit
more saturation that I would like just so that you can hear what’s going on with the
breaths. [Music]
Now you can already tell these breaths are now starting to sound loud. They’re starting to sound mangled. They’re starting to sound too bright, too
harsh. [Music]
When originally, if I take all of these plugins out… [Music]
It’s pretty quiet. It’s the exact amount of level that you need. It’s not too loud; it’s not too soft. Honestly, they could probably get turned down
just the air, but they’re sounding very, very natural, very intimate. What a lot of producers will do to get rid
of this overly processed breath sound is they’ll just get rid of the breaths entirely. They’ll just cut every single breath out. That is a big, big mistake because you’re
basically taking the most human part. As I’ve already said, you’re taking the part
that makes it feel the most intimate and you’re just getting rid of it completely. That can really make a vocal sound dead unrealistic. It can really become a problem even if you
mix your vocals beautifully. So what you really want to do is to put the
breaths on their own track. You want to have the breaths be completely
separate from the vocal processing. What a lot of people will do is they’ll take
what’s called the Marquee tool, which you can actually see right here. It’s selected inside of logic naturally, whenever
you hit the command key, so you can see this little plus button that’s on my cursor. Now if I hold down the command key, I can
select little sections, which means I can go right here and I can select just this breath. And if I click it, because I already did,
it separates it. Now what I would want to do is create a new
track. Let’s name it Breaths. And I would want to grab this and move it
down onto the Breaths track. Now if I do all of this processing on the
vocal, none of that processing is happening to the breaths itself. So let’s listen to this. [Music]
Pretty good right. Now, it definitely needs some tweaking. You know, I didn’t grab the most accurate
portion. I’m probably going to need to move these sections
out a little bit. Maybe add some fades, like a 2 millisecond
fade at the beginning and end of each clip. But it sounds a lot more natural while the
vocals themselves are sounding a lot more aggressively processed. Here is the problem with this particular technique. It’s fantastic at controlling the volume. You know, I can control the volume of all
of the breaths for the entire track. It’s fantastic from keeping it from being
processed, but it can take a while. It’s not exactly the fastest technique in
the world because you have to go through and you have to manually select every single breath,
manually pull each of them down. And then go back and listen to each one and
make sure that you haven’t cut them at incorrect places. Maybe gotten part of the word inside of it. Maybe gotten part of, uh, like lips smacks
or noise from in between words inside of that. You don’t want that as well. So it can take some time. So I have actually come up with a technique
that I’ve been using for several months now that I love doing. I absolutely love it because it only takes
about 60 seconds. It’s so fast. Let’s put all of these back. Okay, and I’m going to use — let’s get rid
of all of these. I’m going to use Waves DeBreath plugin. Now this is a plugin that Waves makes that
basically allows people to control the level of the vocal breath. So I can go in and say, yes, I want the vocal
breath to be turned down 4 decibels. And if you listen to it right now… [Music]
You could see it’s a lot quieter. I’ll actually turn it down even quieter so
you can hear it. [Music]
Now this is great for controlling level, but again, it’s still being processed. So here is what you’re going to want to do. Right here in this monitor section, you could
actually select whether you want to be listening to the voice or listening to the breath itself. So if I take the level all the way down, you
can’t hear any of the breath. Now let’s listen to this. [Music]
Nothing, right? But if I click Breath, all I can hear is the
breath. So here’s the nuts and bolts of this technique. It’s really very simple. We are going to create a duplicate track and
you can do that by hitting command d. And on our first track, our main vocals, we’re
going to select voice for the Monitor. On our Breaths track, we’re going to name
this Breaths, open this up. And we’re going to select breath, which it
already is. And we are going to do what’s called a bounce
in place. So if you hit control b, that brings up a
menu inside of logic called bounce regions in place. And this will actually allow you to export
just this single region that you have selected. And it will include all of the that you have
on it. So if I do bounce in place for this region,
if I export this region, it’s not going to be adding any processing because I’ve turned
all of my processing off. It’s only adding the DeBreath plugin. So it’s only taking away those breaths. So let’s try this real quick. I hit okay. Now let’s listen to this. [Music]
And you could actually see the waveform is gone. Now that’s only one half of the actual process. The next thing we need to do is click on our
original track and hold down option, and take this and copy it straight down. So this is just a copy of our original track. I’m going to make sure that it’s unmuted. We’re going to make sure that only breaths
is selected on our monitor. Perfect. We are going to hit control b again, so that
we can bounce our regions and place. And we’re going to hit okay. So now look at this. We only have breaths. Nothing else, just the breaths. So if I just solo this, that’s it, nothing
else. And they sound perfect together. Listen to this. [Music]
If I started doing this without explaining it to you and I just did it, this entire process
would have taken me 30 to 60 seconds, incredibly fast. Whereas the Marquee selection tool process
would have taken 5, 10 15 maybe even 20 minutes if you’re new. Now the Waves DeBreath plugin is actually
really cheap. Sometimes it’s on sale for 30. Sometimes it’s on sale for 40. The nice part about Waves plugins is sales
are going on all the time. You know on their website it says it’s technically
$99. I’ve literally never seen it on there for
$99. So if you’re interested in this technique,
wait for a sale. Grab it when it’s $30. Grab it when it’s $40. And you can get this so quickly. Now let’s listen to this entire thing in context
of the song. And I’m going to go back to these main vocals. And I am going to take off DeBreath just so
that you can hear the processing so that we can hear how our unprocessed breaths sound
with our newly processed vocals. Now I’m going to bring up the mixer. And we’re just going to drag and drop all
of our heavy processing, turn all of that on. And let’s listen. [Music]
So smooth and I can actually turn the breaths up or down if I want to. You know, I might think they’re just a little
bit too loud. [Music]
And now I have complete control. They’re not overly compressed. They’re not overly bright. They’re not overly distorted. They’re not distracting. They’re just perfectly natural. But I still have the same control over my
vocals as I want to have. And that is it. It’s as simple as that. It may seem irrelevant at first. But the more you pay attention to how your
breaths sound in the mix, the more you’ll realize you need to keep them as unprocessed
as possible. So I want to know what’s your favorite trick
to getting radio ready vocals? Leave your answer in the comments below. I’m really excited to read what you guys are
doing. Also, don’t forget to download the free vocal
mixing cheat sheet. It’s got even more tips to make your vocals
sound like the pros. Click the link in the description below to
grab it. And if you’re new here, don’t forget to subscribe
and hit that notification bell. Now that’s all from me. This has been Dylan with Musician on a Mission,
and don’t forget, Create Regardless.

25 thoughts on “Managing Breaths in Your Vocal Production”

  1. Since the processing just makes the breaths louder the first step which lowers them would seem to be adequate…it really only matters on quiet songs. I don't hear the breaths on the song I'm doing now because it's a dance /rock.

  2. I hav a macro in Cubase 4 taking down breath. Selecting dem & hit da shortcut. Takes sum time but I still like 2 do it manually cuz I only keep breaths dat r needed. No plugin knows what I really want

  3. this is really a good trick to use an extra track on the breath, I will try that out, to be honest I removed the breath all the time

  4. I've been doing it manually for what seems ever cause sometimes the WAVES debreath plugins give me false positives. When I saw this it is such a simple hack to sort the debreath issue. Will be trying it soon, I see my workflow has a bright future.

  5. It tool a while, then i decided to subscribe. Thanks for the advice handling breathes!

  6. i am right in thinking you should not be adding dynamic compression to the "breath" part of the vocal once it has been separated?(because you don't want to increase volume of the breath)… But it's ok with tonal compression because that gives that "spitting out" effect that you talked about in a previous video? Thanks

  7. I'd be glad if you can kindly give me an idea on your recording gears(like the condenser mic you used, pop filter, audio interface). Thank You

  8. Interesting! So you keep the breaths completely unprocessed. Is it possible that the processed vox and unprocessed breaths can sound unnatural together?

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