Mix Smart Figure 3.5 - Frequency range of fundamentals and spectral landmarks (Vocals), pp. 59 (click for full size)

Really low male voices reach a fundamental frequency just below 100 Hz. Female voices start about an octave higher, around 200 Hz. (See Figure 3.5.) Think of vocals as a two-part signal: sustained vowels and transient consonants. The vowels happen primarily at lower mid frequencies (200 to 1,000 Hz) and the consonants happen at theupper mid frequencies (2 kHz and up). With the possible exception of that singer from REO Speedwagon in the early 1980s (“…it meant that I love you for everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…”), most singers sustain the vowels and move rather quickly through the consonants. For a richer overall tone to the voice, manipulate the vowel range. Having trouble understanding the words?

Enhance a bit of the consonant range with a modest, typically less than 6 dB boost, with low Q, in the frequency range that sounds best for that singer, likely somewhere in the 2 kHz to 6 kHz range.

For added intimacy and human fragility, perhaps bring out some air and breathiness through a lift at the very high frequencies, a 3 to 6 dB boost using a very high-quality shelving EQ at 10 kHz, maybe 12 kHz if the EQ sounds good that high. A side effect of this emphasis of air is the creation of overly sizzling sibilant “S” sounds. In between the “Ss,” the voice sounds brilliant with this EQ move. But the high-frequency boost makes each “S” into an aural assault of too much high-frequency energy. The solution is to momentarily attenuate these overly loud “S” sounds by using a De-Esser, a compressor with a bit of side-chain processing (see Chapter 5), leaving us free to emphasize some of the human expressiveness of the singer taking a big breath right before a screaming chorus.