How to Use Waves Vocal Rider for Automatic Makeup Gain

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How to Use Waves Vocal Rider for Automatic Makeup Gain

Hey, guys. Eric Tarr here for

I came up with a trick that I want to show
you that addresses an issue that shows up

all the time when you’re working on a mix.

First, I’ll talk about the problem, then I’ll
get to the solution.

So, when you’re working on a mix, a lot of
times you’ll focus on individual instruments

and tracks, try and process them in a way
that improves the sound of the original recording.

So what you might do is add in a plug-in,
dial in some settings, and see if the plug-in

has improved the sound. Am I adding something
in that I like? Or, you have to check and

make sure that it’s not doing something that
you don’t like and making it sound worse.

An example, let me send a kick drum through
the Waves NLS channel.

I’ll turn up the input drive to add in some
harmonics, and I’ll see if I like what this

is doing.

[kick drum plays, bypassing and enabling NLS

Alright, so I think I like what tonal shaping
the plug-in is doing. Adding in those harmonics.

However, another thing that the plug-in is
doing is it’s increasing the overall level

of my input signal, so when I A/B back and
forth, it’s difficult to tell if it’s the

tonal shaping that I like, or just the overall
level that I like. We need to be careful as

mixing engineers not to be duped into thinking
something sounds better just because it sounds

louder, or it sounds worse just because it
sounds quieter.

Good thing is, a lot of plug-ins will have
an output volume fader here that I can do

level matching between the input and the output.

So, let me show you the whole process now
that you have to go through to do the level

matching between the input and the output.

So now, let me turn my attention and focus
on just the level.

[kick drum plays, adjusting output level]

Alright. So there I’ve got the level set the
way it should be.

The problem with this though, is it’s now
interrupted my whole workflow. Instead of

focusing on the tonal shaping of the plug-in,
now I’m focusing on the level, and until I

get the level set, only then can I turn my
attention to the actual harmonic shaping of

this particular plug-in.

Let’s say, for instance, I’ve got the level
set now, but I think the harmonics are a little

bit overkill, and I need to back these off.

[kick drum plays, adjusting input drive]

Well, now my output level is too quiet. I
need to do level matching again.

[kick drum continues playing, adjusting output]

So, hopefully you can see that this is a problem.
This can certainly be a distraction away from

your general workflow, and turn your attention
away from what’s most important when you’re

working on a mix. It’s not just the input
drive knob that does this, though.

In all kinds of other plug-ins, like an equalizer,
almost every parameter is actually going to

shape the level of the output.

[kick plays]

Right here, I’ve pulled in a Pultec style
equalizer. My output level is too loud, I

need to back it off.

[kick continues playing]

Let’s say I want to attenuate now. Now the
signal’s too quiet. I need to adjust the output

level for every single parameter essentially
that I adjust.

And yeah, something like a compressor, where
the whole purpose is to actually do attenuation

of the signal level. So you have to adjust
things like the input level and the output

level like this.

[kick drum]

The issue that comes up is almost every adjustment
you make to the input level, you have to also

make to the output level. If I want to drive
it less at the input, I have to turn the output

level up.

So, this can be very tedious when you’re getting
through a mix, right?Now, some plug-ins will

have a feature on it that’s very useful. This
is the “link input and output level” control.

So, on the Kramer Master Tape, the record
level stands for the input, and playback level

stands for the output. These are linked together
so that as I turn up the input level, the

output gets turned down. It’s doing that automatically
for me.

[kick drum]

Now, instead of just worrying about the level
of the plug-in, I can focus on how hard I

want to drive the input, without worrying
about the output level getting screwed up


Now, this is a very useful control. The problem
is, very few plug-ins have this. What I want

to show you then, is the technique that I
came up with, that can do automatic level

adjustment for you, no matter what plug-in
you’re using for processing.

Not only does it just link input and output
level, but it is actually an automatic gain

control for your unprocessed and your processed
version together.

So, the plug-in that I’m going to be using
is from Waves. It’s called the Waves Vocal

Rider. Now conventionally, this plug-in is
used to turn up the volume of a vocal track,

or turn down the volume of a vocal track,
and it’s done relative to the mix of your

music. So all the background music is sent
in through the key input of the plug-in, and

then the plug-in listens to that music, and
adjusts the level so that as the music gets

louder, then the vocal gets louder. If the
music gets quieter, then the vocal gets quieter.

Instead of using it for that purpose though,
what I’m going to do is use it as an output

volume control for any processor that I insert
over here on my track.

So, I’m going to send in instead of music,
I’m actually going to send in the unprocessed

version of my kick drum, and then it will
be processing turning up the level of the

processed version of my kick drum. Whatever
effects I add in, it’s going to turn this

up or down relative to the unprocessed, so
I can do the level matching automatically.

As an example, let me pull up my channel strip
over here. I’m going to be using this processor

for all kinds of different things, from changing
the input volume control, to doing compression,

to doing equalization. I want to show you
that the Vocal Rider will automatically adjust

and match the output level relative to the
input level.

I’ve come up with an entire workflow for this.
You don’t necessarily have to follow it, but

something that I think is useful, where I
set up two auxiliary tracks.

One, I’ve called “auto-level,” and this
is where I’m going to be inserting my plug-ins

that are doing the processing. Just a channel
strip, or I can drag over any of these other

kinds of processors. NLS Channel, compressor,
and so on.

Then, I set up another auxiliary track called
the “original monitor.” Here, I’m going

to buss over my kick drum from this instrument
track. I’m going to buss it over and feed

it into both of these auxiliary tracks. This
one I leave unprocessed, so I can solo it

and A/B back and forth between the unprocessed
version and the processed version.So, this

is where the A/Bing is happening right here.

Then, what I’m going to do, is insert the
Vocal Rider after my plug-in effect, and it’s

just going to automatically adjust the level.

Now, what I found is I actually decided to
use two vocal riders back to back. This is

because you’ll see, there’s a limit to the
maximum you can turn the signal up, and turn

it down. Each plug-in can turn up by 12 dB
or down by 12 dB. Sometimes though, if you

do dramatic changes to the signal in your
processor, you might need as much as 24 dB

to go up and down, and by doing two of these
back to back, you can actually go all the

way up to +24 or -24 dB, and still match the
level of your processed to the unprocessed.

Let me demonstrate this and you’ll see it
in action. So, I’ve bussed the original signal

in here so the plug-in is listening to the
unprocessed version.

[kick plays]

I can level match. This is automatically going
to adjust for me. I’ve got my unprocessed

in the signal after it goes through this plug-in.

As a basic example, let me turn up the output
level here to the point where it should be

starting to clip, right? I’ve gone up by 12
dB, but the vocal rider is automatically adjusting

to turn the signal down so that it still level

I can also do the opposite. Let’s say I pull
this signal way back. Turning it down by like,

20 dB here. You’ll see that it will take a
little bit of time, but Vocal Rider, because

of the settings that I’ve got on it, it will
increase the level automatically. I’m not

touching anything. I haven’t automated anything.
Vocal Rider will do the level matching, and

look at this. Now my processed version, where
I’ve turned it down by 20 dB is the same level

as the unprocessed.

So, let me go back to 0 dB. You’ll hear that
it takes a second, but it’s adjusting things.

Now, let me do something like turn up a compressor.

Look at how it automatically adjusts so that
the processed version matches. I didn’t have

to do any level adjustment, it automatically
takes care of the output level of my compressor.

Similarly, if I turn this back down, let’s
move over to the equalizer.

We can do a huge boost to my sub frequencies.
As much as 20 dB, and it’s automatically adjusting

to make sure that this is the relative level.
I can cut, and you’ll see that these will

automatically adjust and turn the signal back
up so that it matches.

Boost some high frequencies…

Do these things together…

So, the huge advantage of this is my attention
is just focused on the tonal shaping of the

plug-in. How it’s doing compression, how it’s
doing equalization and so on. I’m not worried

about the output gain level.

Now, certainly, after the fact, when I come
up with the end result of the processing chain

that I want to use, it’s a good idea to make
the last one control the output level to make

sure it doesn’t clip, but while you’re just
A/Bing things back and forth, this can be

a very useful way of doing it.

Then, after I get the settings that I like,
it’s just a matter of copying and pasting

from the auto-level track over here to my
kick drum.

Then, if I’ve got another instrument, I can
do a similar kind of thing. Let’s say I’ve

got a snare drum. I can send that snare drum
into my auto-level and original monitor using

the same buss, and go through the whole process
again, and A/B some track back and forth,

figure out whatever processing I want without
even having to worry about adjusting this

output level of each of the plug-ins.

So, hopefully you guys were able to take something
away from that and understand exactly how

the routing is working. If you have any questions,
post them below, and I’ll be happy to answer


This is a technique that I came up with that
will hopefully speed up your workflow and

allow you to work much more efficiently and
faster, and make sure your attention is always

focused on what’s most important in your mix.

Until next time, take care, guys.

How to Use Waves Vocal Rider for Automatic Makeup Gain

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How you can repurpose Waves Vocal Rider as automatic gain control to accurately A/B processing.

About Waves Vocal Rider:

Vocal Rider is the first of Waves pioneering new series of Mix tools. Simply put, Vocal Rider rides the levels of vocal tracks, automatically.

Instead of manually riding the physical mixing console fader, or tediously drawing in each individual level change on a DAW track, Vocal Rider does it for you, making it a true timesaver.

All you need to do is set the target range of the vocal level in relation to the rest of the mix. Then, Vocal Rider compensates for all deviations from the target, intelligently raising or lowering the vocal volume, instantly. And unlike everyday compression, Vocal Rider adds absolutely no additional coloring to the track.

The Vocal Rider Live component includes an exclusive Spill control to differentiate the vocal from background instrumentation and noise, for better tracking and performance.

– Keep steady vocal & dialog levels automatically.
– Save time by automating the vocal riding part of the mixing process.
– Write the automatic riding to an automation track for fine tuning.
– Real-Time means no latency and no pre-scan needed.
– Dedicated Vocal Rider Live component

About The Pro Audio Files

Tutorials on mixing, mastering and producing music in Pro Tools with plugins from Waves, FabFilter, SoundToys, Softube, Sonnox, PSP, Slate Digital and more. Learn how to mix using EQ, compression and effects like reverb, delay, saturation and distortion on vocals, drums, guitar, bass and more.

How to Use Waves Vocal Rider for Automatic Makeup Gain

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