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I think I'm a pretty solid producer and engineer, but there is one specific effect I've always had a hard time reproducing... that shimmery, breathy, bordeline-ghostly vocal sound. Greg Kurstin uses it in a lot of the stuff he produces:

Bird and the Bee

Kate Havnevik

Lily Allen (mainly on the hook)

The new Biebs album makes pretty heavy use of it too. And whether you're a Belieber or not, you have to admit it's a pretty cool effect.

Justin Beiber

Anyways, I'm wondering if any of you have mixing or production tips to get that sound. I think it brings a lot of emotion to the vocal track and I've been hunting for it for a while. Links, plugin suggestions, audio clips, etc. are all greatly appreciated.

  • You mean like Julie London in 1964? That's not production or mixing. That's a vocal technique. youtube.com/watch?v=DXg6UB9Qk0o – Mark Lutton Nov 15 '15 at 2:41
  • Great clip! Love it. There def are some production tricks that can bring out this quality though... side-chaining a soft noise generator, using multi-band comp on 4k+ freqs, bussing to a chorus + slapback delay, etc. – SC_Chupacabra Nov 15 '15 at 15:48
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The two particular things producing that sound are, 1) very close miking, and 2) very quiet singing. It's almost like someone whispering in your ear - you hear just as much breath and lip sound as you do vocal chords.

I too love this sound. When you have someone sing very quietly you will usually find that the dynamic range is extremely wide. It's almost impossible to do without compression.

One of my favorite examples of this is Christina Aguilera's Save Me From Myself. It's almost a study in the technique. She's singing so quietly that there is barely enough air to vibrate her vocal chords. The result is super cool.

  • Ah, that's so simple, but makes so much sense! That's what I love about production... the little tricks that are so simple but make such a noticeable difference. – SC_Chupacabra Nov 17 '15 at 14:14

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