What's a reasonable amount of difference between the loudest and quietest peaks I should go for in vocal take? When the singer goes from whsiper to scream for example. Would it be better to squash it with compression and leave about 5 db of dynamics or use less of it and have like 15 dbfs of difference? Wouldn't it be too much? What's your practice? It's rock/metal type of music.

I'm just curious how you aproach this kind of situation. I know there is not one "rule" to do it.

2 Answers 2


A byproduct of heavily distorted electric guitar is compression. Therefore, the level of the guitar is, in all likelihood, going to be pretty consistent across the recording. Anything in the same general frequency span is going to be lost if its level is below it. Vocals are the main candidate in a rock/metal tune, so if they’re very dynamic, it could be a problem.

You'll have to take the singer's range and the guitar tone into consideration. If the guitar has that super heavy "scooped mid" tone, it may well leave plenty of room for the vocals. If it has more midrange, you'll have to be more careful.

In this particular case, I would record the vocals as hot as possible. That gives you more to work with. I would also experiment with a little analog compression before the AD conversion, if I had that sort of equipment at my disposal, just to keep things tame. But do try to get the strongest recording you can without clipping.

A lot will depend on the singer. If the singer has decent mic technique, understands how to use proximity effect, backs away for the screams, etc., you’ll have a much easier time.

Every singer, microphone, and mix is different and there is no magic number. You’ll probably have to apply at least some compression to the vocals to get them to be articulate and present. If there are whole quiet sections, move them to another track and handle them differently, or use envelopes to control parameters on the compressor, using care to make this as transparent as possible. (Or you may not need to, since the whispers will be different enough from the screams, anyway.) Most importantly, use your ears and good judgement. If it sounds good, it is good.

  • Thank you for your in-depth answer! I've got another question though. Could I just volume automate before plugins hit the quieter parts to make them louder? I would do it instead of using compressor or just to not have to use extreme compressor settings. Also should I aim at the rougly same volume between screams and whispers? What would be the reasonable dynamic there? 3-5 dB in RMS? Wouldn't it be weird if they were same volume?
    – Raven322
    Mar 1, 2019 at 17:19
  • Yes, definitely try a combination of volume automation and compression. You’re going to have to experiment to find the right balance. If the singer is literally whispering—which means no vocal chord movement—you can definitely treat it in a different way because it’s a completely different timbre. I wouldn’t worry about getting the volume the same. I would strive to make all the vocals audible and intelligible. Mix with your ears, not your eyes.
    – trw
    Mar 2, 2019 at 14:14
  • Ok. I love your responses, Trw. Thank you very much and have a great day! ;)
    – Raven322
    Mar 2, 2019 at 14:30

If the singer knows how to use the mic, she'll come in close for the whisper, move back for the scream. If she's a mic-licker, you may have to emulate this with compression.

I'm not going to give you numbers. Use your ears instead. The dymamic range will depend a lot on the song, and on whether the backing is leaving room for softer singing or making the voice ride over a constantly heavy sound.

  • That's nice you mentioned backing vocals that can interfere with the lead. Thank you for your answer.
    – Raven322
    Mar 1, 2019 at 7:24

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