I’ve got a huge amount of respect for the vocalists in deathcore and metalcore bands. Even with proper technique, screaming through an entire hour-long set is an extreme workout. And while the stresses of doing that day in and day out on tour aren’t as prevalent when you’re at home or in the studio, you still want to put that same raw energy and emotion into your recorded music.
Deathcore vocal production is similar to many other production techniques because it’s as much about training and skill as it is about musicality and creativity. Simply put, an amazing screamer or singer needs great production for their vocals to sit perfectly in the mix and keep their listeners engaged.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the common ways engineers, producers, and mixers are accomplishing just that.
Recording Deathcore Vocals
In the studio, recording deathcore vocals really isn’t too different than many other vocal styles. There are a few key differences with the gear and the approach, but generally speaking what works for singers will work for screamers too.
So what are the differences?
Well for starters, be prepared for the vocalist to get loud.
Loud vocals affect so much more than your preamp gain levels. They change the reflections in your room and your mic might actually handle those levels differently than it would a soft vocal. Even though something’s rated for super high SPLs doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right choice.
When working with deathcore vocalists, you definitely need to take additional steps to treat your space for their vocals. Using a reflection filter is a great start, but adding acoustic treatment to your walls can go even further when it comes to dampening reflections of their screams.
Also consider your choice of mic; the big, expensive condenser might not be the right choice for the job. Many deathcore vocalists are like rock vocalists where they end up sounding better through a no-frills dynamic mic. The Shure SM7B is an industry standard in this space.
Layering Deathcore Vocals
As you start wanting to add size, depth, and complexity to your deathcore vocals, don’t be afraid to layer screams to get the overall sound you’re after. An extremely common approach is to record a low, guttural scream and layer it with a higher scream. This gives you the best of both worlds – a bass-heavy, full-bodied sound and a higher part that cuts through the mix (sounds a lot like mixing a bass guitar, doesn’t it?).
Layers are a common production technique for filling out empty space and bringing additional presence to a mix. While you might never see the vocal track counts of a modern pop song in a deathcore session, dozens of vocal tracks are still a common sight when you factor in layering for leads and background vocals.
In a pinch, you can use reverb or delay to help fill out these layers as well. Just like a double can add depth, a good reverb & delay combo can make things sound layered and larger than life - even if you’ve only got a single vocal track to work with.
Mixing As A Production Tool
With many technical genres, the studio is as much of an instrument as any of the individual tracks recorded in it. Deathcore is no exception, and when you’re done editing your tracks for perfect pocketing, the mix can be its own creative space where vocals can really grow and develop.
Take this great example from Gerard Vachon where he showcases his mixing techniques for deathcore vocals:
As you can see, his vocal chain goes well beyond the realm of standard mixing and into the creative sounds you can achieve with wideners, doublers & time-based effects. Paired with great layering, and you’ve got a brutal vocal that holds its own in even the heaviest of songs.
Get More Vocal Production Insights
Vocal production is a universally necessary part of studio music – it doesn’t matter what genre your focus is on. Great rock and metal songs depend on a strong vocal, and that can rarely be achieved in a mix without a few tricks of the trade along the way.
Pick up your copy of The Ultimate Vocal Producer’s Handbook for a simple and effective reference guide on everything vocal production related today!