10 Plugins That Will Take Your Pop Vocal Production To The Next Level

In This Air Gigs Video Blog, Grammy Winner and Multi-Platinum Producer, Isha “The Mad Scientist” Erskine, shares his top 10 plugins that he recommends to make pop vocals really shine.

Check out the video above to hear detailed examples, and techniques with the following 10 plugins:

1) Melodyne For Pitch Correction

Melodyne by Celemony allows you to load a vocal track in and edit every note or syllable to be perfectly in tune. As well as adjust the width of the vibrato and fix any scoops between notes. Melodyne does this offline and therefore sounds much more natural then plugins that bend the notes to pitch in real-time such as Autotune, or Wave tune Realtime, which tends to have that T-Pain/Cher Effect.

2) VocAlign for Time Alignment

VocAlign by Synchro Arts allows you to load in the lead vocal as a guide and stretches all the doubles to be perfectly in time. This is must-have for‌ ‌tight‌ ‌stacked vocal harmonies as it fixes all the little flams and the beginning and ends of words.

3) 1176 Compression

Classic Universal Audio style Fet compression for level control and grit. Setup with medium-fast attack, extremely fast release, 4:1 ratio and -3 gain reduction your pop vocal sound will start taking shape. This compressor is also amazing on drums; more on that in another video.


Classic Britsh Solid State Logic G Series Mixing EQ, to shape the vocal as needed. Start by rolling off the low end, cutting out some mud and harshness.

5) Passive Pultec HighEnd Shelf EQ

This technique was popularized by the Pultec PEQ-1, it’s basically a broadband shelf around 10k to add a silky air and clarity to a vocal track. For this song, Isha is using Slate Digital Custom Series Lift.

6) LA2A Compressor Limiter

Classic Optical Tube Compressor to level the vocal more and add some tube warmth. For this song, Isha is using Waves CLA-2A named after the famous mix engineer Chris Lorde-Alge (Greenday, Madonna, Rolling Stones and many more).

7) De-Esser

Controls the harsh “S” sounds by ducking the high frequencies, in this video, you will see Eiosis E2 Desser which has great visual feedback meters and sounds amazing.

8) Cascading Delays

Multiple delays (short to long) fills in the spaces and keeps the lead vocal present on top of the track even between words. These are song and tempo dependent but often, slap, 1/8th , and a ¼ note delay work extremely well on pop vocals. Echoboy is a popular choice and great plugin for tape delay effects.

9) Small Plate/Room Verb for Lead Vocals

These reverbs add a warmth and depth to the vocal while keeping the vocals up front and not washing it out. There are lots of great small plate and room reverbs out there, but for this song the stock Avid D-Verb worked perfectly.

10) Hall Reverb for Background Vocals.

Hall Reverbs have longer tails and sound like they are a really big space. This effect sets the background vocals in the back of the mix right where you want them. Similar to small plate/room reverbs, there are many to choose from. For this song, Isha used the Slate Verbsuite Classics plugin.

The Song “No Turning Back” was graciously provided as an example for this video by the band Hooked Like Helen. The vocals were written and performed by the amazing vocalist and harmony stacker Nikki Stipp. The track was produced and mixed by Isha “The Mad Scientist” Erskine.

Listen to the full song here:

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