Rap Vocal Compression Settings [Beginner’s Guide + Cheat Sheet]

In this tutorial, you will learn rap vocal compression settings to get the best quality in your hip-hop mix.

Rap songs are known as one of the most aggressive genres in singing. This aggressiveness creates difficulty when you want to harness it with compression. Apart from the other soft genre songs compressing rap vocals is such a difficult task.

The problem is when you apply a little more compression, you will end up with a heavily compressed voice and when you apply lighter compression, it wouldn’t control the hikes common in the rap vocals.

So, what to do? How to apply compression in rap vocals so that it could balance the overall track?

Well, everyone wants a quick solution. So here I will share some of the techniques you can apply in your compressor plugin to preciously compress rap vocals.

BUT, first thing first,

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How to Compress Rap Vocals

https://youtu.be/Jppq-oaaxS4

When you record rap or hip-hop vocals one thing you can notice is that the singer sings a lot more aggressively than other genres. most of the area of the vocal has spikes that you need to control by applying the compression precisely.

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It’s different than normal vocal compression where you apply a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio and the work is done.

With rap vocals, the best place to start is finding a rap vocal Preset in your compressor plugin’s preset library.

Today, all popular compressor plugins have 1 or 2 presets dedicated to rap and hip-hop vocals. You can use them and modify them as per your need. I will share you with the cheat sheet to rap vocal compression in the last of this article that you can use to modify those presets.

If, your compressor plugin doesn’t have a rap vocal preset you need to create one by setting up all the parameters yourself.

In the next section, I will go through all the possible settings you have to apply to precisely compress rap vocals.

Keep reading…

Rap Vocal Compression Settings

The number game starts now…

Assuming your compressor plugin doesn’t have any rap vocal preset hare we will create our own preset by changing the parameters of the compressor.

However, compressing is an art and there is no hard and fast rule to apply the same settings on your vocals. You need to tweak these settings as per your own need.

First off…

Ratio

Ratio decides how the compressor reacts to the input audio signal.

In short, the amount of compression. The more ratio you apply, the more compression takes place.

Generally, in normal vocals, the 2:1 to 3:1 ratio is good to compress the upper dynamics. But when the vocal is aggressive you need to compress more. So you have to increase the ratio up to 7:1.

Probably, you would find the sweet spot anywhere from 5:1 to 6:1. The aggressiveness of the vocal decides how much ratio you should apply.

Observe the changes in the vocal when you are increasing the amount of compression and you will find the best ratio for your vocals.

Attack and Release

Attack and release are the time when the compressor hits the incoming audio signal and for how much time it holds the signal.

As rap vocals are aggressive ones, you should always apply fast attack time to your compressor so that it could come into the process as soon as possible otherwise you can end up with some part of vocals uncompressed.

For release, it should be anywhere between 160 ms to 240ms, which is the normal range for holding the vocal into the process. However, you can increase or decrease the release time and observe the changes and find the sweet spot.

Threshold

The threshold is another important parameter for the compressor. For rap vocals, you should set it -15dB to – 20dB So that whenever the vocal crosses the threshold compressor starts to work.

Don’t Too Much Compress Rap Vocals?

Whatever settings you apply in rap vocal compression, always listen and tweak. Because without observing the changes if you apply the same parameters I have described above, the chance is you don’t get the best of it.

People often compress the rap vocals thinking that it’s an aggressive form of singing and it’s needed to compress it hard. This approach is totally wrong.

Although, rap and hip hop is an aggressive form of singing you never over-compress it. These genres have phrases and words that should be clear in the track and your listeners won’t listen to them correctly.

So always avoid over-compression for any type of vocals. Always go with the below process.

Apply – Listen – Tweak 

And you will find the best version.

Rap Vocal Compression Settings ‘Cheat Sheet’

Here is the cheat sheet for rap vocals that you can initially apply and then tweak as per your need.

  • Ratio – 5:1
  • Threshold – -15dB
  • Attack – less than 10ms
  • Release – 170ms
  • Gain – Use makeup gain if your plugins support

Conclusion: Rap Vocals

So, here was a quick guide to Rap vocal compression settings. Now it’s your time to apply these settings on your tracks and let me know how it works in the comment section.

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Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing, and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.

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