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  • Writer's pictureAndreas Johansson

De-Ess Your Vocals Without Even Listening (Reaper Tutorial)

You've heard it a thousand times and seen it in countless Instagram and Facebook comments. "Just use your ears". As much as that is of course very true in all aspects of audio work, that comment can get a little tiresome. Just because the end result will be audio only, that doesn't mean we can't get a little help from our visual tools. Given the fact that most of us don't work in ideal locations all the time maybe using headphones, poorly treated rooms or mixing a song on the go, visual tools can come in really handy to either verify what we are hearing or question it. That is why I love a certain Reaper feature that I will tell you all about right about now.

In pretty much every DAW there's a visual element to audio files. You know the waveform telling you how loud or quiet a part of audio is in a visual representation. Like the picture to the right:

Reaper waveform

It is of course helpful to see when audio will begin playing and to distinguish loud parts from quiet ones. Waveforms are all about displaying volume though and not so much frequency information, which is of course the other big part of audio.

In Reaper we can change this however using something called spectral peaks. And the waveform will look a bit more like this:

Reaper spectral waveform

This spectral type of waveform will help distinguish problematic aspects of your recording in a much better way than your normal peaks display. You can set up your colors the way you want, I have min ranging from purple to blue. So looking at the waveform the blue parts are most likely high frequency information and probably S:es; whereas the purple ones before the big red/yellow peak is probably a plosive. I know from looking at this that I might have to address these three sections, ducking the s:es and probably fading in the plosive. All this from not even hitting the play button once.

To set up spectral peaks in Reaper go to Options > Peaks display mode > Spectral peaks. Reaper will take some time to analyze your peaks and then your good to go. If you want to change how the colors behave or the opacity of the colors, go to the same menu again and chose Peaks Display Settings. You'll get to a window looking like this:

Just drag the color bar to match preferred color with frequency range!

I hope this was helpful!


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