How to De-ess vocals
De-essing is a simple process that takes the slithering sibilance out of your vocal takes. This process is also known as de-sibilizing.
Sibilance occurs in the consonants such as; s, z, c and sh. The problem frequencies occur around 2k and go up to about 10K. Depending on the range of the vocalist, you will find the intruding frequencies. Females tend to be in the 10k range, while male’s start around 4-5k. However, each case can be different.
There are a few ways to fix these “essy” vocals. The most efficient way is to do them by hand. You can do this by finding the problem areas, making a small break in the audio, and gaining down the sibilance. This is a very tedious process but will always get you the best results. The second option is to use a plugin. Using plugins such as Fab Filters Pro-DS, Wave’s Renaissance De-esser, or Eiosis’s De-esser, will do the trick. These plugins are frequency dependent compressors that use compression to reduce sibilance. You can always use a multiband compressor, but a specific de-essing plugin will give you the most precise options.
Managing sibilance during the recording process can be an excellent choice. Many well-trained vocalists have techniques that reduce this during their performance. One option is to back off the mic a bit during parts that sound unpleasant when recording. Additionally, your microphone choice can affect the recording. If you notice your vocals are a bit harsh in the sibilance areas, it may be a good idea to change to a darker microphone. You can also try tilting the microphone up or down.
As you can tell, there are many ways to tame these unwanted little demons. Try some of the technics at home and let us know what works best for you!