One of the questions I get asked the most by clients is how to make a chorus sound bigger. Many people believe there’s a special effect that will suddenly make their chorus sound huge and epic! Unfortunately that is not the case. While reverb, delay and other effects will help enhance the sound, fixing it during the mixing and mastering process is not the solution. The way to make your hook sound big is by stacking, stacking, stacking.
If you have ever read articles by professional engineers you hear them say “I get sessions with over a hundred tracks to mix all the time”. The reason is about 3/4 of the tracks are vocals. It depends on the genre but on a average pop song, I get about 60 tracks just for the chorus. Why so many? Because layers make things bigger.
The first step is to record your lead chorus vocal. Now depending on the song you might want to leave that as a single vocal, but I usually have the artist record it 3 more times. I like to have 4 stacks for each note. I should point out that you MUST re-sing it. Duplicating the file does not work. All that does is make the vocal louder. Recording it over and over gives you different timbers and nuances that help you get that full sound. Once you record the 4 stacks pan one hard left, one hard right and the other two can either go hard left and right or bring them in 50/50. A tip for recording is after the artist gets the first take pan it hard left so that when they record the next track they can hear it better to match the notes. Once you get the second take, mute the second take and have the artist double the first one again. Repeat this until you get the four stacks and then you can un-mute all four and pan them to taste.
Next is the harmony notes. You record these the same way as the lead. I usually have the artist record 2-4 different harmony notes singing the whole phrase. After that you do punch line harmony’s. This is where you take the lines in your chorus that you want to stand out, and accentuate them. You can use the same harmony note or sing new one’s, but just adding a few more stacks on the punch lines will make them stand out that much more.
So there it is. The magic potion on how to make a chorus sound bigger. It does take a lot of work, but it will be well worth it when it comes time for mixing and mastering. Make sure to check out the video below where I go over the chorus on a track I was working on, and if you ever need anything mixed or mastered, please check out my online mixing and mastering services.