Vocal Thickening For Reaper With Free Plugins

Vocal Thickening

Double-tracking is a great way to thicken up vocals when you're recording. But we can achieve something similar without doubling vocals. Let's think or a second about what double-tracking brings to the table. Two voices singing the same thing . . .

  • Vary slightly in timing from each other
  • Vary slightly in pitch from each other
  • The timing and pitch variations are not steady. It creates a shimmering, rich, 'phasey' sound

We can do something similar with plugins. We can also get a bit of stereo spread, or width in the sound.

Vocal Thickening Video Demo

Vocal Thickening Technique

Take a center-panned vocal and add . . .

  • A slight delay -- pan it to the left
  • A different delay -- pan it to the right
  • Pitch shift these two signals -- one up and one down
  • Optional: add phase, chorus or flange to the delayed, pitch-shifted signals
Vocal Thickening

Reaper Vocal Thickening Technique

That's the gist of the vocal thickening technique. Let's explore how to do it in Reaper,(a great DAW for independent musicians) using free, Reaper-specific plugins. You can download the vocal thickening FX chain I use, at the bottom of this page, in the 'Resources' section.

Note: This tutorial depends on you having ReaPack installed and updated (it's free), and certain repositories installed. Installation instructions are below, in the 'Resources' section.


Step 1 - Add An Empty Channel, And Route Your Vocal To It

'Ctrl' + 't' will get you a new channel/track in Reaper (Windows). 'Cmd + 't' on a Mac. Left-click and drag from the route button on the vocal channel, to the route button on the new channel and label it 'Vocal Thickening'.


Step 2 - Add JS Channel Delayer to the Vocal Thickening Channel

Click on the FX button on the Vocal Thickening track and search for JS Channel Delayer, and click 'Add'. Set the left side for a 20 ms delay, and the right side for a 30 ms delay.

JS Channel Time Delayer

JS Channel Time Delayer with a 20 ms delay to the left, and 30 ms to the right


Step 3 - Add ReaPitch

Again, click on the FX button and look for ReaPitch, and add it. Use two shifters -- one +6 cents and panned to one side. Another, -6 and panned to the other side. Some people like to add more. You can go plus/minus 3, 9, and 12 cents, also. Alternate the plus/minus panning so that you're not all sharp on one side and flat on the other.




Step 4 (Optional) - Add Ripple Phaser

Again, click on the FX button and look for Ripple Phaser by Geraint Luff. Add it, set the 'Stereo' knob all the way to stereo. Adjust the controls to taste, and use the 'Mix' knob to dial it back.

Ripple Phaser

Geraint Luff's Ripple Phaser

I also like to add Tukan's VariBus to the end of the chain to level out the signal, and give me some saturation/distortion, and the Green Dynamic EQ at the beginning of the chain for de-essing.

Tukan VariBus Compressor

Tukan VariBus Compressor

Green Dynamic EQ

Tukan's Green Dynamic EQ


Installing ReaPack & Importing Repositories

Reaper uses something called ReaPack to manage scripts and JS plugins developed by various folks. It's the easiest way to install Tukan and other plugins.

Let's install ReaPack and a couple of what's called 'repositories'. It's pretty easy.

Installing ReaPack

Follow these steps to install ReaPack:

ReaPack Download

ReaPack Download

Show Reaper Resource Path

Show Reaper Resource Path

Importing Repositories

Import Repositories Menu Path

Import Repositories Menu

Go to the 'Import Repositories' menu and paste in the following URLs and click 'OK'

Import Repositories

Import Repositories

Tukan Studios


Geraint Luff


My FX Chain Download

Here's the link for the FX chain used on the video. It's JS Green Dynamic EQ, JS Channel Time Delayer, VST ReaPitch, JS Ripple Phaser, JS VariBus Compressor.

In order to use this FX chain drop the Vocal Thickening.RfxChain file in your FX chain folder. It's in your REAPERFXChains folder. You can locate it by opening up and FX window, click on 'FX' and then 'Save FX Chain'.


About the author

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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