Vocal Effects Apps for Recording Music on Your iPad or iPhone

By Ryan C. Williams, Mike Levine

After you record your vocals, iOS devices provide a multitude of ways to alter those vocals to suit your tastes. Some tackle a single function (like the Antares Auto-Tune app for iOS — not that you need it, of course), while others combine several different effects together (such as the IK Multimedia VocaLive app). No matter which app you choose to use, you should know how these common effects work on vocals:

  • Compression/De-essing: Compression (and more specifically, de-essing) controls the high and low volume peaks of especially expressive singers and brings everything into a more manageable volume level. This effect makes your vocals more consistent and helps it sit within the overall mix better. De-essing represents a specialized form of compression that removes the hissing sound known as sibilance from your vocals. Unless you want to sound like an evil snake, that sibilance must go.

  • Reverb/Delay: Use these effects to make you sound like your singing in a concert hall, cave, or other large enclosed area. Judicious use of these effects can give your vocal a pleasing, full sound. Overuse of reverb makes your vocal performance echo-y and messy. Let your ears be your guide.

  • Equalization: Equalization (or just EQ) helps take out too much high, mid, or low frequencies from your recording. Precise usage of EQ helps the entire sound of your vocals come through instead of just the most dominant frequency.

  • Chorus/Doubler: This effect makes it sound like more than one of you is singing at the same time, like a duet or more. Use this effect to thicken up the sound of you singing by yourself.

  • Pitch Correction/Harmonization: Although this category does include the much-maligned Auto-Tune effect, it can also be used to slightly change the pitch of vocals to tweak a performance slightly instead of totally re-recording the performance. Just don’t use it to the point of annoyance.

    Harmonization takes the original pitch of the vocal and adds a second performance of the vocal pitched higher or lower. This functionality allows you to create instant vocal harmonies during a recording or live performance. Just tell the app the interval (the distance between the original note and the synthesized note) and you’re good to go.