Saturday, August 15, 2020

How to remove breath from a vocal track (and what is a Debreath plugin)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about a type of plugin which is very useful when mixing vocals (click here for a dedicated article), and which is closely related to a Deesser: the Debreath.

A Debreath plugin is a plugin that, as the name suggests, analyzes a vocal track, identifies the parts in which the singer is breathing in the air, isolates them and eliminates them through a compressor/gate, similarly to what a Deesser does.

This leads us to a background choice: is it really necessary to use it?
It depends on the singer or on the style. Personally, for certain heavy genres I tend not to eliminate too much the air inspiration, because it can give a sense or realism and preparation to a scream, but for less sonically busy genres this can become bothering, especially if the vocal part is the center of the mix and the breath is very loud.

For these specific cases a debreath is very useful, and the one in the pic, the Waves Debreath, is probably the best plugin for the task, since it finds and isolates the breathing parts, and lets you even hear only those parts, to tweak the treshold to perfection.

Even if this plugin is great, though, it's not the only way to eliminate breath, since you can (by putting a little more work into it) use either a gate or a multiband compressor.
The gate is good when the singer is singing quite loud, because the breathing part will be obviously much lower in volume, so by putting a gate exactly to the breathing level will eliminate only that, but if the singer is not singing loud or the breathing parts are as loud as the singing ones this solution won't cut it.

In this case, when in terms of volume the breath is at the same level of the singing, we cannot operate with a gate so we need to be more surgical.
We can move 2 ways:

- By editing the track, literally cutting away all the parts in which the singer is breathing in.

- By using a Multiband Compressor, trying to isolate as much as we can only the narrow frequency area in which the breathing happens, and by applying on it a healthy amount of gain reduction.
In this case we're not aiming to kill the frequencies but just to lower them a little bit, so they are less noticeable.

And you? Do you remove breathing from your vocal mixes?

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