It is typical for vocalists to perform each phrase and the individual words and syllables within them at a wide range of volumes. They move around and they express what they perform – it's only human! When mixing that presents a challenge, and one response is to reduce the dynamic range using compression. However, a better result might be obtained by making adjustments to the volume automation on a word-by-word basis. This quick tip will show you how to do this in Logic Pro and Pro Tools.
If you have already made edits (perhaps based on transient detection – see my Quick Tip on Tab to Transient in Logic Pro), you can marquee select a region by Option+Command+clicking its title bar (assuming track automation is visible and the Marquee tool is set as your Command-click tool). Then simply drag the automation line up or down; four nodes will be created at the region boundaries, giving an automation handle that moves independently of all other automation. You can perform this with either the Pointer tool or the Automation Select tool.
Option+Command+clicking a region to create 4 automation nodes
If you haven’t yet made edits, simply make a marquee selection, grab the automation line with the Pointer tool and four nodes will be created at the selection boundaries, without new regions being created.
As an alternative to the Marquee tool method you can also hold down Shift-Option-Control and make a ‘rubberband’ selection with the Pointer tool. In this case four nodes are created immediately, and moving the automation line will see the inner two move and the outer two remain static.
Rubberband selection with Shift, Option and Control held down
In Pro Tools, make an edit selection, switch the track view from Waveform to Volume using the Track View selector, then use the Trimmer tool to adjust the automation. Again, four ‘automation breakpoints’ (this is what ‘nodes’ are called in ProTools) will be created at the selection boundaries. To select the whole of a previously edited region, double-click with the Selector tool, or single-click with the Grabber tool.
Adjusting automation with the Trimmer tool
Keyboard shortcut mastery is the key to speed and efficiency, so here is a summary of the shortcuts for switching track views and selecting editing tools:
Adding the Option key in each case performs the same action to all tracks