Vocal Effects of GLOWSTONE – LIGMA

Creating music that truly stands out can be a complex process, but understanding the techniques used by successful producers can make all the difference. We’re going to take a closer look at the production techniques used on GLOWSTONE’s hit track “LIGMA”, examining how the vocal effects were used to create a unique, distorted vibe while still allowing the performance to shine through. We’ll also delve into the backgrounds of the producers behind the track, Sober Rob and Madi Makes Musica, who formed GLOWSTONE as a couple. With a combination of powerful vocals, heavy distortion, and infectious beats, GLOWSTONE makes some great music.

Album artwork for EP "I" by GLOWSTONE outpainted by DALL-E
Album artwork for EP “I” by GLOWSTONE outpainted by DALL-E

The vocals are the king of a mix, and must be treated as such. Processing the vocals in your track is one of the most important steps to creating music that slaps. So when I’m making decisions of how to process the vocal effects in my tracks, it’s useful to see how great producers handle the task.

Today we are looking at the production techniques of GLOWSTONE’s “LIGMA”. And specifically going into detail on how the vocal effects blend GLOWSTONE’s ‘s voice into the distorted vibe of the track, but also allowing the performance to soar above the mix.

Album artwork by GLOWSTONE outpainted by DALL-E

Meet the Producers

LIGMA was produced by Sober Rob and Madi Makes Musica who formed GLOWSTONE as a couple. Both can be found on SoundCloud and Spotify.

Madi who “writ[es] songs about brain :):” and Rob who’s been known as “[…]being [a] boundless creative being[…]” team up to combine great vocals with heavy distortion and amazing beats.

The Effect Chain


For vocals to sound good distorted, it should sound good recorded. The technique used in the most distorted sections are captured very close to the source, allowing Madi to whisper into the mic. This is similar to how ASMR might be recorded. When the vocals transition to singing, the mic placement gets a little further back to allow for more dynamic range in the recording. It seems some harmonies are also recorded from even further back, to layer in the vocals during the chorus.


Equalization, or EQ, is a crucial element in the production process, as it helps shape the sound and balance the frequencies within the song. In Ligma, Sober Rob and Madi Makes Musica have employed various EQ techniques to create a unique sonic landscape that complements the track’s distorted nature while maintaining clarity and distinction between the different elements.

For Madi’s vocals, it’s essential to maintain the intelligibility and character of her voice while still allowing for the heavy distortion. To achieve this, a high-pass filter is applied to remove any unwanted low frequencies that may muddy the mix, usually below 80-100 Hz. A slight boost in the high-mid frequencies, around 2-5 kHz, helps add clarity and presence to her voice. Additionally, a gentle high-shelf boost, starting around 10 kHz, adds some air and sparkle to the vocal performance. This EQ approach ensures the vocals cut through the mix without being too harsh or piercing.

In the final stages of EQing the mix, Sober Rob and Madi Makes Musica would have carefully considered how each element sits together. Any problem frequencies that create harshness, muddiness, or conflict between the elements would have been addressed using surgical EQ techniques, such as notch filtering or narrow boosts and cuts.

By thoughtfully applying these EQ techniques, the producers of Ligma have achieved a well-balanced and cohesive mix that showcases the unique blend of distorted and melodic elements, while allowing Madi’s vocal performance to shine through.


To create the distorted soundscape, the instrumental backing of the track is heavily compressed, which glues the mix together. Side-chaining is used to help the big 808’s punch through the mix, which ducks the rest of the audio until the kick has finished punching you in the gut. Distorted high hats and trumpet or trombone sounding synths are flaring with punch and compressing down to allow the 808’s back in throughout the bulk of the track, which is a major component of the energy of this song.


It seems like every element of this track has some amount of distortion applied. To my ear, it seems like most of the audio has been wave-shaped into loud square waves, bringing lower toned elements into the upper register. Madi’s vocals feature a blend of clean and distorted sections that contribute to the track’s dynamic and emotive quality. The distorted sections are achieved by using saturation, overdrive, or dedicated distortion plugins to add harmonic richness and warmth to her voice. This processing can be applied subtly to enhance the natural harmonics of her voice, or more aggressively to create a gritty and powerful effect that complements the distorted instrumental elements.

The instrumental elements of Ligma heavily feature distortion. This may be achieved by using a variety of distortion techniques, such as analog-style saturation, digital clipping, and waveshaping. Each type of distortion imparts a distinct sonic character that contributes to the overall texture and intensity of the track.

Analog-style saturation, which emulates the sound of overdriven hardware, adds warmth and harmonic richness to the synths and bass. Digital clipping introduces a more aggressive and edgy character, which works well with the track’s heavy and intense atmosphere. Waveshaping, which involves manipulating the waveform of a signal, allows for more creative and experimental distortion effects that can contribute to the track’s unique sound.

It’s essential to balance the levels of distortion in the mix, ensuring that the heavily processed elements do not overpower the more subtle and melodic aspects of the track. This can be achieved through careful gain staging, EQ, and compression, as well as adjusting the blend of wet and dry signals for each processed instrument.

The Song

Get Producing

Take the lessons of LIGMA and apply them to your own vocal effect chains. Personally, I may go further with some distortion in my mixes, but maybe a new compressor plugin is your take-away. Let me know in the comments if you are using any of these techniques in your tracks. Or learn more audio engineering techniques here.

Thanks for reading ✌

Unheard Music: God Rays

Picture of god rays streaming into a cave, lighting mossy rocks. Someone poses like a starfish at the top of the rock.

We all have unfinished projects in our archives, this is one of mine. God Rays belongs to an ever increasing list of tracks that may never fully unfurl into a true song. When listening to the back catalogue, ideas of what comes next, in the evolution of the track, become more clear. When listening to an idea over and over, sections become solidified and unchangeable, as the mind gains an expectation of repetition. The unwillingness to change often will halt progress towards great potential, dooming a bad song to only sound like a polished bad song.

God Rays (unfinished)

What makes a God Ray?

Listening back at this track, created in the summer of 2019, I start to recall it’s inspirations and asperations. This track was inspired by Knife Party‘s synth manipulation and hard hitting kicks. The lead synth of God Rays has a downward lowpass on the tail end of each note, which is a common technique used by Knife Party. Although in their tracks, many well crafted synths play one or two notes, before another synth comes in to continue the melody. This variation is sorely lacking in God Rays, leaving the main melody to sound repetitive, and simplistic after a few loops.

The fantasy of God Rays is of a track that inspires dancing and energy. As such, the beat comes in hard after a brief intro. Shortly after, the full array of synths and the synth pattern kicks in, with rapidly moving pitches and counter synths. Later on a mostly empty breakdown section comes in. This section would be filled out with an idea that’s yet to exist, but the structure is there as a placeholder, leading up to the next synth chorus.

The Synths

God Rays has 4 synths used throughout the track:

  1. There is a vocal chorus emulation, making an “aw” sound.
  2. The lead synth with it’s dynamic low pass filter
  3. A counter-synth to the notes played in the lead synth
  4. A supporting synth to the lead synth

Synth 1 – Vocal Chorus

Synth 1 – Vocal Chorus

The vocal chorus synth plays throughout the song to add ambiance and simulate the pressure and loudness of the other elements of the track. When this synth plays on it’s own, it’s interesting and relatively loud. But when the kicks and lead synth come in, the volume of this synth ducks hard, but can still be subtly heard between the notes and kicks. This technique is called Sidechain Compression, a technique used in most of my tracks.

Synth 2 – Lead Synth

Synth 2 – Lead Synth

The Lead synth is big and distorted, with a built in lowpass filter on each note. The lowpass cuts out all the high end frequencies and lets only the frequencies at the bass end through. The filter sweeps, allowing all frequencies through when a note is held, and closing the filter when released. This technique makes a buzzing and somewhat grating synth sound dynamic and interesting. Additionally, this synth has a 16ms delay that pans left and right to make it sound wider and larger than it is. This sort of delay is typical reserved for a leading instrument or vocal performance, found in tracks like Post Malone’s “Circles”.

Synth 3 – Counter Synth

Synth 3 – Counter Synth

The counter synth plays it’s notes when the lead synth is resting. This sort of lead and counter melody fills the space and keeps the energy of the track moving.

Synth 4 – Supporting Synth

Synth 4 – Counter Synth

The supporting synth adds extra bass and thickness to the lead synth. As well, this synth doesn’t have any of the dynamic low pass filtering or delay, which adds a lot of complexity when the two synths are playing at the same time. When the two synths are in the middle of a note, they don’t sound like two separate sounds. But at the end of a note, when the lead synth begins it’s low pass filter, but the supporting synth finishes the note normally, a stereo separation emerges. This separation may make you feel like the sound starts in front of you, then ends behind you.

Synth 2 and 4 played at the same time

What’s next for God Rays?

Most likely, this track will forever live in the vault of unfinished music. But perhaps the lessons used in this track will inspire future music to come. Keep an ear out for synth layering, the technique is used all over the electronic music world.

Thanks for reading ✌

Vocal Effects of Post Malone – Circles

The vocals are the king of a mix, and must be treated as such. Processing the vocals in your track is one of the most important steps to creating music that bumps. So when I’m making decisions of how to process the vocal effects in my tracks, it’s useful to see how great producers handle the task.

Today we are looking at the production techniques of Post Malone’s “Circles”. And specifically going into detail on how the vocal effects blend Post Malone’s voice into the trippy vibe of the track, but also allowing the performance to soar above the mix.

Meet the Producers

For Circles, the primary producers were Louis Bell and Frank Duke, along side Posty himself. Both of the primary producers are heavyweights in the hip hop electronic production industry.

In an interview for Universal Audio, Louis mentions a few of the plugin’s he uses with Post Malone’s voice, and why he uses them. We can take these plugin’s and see how they work with Post Malone’s voice to make it the king of the mix.

The Effect Chain


The first effect typically added to the vocal mix is the compressor. Allow the vocal to become consistent in it’s dynamic range. In Circles, Post Malone get’s close to the mic and sings softly at times, and others, he’s back further singing his heart out. By compressing your vocal, the soft parts don’t get drowned out in the mix, and the loud parts don’t cover everything up.

Louis Bell uses the Universal Audio 1176 Limiting Amplifier, the classic ultra fast limiting compressor from the 60’s, used on thousands of pop tracks since it’s release. But for modern producers, a software emulation from Universal Audio or Waves can replicate the fast attack and all-buttons-in mode of the original. The plugin versions may not give the exact same character as the hardware unit, but neither did one hardware unit to the next one.

Close up picture of the hardware 1176 Limiting Amplifier from Universal Audio


EQ will usually come before or after the compressor. Either way, the purpose will be the same: make the character of the vocal shine through, without too much low end nasal or high end hiss. Typically, there is a big cut to the very lowest frequencies, which usually end up being background hum, or mic stand noises. Then another cut to the low frequency sound of air hitting the mic when saying words like “boat” or “pool”. There may be spots throughout the frequency range that resonated with the room too much and would want to be cut out as well.

In Circles, Post Malone’s voice has a high end boost that makes his voice sound more present and airy. Louis Bell uses another classic piece of hardware in the vocal chain, the Neve 1073 preamp. This price of gear comes just after the microphone, and includes only a few knobs of EQ, along with some old hardware warmth. A software emulation is also available.

Close up picture of the 1073 hardware preamp


When Post Malone sings, a lot of space is added to his voice, creating an ethereal and wonderful presence. Delay, reverb and chorusing in the vocals are stacked with delay and reverb in the instruments to truly send the mix into outer space.


A delay technique that old rock vocals often had was a “slap back” delay which adds a prominent quick echo that makes the vocal sound subtly doubled. This technique is also used on Post Malone’s vocals. Adding a delay in the range of 20-60ms.


Chorusing is also used in the vocal chain. Louis Bell used the Brigade Chorus Pedal from Universal Audio, usually reserved for guitars and psychedelic tunes. This is mostly used in the chorus, though it seems like a lesser version is used during the pre choruses. The effect widens the stereo field to make the vocals come from the left and right track in a slightly different way.

Render of the Brigade Chorus Pedal software plugin with some cables in the background


And last, and probably most, is the reverb on Post Malone’s voice. Reverb is a basic requirement for pop vocals, to make them sound like they weren’t recorded in some of the quietest rooms in the world. In this case, the reverb is strong and can bring images of Post Malone singing away into the sunset as he fades out of view.

The verses show Post Malone’s voice covered in reverb to fill in the empty space where he’s not singing. In the Chorus the reverb is turned up a notch or two. After the first chorus, you can hear Post’s voice completely dry for two words “Let go”, then the effects start coming back in.


Vocal layering is also a very important technique for strong choruses, like the one in Circles. The verse hears Post’s voice in a single track with effects, where the chorus, you can hear 4 or more different (but extremely similar) takes stacked on top of each other.

Get Producing

Take the lessons of Circles and apply them to your own vocal effect chains. Personally, I may use some more chorusing in my mixes, but maybe a new compressor plugin is your take-away. Let me know in the comments if you are using any of these techniques in your tracks. Or learn more audio engineering techniques here.

Thanks for reading ✌