Young Thug protégé Gunna has become one of the biggest stars in trap music, known for his signature smooth, melodic vocal style. Mixing vocals like Gunna requires specific techniques and tools to get that slick, professional sheen. Let’s break down the essentials for emulating Gunna’s sound during recording, editing, mixing, and effects.
Set Up Your Session Properly
The foundation of a Gunna-style vocal mix starts with properly setting up your session. First, as with any mix, make sure you’ve found the tempo of the beat so that any timed effects sync up. Tapping the BPM out by ear is the simplest way. Use your preferred tool to detect the tempo automatically for greater accuracy.
Next, detect the key of the instrumental so you can correctly set the AutoTune plugin, which is crucial for nailing Gunna's pitch-perfect melodies. Play along to find the root note, then identify the major or minor quality.
Many of Gunna's producers use AutoTune Pro, so follow their lead and set it to the song's key with a natural vibrato. Keep the retune speed moderate for a transparent effect. Be careful; more dramatic tunings for Gunna's style can sound robotic and inauthentic.
Route your vocal track into AutoTune before anything else in your effects chain. This way, pitch correction happens immediately before compression and EQ influence the input signal. AutoTune works best when vocals go in clean.
Use High-Quality Analog Modeled Plugins
One of the hallmarks of Gunna's vocal production is the use of analog-modeled plugins that lend a rich, polished sound. Start by adding some subtle saturation to give your vocals extra warmth. Plugins modeled after studio gear like the Avalon are ideal for adding sheen without overdriving the signal. Use them to boost the highs and lows slightly for a full-bodied tone.
Add a touch of fast compression after saturation to condense and glue the vocals. These vintage-style compressors add pleasing harmonics and tone. Dial this with a light hand using only 2-3dB of reduction to shape transients delicately.
Next, boost air frequencies for clarity and presence. Attenuate any low-mids that clutter the mix using a parametric EQ. The goal is to subtly polish and flatter your tone, not drastically alter it. Avoid over-compressing and over-EQing during mixing.
Utilize Creative Delays and Modulation
Gunna’s vocals don’t sit dry over the beat; they glisten with slick effects. Creative delays are crucial to making his sound. Try using a tasteful quarter-note or eighth-note delay timed to the tempo for depth and melodic interest. Mix it subtly for doubling and giving the mix a sense of space.
Panning the delay left/right can also increase width. Automate the delay level to rise and fall dynamically on certain lines for emphasis.
Modulation effects like chorus and flanger add movement and life to the vocals. Add a touch of chorus just to reinforce Gunna’s natural vibrato. Flanger is excellent for transitions and breakdowns but use it lightly. Adding too much flange can sound cheesy.
Setting up distinct reverbs for depth and vibe is equally important. A tight, bright room or plate reverb layered under the vocals works nicely. Then, add a secondary hall, chamber, or vintage-style reverb for the character. Blend both until you get a sound that you like.
Compress and Level Vocals Properly
Dialing in the correct compression helps you achieve Gunna’s intimate yet airy vocal sound. In addition to the light-fast compression mentioned earlier, add a slower compressor after reverb to gently crush the vocals against the beat. Use a medium attack time and long release for smooth, even gain reduction.
Make sure to gainstage your vocals adequately as well. It should settle in a range that gives them sufficient clarity and presence without overpowering the beat.
Gunna’s style is heavily layered, so dedicate time to getting your doubles and harmonies sitting just right. Use volume, EQ, and compression so layers complement each other tonally.
Let the Lead Vocals Shine
A signature of Gunna’s vocal production style is allowing the leads to shine through clearly. Don’t overwhelm them with too many layered vocals fighting for space. Have your doubles and stacks reinforce key phrases to emphasize cadence and melody. Listen carefully to make sure the lyrics cut through.
Gentle broadband compression via a mix bus or master channel can glue all the vocals together nicely. Add any final special sauce effects, like stereo widening, to make Gunna’s leads soar over the track. A touch of saturation on the master bus can add cohesion and excitement.
While emulating Gunna's style takes some precision, using the proper methods can help you achieve the Gunna sound. If you want to simplify the process, you can get our Gunna Vocal Preset. It will help you achieve the sheen of his sound in a few clicks. We use only stick plugins, so this preset will work out of the box with your favorite DAW. So, mix and get the sound you want with our vocal presets.