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  • James

How to mix vocals 101

Mixing vocals can be a daunting task, but with a little bit of patience and some practice, you can achieve professional-sounding results. Here's how to get started:


Get it right as early as possible

Start mixing a vocal by making sure you have a clean recording. The ideal setting for a recording vocalist is in a quiet, acoustically treated room, and that their microphone is positioned correctly. I know you've probably heard this all before but making sure the source is correct saves a ton of headache later on.


EQ

Use EQ to shape the vocal sound. Start by cutting out any frequencies that are causing problems, such as low-end rumble or high-end sibilance. Then, subtly boost the frequencies that will help the vocal stand out, such as the presence and warmth ranges. In my opinion reductive eq'ing is always better than additive.


Compression

Use compression to control the dynamic range of the vocal. Compression will help even out the volume, but for the best results manually adjust your clips so that the plugin doesn't have to work too hard. Using a ton of compression can sound unnatural so don't slam the gain reduction.


Layering

Use doubling and harmonies to add depth to the vocal. By adding layers like this you can create a fuller, richer sound. If you're in the position to ask for these takes during the recording process DO! Be warned that duplicating the same audio clip can cause phasing issues (which suck) so get creative with formant shifting or phase flips to make the layers unique.


Reverb

Use reverb to add space to the vocal. A small amount of reverb can help the vocal sound like it's in the same space as the rest of the mix, but be careful - LESS IS MORE (usually). Try side-chaining a longer tailed reverb to the vocal signal so it fills the gaps between phrases.


Get creative with other fx to really make your vocal performance stand out. A small piece of advice is audio manipulation is the easiest way to create unique music, experiment as much as possible!


Conclusion

The depth of knowledge on vocal mixing goes on forever as each vocal performance is different. Having good fundamentals and the ability to implement the stages listed here to a vocal mix session will ensure you're on the right path.


What's your favourite D.A.W to record vocals in?



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