Vocal recording

Today let’s talk about mixing vocals. For most styles Vocals are up front and center, the one instrument that holds the most important in the song.
So then arises the question of how do we mix something that’s sitting on top of everything but still interacting with the song?
Making a voice fit the rest of the song is going to be one of the most important things that you will have to do as a mix engineer.
In this blog I will highlight some things that you can implement in your mixing workflow to develop your vocal mixing skills:

What you need to do is to bring the voice in early and carve space out from other elements so that they work together.

No. 1

Compression:

Avoid using super fast attack compression on vocals, using an extremist fast attack takes out the energy from the performance and makes the overall sound very flat. I know what you’re thinking, you want the vocals to sit in with the track and the extra dynamic nature of the voice seems to make it pop out of the track even more. Using compression you should find a good balance between retaining the energy and still controlling the peaks of the vocals.
No. 2

Volume Automation:

This is one thing that helps the vocals sit the best in the mix. The voice in itself is a very dynamic instrument and sometimes this dynamic range can make your track sound unpolished. So instead of compression, if you use the volume to move through the track as it progresses the voice will interact better with the track.
Digital Reverb
No. 3

Using Reverb:

I’ve seen a lot of people use reverb in the track to give it depth and sense of space. I feel when mixing, one needs to take care of 3 elements, How Deep; How Wide: How Tall the mix is. I will be explaining this better in another blog, but Reverb gives us a sense of creating depth in a mix. Try playing around with the pre-delay and the reverb time to find a balance where the reverb itself is separate from the sound and has enough sustain to work with the track.
Fab filter
No. 4

Filters and EQ:

Always filter your vocals! A good starting point for any EQ is a LOW pass filter. This lets you clean up the low unwanted frequencies in the Voice and the recording and free up space for other elements to fit. Many a time a good way to understand if the voice is fitting with the track or not is by understanding if there is clutter in the high mid range of the track and vocals. The frequency range from 3k-8k is where the vocals are most prominent, and if you have a track with instruments like Piano, Guitars and a Lead guitar, this midrange is going to be fighting for space creating what we call clutter in a mix. In order for the Vocals to fit in the track, this clutter needs to be cleaned up and that space needs to be created for the voice to fit in. Imagine it like creating a hole in which the right amount of Voice fits, like a puzzle piece almost.
No. 5

Mix in Context:

A good mix engineer is one who understands the context of each element to others and can see the bigger picture before he dives into every element. The habit of solo-ing every instrument and trying to make it sound good individually is something I’ve notice novice mix engineers do and struggle with. You do have to remember that at the end of the day we are not trying to get the individual mix elements to sound great, but in fact for them to sound great together. Think of it this way, a good mix has to be like a lasagna, each element sort of separate from each other like a layer but at the same time works together as a whole.

Remember,

Building a mix with a track and trying to bring the voice to fit with it towards the end might not be the right approach. What you need to do is to bring the voice in early and carve space out from other elements so that they work together. Say for example the track has distorted guitars in the mid-range with a loud bright snare and overheads then instead of keeping the guitars bright and fuzzy, try to change the approach of the mix to a point where the guitars have more midrange and create a harmonic layer on which a bright vocal can fit in the space that isn’t occupied by the rest of the elements. You can’t have an extremely bright, snare, guitars, cymbals and expect the voice to fit. CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING!

Get in touch!

If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.
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