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How To Mix Vocals

Vocals are one of the most complicated elements to mix. They need to sit nicely with the rest of the instruments so it all sounds coherent, but at the same time they need to cut through so the message gets delivered to the audience loud and clear. On top of that, no two vocalists have the same tone or character, which makes it impossible to apply the same settings to all of them and get away with it. Nevertheless there are certain moves and techniques that can help you set the sweet spot for your vocal track quicker with minimum effort — let’s find out!

Consistency

The importance of gain staging during recording and mixing is a subject very often covered in this blog. But when it comes to getting a consistent level throughout the track, it’s paramount to make them sit right in the mix.

Professional singers are able to control their performance and interaction with the microphone so they end up getting a regular level during the recording. Back in the day, when everything was done to tape, the engineer would ride the fader during the recording to help the singer even further, but this required knowing the song in and out and being precise in the movements since there was no undo button.

Nowadays, in the digital era, tools like clip gain automation can do the same job without worrying about causing any damage to the original recording file and allowing us to get a consistent level of our vocal track in no time.

Housekeeping

Once our vocal metre is not jumping all over the place, it’s time to start cleaning the track. First, removing silences in your clips will make sure that no exogenous sound sneaks into our mix uninvited. It will also help you identify the different sections in your song and navigate quicker through the session.

Another good practice is removing mouth clicks from our vocals. They can become very obvious after we process our track and can ruin the whole song. Depending on the performer, it can be an easy task since these kinds of sounds are usually found at the beginning of sentences. But some people have very loud mouth clicks which require further editing, and in many cases it would be worth using noise removal software.

The last thing to consider is whether or not we should get rid of breaths from our vocal recordings. Although in most cases cleaning our track from this type of sounds would be a good practice, this decision might depend on the artist’s taste, what section of the song we are working on or the genre and style of our track, since removing breaths completely can make our vocals sound too perfect or almost inhuman. In any case, controlling the volume of these sounds through fades, gain or volume automation will definitely improve the sound of our vocals.

Cleaning The Mud

There are no magical frequencies to make every voice sound great, but there are definitely some frequency areas that can be carved out from our track to make them cleaner and clearer.

Using high-pass filters is a must when EQing vocals. This practice will make sure that no rumble and unwanted low frequency energy gets to our mix. While every sound source has information in the high frequency ranges, the low end is the realm of instruments like basses or drums. If you want to know at what frequency exactly you should filter your vocal track, just apply the opposite filter and bring down the frequency knob until no important information can be heard. …………

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