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Hey all! Ok today we're talking about mixing vocals. For most styles of music, getting the vocal just right is numero uno. You gotta make this happen or the song doesn't work. But it can be a challenge to get it work with the rest of the instruments properly. So here's a few tips:
1) Filter - This same principle applies to most instruments, and the vocals are no different. Get rid of some of the low end you won't need by using a high pass filter. Usually I'll hit this between 100-150 Hz, but if I'm really needed the vocal to be a bit more pointed down the middle, I'll even go up to 200 Hz, sometimes more. You may want to filter a touch of the top end as well with a lo-pass filter, but do so delicately. Final, find some of that nasty nasally sound in the mid range, and cut that out! To taste of course.
2) Cut Mids For Mid-Range Instruments - Can't get the vocals to sit in the mix without getting lost? In most cases, the dominant range of the vocal is going to be somewhere between 1 - 3 kHz. Try cutting a touch of that out of any mid-range dominant instruments, such as guitars or pianos. This can help the vocal to get through without having to be way on top of the mix
3) Sidechain - You can use sidechaining as a way to further extend the effects of the previous point. Try using a sidechain compressor on the guitars or keys that follows the vocal. This will cause those instruments to duck out of the way when a vocal part comes out. However, be careful with this effect. You can end up getting crazy 'pumping' sounds if you take this too far. Another addition to this is to sidechain to a multiband compressor, so that you can only duck certain frequencies of the guitars or vocals (such as the mid range!).
4) Try A Slap Delay - This is my favourite thing in the world. Setup a slap delay on a bus so that you can blend it in. I usually either set the delay to somewhere around 110 ms, or two 50 ms. They have two distinct sounds, and I choose based on the context. I will try to adjust the delay time to the song, but at the same time, it doesn't really bother me if it's just a standard time.
5) Use Pre-Delay On Verbs - In most cases, you're probably going to have a verb on the vocal. It helps give it a nice ambience and character. If you add a pre-delay to the verb, the you give the original track more space, which can help avoid the clutter that is often caused by reverbs. For those who don't know, a pre-delay is just a set amount time the reverb has before it actually starts making noise.
6) Pan - Try panning different sets of vocals around. This can really help widen the vocal sound. Again this depends on the genre. But let's say you're doing huge pop vocals. Here's a strategy. Triple track the lead vocals, put one in the center, one hard panned on the left, one hard panned on the right. If theres a harmony, double track it and pan one about 50% left and the other 50% right. Now you've got a huge array of vocals across the stereo image
7) Boost The Top End And De-Ess - I love using this technique, however you gotta be very careful with it. You can end up with really harsh sounding vocals that are physical painful to listen to. So, what I'll often do is boost the highs using a shelf, but up a dB or two. This will give the vocal a ton of presence. Now, any harsh peaks in the top end are going to come out even further. So we can use either a multi-band compressor or a de-esser to tame only those peaks. That way you get the nice bright vocal without any nastiness either. Awesome!
Thanks for reading guys! Hope that helps. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and to join our email subscriber list for more free updates and mixing tips!