Nothing matters greater than vocals. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking about music, voice acting, podcasting, television, and movies. Everyone focuses on the people’s voice, and it will be more beneficial if you improve your vocal tone.
You know this. It’s not that difficult once you realize the order of operations. The question is how to mix the vocals so that they compete with the quality of professional releases and productions.
People spend a lot of cash on recording gear and acoustic treatments trying to improve their quality, and that’s good. But 50% of the fight comes in post-production with signal processing, otherwise known as mixing.
14 Steps to mix Vocals
It’s honestly the simplest, to begin with, vocals since it’s the most straightforward to hear and grasp the alterations that have been made. Learn how to mix vocals by following these steps:
Step 1: Record the Highest Quality Takes You Can
The first thing you want to do is get the best quality record you can manage. That means busting out your best gear, building a ragtag DIY vocal booth when you need it, or going to the studio. You want your vocals to be average around -18dB for proper gain staging and headroom inside your software.
Do not record a take. You can loop the part of the song you’re ready to perform and then do as many songs as you can, one after the other. Your DAW will combine all the takes on the same track of Multitrack, as seen in the image above.
In Logic Pro, for example, you’ll see a dropdown arrow in the top left that you can click to collapse the click, and it will label the main take as “comp,” which means composition.
Step 2: Create the Perfect Composite Track
You don’t need to pick the best, which means you don’t need to insist on getting the best all at once. You can create a composite track; a Frankenstein monster made up of the best pieces from each take.
By clicking on a sub-track and dragging the mouse, you can select the best parts of different recordings. Their volumes will automatically have crossfade applied to ensure they blend seamlessly, although you may need to make some adjustments.
Now the top track shows Composite Tech, and when you’re done, you can click on the top-left dropdown arrow to collapse it into a single way on Multitrack for organization purposes. Now you have a better track than anything you can manage in one performance.
Step 3: Add Pitch Correction and Timing If Necessary
If there’s any part in your entire composite track where the timing needs to be adjusted, now’s the time to do it. You can use a scissor tool to split that part and then change it forward or backward several milliseconds to get the timing.
After that, you can toss the pitch correction plugin on the track. Many people use Melodyne’s Autotune, but Logic Pro’s stock plugin works just as well. Choose the appropriate note of the scale and how quickly it should adjust to pitching. Too fast and furious, and you will sound like a robot.
Step 4: Fire Up the Noise Gate
The easiest way is to add the Noise Gate plugin to the track. To find the correct settings, you’ll have to tinker with Threshold, Attack, Hold and Release.
What happens is, whenever the volume of your vocals drops below the threshold, it will slowly mute the track so that there is no noise when the way is silent. Be careful in applying for it. If you need help, click on the link above to read our guide.
Step 5: Add a Profit Plugin and Track Automation
There is no noise on the track, the timing is good, and the pitch is good. But the volumes can be very inconsistent. The singer is moving away from the mic, causing the sound to fluctuate. Now we will fix it.
Add the Gain plugin to Tracks and activate your “Automation Tracks.” This will tell the computer to automatically change the Gain plugin’s variables to avoid getting stuck with one set. The only parameter you will want to change is the gain itself, like any other volume fader. You want to automate the gain plugin, not the volume fader because you still wish to access the fader. If you automate the fader here, you will not use it later when you start balancing levels throughout the track. It’s a fancy trick that will save you a big headache later.
Step 6: Set up profit staging in full context
You can start fixing the volume of your vocals using the fader at the appropriate level for the rest of the track. You can tweak the volume and set the panning of all the instruments until you get something like a balanced song.
It would be a great help if you did this to begin to hear how your vocals’ frequency range and characteristics are clashing with other, less essential instruments. Don’t worry about perfection while doing this.
If you’re pleased with your main composing vocals, this would be an excellent time to add it to another track and remove others from the project. However, you don’t have to do this if you have a high-speed computer. Staying organized is one thing, but the main advantage is that you reduce your computer’s CPU and RAM usage so that you don’t start getting stuck later.
Step 7: Use Equalization to Shape the Vocal Tone
Now that your vocals are built and can be compared to a rough mix, we will work with individual songs, but do not single them out. You want to listen to the whole rough mix because you do everything else from here. Add the Parametric Equalization plugin to Vocal Tracks. What you are going to do now is quite a broad transformation and surgical EQ transformation. An example would be adding a low roll-off starting at about 80 Hz and reducing the volume to 20 Hz. This will eliminate humming, mic-stand noise, air conditioner rumble, plosives, etc.
You will also want to hear specific problems. You have a faint or loud voice, which means you can use a wide cue and lower the volume by about 5 dB in the 200 Hz to 500 Hz range to correct it. Find the problematic frequencies for volume reduction, except for those high-pitched squeals called sibilance. We will fix them next.
Step 8: Check for & Apply De-Essing with a De-Esser
What a De-Esser does is detect these sensitive parts and reduce their amount. It is a type of best wave compressor for vocal that focuses on a specific frequency range. The simplest way to find them is to activate another EQ plugin and do a tight cue, a 10dB boost sweep, until the loud noise worsens.
We do this with De-Esser and not the eq plugin because De-Esser only lowers the volume of these frequencies when they get too high and doesn’t touch them otherwise. An EQ will reduce this for the length of the entire track, even if it’s not problematic for us, which is terrible.
Step 9: Apply Vocal Compression
This step will take the most significant leap forward in professionalizing your vocals. But all the cleanliness and balance had to happen first. We are supposed to use a compressor, and you don’t want horrible noise or frequencies to trigger the compressor. So, we removed them first.
Simply put, what we’re going to do is turn down the peaks of the wave so that the blaring parts of your vocals are less noisy (the whole point of vocal compression). This makes the quieter parts louder and boosts the average volume of the track. This will increase the intelligibility of what is being sung so that the listener can hear it better and focus on the voice.
Step 10: Consider Using Saturation & a Limiter
Your vocals should sound as professional as they are getting to the point. Everything here is the icing on the cake, which makes them fans of the sound. You shouldn’t have any crazy volume spikes. If you do this means you haven’t done your profit automation right. But if it’s only a part or two, you might consider using a limiter.
Step 11: Add Spatial Effects Like Reverb & Delay
At this point, everything is done according to your vocal track processing. Before doing anything, know that you want to do it on an auxiliary bus. It’s easy to set up but impossible to explain for each DAW software, so you’ll have to solve it yourself.
Not only will the vocal track be heard on this track, only the effect, which lets you do things like an equalizing effect.
Step 12: Prepare the Room for the Vocals in the Mix
Your voice is gone! But you may still have some conflicts with other devices. Because your vocals are most important, you want to remove the vowels from other instruments. This is usually the snare, additional vocals, guitar, keyboard, or synthesizer. You have already applied to the pan, but that is not enough.
Typically, the frequency range you want to focus on includes a fundamental frequency of around 85 Hz to 255 Hz. Then focus on the midrange band from about 1kHz to 4kHz, cutting out the wide Q ones and only 3dB reduction at max.
Step 13: Re-automate the Volume Throughout the Mix
Your keynotes should now sit well in the rough mix, with no clash of notes or distractions from other instruments. You should have great clarity with the correct volume set and the proper EQ and compression.
Keep Fr free and usable! You wish to re-automate the volume with an automation track, and I would still recommend doing this with another gain plugin rather than automating the fader.
Step 14: Mix in Your Background Vocals and Harmony
Lastly, you can have background vocals, ad-libs, dubbing, or harmonies sung for the rap. As in Step 12, you’ll want to EQ these to get the keynotes out of the way. You want their quantity to be minimal as well.
Maybe you pan them a little, no problem. But test your whole mix in mono so you can tell if they’re still a little clunky. You want to go through steps 1 through 10 again for each background vocal. Now that you have your main vocals and background vocals wholly set up in isolation and relation to each other, you should output the two simultaneously to the second auxiliary bus and label it the “vocal bus.”
How To Mix Male Vocals
There’s a lot to process while mixing male vocals. It’s honestly the simplest, to begin with, vocals since it’s the most straightforward to hear and grasp the alterations that have been made. Follow the methods outlined below to learn how to mix male voices effectively:
1. Compile & Revise
Rather than mixing, the initial stage in the process of combining voices is editing. If you’re simply responsible for mixing, it’s probable that the artist will take care of this before sending you the session. If not, it is your responsibility to assist in the creation of the greatest voice part possible from the available takes, which is a process known as comping.
2. Fine Tuning
In certain vocal performances, there will be pitch and tuning issues that need to be addressed. While this isn’t always a negative thing, you may wish to use pitch correction software. Once you’ve applied pitch correction, it’s a good idea to commit or print the effects to bring the new audio into play and conserve processing power for mixing.
3. Gain Staging
Vocals are often considered to be among the most dynamic components in a musical mix. However, since they are one of the most significant aspects of a song, they must be kept under control. When attempting to tame a dynamic recording, it is important to first bring the clip gain into a healthy ballpark in order to prevent audible pumping effects caused by too much compression.
4. Subtractive EQ
Now that the foundation has been fine-tuned, it’s time to start concentrating on the tonal aspects of the voice. The first step is to remove any problematic frequencies from the mix. In most cases, this comprises an excessive amount of low-end buildup due to the proximity effect, as well as any harsh frequencies that were picked up during the recording.
5. Additive EQ
Now that you’ve fixed any troublesome frequencies in the voice, it’s time to start incorporating some personality into the performance. For example, it’s typical to use a strong bottom end when mixing hip-hop vocals to give them a feeling of strength, to enhance the middle when mixing rock vocals to assist them to cut through a thick mix and to boost the high end when mixing pop vocals effect to give them a sense of presence.
Just be cautious when boosting frequencies between 2 and 5 kHz; you don’t want to introduce any more harshness into the mix.
These Vocal Mixing Techniques Are All You Need
Most of it is extremely simple. There are some steps where you may need a little practice and study, such as equalization and compression. But you will come to know about it in no time.
Remember, this is an art and a science, and no one learns or masters it in one sitting. As time goes on, your mics will get better and better, and your ears will start training. Now that you know how to mix vowels, all that’s left is to do it over and over again and get better. But you would already have great results, much better than you already have without this guide.
This is the way how to mix vocals. If you’re deeper into your vocal mixing chain, with lost perspective, move on to some more ‘mechanical’ editing work that needs to be done. Changing activities is extremely helpful for a mixed mind, and it will allow you to do some of your best work. You can also improve your vocal pitching with singing exercises.