Mixing Vocals In 4 Easy Steps

Mixing Vocals

Mixing Vocals

In the past few days I’ve been getting questions from some of the blog readers asking me how to do certain stuff in FL Studio. The info I share on this blog is what’s called “concise guides” to music production. Meaning, all the tutorials will work in any reputable music software.

If you want to learn how plugins work in your software then simply read the manual. Once you know the theory then you can read my blog to learn real-world and more practical advice.

Now that we’ve cleared all that let’s move on to mixing vocals. But before you can start mixing make sure you’re vocals are recorded well because some problems cannot be fixed in the mixing stage.

Step 1 – Clean The Vocals

Before you can start any processing for your vocal parts you 1st need to make sure they’re clean. You can do this process manually by cutting out all the quiet parts or by using a Gate processor.

The goal is to remove any noise where the vocalist is not singing or rapping. If you find some parts that are louder than others then manually edit those by making them same volume as other vocal parts using gain riding then the compressor will take care of the rest with ease.

Step 2 – How To Eq Vocals

The eq is the most important tool when it comes to mixing vocals. 1st thing you need to do is find where your vocalist is more dominant in the frequency spectrum. Once you found that then you choose which frequencies are you going to remove on other instruments to make sure that the vocals dominate that frequency range.

Don’t make the mistake of cutting out every sound, not all sounds will be dominant in that frequency range. Find the ones you think might clash with the vocals, like guitars for instance.

Here’s a list of some useful frequencies you can use when mixing vocals:

Fullness (100Hz – 250Hz)
Boominess/Muddiness (250Hz – 800Hz)
Presence (5kHz)
Sibilance and Clarity (6kHz – 8kHz)

Use this vocal EQ chart to determine whether you’re benefiting the vocals or not when you’re equalizing.

Step 3 – Vocal Compression

The key to compressing vocals is to keep the vocal performance at a constant level without ruining the timbre and keeping the vocals natural. Mixing is all about helping sounds sit well in the entire mixdown and sounds that change in volume don’t usually sit well in the mix and the compressor helps them sit well by keeping the volume constant.

If you can, then try at least 5 different compressors on your vocals to see which one works well and keeps the vocals natural. Not all compressors will work well on your vocal mix or the specific vocalist you’re working with.

To avoid the compressor from coloring the timbre or sound of the vocalist then you need to use a fast attack with a fast release and a low ratio. This will also keep the vocals punchy and don’t make the attack to fast that it ends up ruining the transients.

If you want to push the vocals upfront then add a limiter after all your processing is done. Using a multi-band compressor on vocals can change it’s character but you can also get good results with it.

Step 4 – Vocal Stereo Image

Eq and Compression are not the only processors that help sounds sit well in a mix. Effects also play a big role when mixing vocals. Use effects such as reverb, delay and chorus to add more depth and width.

Always use the reverb as a tool to move your sounds from back to front in a mix. Lead vocals won’t need much reverb as compared to the backing vocals. Pan your vocal harmonies to the sides to allow the lead vocals to dominate the center.

There’s also some great tools for stereo imaging such as the Waves Center plugin, you can use it to get a good stereo image balance. But never make the mistake of making your lead vocals too wide.

The lead vocal must always LEAD. No matter how you choose to mix your backing vocals and other sounds, the lead vocals must be up-front in the mix and never fight for volume against anything else. Another great trick is to use Mid/Side processing to fix any stereo problems.

I always mix the vocals last, I start with the music while the vocal is also playing. Once I have the music done I’ll wait a day or 2 then come back and finish the vocal mixing.

Remember, there’s no right way or wrong way for mixing vocals. Use this as a guide and if you need help then feel free to post your questions below, you know I always respond 🙂

Happy Vocal Mixing!!

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