Top Ten Tips for Following a Vocal Mix
1. Don’t follow the vocal!
As much as we’d all like to believe that the vocal is king, and every mix should be built around it, it’s often not the case. Many things can get in the way of hearing the vocal clearly. It’s like trying to watch a movie while sitting on the floor; you can’t help but notice other stuff more than you’d like.
2. Be familiar with the music
The more familiar you are with a piece of music, the easier it will be for you to focus in on parts of it when listening through headphones. You also won’t get distracted by lyrics or melodies that you don’t know, or find yourself anticipating where a change is about to happen.
3. Listen for detail
The things that are most likely to be lost or difficult to hear when following a mix are the subtle details such as reverb tails, delays and high-frequency effects. If there is an interesting reverb or delay effect on something else in your mix, try listening for how this tail works with the vocal.
4. Use your ears as your guide
Each person hears things differently depending on their head shape and ear canal size and
We’ve all been there before, a vocal mix is one of the hardest things to get right. Here are some tips to follow when mixing vocals:
1. Be as transparent as possible. Don’t cover up the best parts of the vocal.
2. Keep things consistent. If you do it once, do it every time.
3. Keep it simple, don’t overdo anything. Use your ears and not your eyes when mixing vocals.
4. Use parallel compression to “glue” your vocal together without losing dynamics or attack.
5. Compress with the waveform in mind and use fast release times for individual words and slow for long notes or sections that need more glue or level control.
6. Don’t over EQ unless you are using it to help correct a problem or make a creative effect choice – remember less is more!
7. Make sure to leave room for other elements in the mix such as drums and bass – they need headroom too!
8. Listen on headphones and multiple speakers to help catch problems early on so they can be fixed while doing the mix down process instead of waiting until mastering has already taken place (you’ll save yourself time and money!).
9. Keep vocals sitting nicely over top of other
When a client asks for “more vocal” or “more presence,” my first instinct is to reach for the EQ knob. I will often isolate the vocal from the rest of the mix, and search out the harsh frequencies in the track (usually between 3-5k). Once I find those frequencies, I’ll notch them out. If I’m lucky, this will be enough to bring out more vocal presence without adding harshness.
If this doesn’t work well enough, I will add some compression with a very fast attack and release (around 20-40 ms). This should bring out more vocal presence without adding any noticeable pumping or breathing.
If this still doesn’t work, then I will look at the rest of my mix. Are there any other instruments that are competing with the vocal? Can they be lowered in volume or moved to a different frequency range? I will also try adding stereo widening to make the vocal seem larger and more epic in relation to other elements in my mix.
I rarely use reverb on vocals (although there are exceptions). It’s too easy to overdo. Most of my mixes already have plenty of reverb from reverbs added to other instruments in the song (such as guitars and drums). A little bit of reverb goes
1. The vocal is always the most important element in a mix.
2. Don’t build your mix around the vocals; build the vocals into the mix.
3. Always cut, not boost, to make room for the vocal.
4. If you can’t hear the vocal, everything else is too loud.
5. Before boosting EQ on a vocal, first try cutting somewhere else in the mix.
6. Bass frequencies are especially problematic in making space for a vocal; often they need to be cut around 200 to 500 Hz and sometimes as high as 1 kHz or more on some voices and recordings.
7. First listen to the vocal by itself when mixing; this should become your reference point for all subsequent decisions about every other element of the mix — how much of it is needed and where it should sit in relation to the vocal.
8. The best way to hear what’s going on with a vocal is in mono; use mono compatibility as your guide at all times when mixing any instrument or effect that competes with the vocal for space, especially guitars, keyboards, effects and other lead instruments.
9. Every decision about every other element of a mix should be made in relation to its effect on how well you can hear the vocal
1. Make sure the vocal is sitting in the spot where it belongs. I’m always surprised by how many mixes have the vocal so far back in the mix that you can barely hear it. It’s understandable; when things are competing for space, it’s easy for the vocal to get pushed back a bit and there’s a tendency to overcompensate. But when you’re referencing another song, you want to be able to accurately assess whether or not your vocal is sitting where it should.
2. Get rid of any unnecessary reverb on the vocal. The last thing you want is distractions from the reverb tail of one word hiding other words or consonants, especially if you’re trying to emulate a particular artist’s performance or style. If a singer is singing with their own voice, then that’s something you can’t control, but if they’re using delay or reverb pedals live, then those effects should be added later in the mixing process after you’ve gotten everything else right.
3. Make sure there’s no excessive sibilance (“sssss” sounds) on the vocal. There are several ways to deal with this; one is with a de-esser plug-in (though make sure when using one that
1. Use the best mic you can afford
2. Use a pop screen
3. Treat the room with bass traps and other acoustic treatment
4. Use a nice preamp on the channel that you’re recording vocals through
5. Compress your vocal tracks (but be careful not to over-compress)
6. EQ your vocal tracks as necessary
7. Don’t use effects like reverb or delay until your vocal tracks are “in the pocket” (or until you’ve recorded all of your vocal tracks)
8. Learn how to edit vocals to fix timing issues so you don’t have to re-record anything if possible
9. Listen to your vocals in context with the rest of the song and make adjustments as needed
10. Don’t forget about the mixdown stage where you’ll probably need to do some more processing on vocals in order for them to cut through and sit just right
The best electronic music is made by the artists who know the most about their equipment.
Teachers & Mentors
* Here are some well-known and respected online music teachers and mentors.
* Dubspot: The World’s Premier Electronic Music School
* Point Blank: Online Music Production Courses
* Synth Academy: Synth Tutorials
* AskAudio Magazine: Articles, reviews, videos and podcasts for musicians, producers and DJs
Sites for Electronic Music Artists
* Here are some websites that are useful for electronic music artists.
* Beatport: The largest database of electronic music available online. Download millions of tracks in MP3, WAV, FLAC, AIFF format or stream from a world-class catalogue of artists, labels, and genres.
* SONICACADEMY: If you want to learn more about making electronic music this is the place for you. There are many instructional videos on various subjects such as Ableton Live and Logic Pro from beginner to expert levels. They also have a blog with great news and articles about the industry.
* VIRTUAL DJ RADIO: VirtualDJ Radio – Web Radio – 100% Live Mixes From DJs Around The World! It’s like Pandora but with