The vocals on your mix should sound pleasant to the ears. Although music is subjective, what is objective is the goal that music should entertain.
Music can’t entertain if it’s unpleasant to the ears. One common problem unpleasant songs have is vocal mixing and how loud it should be.
Table of Contents
- Finding the right Volume
- Vocal Mixing Tips
- Lead Vocals
- Mixing Content
- Finding the Right Vocal Range
Finding the Right Volume
Your vocal mixing depends on different factors. For example, some songs use horns and those have a high pitch so it wouldn’t make sense to have low vocals or else you wouldn’t be able to hear the artist.
If the song has a bare instrumental, then it would make more sense to have lower vocals. Genres matter too. You can’t have a low vocal mix for heavy rock. There are different factors to take into consideration.
Both the vocals and mix should sound distinguishable from each other. But, they shouldn’t sound too different from each other. An artist shouldn’t sound like they recorded their vocals in the bathroom while the instrumental sounds professional.
To make sure you can blend vocals right, here are some tips to consider.
Vocal Mixing Tips
- Bringing in Vocals Early
Bringing in vocals early helps your mixing. This is like getting an outline or blueprint on what you’re working on. It guides the mixing process so it sounds consistent and full.
We’ve mentioned compressors multiple times in our posts. One of them, which you might find useful is our comprehensive post on drum programming.
A compressor makes sure the track’s sound level doesn’t stand out in a bad way. For example, we don’t want one track to be noticeably quieter than other parts of the track, and another part of the track noticeably louder than other parts. A compressor brings those sound levels closer to the average sound level.
To make sure you’re using the right compressor, you need to look at its parameters.
The attack is amount of time a compressor goes from zero compression to full compression with ratio and threshold
Time it takes to stop the compression after lowering below the threshold
Shows how the compression is applied. It determines whether the compression is subtle or not.
Refers to gain control at the output of a compressor.
One important thing to remember is to not completely rely on compression.
Compression won’t get your levels to what you want by itself. Think of compressing as doing 80-90% of the job while automation completes the last 10-20%.
You can use automation plugins for volume and they can help smooth the vocals out. You should look into the default automation tools in your DAW to fix your vocals.
Another vocal mixing technique you need to take into consideration is to isolate your lead vocals. And, by isolating, we mean it needs to stand out when the whole track is playing.
We won’t go into details, but here’s a great post on mixing lead vocals. Don’t mix your lead vocals through the whole process though. Mix it while having the whole instrumental behind it playing.
It might be tempting to mix vocals by itself, but it’s a bad idea because you need the context of the track.
This is similar to what we were talking about when talking about finding the right volume. It wouldn’t make sense to have low vocals in a loud track. Mixing while the whole track is playing is the right move.
This will help you figure out how loud your vocals should be in a mix. The base level of how loud your vocals needs to be is if your audience can hear it or not. Once the audio is audible, then you can determine how much louder it should be from there.
One counterintuitive way you can add clarity is by adding contrast.
This goes with making sure your lead vocals stand out. To get clarity in your vocals, you need contrast.
Producers turn off compressors to bring contrast. Turning off compressors for distortion is one example of techniques that seem counter-intuitive, but remember, it’s all about context.
Some genres can work with distortion while others can’t. Mixing is all about context if you haven’t noticed.
Finding the Right Vocal Range
Mixing might seem confusing to some because of all the contrast in advice.
You want your vocals to stand out, but you don’t want them to stick out too much. It’s similar for people who are trying to be exceptional.
How can you be exceptional if you’re following all of the standard advice? Just like any other artform though, music is subjective. Finding the right volume for your vocals is up to you.
After making sure the vocals sound clear and contrast itself from the rest of the track, everything else is up to you.
Finding the right compressors or plugins doesn’t matter much if you don’t get those two right. They’re just tools to help you get the job done.
Our advice would be to look at what genre you’re producing for and make sure both clarity and contrast are present.
Make sure audiences can distinguish vocals easily from the rest of the track.