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How to Mix Vocal like a PRO

how to mix vocal

The craft of sound is an art. It has so many intricacies and different methods that we can only cover some of them in one guide. That’s why we make guides for each instrument part of the mix separately, as we know that vocals are the part to which the average listener attaches the most importance. That’s why it’s essential to do it Perfectly. Today, we will comprehensively learn how to mix vocal and explain all the steps and methods. Join us.

This guide is for producers with basic knowledge of mixing. If you need to gain the necessary knowledge, you are welcome to take a look at our guide to mixing music.

Mix your vocals in 7 steps

We have arranged for you the 8 steps in vocal mixing so that you can follow the guide and learn one after the other, try to enrich your knowledge on each of these steps. That way, you will master any type of vocal that you come to edit. So without further ado, let’s jump into it.

1. Editing & noise removal

In the first stage, after we receive only the vocals and enter into the mix, we would like to get the best source for a smooth edit. The first thing we will do is combine the takes we liked into one vocal guide, trying to get the best parts, in terms of the singer’s pronunciation, without hoarseness and with a lot of emotion. This is very important before entering into the sound itself because we want to prevent technical problems, such as hoarseness or vibration problems, which can be fixed. Still, it will take time and will only sometimes come out perfect naturally.

The rest of the editing is regular, like making crossfades between different audio parts and giving colors and names to different sounds so that everything is visually arranged.

 

Noise removal

 

The truth is that the noise filtering part is long before the mixing stage. In the recording, it is very important to pay attention to the position of the singer in relation to the microphone and to let him know that every touch of the microphone will be heard in the recording, every movement of the hands, etc.

The second part of the noise canceling comes right after the merge of our best vocal guide. We want the timeline to have only active, vocal parts, not the recording file. The reason for this is that the other parts where the singer is not singing/waiting for the song’s entry tend to have the most background noise. Also, there is no reason to leave inactive parts of the audio recordings on the playlist (just in case).

de-esser

 

Sibilance letters like S tend to go wild in the vocal and shrill in the ear. De-esser is a kind of dynamic EQ that guides the area of the shrill when it passes the defined volume threshold. It is very important to use a technique with a normal or dedicated EQ. This is one of the things we want to remember when asked How to mix vocal.

2. Pitch Correction

We have come to a very important part of the song, but we cannot avoid the fact that it is one of the most challenging/hated parts for the producer. Yes, it is Pitch Correction. 

We will soon dive into the 2 types of pitch. Still, before that, it is essential for me that you know, Pitch Correction is a job that requires a lot of skill and concentration, sometimes The sibilance at work puts us in a kind of aporia where we do things without really paying attention, and this is very dangerous for the song, as we said because the singer is the most central part of the song, we have to get it out incredibly accurate, 

try to do the pitch correction when you are not tired or stressed, and go through it more than once before proceeding to the next step.

Manual correction

 

This type of pitch correction is the most accepted and professional in order to get deep access to every note that the player sings and even to the vibration that was used in every note. This is done by breaking down the vocal into small parts of words and even letters, with the possibility of moving each part across the range of notes necessary Get professional in this editing skills because it may harm the naturalness of the song (to create a kind of robotic correction as known from specific genres) 

You’ve probably heard the names of well-known tools in this field, such as Melodyne, Autotune.
Well-known DAWs such as Cubase and FL Studio has built-in pitch correction.
This may be a difficult and Sisyphean task because we want to optimize every small part of the song and bring it to maximum accuracy.

Automatic correction

 

The automatic pitch simply strives to correct the fakes without human contact by defining the key of the song and the singer’s range, following the speed it has to calculate the changes. The nature of the changes is that a robotic-electric sound is created for a voice that will already be a trend in style, such as rap.

 

3. Vocal EQ - decrease and increase

how to mix vocal

In the vocal, we want to do 2 actions with the EQ. The first is more about correcting and reducing unwanted frequencies, and the second is more about giving character to the sound by raising frequencies that complement the singer’s voice. Let’s dive into it.

Deficient EQ

 

I like to use this phrase to describe the first step in sound treatment with EQ, which is to lower frequencies that are not useful/unflattering to the sound. The first range that we would like to cut completely with a high pass filter is everything below 100Hz, there is almost no singer whose hall takes place there, and usually, this is a fertile place for microphone noise and other noises.

 The second range we want to clean is the “box” range, which is usually between 300-350 Hz and tends to be heavy on the vocals and clogged. It is essential to say that all these reductions will be made only after you hear and feel the need.

Obviously, every singer has a different voice. There may be other areas that you want to tone down a bit. 

For this, use the following technique: Choose a peaking filter and increase or decrease it to the extremes, and go through the entire frequency range, so you can hear your favorite frequencies and those that are less as well.

Boost EQ

 

After we corrected and cleaned the sound from noises and frequencies that were unpleasant to the ear, we were left with a clean sound. Sometimes this can be enough, but in most cases, we will want to add more frequencies to the vocal that will make it shine or be fatter, wet, or whatever nickname you imagine the sound by. Let’s see known areas in EQ for vocals.

  • 200 Hz – the warm vocal is in this area. Check it on your vocal because this area varies from voice to voice.
  • 1.5kHz – 2.5kHz – the area where the voice feels more present and can help make it stand out in the mix
  • 4kHz – an important range that can help clarify singing, but it should be used wisely since it is where there is also a lot of dirt and harsh
  • 6kHz – Clarity of the sound (be careful of the letters s and sh in this range)
  • 7kHz – 10kHz – lots of jarring signals are in this area
  • 10kHz -14kHz – the area of dirt and noises of the mouth
  • 14kHz – 20kHz – breathing air and the edge of the powers.
Always make changes only according to your ear, it may take some time until you reach a good listening level, but it is necessary not to make bad changes to the sound.
In addition, always prefer small elevations over extreme ones on the channel itself. This is not good for headroom and may lead to clipping.
 

4. Dynamics - compressor

vocal mixing

After we have sculpted the desired frequency range, it is time for the next step, which is the dynamic range. In vocals, we would like to balance the ratio between the loudest part and the quietest part, in addition to adding color to the sound using dedicated compressors.

Vocal dynamics

 

In the vocal, we want to balance the voice so that it sounds stable throughout all parts of the singing according to the color of the singer’s voice, but on the other hand, we want to leave space for the vocal and not suffocate it. So, of course, everything starts from recording with volume optimized, which will give us room to apply necessary changes, but you also need to know how to use the compressor correctly on the vocals.

The first thing we need to check out is, what is the low and high part of the song, and also what is the average. After that, we will look for a compressor that suits the vocals. Usually, VCA-type compressors are very transparent and can provide us with dynamic-technical change, although the most common and accepted today is optical.
After that, we would like to adjust the parameters in the best way, so the important thing is to know the compressor perfectly. Why? Very simple, let’s take, for example, a sound that we want to start compressing from –8dB, but we know that the specific compressor is a little too aggressive, so we give the sound more spice until it starts to be compressed. The attack and the release are the same. Each compressor is based on different technology and fixed settings from the company. It is essential to know them very well.

Dynamic coloring

 

That is one of my favorite phrases. When asking how to mix a vocal, there is also the artistic interest. It is expressed at its peak in compression for color and tone. Let’s see different types of compressors and their response. 

The VCA is the most natural and will provide you with stable and good dynamic results, but let’s go to the more interesting ones.

 The optical compressor (LA2A I come…) is one of the uninspiring kings of vocal mixing due to the warm color it adds and its ability to maintain a delicate response (sensor Optical). Next in line is the FET, You can use it on vocals if you want to get an aggressive and tight sound.

5. Space effects (reverb, delay)

Effects like reverb are intended for several essential purposes. The first is to put the singer in a space that suits the character of the song. The second purpose is to connect the vocal with the rest of the arrangement in a natural way. Let’s understand more about essential settings in the vocal.

Reverb

 

We know what reverb is in general, but how can we upgrade it in vocals? Before internal settings, we’ll note that reverb in parallel processing (explained later) followed by a compressor can create changes and an incredibly unique sound. In any case, then, what is essential in vocal reverb?

 I will start with a parameter that many do not attach importance to, and that is the predelay which determines the delay between the source and the effect, which means that it determines the main reflection characteristics of the reverb, such as the distance of the wall from the voice, etc. It is very important to determine this parameter while thinking about the nature of the song. 

The second important one is the diffusion that decides the acoustic elements inside the room (high/low absorption). We deliberately focus on these because this is what will make your vocal mix unique compared to another normal reverb.

Delay

 

There is little to extend. Delay is a type of very, very slow modulation, which multiplies the original sound according to rhythm or bars. In vocals, a delay is often used with innovative techniques such as delay with a filter or in a send channel with reverb after it. Take golden advice and try to add distortion to the delay in a controlled manner.

 

6. Groups & buses

The principle behind grouping methods is to give the sound a more uniform color with more “glue” between the different parts of the mix. In vocals, this is expressed in cases where there are groups of voices or choirs or alternatively when you want to add the main vocal to a certain group in the mix so that they get a uniform color.
The way to do this is really simple. We group into one sending channel several elements that we want to combine with uniform processing (such as full drums) and use extremely fine settings to give them a matching tone and, on the other hand, to maintain the individual mix that each goes through carefully.

In sound effects, we have dedicated tools for mixing groups or buses, for example, the Buss compressors by slate digital with iconic compressors of all time.
It is very important to gain skill before confidently using this technique, as it can do more harm than good in some cases.

7. Parallel processing

You can find the rest of the advanced mixing methods in our complete guide to mixing music. Still, parallel processing and mainly parallel compression is something you want to take advantage of in vocal mixing (at least not in the 21st century). So let’s dive into it.

What is parallel processing?

 

Simply put, instead of performing the processing operations with the effects on the source sound, we multiply the sound and combine the second sound with the source as needed. For example, instead of raising a certain frequency on the EQ of the original sound, we will duplicate the sound, apply the desired settings to the second vocal and combine it.

Why should I do that?

 

1. In order to maintain the original sound. Sometimes aggressive changes to the sound of the channel itself can raise the overall volume of the mix, and that’s not in our favor.

2. There are very specific sound designs that we need a parallel to achieve with simple editing. In addition, we can make aggressive changes and fix them with aggressive compressions, and it will not harm the sound at all.

Typical uses of parallel processing

 

The everyday use is with the help of a compressor, as an example we will take a vocal that has regained some dynamic stability, but we do not want to make it too compressed, if we perform a firm compression on the doubled channel and combine it with the main sound, we can control the compression level of the second layer while preserving the uncompressed vocal . 

In EQ, we will take as an example a vocal that lacks a bit of power and a meaty sound, so instead of going to the 700 – 1kHz range and raising it (which will cause additional problems to appear in the sound during the raising process), we open another channel and even aggressively raise the frequency area on it, and that’s how we solved the problem, let’s We will take it to the next level and add after the EQ in question a relatively fast compressor, which will leave the Peak volume in the same place and give the volume in the vocals only in RMS

These are just two of many uses. In fact, any effect you can think of you can apply in parallel.

Final words

This guide taught you much more than the basics of how to mix vocal, from simple EQ to parallel EQ, simple compression to reverb compression, and more… 

If you will take from here all the concepts we mentioned (some at length, some at a glance) and expand your knowledge while combining experience and training, you will reach an excellent place in understanding sound and vocals. I wish you nothing but success.

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