Vocals are one of the main parts of a song.
For this reason, you have to give them maximum attention.
Unfortunately, they are not always easy to mix; in fact, depending on the genre or mood you want to follow, the techniques and/or plug-ins you need to use can change.
But, there are some best practices that you can use to get a good starting point on which to then go on to develop and characterize your vocal.
Below I have collected the ones that I consider essential:
First of all, start with equalizing your vocal.
I usually follow these three steps:
Cutting the low-end: You can do this by inserting a high-pass filter around 100-150 Hz. This will remove most of the background noise. Obviously, depending on the vocal, it will be up to you to decide what frequency you will have to cut.
Cutting the excess frequencies: Your vocal can be too muddy; you can solve this problem by finding and removing the “annoying” frequencies, which are generally between 2 and 5 Khz.
Boosting high-frequency: Use a small bell-curve from 6 to 10 Khz to give more “airness” to your vocal.
Compression serves to smooth out the dynamic range of your vocal, allowing it to maintain a constant level and provide it with volume.
But, before using the compressor, you better attenuate the sudden changes in volume within the vocal track manually.
To do this, you need to set an automation on the audio of the channel.
In this way, the compressor you will insert later will be able to work at its best.
To avoid crushing the vocal too much, I recommend that you use these parameters as a starting point:
- Ratio 2:1 or 3:1
- Attack time of 10-15 ms
- Release time of 50-60 ms
Then adjust the threshold according to the gain reduction you want to get.
Saturation adds harmonics, presence, and character to your vocal.
It will also make it easier to listen to it on small speakers like laptops, headsets, and phones.
If you want a more aggressive sound, try using parallel processing to apply larger amounts of saturation.
Parallel processing consists of mixing the channel of the original source (in this case, the vocal) with another channel, which contains the original source, but processed (in this case, with a saturator).
This way, you will give your voice power and strength without affecting the original source.
Experiment with mixing the main vocal channel with the processed channel to get the effect you prefer.
A small reverb adds breadth and depth to the vocal and helps it fit better into the mix.
Keep in mind, though, that reverb tends to move vocals further back in the mix.
To avoid excess reverb and create too much “confusion” in the track, use a short decay time (usually, I tend to ensure that the reverb of a phrase never overlaps the next one).
Then use the mix to set the amount of reverb you want.
As with saturation, you can also use parallel processing in this case.
This way, you will get the same effect, but without making the voice lose too much force or presence.
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