1. Watch out those guitars
You got your vocals mixed very well but it doesn’t fit into your mix? Maybe that can be because of the guitar line. Always be careful when you have any guitar line(s) in your track as vocal and guitar frequencies (mostly between 1-3 kHz) can crash on each other and usually the guitar wins! There are quite a number of ways to avoid this problem.
One of the most common solutions is side-chaining the guitar as either the the frequencies between 1 to 3 kHz get heavily compressed when the vocal frequency is activated or set the side-chaining setting with an EQ to remove or minimize the same frequencies when the vocal tracks are sending signals to the chain.
Do NOT try just to keep your vocal louder or/and your guitar line softer just by playing with the volume faders! That doesn’t help at all and would just make your mix sound messy!
2. Parallel Channel Compression
It usually is a good idea to send the overall vocal to a parallel channel (AKA extra bus channel) with heavy compression and EQ and then blend the result with your original vocal.
It’s better to keep the EQ before the compressor in the chain because with the EQ you can remove the certain frequencies that you don’t want to be emphasised and then you do the compression on the remaining signals. You can add another EQ after the compression and boost or remove some certain frequencies again. In mixing vocals using this method it’s advised to move the low and smooth out the low-mid frequencies.
3. Keep The Reverbs and Delays On Separate Bus Channels
Always keep send your vocal to 2 different bus channels. One only for reverb and one only for delay effects. This would give you way more control on these 2 super important effects.
4. Vocal Gets Lost In The Chorus?
It had happened for all of us to have a great vocal on our verse sections and the same vocal gets lost in the crowded chorus section. The solution is to send all of vocal lines for verse to one bus channel and all the chorus vocal lines to a separate bus channel. Then route both of these 2 bus channels to one final vocal channel for the rest of processing.
Go to your verse bus channel and give it a light compression while you’re applying a heavier compression with a higher ratio amount to your chorus bus channel. Then level these 2 channel the way the both get the same loudness on their outputs and then you can move on to your “Vocals Out” channel for the rest of the process.
5. “Fatten Up” The “Thin” Vocal Lines
Some vocalists have a very thin vocal specially on high noted. This would make it a pain for the mix engineer to fit their vocal into the mix.
To solve this problem doublicate your vocal on a separate mixer channel and tune it one octave lower and apply a heavy compression on it. This would work even better if you slightly pan this channel and reduce the gain.
This method would make up the missing low-mid vocal frequencies.
6. Accent Phrases
Usually there are some words or phrases on the lyrics that you want them to be more “in your face” kind. The best way is to get the singer to sing those words words on a separate channel and you process them with hard compression, EQ and then pan them to hard left or right.
But sometimes you might don’t have the access to the singer to record them, so the other solution is to cut those parts from the original vocal line, copy them in a new track, can make some slight changes on pitch, formant or timing and then process them with compression, EQ and panning.
This laying have a great impact on emphasising those certain parts.
7. Reverse Reverb
On starting the vocal on first verse or after the music instrumental bridge or anywhere else when the vocals come in after a part of instrumental music, there might be an unpleasant sudden attack and shock to the audience. The solution for this matter is:
– Add a big room type of reverb to the original vocal line.
– Open a new audio track line and use your original vocal line as the input for the new audio track.
– Record the first world the processed vocal on the audio track.
– reverse the newly recorded audio and reduce the gain. Maybe here can apply a light compression on it too.
– Remove the initial heavy big room reverb from your original vocal line.
This process will give you a good “preparation” alarm to the audience so the sudden start of the vocal will not shock them anymore. Also can use this effect on bass line or any other instruments as a cool effect.
Note: this method works better on electric music. On acoustic music mixing, this is an unreal feel which can seriously spoil your mix’s feel.
8. Make It Wide
In the music with vocal, the vocal line is your main instrument and must spend the most time on mixing the vocals. One of the most important processings which must be applied on vocals is to make them feel very wide. To do so, the best way is to record the vocal 3 identical times. The “identical” ones will definitely be different than each other which gives you a strong and wide vocal as result. Keep one line on center, one hard pan to left and the other one, hard pan to right. Then hook all the 3 lines to one bus channel and apply other processing effects on the bus channel.
If record 2 “identical” lines instead of 3, then just skip the center line and hard pan the 2 lines to left and right and then to the bus channel.
If it happens that you have this single line great vocal with no access to the singer to record the other lines, then create the other lines! Simply copy your vocal on a new audio track and make some slight time and pitch changes on the new vocals and you got your new “identical” vocal line and the rest of the process is the same.
9. Use Multiple Panned Delay Units
The panned delay units are great for making a wide vocal illustration. To do so, apply multiple delay units (maybe 3 or 4) and use them with hard and soft panning. Keep The wet/dry knob mostly towards the dry side to don’t make your vocal lost in the mix.
10. Boost the High Ends
The high end (10kHz and above) the part that there is no vocal on it but all the air and breathing happens in that frequency area. A great way to use this breathing and air is to boost them a bit and also cut them wisely. It would give a new life to the vocal but be careful as boosting too much would make the vocal sound like it had been recorded through a cheap microphone and cutting it too much will take the expressions and emotions out of the vocals.