How to Contextually Bring a Vocal Forward in a Mix
In this specific case we’re going to be talking about how to keep a vocal sounding forward, but I’m not actually going to show you what I do with the vocal. It’s really what I do with a lead element that takes up the same space as the vocal.
First, I’m going to play the record.
The vocal is pretty forward. Behind that is this drone sound. I’ve done some processing to this, but let’s just hear what it sounds like just with some basic EQ and level matched to about where it should sound.
Actually, it sounds good. There’s nothing wrong with the way that it sounds. The only thing is that I would have to be willing to accept the vocal not being like right there. It would have to be more like accepting the vocal being here. Usually, for hip-hop you want the vocal as forward as you can possibly get it.
Okay, how do I do this? Well, I’m going to take off the volume boost that I I’m going to blend this little thing in in parallel.
Okay, what is this weirdness? Well, it’s the same thing as the main drone, except I’ve got the Digidesign Lo-Fi here and I’m doing some saturation and adding some distortion, which is basically adding harmonics to thicken the sound. Then, I’m taking this Waves Imager and I’m cranking it. I’ve got it really way up so that it’s no longer mono compatible. Basically, I’m just going to blend that in underneath the main sound.
What this is ultimately doing is it’s adding more presence and fullness to the sound of the drone without actually moving it forward or bringing the main content of it forward which then in turn synchs the vocal back.
The vocal stays nice and forward now. It’s a subtle difference, but I think it’s an important difference.
Lastly, there’s this reverb return, which I think adds a nice little depth and also synchs that drone sound, that sample sound, back a little bit further even in the mix while at the same time filling it out a bit more.
Anyways, that’s all to illustrate the point that it’s not always about what you’re trying to affect. Sometimes it’s about how you treat the things around it.