How to Mix a Rap Vocal Recorded on a Mountain
So you might have caught Harvey J’s video where we’re recording on a mountain top. There’s a moment in that video it says, “Magic button on.”
So I want to discuss what the magic button is. It is a process called mixing, and it’s not just one button, it’s a whole series of things that come together to make the vocal go from sounding raw to sounding polished and exciting and blending with the track.
So I’m going to give you a little bit of the raw vocal here.
Not bad for recording it out in the middle of the wilderness there. But the first thing that you would hear is the pitch correction — the auto-tune. I’m just using Waves Tune here, but basically the way you do it is you find the key of the record — in this case, it’s C# minor, then you hard tune it. You make it so that the pitch gets locked in really tightly.
And that’s where those roboty artifacts kind of come from. Next thing I do is just get out the low end rumble.
Then I do some tonal correction. So you know, right now it sounds a little bit like there’s too much of that fluffy mid-range, that sort of darker, fluffy mid-range. I want it to pop a little bit more and I want it to be a little more evened out.
So here’s the before and then after.
[vocals, before and after EQ]
And that process — you see this in the video too, actually, it’s a little bit of what’s called saturation, and I’m doing a pretty big treble boost here, because that dynamic microphone is pretty dark. It doesn’t have a lot of top end.
So I’ve got the treble turned way up, and then an EQ where I’m taking out just about 1kHz where there’s sort of this kind of nose tone that I don’t really like, and also, 2.8kHz, where there’s this sort of harsher tone that I don’t like.
So when it all comes together, it ends up sounding nice and smooth and even and vibrant.
Then I compress it, and what that means is I even out the dynamic range. It basically makes the quieter parts louder so that everything stays above the record and can be heard nice and clearly.
[vocals, with compressor]
And a de-esser, and what that does is when you hear the word “she,” it keeps that “sh” from being overwhelming.
[vocals, without and with de-esser]
Then here’s how it all sounds in the record.
Once I’m happy with the settings, I’ll commit them, and for the quieter spots that are still a little bit low, I’ll just highlight them, gain them up so they become a little louder.
And then I’ll add a couple of echoes, or what’s called delays, one being a quarter note rhythm, so it’ll be like, [emulating delays], and then one would be an eighth note delay, which would be like, [emulating eighth delays], so it’s like a double time kind of feel.
I’ll tuck the two in and blend the two together, and it sounds like this.
And then a little bit of reverb at the end.
So I hope you like what you saw. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more ridiculousness from me and Harvey. We’ll see.
Anyway, take care.