How to Mix Vocals (Part 1)
We’re going to talk about mixing vocals using some really simple techniques. We’re going to mix in Pro Tools today. You don’t have to spend any additional money, just getting the most standard Pro Tools.
Like here, we’re using a laptop, and even just using the in-built IO that comes with Pro Tools, not even using an M-Box or anything else. Some very, very simple stuff using the plugins that come with it. Just compression, EQs, delays, and reverbs that are built in.
This is a song by an artist called Chase that starts off with some very simple acoustic elements and acoustic guitar, and a mandolin, and eventually builds up to some live drums on the outro chorus.
So you’ll see how we just do some very simple techniques, just to let that vocal sit in the mix.
So let’s get started!
Now, as you can see and hear…
There’s a little unevenness there. You know, some of the words here…
A little lost in the mix.
So that’s why we use compression!
So let’s just put some gentle compression on there. I love this 1176 plugin that comes as standard with Pro Tools. It’s a great plugin.
First thing I do is always put the release to the full right, so it’s quite fast and doesn’t hold on to a note for too long, because if you grab onto a note for a long, long time, it can feel choked.
So that means as soon as — as quick as the peak has gone, it will release and not continue to compress for a longer period of time.
So let’s have a listen.
[mix, compression on vocals]
You can see and hear what it’s doing.
It’s really just compressing that first peak there and allowing this little piece here to breathe, so it’s evening the sound out.
Let’s go and get some EQ. Let’s go to the seven band. So we have a lot of choices.
First thing you would typically do is maybe roll some low lows off, and see here, you’ve got a high pass filter, which is already engaged. Press in.
The low end is set to 20Hz, which is very low, obviously, but we can go as high as, you know, maybe 100ish and just cut it off there.
Now, that’ll just give you a nice, low sweep. You can also increase the severity of it. It’s at 12 dBs worth of slope. That will help just roll off some of that rumble. You know, if you’re recording with a lot of air conditioning going or fans or stuff like that, it can cause this kind of low rumble and flutter, etcetera. So we’ve done a little low rolloff there.
Now let’s do some high boost. Now, your ears are definitely most sensitive around 3-5kHz, so be careful how much you boost there, but at the same time, be aware that’s what will help cut through in the mix.
So this boost around — let’s go slap bang in the middle at about say, 4 or 5kHz. That’ll do. If we’re boosting there — this is quite a narrow Q, so let’s widen that Q here. I guess probably catching a bit too low for me, so let’s come up a little higher around here. Widen the Q even more. That looks good about there.
So that’s quite nice, a nice little high lift.
It’s quite sweet. Let’s put a de-esser on there to get rid of some of those additional esses that we just added. Under our dynamics.
[mix, adjusting de-esser]
So I’m on the de-esser now. I’m going to come down at about five-ish. Reduce the range so it starts to catch it. There we go.
So that’s quite sweet.
Now, let’s go to this lovely plug-in called Maxim. Now, I love this plug-in.
[mix, adjusting Maxim on vocals]
Take the threshold and bring it down so it starts to catch it.
So significantly more even now.
Let’s go from the chorus here. Very sweet.
So it’s starting to feel a lot more even in the mix.