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How to Mix Background Vocals in Neutron (Master the Mix: Part 3)

Transcript
Background vocals have a huge part to play in taking a song’s hook from good to great. However, too much of them can overshadow the lead vocal and reduce the impact of the chorus.

That’s why it’s so important to get them right in the mixing stage, so that you don’t find yourself attempting to boost them in the mastering stage, inadvertently boosting all kinds of other mid-range frequencies that are already sitting just where we need them to be, like strings and percussion.

Let’s have a listen to some background vocals that are powerful, but definitely have some resonant peaks that are taking power away from our top line vocals.

[vocals]

As you can hear, these vocals are really forward in the mix, and human hearing is super sensitive to mid-range frequencies, so we have to be really careful when dealing with them.

Instead of turning down this vocal via the track fader or the input/output faders in Neutron, I’m going to tame a set of resonant peaks that are creeping up on the mid-range.

Here’s a preset that I came up with, and I want to walk you through it.

First, I’ve got a very steep slope to clear any mud from this vocal that might interfere with more important low frequencies elsewhere in the mix. Second, I placed dynamic node number one at around 400 cycles. This is lightly compressing what looks to be the fundamental frequency.

Dynamic node two has been placed at around 900 cycles, and it’s compressing fairly hard, because this resonant peak is really aggressive.

Dynamic node number three is set to around 1,500 cycles, taking care of frequencies that are also causing treble. Node number four is dipping information at around 2,500 cycles, but not as aggressively as the dynamic nodes. That’s because I’m hearing fewer problems here.

Finally, I’ve got a shelf EQ cutting some extreme highs that might be taking away from the lead vocal. I’ve also got compressors in series, and these are further taming this vocal.

Let’s do a big before and after. So here’s before and after in the vocal, and then I’ll do a before and after of the entire mix.

So here’s without any Neutron processing on that background vocal.

[vocals, no processing on background vocals]

Here’s after.

[vocals with processing]

Here it is in the mix.

[mix]

So now that I’ve solved the sibilance issues in the vocals, I’ve cleared up the low end muddiness, and I’ve taken care of harsh mid-range frequencies, I’m ready to take my track to the next level in mastering.

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