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Mixing Rock: Getting a Great Vocal Sound

[mix playback]

Cool. Okay, so important things to note; vocal sound.

Now, quite often, I’ll do loads and loads of processing to it, especially when I’m doing a big pop track, but this? I’m hitting the console — this little summing console down here — pretty hard. It’s doing a lot of work for us. So I’m using Decapitator to shape my vocal sound.

[vocals play]

I’m brightening from here. Then I’m smashing it with an 1176.

[vocals continue playing]

Really dynamic. Now put it back on.

[vocal playback]

Back on.

So it’s pretty aggressive. I mean, it’s kind of a quick, be honest, a quick lazy way of mixing the vocal.

But as I said, this song came about with being written and recorded as we were going. You know, I was adding guitars, adding a keyboard part, putting the drums down. All starting essentially from a loop.

So there’s some fun stuff going on, but essentially, not a lot going on in the vocal. I’m going through a stereo channel here, because there’s a whole bunch of gang vocals about to come in on the chorus. The vocal is doing very, very — I’m doing very little to the vocal. Just a Decapitator, and I’m slamming the heck out of it with an 1176 plug-in.

So I’m letting the Cadac do a lot of work, because I’m hitting it super hard. It’s got transformers in it. This is one of those instances where the “summing mixer” is doing a lot of work that I find pleasing.

Now, there’s a lot of summing — hi-fi summing mixers out there. I’m not a fan of them, I’ll be honest. I feel like if I’m going to sum, I want it to be colored. I want it to add distortion, I want it to add transformers, I want a lot of wrongness going on.

Otherwise, I’m just going to mix in-the-box, and I’m going to use some really cool plug-ins. Andrew Schoeps mixes in the box, and he has some really cool transformer based and tape saturation plug-ins. You can just use those, and to be honest, they’re more controllable, I can do more subtlety with it than just buying a $3,000 generic summing mixer.

That to me does not seem like a good use of my money. But if I am going to do something like I am here, where I’m taking a “pop song,” and my version of this pop song is to dirty it up and make it more like a Rock n’ Roll band playing it, that’s why I like using the Cadac.

Now, each to their own, but that works for me, and that’s the reason why I’m using it.

So you’ll find that this vocal is doing — you know, I’m not doing much to it. It’s just really hitting the console.

[vocals play]

And there’s no effects in the verses at all.

[mix plays]

Dry as a bug.

However, when the chorus comes in, it’s a whole different thing.

So here’s my chorus.

[mix playback]

A lot of vocals.

We’re using our friend Chris Lord-Alge’s plug. Pretty tasty. Take it off…

[vocal playback]

It’s a pretty tasty plug-in when you’re doing things like this. You’ve got a lot of vocals, because this is me, my old engineer, and the singer going into a room — like you can see, it says W and Phil and Gang, the three of us. We’re singing harmonies and everything.

[vocal playback]


Pretty remarkable what it’s doing. So let’s just listen down and you’ll see all of the parts. There’s a lot.

Now, you could bounce this to a stereo. You don’t have to do it all separately.


So that’s the lead singer doing a harmony. A third and fifth.

[vocal harmonies]

That’s three of us together.

So that’s the main vocal. Just a gang vocal, three of us.

[gang vocal plays]

Now highs.

[high vocals play]

Sounds like emo music.

[low vocals play]

So these are the low gang vocals.

[high vocals play]

This is all of us just doing it.

So that’s most of the vocals. Put them all together…

Then we’re adding Chris’ plug-in.

[gang vocals play with effects]

The pitch is the same. It hasn’t been turned on. The delay effect is on.

[gang vocal playback]

So what we’ve done is we’ve got a little bit of bass boost, a lot of treble boost, some compression spank.

[gang vocals play]

Take that off, it makes a huge difference.

Treble off. Dark.

With no bottom end.

This is a nifty plug-in. It’s particularly useful on background vocals. I’ve got to be honest, it’s — especially when it comes to gang vocals, because what I’m doing here is I’ve got a lot of vocals, and they’re all going to this stereo plug-in.

We’ve got this from Chris, it sounds fantastic. I really like it. Shout out for making something quick and easy that does the job, but I particularly like it on gang vocals.

I wouldn’t necessarily use it on a pair of BVs. You’ve seen me use other things, but on a gang vocal, it’s a quick and easy fix. It does wonderful things, because it does quick EQ where it’s taking mids and highs, and he’s making very, very generic kind of ideas that work.

It’s gluing together all of these backgrounds.


Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

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