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Mixing Vocals With 3 World Class Engineers

Transcript
Warren: Hello everybody, hope you’re doing marvelously well.

In this episode, we’re going to talk about vocal mixing with Bob Marlette, Cameron Webb, and Bob Horn.

[music]

So each one of these mentors, Cameron Webb, Bob Marlette, Bob Horn, are actually members of The Pro Mix Academy, which is a bunch of incredible producers, engineers, and mixers, with amazing resumes, that have all got together to give you incredible courses on mixing.

Cameron, for instance, is mixing Electricity by Motorhead, a song he produced, engineered, and mixed.

So you’re going to be able to enter and win three copies of the Everything bundle that’s got multiple Ulrich Wild, Bob Marlette, Bob Horn, Cameron Webb courses, courses with me, courses with Warren Sokol on mastering, you name it. There is tons of courses. Brad Wood, there’s loads of different guys in there. These incredible producers, engineers, and mixers all got together to create these incredible courses.

So you’ll be able to win them. Just enter somewhere around here, down below, and above, enter to win.

So let’s go to Cameron Webb first. Cameron explains how he high passes vocals to get rid of the unwanted rumble that won’t transfer from one speaker to another.

He also shows us how he uses serial compression; a combination of different compressors doing different amounts of incremental compression, plus a little bit of EQ to create an amazing vocal sound that sits in a really, really dense mix.

You want to know how dense? A Motorhead mix. This is Motorhead, Electricity, and this is Lemmy singing.

Cameron: We did two vocals, I panned one to the left, one to the right, a little bit different performance.

Let’s just look at one for a second, and just look at what did I use on them? What kind of compressors did I use? Obviously, I tracked with some compression. Don’t track with EQ. I never track with EQ. Let’s look at what’s first in my chain, what do I go for? Looks like I went for a de-esser, so obviously I was worried about a little bit of de-essing. It pops up default except the only difference is the range is usually down here when it’s the default.

Let’s just see what exactly. So it’s down there. I like the 7kHz. Sometimes I’ll go a little bit higher, just depending on — I’ll just listen. You never know, like, with this stuff, obviously, you pop in and it has a stock sort of thing. Always experiment if you don’t know. I knew with this song that’s where it was by experimenting.

After that, I follow it up with an EQ. Woah, I got rid of low end rumble that I dont’ need. Similar with the guitar. We listen to it. Let’s see what it does.

[EQ]

Okay. So that’s going to give me a little bit more space in the mix. What it’s also going to do is some of that low end stuff, you don’t hear drastically unless you have your subs going on, so it’s almost like a little bit of a safety net knowing that, hey, you know what? I’m going to cover the whole spectrum. My car stereo, someone with a huge subwoofer’s car stereo, someone who’s listening on the tiniest speaker. I’m trying to take all of those into the whole picture.

1176, it’s awesome. It’s a great plugin, I use it all the time. You look here, it’s almost the stock settings. That’s where those come up. These I adjusted a little bit just based off of what I feel is correct in a sense.

Another one of the favorites that I love, the Renaissance compressor. It’s a Waves compressor. The R-Compressor. Yeah, the Renaissance. This is as close to in the box a tube compressor that I can find.

Let’s see where I’m hitting with this.

[vocals]

I’m hitting fairly hard with a low ratio. But you see how much fuller it makes this sound? I ended it with an SSL. With that SSL, you’ll see that I added more compression like I did, and by adding so much compression, I go back and go, “Man, why did I put six compressors on something?” And to me, six compressors is better than six EQs, because you have your phase cohesiveness, and when you look at this, you’ll probably — well look at the level here.

When you look at that compression, it’s not hitting that hard. I mean, it’s hitting two little dots. That’s hardly even compressing anything. It’s so subtle.

So all of these things that I’m doing put together are adding a bigger element, maybe more like what a limiter would do in a sense, but in the box, I’m limited to what I can use and what I would normally use. So if I were in an analog situation, I had it all to a console, I’d have a really nice tube compressor, like a Fairchild, or the Altech 322, or maybe even the retro or a STA Level. Like those kind of elements would be on there to try to bring this to life, and someone like Lemmy’s vocals, more energy comes out of it when it has that push and pull.

It’s so important, that whole element. You look and you see, I put a little EQ on as well. The EQ would’ve been listening, “Hey, you know what, does it feel a little dark? What does it feel like.”

[vocals]

And that was probably an EQ that I did after I put in the track and listened and said, “Okay, how can I make this pop out a little bit more?” And I would’ve done that. You’ll notice too I’m rolling more bottom end off. A standard thing that I do.

[mix]

Warren: Next up, we have Bob Horn, and Bob is showing us how he uses a fast release time on a compressor to make sure the vocal feels like it’s up front. He also does de-essing to obviously reduce the esses and the t’s, and he doesn’t mind getting a little bit more aggressive on that, because afterwards, he follows it with a multiband EQ pulling out some of the aggressive high mids, then with another EQ afterwards, where he’ll boost some more high end back in, but by that point, it’s been controlled really nicely by the de-essing and the multiband.

He’ll also do some additional cutting on the EQ of the aggressive frequencies.

Horn: Start with the lead vocal.

[mix]

I’m going to turn the music down so we can just hear the vocals a lot easier.

[mix, quiet music]

So I have the lead, I have a doubler, a reverb, and a delay, and that’s kind of what that encompasses for our effects. I’m going to mute those for the moment and just show you my processing on the vocal itself.

I’m going to start with an 1176 compressor. Fastest release possible, and kind of medium slow attack. The fast release is going to help the vocal just pop right in front. Watch what happens when I go from a slow release to a fast release. You should hear that vocal move physically a little bit more forward.

[vocals, adjusting release]

So, I prefer fast release because it just gets that vocal up in your face. It’s a lot easier. I get that question all the time, “How do you get your vocals up front and present?” That’s how you do it. Fast release. I hear a lot of rock mixes where the vocal is kind of buried, and it’s just gripped by compression and held really tightly. That’s usually slower releases. A faster release is what’s going to get it up front.

Now, the problem with doing fast release, if you do a lot of gain reduction, as soon as they’re done singing a word, anything afterwards —, mouth noises, breaths, they’re going to come up in volume drastically. So we’re doing…

[music]

On the verse, we’re doing five to seven dBs of reduction. When she starts singing louder, it’ll probably get up to like, ten dB of gain reduction. Things like breaths and mouth noises aren’t trigged by compression. A breath is going to get right through compression, so when that compressor is done holding onto that vocal and it releases, and then you have a breath happen? That breath is now ten dB louder than it was originally because of your new compression and your fast release.

So it actually — to make sure she doesn’t sound like she has asthma, we need to go through here and use automation and kind of dial the breaths down. Some singers more than others, but you might see this kind of thing, and then when that compression releases, you won’t hear that breath extra loud.

Next up, we have a de-esser. Bypass all of these and kind of put them in as we go.

[mix]

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So all the t’s and esses, we’re grabbing them fairly hard. You know, three to six dB. I prefer to over de-ess and brighten the track later to make up for it. I just want those esses really controled, so they’re never offensive, they’re never biting your head off. You’re listening loud in the car, or if it’s a club song and you’re listening in the club, you never want to have those esses jumping out of the speakers and hurting people’s ears.

Next up, we have multiband compression working on three different areas.

[mix, vocals filtered]

So that kind of irritating high area, just taming that.

[mix, vocals filtered]

Kind of honky mid-range area, working on that, containing that real well, and then the super highs…

[mix, vocals highs only]

Almost like another de-esser, but this is grabbing more than the esses, this is grabbing all of the air of her vocal as well. So we’re just really holding onto it and making for a nice, warm vocal.

[mix]

So next is Pro-Q 2 filtering out some unnecessary low end, pulling out a little bit of kind of low mid tubby frequency area, and then I have a shelf, which is pretty low. It’s all the way down at 1,300. 1.3kHz. It even reaches below that. You know. Down here, maybe 700, 800. So this shelf is just taking from the mids all the way through the high mids and the highs and just raising all of them. It’s a nice — really nice sounding curve on this EQ.

The thing to counteract that, I’m doing that, but at the same time, it brings up all of this range that I don’t really want, which is the harsh stuff. Then when she sings louder later, that’s when that stuff really kind of comes into play, but I’ll solo some of these frequencies and show you.

[mix, vocals filtered]

So frequencies like that that we just don’t want to have too prevalent.

Warren: Next up is Bob Marlette. For the verse vocal, he’s creating a more interesting vocal sound using an Eddie Kramer tape delay. He’s also heavily EQing it and sending that into a compressor. Then, as a transition point, he’s got a massive reverb swell, and that goes into a triple tracked — I said a triple tracked vocal in the choruses. Like a Pop song, he has a center, a left, and a right, and that creates huge drama over massive guitars, because it’s a rock song, but taking Pop techniques and then applying them to rock music.

[music]

Marlette: So, let me solo her to begin with.

[vocals]

Now with the vocal, what I wanted was I didn’t want it to be very reverb-y. I wanted it to be sort of right in your face energy, but I wanted some effect on it without getting too crazy.

So what I did was I added a little bit of this Kramer slap with — and I’m…

[vocals]

I’m pushing it a little bit — I’m pushing up the bias on it a little bit, so it’s a little crunchier. Then let’s see — again, with a vocal like this, in this verse, it’s — you don’t really want it to be too big, you want it to be able to kind of have a focal point in the center, so it pops out, and so it’s — it’s not quite filtered, but it’s definitely just parts chopped off and added.

So…

[vocals]

I’m getting rid of essentially everything from 200Hz down, and then I’m dropping everything from the low lows too, so there’s no bumps or anything, and I’m giving a pretty nice boost at 2.5kHz, and then another boost I think I’m at about 4kHz. Yeah, around 4kHz. Then I’ve got a nice little bright bump up at the top.

Then I use the CLA 1176 over the UAD, because I find that this one’s a little crunchier and a little bit more aggressive, and I just like the tone of this particular version of the 1176. It gives us just a little bit more pulsing.

Now, here’s something that’s — you know, you kind of want to make that decision on — like, a lot of more alternative vocals, they’ll take up, you know, move the attack down a little bit, and the release, to make it a little puffier so it sounds a little bit more analog, puffy kind of sound, but in this case, I wanted it to be fairly aggressive, and I — a fast, quick release on an attack on it, so it’s…

[vocals]

So it just kind of pulses quick so it’s not too — I don’t want it to be too round. In the pre-chorus, I wanted the vocal to start its development, its crescendo, if you will. I added the reverb there, because I wanted that to be the sort of beginning of it flowering open into the chorus, so I added a little bit more reverb to it.

[vocals]

So it feels like it — you can hear all the delay that I’ve added.

So now let’s listen to the development of the verse into the pre-chorus.

[vocals]

Right in your face.

Okay, now here is a big one that I was very influenced by a lot of the big Pop records. When we get to the chorus, all of a sudden, we get here.

[chorus vocals]

Three tracks of vocals, hard right, hard left, and center. So when you listen to it in context, you’ve got this nice, you know, you’re coming from a point of…

[mix]

Center, still center, a little reverb… Vocals up, wide.

That’s one of the cool tricks that we learn from a lot of really great Pop mixers is those chorus vocals just explode, and they use a lot of wide approaches to the vocals in the chorus. Very important. I love how that works. Especially in the rock universe.

Warren: I hope you enjoyed that. Three different guys showing you how they mix vocals. These are really, really cool guys, and they are one of the many, many mentors over at Pro Mix Academy. Please enter to win one of three Everything bundles. There’s about 20 or 30 or 40 different courses. There’s so many courses. We’re adding to it all the time.

Thank you for all of these wonderful mentors that take part in this. Go to one of these links here, and you can win one of the free Everything bundles. I think it’s about two grand worth of stuff.

So thank you ever so much. Please subscribe, hit the notifications bell, don’t forget to enter, have a marvelous time recording and mixing, and I’ll see you all again very soon.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

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

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