Tips for Enhancing Background Vocals in a Mix
So kind of a cool announcement that will be coming out publicly soon, but this one we’re going to talk about background vocals. Now, depending on the style of music you’re working in, you may or may not have this many layers of background vocals, but I was just given these for this song and the church is going to be re-recording a ton of different layers like this for all of the songs we’re doing, but – and so when I get those, I’ll update your multi-tracks – definitely for the mix contest.
But anyways, the layers from Vic, the producer, usually come to me Left, Center, and Right for every singer or every part. So Alto 1, Alto 2, Alto 3 will all do a left, center, right. And then they’ll typically record the group, depending upon – actually, I did Vic’s sister’s record. Her solo EP, and actually, it was a full album, and for that, she did her own background vocals, and she did left, center, right for every single part.
That can be a bit crazy. Sometimes the center works if the lead vocalist isn’t singing at the same time, and so I’ll leave the center in the mix sometimes, but whenever the lead vocalist is singing at the same time, the backgrounds, I’ll automate the center vocal takes to come down five, six, ten dB to make room for that lead, but anyways.
In a situation like this, I’ve got a lot of stacks, but I still feel like I could’ve used a little bit more of a larger than life hyped sound for this song, so I’m going to hit play in solo and show you the vocalist without any of the effects, and then I’m going to bring these effects in to help you hear the difference.
So here’s with nothing. These are dry. Well, with the EQ and compression, but they’re dry with no effects.
Okay, and these still need to be edited for breaths and that kind of stuff. Some clip gain action, but you’ll get the point.
The first effect on these backgrounds is my Dimension D, and that’s just a stereo chorus type effect that’s going to add some smoothing out and some fullness, and it’s also going to help widen these vocals a little bit.
Here’s before, and then I’ll bring the effect in.
[vocals with chorus]
Cool. Nice effect sound to it.
Then, I’m going to bring in a little bit of reverb. This is nothing fancy. Sending it to the Recaste Samplicity Samples with the Sunset Chamber.
Got a nice decay to it. Sounds really beautiful. Next up, and this is where things are going to start to sound really large and hyped, in solo, it may not sound the best, but I’ll go over and show you in context as well.
Here’s before, and then I’ll bring in the effect.
Pretty sweet. That vocal slap delay is just a stereo slap adding a little bit of action, and I felt like I could get a little bit more, so I went to my delay left and right, which is essentially a couple of sets of Echoboy, which again, could be your stock delay. I don’t even think I’m using anything fancy about this, but for the delays I’m using a little bit of filtering, EQ, I’m hitting it with de-essing, and then that’s going into Echoboy, which again, could be your stock delay, and I just set them different.
The most important thing about this is that your left and right delays are different. The first delay is a 143 millisecond delay. No science to that, I just dialed in something above 120 or so, and then the second is something under 200. About 180 there. 100% wet, left and right, and they sound like this.
[vocals with delay]
Pretty cool, right? So, the thing that’s going to happen here is you’re going to lose a little bit of definition or articulation in the phrases. It’s going to kind of muddy up the sound, but it is going to make it feel bigger, and that’s what I wanted here is to make it feel bigger, and then you can do that in varying amounts.
Let’s check this out. This is the background vocals with no effects, and then we’ll bring the effects in.
Let’s get those last two lines. For the first one, I’m going to leave the effects in, the second one, I’m going to take it out.
There’s a volume difference, but I think you can tell it also sounds a little bit thinner and it doesn’t sound as big, so.
Big track like this, lots of rockin’ tracks, drums, bass, keys, everything is just going at the same time, and I needed to give them a little bit more life.
So I hope you dig that technique on background vocals.