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How to Mix Vocals: A Complete Guide

Vocal is the most important part of your mix. If you don’t do the right things, your sound will probably sound too amateur. Mixing vocals begins with having a great piece of recording and then you need to do the right things to mix it will.

Procedures such as comping, compressing, and others are essential to give you a good result. If you want to know how to mix vocals, here is our guide on that.

Step 1: Get a Great Recording

If you want a good mix, you need a good recording. The quality is decided in the recording phase. Good sound is 80% record and 20% mix. If you can, try some different microphones. Then, experiment with the distance and height of the microphone before finding the correct tone. You can also use sound-proof rooms for having a clear recording.

Step 2: Edit

Now that have an awesome recording, it is time to edit. We recommend editing several different parts to create the perfect performance. This seems to over the top, but it is completely normal. However, you don’t need to go too far. Of course, if you want to keep the original performance, it is also okay. Once you are satisfied with the comp, just browse and check any click or pop-up.

Sometimes editing can create click times in the edit point. If this happens, add a short opening between the clips, between 5 – 15 milliseconds. If there is any background noise between the phrases, you can cut that out. Some people like to cut out the breathing sounds, and if you choose, you can do it. But just keep in mind, a little breathing sound makes the mix sound natural.

Step 3: Get Automation

Voices have a huge dynamic range than other instruments. But modern production needs consistency. Each word needs to be loud and clear. This is usually done by a combination of volume fader automation and compression. You can turn the volume up and down by “riding the fader” or by DAW.

If you automate gain on the channel, the level of entering your compressor will always be consistent. This will help you avoid excessive compression. Adjust the gain of the gain so that all phrases are similar. Look at the channel meter and try placing it around -18dBFS (this is the best gain point). The idea here is to use Gain Automation to do all the tedious work. You can then use subtle compression to make the volume louder or even more subtle.

Step 4: Gain Staging

If you automated the gain, it should already sit in 18dBFS. It is now the time to add a gain plugin at the beginning of the plugin chain. Adjust it until the voice is sitting at about 18 dBFS.

Step 5: EQ

Many people do not know if EQ is used before or after compression. First use EQ to delete any annoying elements. Then, then add one to shape the tone. In this way, the compressor will not exaggerate any ugly things, nor will you mess your tone adjustment.

We recommend using multiple compressor series. The key is to experiment and try to arrange the order. Use EQ to cut out any horrible room resonance.

Step 6: Compressor

We mentioned the first compressor before. You can use compressing to increase compression in several phases. This is called “serial compression”. Instead of using a single compressor with an aggressive setting, you can use 2 or 3 using subtle settings. The final result is more subtle. Sometimes, heavy compression is very good (for example, in the iron and metal), but most of you want it very transparent. The goal of the first compressor is to shape the tone.

This is how to mix vocals. If you have gone this far and applied the steps correctly, you should already have a great piece of mix in your hands. There are still some optional steps like de-esser and others that you can apply.

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