As a music producer, there’s a lot you may get away with in terms of mixing. However, bad-sounding vocals are something your listeners won’t tolerate. Vocals are one of the most essential components of the mix in most genres. There’s a variety of ways to make a vocal sound modern, rich, and professional, especially in pop styles. Many producers look for tools and suggestions for mixing vocals, meaning it’s without a doubt one of their most prevalent concerns. It doesn’t need to be difficult to record and mix vocals, it simply has to be done correctly. Having said that, in our next tutorial, we will share five essential tips for better sounding vocals.
Strive for better sounding vocals form the source
When you sing straight into a directional mic, such as one with a cardioid pickup pattern, it works effectively. However, as you move closer to the mic, bass frequencies increase. This is known as the “proximity effect”. Depending on the vocal and performance, that might enhance or reduce the quality of your sound. The sound coming from the mic’s sides will also be colored. This can happen in smaller studios from room reflections bouncing back to the mic. To find out which pickup pattern suits your vocal the most, experiment with both omni and cardioid.
Get rid of the noise
During vocal recordings, there are two types of frequently occurring noises: mouth noise and electronic hiss. Advanced tools exist which you can use to reduce or totally eliminate these unwanted noises. Hiss reduction works by capturing a “noise print” (a part of the audio that is entirely made up of noise), saving it as a reference sample, and then instructing the software to remove anything from the vocal that has those characteristics.
A noise gate could work for undesired sounds that occur between phrases, but we advise taking the time to manually repair any issues. This would mean cutting out the audio between phrases and applying short fade in/outs between them. After you’ve completed the previous steps, you may start mixing and polishing your vocals.
Control the vocal dynamics
Voca dynamics should be particularly constant in contemporary mixes. Every syllable and word should be about the same level. Most of the time, compression or gain riding effects are sufficient for this task. Also, you can use automation to manually level out the vocal for the best possible dynamic control. This will also help the compressor work more smoothly or even avoid the need for it altogether. Dynamic control is a must for modern, better sounding vocals.
Consider using delays instead of reverbs
If you listen to modern popular music and pay attention to the production, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that vocals sit very much in the front of the mix. Applying reverb to the vocal creates the opposite effect. Therefore, it’s not a great idea for an “in your face” vocal. Instead, create space around the vocal and add some stereo width with a stereo slap-back delay. Low feedback (0-10%) and slightly varied times on the left and right sides is what we would suggest. A delay duration of 50-200 ms seems to work fine in most cases.
Saturation and distortion for better sounding vocals
Very small levels of saturation or distortion may fatten up a vocal and help it cut through a busy mix. Saturation is introduced to analog recording setups via preamp gain, channel circuitry on the console, and the tape machines used. Thankfully, modern plugins make this simple to recreate in your DAW. You can also try sending the vocal to an aux channel and adding saturation or distortion liberally if you’re aiming for a more aggressive sound. Mix in the affected channel to taste. Keep in mind that a small amount makes a huge difference!