MIXING VOCALS TECHNIQUES GUIDE
mixing vocals techniques guide
First of all, you may have recorded your vocals, but they end up sounding quiet and crunchy.However, i can give you some guidelines and procedures to counter check why they sounded ‘poor in quality’.
1. Choice of recorder-
One of the points you would want to find out is what medium you used to record the vocals. One scenario is you may have used the normal smart phone microphone, which i must say is the last choice you would want to consider while recording since they are meant for normal on-calls conversations.
The normal phone microphone record poorly in comparison to professional condenser microphones. The latter have had in-built features to pick up high quality frequencies and filter the unwanted ones.
2. Proximity of the recorder-
While recording your vocals, how close were you or the subject to the Microphone? Being too close or too far away from the mic could hamper your sound quality.
The most common problem producers face is vocals that sound quiet… in most cases you need to be an inch or two from the mic, in order for the mic to pick up high quality sound.
3. Voice projection –
Many artists may overlook this quality, since everyone thinks they ‘already sound good on mic’… Don’t hammer me for this statement lol! , but understand it in context…While that may be true for some artists, true voice projection comes with age and experience.
Voice projection is the strength of speaking or singing whereby the voice is used loudly and clearly. The more practice you build on your vocals the better they will be. Breathing technique is essential for proper voice projection.
In good vocal technique, well-balanced respiration is especially important to maintaining vocal projection. The goal is to isolate and relax the muscles controlling the vocal folds, so that they are unimpaired by tension. The external intercostal muscles are used only to enlarge the chest cavity, whilst the counter-play between the diaphragm and abdominal muscles is trained to control airflow.
4. State & setup of the Fl Studio app or DAW –
Before any recording takes place you need to establish whether the Fl studio app or any DAW for that matter was set-up properly. By this you need at least ensure you choose the right drivers for the recording.
In fl studio, ASIO4ll v.2 is one of the most reliable free drivers to record with among others. Also ensure you set up a separate mixer channel solely for vocals to sit in.
You do not want to assign vocals on the same mixer channel with the other instruments which may consequently, cause clashing and frequencies conflicting.
Moreover, make sure the master channel is free from unwanted plug-ins that would hamper your vocals recording professionally. If you must use some vocal plug-in prior to recording, sparingly use delay/reverb, Compressor, de-ssers and limiter if need be.
5. Use a Mixer bus –
A mixer bus is a channel that receives several channels that are assigned to it, to which a series of plug-ins can be applied.
While dealing with several types of vocals such as main vocals, Ad-libs and lowers tones. It is important to apply them to a grouped mixer bus.
Firstly, you need to have each type of vocal assigned on its own mixer channel, and then assign them all to one Mixer bus for common processing. As matter of fact you can have several mixer buses serving or catering to different effects in a song.
By doing this you achieve a more balanced and well glued vocals that sit in well with the mix.
Post processing or post production as the names suggests means any procedure applied later on after the actual vocals are recorded. This is where mixing stage is crucial in determining how to edit a vocal(s).
Mixing includes equalization, applying reverb or delay, de-ssing , gating and compression among others.
As a rule of thumb, you must consider preparing adequately for pre-recording phase with the 4 points mentioned above, before post processing or mixing stage. This ensures you already have nearly clean and energetic vocals to work from in the first place.
For raw vocals, you would want to apply these Mixing procedures:
a)‘Eq’ or equalization which is basically removal of unwanted frequencies that may cause rumbling in the mix or addition to boost a certain frequencies, to add some shine, for example boosting the top-shelf or upper mid range for most female artist.
b) De-ssing is also important in removal of syllables or hissing words that start or end with the letter ‘s’. These could be annoying in vocals.
You could use Maximus plug-in, in fl studio and look for de-ssing presets specifically. Other vsts that i would recommend are tonmann de-sser and Spit fish de-sser; these are good to begin with. You could look for high end ones in the audio plug in market.
c)Reverb & delay is another important mixing stage. It involves adding or applying some room to the vocals to sound spacious and Delay also involves determining how many times the sound bounces back of an environment or space.
The mind perceives an echoed sound as being bigger, compared to thin dry vocals. So experiment with different room spaces and with dry and wet space percentage to get a sweet spot.
For example use Fruity Reverb 2 for Fl studio to begin with, also look for Valhalla Vintage verb, Ambience and Leslie Sanford reverb which most available as free vsts.
d) Gating is the process of turning your signal off when it is below a certain threshold,therefore cutting off noise.
e) Compression is yet another important mixing stage for vocals. It refers to the process of lessening the dynamic range between the loudest and quietest parts of an audio signal. This is done by boosting the quieter signals and attenuating or controlling the louder signals.
This ensures the vocals sound crisp and audible to the listener.
In fl studio you get fruity compressor, Multi band compressor, fruity limiter/compressor. Third party plug-ins starts with Combear, fab filter, Rough Rider by Audio Damage (Windows), TDR Feedback Compressor by Tokyo Dawn Labs (Windows) among others.
f) Limiting can also be used. It means controlling the dynamic range of an audio signal. With dynamic range, we mean the difference in volume within a mix over a certain amount of time. Limiting simply means to avoid audio signal from clipping or going beyond 0db.
With these procedures I’m sure you will find out where you went wrong or which stage you did not apply to end up with high quality sounding vocals and hope that i have answered any your questions.
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“……As a rule of thumb, you must consider preparing adequately for pre-recording phase with the 4 points mentioned above, before post processing or mixing stage. This ensures you already have nearly clean and energetic vocals to work from in the first place….”
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