Vocals holds an important role across the wide variety of genres available in today's music. It usually takes priority in most songs, and definitely has the ability to make or break a song. Today I'll be discussing my workflow and thought process while mixing vocals.
Before I touch on the mixing, vocal editing plays an extremely important role in today's contemporary productions. Pitch correction, time editing and even breathe control, are some aspects I usually look at while editing vocals.
I've narrowed my workflow to a few simple steps:
- Initial Processing (EQ, Compression)
- Additional Processing (EQ to Color, Multiband Compression, Desser, supplementary compressor)
- Effects (Different efx combinations)
I find myself always using subtractive EQ first in my vocal chain. Clear out the junk, that doesn't need to be there.
- Subtractive EQ
Heres a typical EQ route I would start off with. Clear the low ends, some mids and sibilance. Why? Because I don't want the junk to affect my compressor. Certain words has more sibilance or thump to it, clearing those out will allow you to have more control of the compressor.
There are different types of hardware compressors, FET, Opto, VCA, Vari-Mu/Delta-Mu.
I own a limited amount of compressor plug-ins, but it's been useful for what I need. I tend to always come to these compressors when processing vocals.
For a full, yet aggressive, exciting vocal, with added presence. Often my first choice compressor.
For rounded, warm and smooth vocals. I often use this in combination with the 1176, at the end of my vocal chain. I feel it provides an additional leveling for my vocals.
UAD Fairchild 670
I use this on the vocal buss on most occasions. To me, it adds a pleasant warmth to my vocals, and more importantly, how it smoothens it out.
Occasionally, I would use the 660 (Mono Version) as a supplementary compressor on the vocal track.
Probably one of the best modern digital compressors for me. Super versatile with traditional controls like, threshold, ratio, envelop controls and output. Comes with 8 different styles, knee "fader", and lookahead and hold controls.
Basically a softer knee allows for a smoother transition from uncompressed to compressed, compared to a harder knee setting. Results in smoother compression.
UAD Dbx 160VU
Honestly, my favorite drum smasher. But I sometimes use it on heavier styled vocals as well, to bring out a gritty, warmer punch to the vocals.
Multi-Band Compressors (Fab Filter MB)
This will appear in my vocal chain if I find things getting too mids heavy and over sibilant.
UAD Pultec EQ-1A
Always the last few in the chain, polish things up with that little shine, or extra meat.
I always have more than 1 EQ happening in my vocal chain, each doing a little something as I move along.
Nothing is complete without soundtoys. Microshift is basically a widener, emulates the classic H3000. I would play around with different combinations, like alterboy(lowering it's formant, then adding distortion) or echoboy(delay) to panman(left, right auto panner), reverbs to distortion, echoboy to tremolos etc. Of course, this is only done, when the music calls for it. If theres no need to, my suggestion is to leave it alone!
Below are 2 examples of a lighter, mellow vocal performance and a heavier more aggressive performance. Both are from amazing artist, Gadee and Locations. Show them some love!
Both following the same kind of workflow.
- Initial Processing
- Additional Processing (EQ To Color, Multiband, Supplementary Compression)
Quiet Song By Gadee (https://gadeemusic.com/)
Factors I tried to achieve
-Maintain and enhance it being in the fore front.
-Keep it lightly compressed
-Keep it as acoustically natural as possible
Heavy Denim By Locations (https://www.locationstheband.com/)
Factors I worked on:
-Dirty, gritty sound
-Using effects to thicken the vocals
Of course, one of the most important thing is to mix the vocals in context to the music! That should always be the number one priority!
Thank you so much for taking your time to read about my thoughts on vocal mixing! Please also do take the time to check out Gadee, and Locations! They've got great music, and were amazing to work with!