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Mixing Vocals in Home Recording

For most popular music, the vocals are the most important instrument in the song. You need to hear them clearly, and they should contain the character of the singer’s voice and style. One of the most common mistakes in mixing vocals is to make them too loud.

The next most common mistake is to make them too quiet. (This is especially true if you’re the singer and are even slightly self-conscious of your vocal skills.) You want the lead vocals to shine through, but you don’t want them to overpower the other instruments.

The best way to do this is to EQ the vocal tracks so that they can sit nicely in the mix and still be heard clearly. The following guidelines can help you do this.

Lead

You can use several techniques with the lead vocal, depending on the singer and the style of music. For the most part, try to cut a little around 200 Hz and add a couple dB at 3 kHz and again at 10 kHz. In general, try following these guidelines:

  • To add fullness, try adding a few dB at 150 Hz.

  • To get rid of muddiness, cut a few dB at 200–250 Hz.

  • To add clarity, boost a little at 3 kHz.

  • For more presence, add at 5 kHz.

  • To add air or to brighten, boost at 10 kHz.

  • To get rid of sibilance, cut a little between 7.5 and 10 kHz.

Backup

To keep backup vocals from competing with lead vocals, cut the backup vocals a little in the low end (below 250 Hz) and at the 2.5- to 3.5-kHz range. To add clarity, you can boost a little around 10 kHz without getting in the way of the lead vocal.

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