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mixing rock vocals to make them sound big and present

Hello everyone,

I am pretty new to KTVA so I am very happy to get to know you and have some interesting conversations. I am having some troubles mixing my vocals and having them "present" in the song. Maybe you can help me :)

So I recorded my vocals three times and panned two versions. That normally gets the job done but unfortunately not this time.
I recorded again (this time only once) and tried to mix it a little differently which did not make me happy again :(
Maybe you have some ideas what I could try to do to make them sound really fat and present in the mix.
By the way its a rock song with some loud vocals in it.
I am using a Rode NT1 microphone, Scarlett 2i2 interface and Cubase (with compressor, EQ, maximizer... from Cubase).

I thought i might try to record my vocals again without using the pop filter and maybe increase the distance to the microphone?
Also what would you say is the best distance from the microphone when changing from quiet to loud vocals?

Thanks already for your ideas! :)



  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,287
    Hi Linda, of course it would be best to hear the mix in order to help you, but I can try to give you some general pointers (which might or might not work for you):

    distance from mic: try about 15-30 cm away from the mic for softer passages, and back off a bit for louder passages. it really depends on your voice and volume and style, so you need to experiment. You can leave the pop filter in place, the normal ones should not be a big deal for the sound. if you go really close to the mic, you will notice a bass boost, that's the proximity effect. you might want to play with it, i.e. move into that distance. for starters, I would not recommend it though, you might overdo it and create problems. the better your booth/room is, the further you can move away from the mic without catching too much room noise/reflections. the vocals will pop out more if you are rather close to the mic. in a studio setup, I'd say 50 cm away from the mic is already rather far for lead vocals, but it really depends, see above.

    as far as EQ, you can try this (as a starting point):

    -low cut below around 100 Hz, depending on your timbre
    -try a slight boost around 120-180 Hz maybe, it's where the main formant should be for females (not sure if that is the right term)
    -a narrow dip of a few dB in the 200 Hz range, this is where the "bucket-y" resonances are (if necessary)
    -400-500 Hz, you can slightly boost there for better definition
    - the area around 3 kHz is where the voice is most prominent (a telephone speaker is transmitting almost exclusively this range); a wider Q boost here can do wonders, but you need to be careful. these frequencies also can sound very harsh quickly; you might want to use several bands to be able to cut/boost more precisely, and optimize the curve (never worry about the visual shape of the curve though, if it sounds good, it is good).
    -sibilants are around 7 kHz, you either EQ them here, or use de-essing. make sure to place the mic in a way that you don't have to use this excessively

    as a general rule for EQing: you want to reduce frequencies selectively ("narrow" Q), and boost with a "wider" Q setting, otherwise, it will sound unnatural quickly.

    if you want to find offending frequencies, a great trick is to set the band very narrow, and BOOST this band to the max, then sweep through the frequencies. once you found what you were looking for, you can then cut the offending frequency, and re-adjust the Q. in fact, sweeping through the entire spectrum like this will also give you a better idea of what is going on where (WARNING: make sure to not have your headphones/speakers up too loud, you might damage your ears in the process, it can get very loud in places)

    As far as compression, it's always better to use several compressors in a row with less aggressive settings, than one that does the full work. Your aim is to reduce peaks without making it sound weird. Try a ratio of 3-4, and set the attack and threshold so that the gain reduction meter does not go crazy (you want a few dB reduced) then open another compressor and do the same thing again. Two compressors should probably be a good starting point for now, it might get too confusing otherwise. Compression is an art, so it is a bit tricky to give general tips. You want to level out the peaks, so that you can use the make-up gain to increase the overall volume, without clipping. You might want to use heavier compression for effect, but you will need to figure this out by yourself (Warren Huart is your friend, find his tutorials on YT).

    I hope this helps, would be great to hear what you come up with!
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    Hey Klaus,

    thank you so much for your recommendations! I am already on youtube checking out the tutorials! I will try again and upload my mix later!!! Thank you!
  • DogMeatDogMeat 2.0 PRO Posts: 437
    I have a similar setup, and definitely use the pop filter for better result (at least for me). You should experiment with Scarlets input gain to find optimal. Make sure that the recording waveform looks healthy and not clipping (volume over +0). If it does, try moving backward or adjusting the input gain + record again. I have Rode NT1, and Scarletts input gain is '5 past 12' in clock terms. You really need to experiment with this to find best combination for you. Also the acoustics of the room can play a role in the settings.
    For vocal mixing take a look at Izotope Nectar 3. That is an awesome plugin that will do all the heavy lifting for you. Costs some dollars, but download the trial and see if you like it. I did, and there was no turning back :)
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,287
    @DogMeat , yeah that plug-in is great, I have the demo, but could not justify paying for it. since it just occasionally puts an annoying tone into the signal, you can bounce several times and then comp a version of your vocals which don't have the copy-protection beep (or whatever the noise is). having said that, I did that once and then was too lazy for this workflow, but it does actually work. just saying ;)
  • samw2019samw2019 2.0 PRO Posts: 285
    Hi Linda been training not so long myself and really enjoying it , all the best with your training!

    Looks like some great ideas over here already but I thought I'd share my opinion too. Now I'm no mixer by any stretch of the imagination but that sounds like a nice set up you have for recording I have a similar thing going myself. I;m using A behringer C1 condensor mic. it's really cheap but unbelievable for the price I think. I really rate Behringers stuff!

    For making vocals more present (like I say I'm no mixer) messing with reverb, using vocal slapback delay and scooping mud out of the EQ (the lows) makes a voice stand out more giving it it's own space. I got shown recording to make my vocal more bright before doing any mixing and that helped me get mine to at least some. As to making it fatter that's not so easy for me at least, I would think double tracking is the best way to fatten a vox up in my opinion and messing with the panning. I don't really like to pan my double tracks (not sure if that's correct or not) and like to stack them down the middle, I:ve worked with a chap who panned them hard and I thought it sounded too seperated but then with a narrower panning it sounded good. But I like to stack them a la Beatles in mono which made John Lennons voice fatter and more powerful even than normal. All the best with your recording and peace!
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,287
    right @samw2019 , hard panning two lead vocal tracks will mess up your center, i.e., there will be nothing right in the middle, which is where you would want the lead vocals to happen normally. you could have a centered lead vocal (can also be stacked), then add some hard panned vocals for extra effect. the possibilities are endless.
  • samw2019samw2019 2.0 PRO Posts: 285
    @Klaus_T , the possibilities with mixing are endless it's as daunting as composing and singing but a lot of fun to get into. I've been using some presets for FX and I tired of that and I'm doing everything customized now (which obviously opens a door to strange mixes but I'm cool with that to get my own sound and every bass part for example, or vocal is different so maybe presets aren't so great in the long run). Myself I rarely hard pan vocals even harmonies I'm going to try that with something down the middle still to keep the centre. It's a juggling act with guitar music making it sound like a band and working with two speakers and having an even sound.
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    hey again,

    thank you so much for your suggestions. I finally got the time to re-record and mix.
    But I am still not very content with my results. I really like the background voices in the 2nd verse.
    But the first one is still not like how I want it to be :disappointed:
    Any suggestions?

  • doc_ramadanidoc_ramadani Administrator, 2.0 PRO, Facility Management Posts: 3,978
    Hi @Lindor101,

    wow, cool song. I like the Guitars. It is cool that they played the same chords but in different positions.

    I agree that the Lead Vox could benefit from more presence. I have 3 suggestions:

    1.) Put a Gain Plugin on your vocal track in the first position and automate it to have an even vocal track throughout the whole song. That would assure that all following Plug-Ins are "fed" with the same signal levels.

    2.) Add another EQ to do do a broad lift somewhere between 1 and 2 K.

    3.) Add a SLAP delay to create some space around the Lead Vox.

    My 2 cents,
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    thanks @doc_ramadani for your suggestions! I will try that! :)
    And glad you like it :)

    Eventually I will be happy with this song someday! Its a real challenge to mix this rock stuff with a lot of guitars!

    Also I noticed that we are Kollegen :)
    ABer ich bin noch im Studium :)

    Viele Grüße aus Gießen!
  • doc_ramadanidoc_ramadani Administrator, 2.0 PRO, Facility Management Posts: 3,978
    edited September 2019
    Hey @Lindor101,

    wow, das ist ja eine Überraschung. Wie weit bist Du denn?

    Liebe Grüße,
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    :D ja ich war auch überrascht! habt über youtube gecheckt, als ich mir dein cooles Video angesehen habe!
    Ich bin jetzt im 9. Semester.
  • doc_ramadanidoc_ramadani Administrator, 2.0 PRO, Facility Management Posts: 3,978
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    htanks @blondiewales
    thats actually really true if I think about it.
    I also noticed that there were some volume differences.
    I will keep trying to improve my mix!

    Thanks a lot again!
  • DogMeatDogMeat 2.0 PRO Posts: 437

    Good way to get a general feeling of the mix is to pick a reference song (something similar), and open it to sound editor to see the waveform. Then open your track and visually compare those two. Looking at the waveform's teaches you a lot. I also think that the general mix of the track needs much improvement, and the waveform proves the point:

    Few things i can quickly tell about the mix:
    - snares on the beginning (a sample i guess?) is way too loud compared to other stuff.
    - It's recorded (or mixed) way too quiet. Around -7db and the track (it's quite the same all the way after the snares in the beginning -1).
    - vocals don't sit the mix very well, and either is any instrument in the mix. Big reason is that the stereo image is very narrow, and all the sound are in the middle competing with each other (look at https://ibb.co/7vHZ9R5)

    What is the setup here? are your vocals on top of a) background track b) track made out of samples c) live instruments recorded?
    Knowing this is important to give advice what to fix. :smile:

  • DogMeatDogMeat 2.0 PRO Posts: 437
    Oh and i think you have a nice Youtube channel that deserves more subs. You can always remember me as sub nr 18. :smiley:
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    Hey @DogMeat thanks a lot!
    For the feedback and the compliment! I’ll always remember sub ne 18 for sure 😂👍

    Yes the drums are sampled. We recorded the guitars when we came up with the idea for the song.
    We added a lot of guitar tracks so that might also be too much and will need a lot of work on the mix.
    Also the bass is recorded as well.
    And then we recorded the vocals on top of the mix and added some background vocals as well.

    So what exactly can you see on the waveform or how to improve that? Or did you mean the volume in general?

    So you would suggest to pan the guitars more?

    Thanks so much for all the suggestions. I still have to learn a lot 😂

    Also I like your name! We call our dog „Dog Meat“ all the time 😂😂
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    edited September 2019
    @DogMeat BTW you are sub nr 19 😂😂
  • DogMeatDogMeat 2.0 PRO Posts: 437
    I'm not an expert, but there is definitely few issues like i said. This kind of "full-on" track should look more like the lower L+R on the image https://ibb.co/xzPYJwN

    That means that everything should be louder, except the snares on the beginning. Maybe they are on the bar, and other instruments too quiet. The solution won't be as simple as that, because you need eq individual instruments and balance them in the mix

    What comes to the stereo image and mixing of tracks. There is no quick fix or magic pill for that. I'm sure you would like to learn it anyway, so i encourage you to dive deeper into the topic. I recently bumped into a book ( https://www.masteringthemix.com/products/how-pros-make-hits) that is good on the topic, but there is material all over the place. Youtube is full of mixing tutorials of rock music, so those would be great starting point.
  • DogMeatDogMeat 2.0 PRO Posts: 437
    I'm sure that @Klaus_T can also give you better recommendations, but essentially it's a skill you want to learn to master
  • Lindor101Lindor101 2.0 PRO Posts: 23
    Yea I really need to invest some time to educate myself a little more and try some things 😂
  • DogMeatDogMeat 2.0 PRO Posts: 437
    @Lindor101 we all do. You have a nice track there, so looking forward hearing better versions of it.
  • KarenSingsKarenSings 2.0 PRO Posts: 80
    Linda, you have a really nice start at your recording. These suggestions are probably late and you've gone on to something else.

    In addition to Doc's suggestions, I would suggest bringing your vocal up in the mix. If you turn your volume down to a super low level, the guitars are the last to go. You'll want to bring up the vocal just 1-2db so that the vocals and guitars go out together. (And the drums up so that the kick is right there with them).This is not a big volume difference, but it will help with the presence. You could ride the fader first and see if that fixes this without an overall track boost.

    Then, when you EQ boost that sweet spot somewhere between 1-2K to thicken your vocal, you'll also want to make a corresponding cut in the same frequencies on the guitars.... just a very gentle medium wide cut, maybe 1 db on each track (and shift it around among them, so you don't have a big hole in the guitars.). This will help the vocal sit in with the guitars. Use your ears, and make sure you aren't cutting the heart out of them.

    The overall volume of this full-on track is the last thing you want to fix. Get everything balanced right within the mix first. Then you can bring it up to your target level.

    You aren't getting much chest resonance in your recording. The Rode is a nice all-round vocal mic and should be able to capture more. Try some different mic positions, maybe slightly lower, maybe slightly closer.
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