Before the mix, make sure the vocal performance sound amazing. You’ll save time and creative energy by starting the mix with a radio-ready vocal if you follow these four simple steps.
It can take a long time to get your vocal tracks to sound right, particularly if you leave it to the mix stage. In general, mixing vocals takes far longer than mixing any other part of your album.
To prevent this hassle and a potentially massive amount of vocal mixing work, split the tasks earlier in the development process so that the vocals are already sounding fantastic when you get the mix. If you succeed, all you need to do now is mix the vocals with the other instruments and add some extra flavor and FX. We’ll give you four pointers on how to get your vocals ready for mixing.
1. Record as if there isn’t going to be any mixing.
Always try to record your vocal tracks at the highest sonic level possible from the start. The quality of your recordings determines the quality of your mix. Like any experienced mixing engineer will testify, mixing a poorly recorded song is extremely difficult. Repairing audio, on the other hand, can take a long time, and because our goal is to cut down on the time you spend on vocal mixing, this can only be done as a last resort.
The composition of a song is quite close to the construction of a building. The whole house will collapse if you attempt to create a wooden frame on an unstable foundation. Poor work by one contractor causes problems for the next contractor to solve, problems snowball, and deadlines are missed. The same is true when it comes to recording and mixing an album.
Take your time during the recording process, and you’ll save countless hours of mixing time. Make sure you’re in a quiet room that’s not too noisy from the street. The air conditioner should be turned off. Spend some time positioning the microphone in the best possible location in the room, away from any early reflections. Adjust the preamp gain to achieve a good balance of volume and headroom. At a competent stage, you don’t say things like “We’ll fix it in the mix.” Why waste two hours repairing a mix that can be re-recorded in less than five minutes?
2. Pre-Process Audio Before Entering Your DAW
The one thing that everybody is afraid of is commitment. Engineers who have had to commit signal processing to tape as a child are more familiar with the idea of committing to specific sounds than those who are new to the recording industry. Committing audio processing on the way into your DAW has the advantage of saving time and CPU power.
Knowing that you won’t be able to switch out signal processing chains after you’ve captured vocals encourages you to slow down and think about what you’re doing. Tracking vocals in this manner takes a little more time up front, but the time you save when mixing is well worth it. It’s better to think of it as a time investment rather than an outlay of cash.
Jacquire King, the mix engineer, employs a method of recording that Graham Cochrane of the Recording Revolution explains in a YouTube video titled “Why The Pros Don’t Rush Recording.” King puts his vocals through three separate preamps and pays close attention to how they work with his source. He chooses the best preamp and then goes on to selecting a compressor, all while paying close attention to the sound. This is a time-consuming recording process, but once you start mixing, it saves you a lot of time.
This track’s input should be set to the input on your audio interface where the microphone you’re using for vocal recordings is associated. If you want to record audio to more than one audio track, the output of this track will be set to the other audio track. This means you’ll have to adjust the output several times. The analog hardware emulations track is only used for baking processing into the audio signal you record to the other audio tracks in your DAW, simulating the effects of an analog signal chain, committing to sounds, and saving CPU.
3. Get a Good Vocal Performance
The consistency of a vocal performance is one thing that is almost impossible to correct when mixing. A vocalist who under delivers in their performance, regardless of recording quality, can be the death of an album. In the world of recording, performance is king. Most listeners would like to hear a great performance that was recorded badly over a bad performance that was recorded well.
Unfortunately, transforming a bad vocal recording into a good one will take a long time. It typically entails splicing together various sections of terms, and the time commitment isn’t usually worth the marginal gain. As a result, you must coax an outstanding vocal performance from your singer.
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to assist a vocalist. Put yourself in your talent’s shoes and imagine how they’re doing. They might be excited or anxious, and slightly off their game, if they haven’t done much recording before. When they walk into your studio, simply being friendly and accommodating will help put them at ease and lead to a better result.
Giving younger vocalists advance notice to practice before their recording session will save everyone time and effort; you’d be shocked how many new singers don’t think to do so. They should have their lyrics memorized at the very least so that they can concentrate on the nuances of their phrasing and performance.
When I record a new artist, I send them a one-page PDF with studio rules, tips for getting ready for their session, and a quick rundown of the recording process. It alleviates some of the stress that comes with recording in a new location and guarantees that the majority of sessions go smoothly. Artists know what to expect when they come into my studio, so we can get right to work. This not only improves vocal performance (which cuts down on mixing time), but it also cuts down on recording time.
4. Use Pitch Correction…In Moderation
Trying to get an out-of-tune voice to push the song’s emotion and stay in the mix can be difficult, so investing some time in pitch correction during the development stage is a wise investment. On the other hand, you might spend endless hours attempting to perfect each syllable, but the return on your time investment will eventually become negligible. You can often get away with applying limited pitch correction depending on the type of the song you’re working on and the vocalist’s abilities.
Pitch correction can be applied to a vocal performances in two ways. The first method entails making minor tweaks here and there to correct pitch drift and modulation. The second approach entails using Waves Tune Real-Time as an effect and slamming your vocals through the plugin to achieve the T-Pain sound.
When using pitch correction as an effect, I find that cleaning up a vocal performances with light pitch correction before running it through a second plugin that applies heavy pitch correction makes the second system work better. Trying to get one instance of your pitch correction program to work as a cleanup tool and a hard-tuned effect at the same time can be time-consuming and frustrating; it’s best to break this processing into two separate stages.
As you can see, the first step in preparing your vocals for mixing is to record them. It’s critical to develop an effective recording plan, and prompting quality vocal performance from your vocalists will make all the difference. Using successful pitch correction solutions cuts down on the time it takes to complete the most time-consuming aspect of the vocal processing process. Keep these ideas in mind the next time you launch a project with vocals, and you’ll be working with great-sounding sources when it comes time to mix.