background vocal tips

hi everyone

im going to track some background vocals…harmonies and ooh and ahhhs

does anyone have tips about compression, eq,etc to blend those bg vox into a silky almost pad-like ambience complementing my lead vocals? not too disimilar with a muffled piano…it has some high eq but reduced mids and possibly boosted lows to get detail but not stealing the spotlight of the mix if you get what i mean

thanks all

Check out Jezar’s How to mix a pop song from scratch article

IIRC he has some wise words on BVs (as well as many other things audio). Used to hang here many years ago I understand.

that was a great tip…thanks for the gem of a link

exactly why i keep coming back here…you guys are a wealth of info


1. sing it like you want it to sound; if you want it to sound silky, sing it silky.
2. self compress; adjust your distance from the mic as you oooh or ahhh; sing each harmony part in the same strength.
breathe at the same place on every phrase. *if a word at the end of a harmonized phrase ends in a hard letter like, say a “t” only pronounce it once. That way all three harmony voices end on one “t”! nice and tight
3. when you’re done singing, very little compression, roll off most of the bottom, add maybe as much reverb as you can pile up on an eyelash.

If you’re a hack like me, mfl’s point 2 2/3 (the hard letter bit) is very important, but thankfully easily fixed with volume envelopes :)


Reverb helps too.
Fiddling about (technical term :) ) with the early reflections can put the backing vocals “behind” or “above” the main vox.
You will be able to hear when you hit the sweet spot.


Pitch correctors like G-snap are the cats pajamas for folks who don’t have perfect pitch, and who are recording harmony voices one at a time. Pitch correct each harmony track before the next track is recorded. The harmony will be tighter sounding, AND later tracks will need less correction, because earlier pitch errors won’t throw you further out of whack.


EDIT: A couple of pointers on using G-Snap:

(0) If the singer is WAY off pitch, you won’t be happy with the results even if you perform pitch correction. There will be all kinds of unnatural sounding artifacts if you push G-Snap to make big corrections.

(1) Vocal parts have to be completely isolated. Suppose that you record a singer playing a guitar using two mics, one for guitar and one for vocal, and the guitar mic picks up some of the vocal. When you run G-Snap on the vocal track, and then play both tracks back together, you will get phase cancellation between the main vocal and the unaltered vocal bleed in the guitar track. So if you hear a phasing/chorusing sound, that is what has happened.

(2) I have found that it works well to use the ‘Not So’ (subtle) G-Snap preset, but then to change the attack setting to about 60 ms to eliminate the ‘Cher sound’ artifact.