Vocals in the mix

Hey everyone

Im not looking for specific settings but really advice on approaches here but…

What methods do you try to fit your vocals in the mix?

The vocals in a lot of my mixes seem like it “doesnt belong there”…like someone played a backing track and someone just sang into it…

I’m messing with the EQ and compression and reverb but with so many variables…its frustrating. Im even looking at if the backing instruments are too panned out and there is a huge gaping hole in the middle for the vocals…who knows

From a logistics point of view I need some direction.


pan the vocals on the center. on eq, use a spectrum analyzer (try voxengo span) then see what frequency does the voice peak. then cut the frequencies that does not peak try cutting the bass at around 100hz. on reverb… addinig it makes the voice far. this is what I do, well I’m still learning at this process (eq) but had great results. hope this helps…


Seems to me often enough the problem has to do with the other instruments. Make space for the vocal - this is a matter of arrangement as much as or more than a matter of EQ, IMHO. Think about what is competing with the vocals, and then think about what the song minimally needs, and then eliminate stuff, or at elast turn it down in the mix.

Also, home recordists like most of us here tend to use way too much reverb.

Well looks like I got it

Mic placement really truly deeply matters. :p

Frustrating but like every hurdle its a lesson to learn I suppose ???

thers a lotta triks ta doin vocals rite’’’‘singin once thru a tres pricey mic fer frst vocal trak n then a cheapie mic fer a double’’’’ n delayin a double a bit from other double’’’‘n eq not conflictin wiv yer instrument traks ‘’’‘n if yer backing traks r mor reverby puttin yer vocals dry like n vice versa dryish backin traks n reverby vocal’’’‘n usin rvb in relashun ta song tempo n so if song is quicker yer want shorter echo slaps ‘’’‘n instead o’ reachin fer pluggie thingies yer mic a spkr in a barf room fer echo or use 3 ead tape machine’’‘n lotsa other triks loike doin one ld vocal in one room n second take in anuver room’’‘yer can even try puttin a vocal thru gitter pedals n amps fer effects n stuff’’’‘n try compin vocal effects returns’’‘
n usin volume envelops ta bring out nuances in vocals n specify words’’’‘n anuver trik is ta do a vocal on one trak n den speak werds softly on anuver trak n blend in wiv a bit o’ delay’’’ n on yer bak up singers stakkin da back ups n stuff loike that’’‘n choirs doin bak up can sound gonzo’’’’ :D :D

I won’t repeat the good ideas already mentioned here, I’ll just add that finishing your mix with a properly set multiband compressor and master limiter will also help in placing your vocal dub “into the band”.

i might try less reverb. i never realy liked reverb all that much. im still reeling from the abuse of reverbs in most music of the 80’s! :D

I’m still constantly amazed when I listen to Beatles stuff. They didn’t shy away form reverb they just used it when it fit or created mood for the right lyrics. They are all over the map on this stuff so don’t throw out reverb just use it sparingly…think of it they did their early stuff on 4 track! Whew!!!

Vocals are also a sticking point for me as well. Of course it doesn’t help much when one can’t sing very good to begin with. When I began using NTrack, I relied heavily on fx to cover my faulty voice and try to hide in the mix. In the end it just muddled things up even more. My approach to vocals have changed and how it ends up in the mix. Spending some cash for a good vocal mic also helps.

My maddening method is first laying a vocal track that consists only of La la la la’s, sung to the vocal melody I have in mind. I find this makes a nice backdrop for laying the first vocal track. It really helps me stay in tune and I find I’m not overextending my voice like I use to. Eventually I lay 3 vocal tracks. The first 2 are in unison and the third will be some kind of harmony track. All three tracks are recorded dry but I’ll use a slight verb monitor in my headphones to help me along. Audigy2 provides the internal monitor verb without it being recorded.

I’ll mix down the three tracks into one with autovolume, eq, limiter and compression with a touch of verb (not very much here) and then clone it so I end up with two vocal tracks (six voices in all) in the end. One track goes left, the other right and more compress and eq if needed. If all goes right I end up with thick vocal track that sits out front without having to push the signal very much and it’ll have a bit if fx which smooths it out.

This probably isn’t the best way to go about things but I’m getting results and always tweaking to get better sounding vocals. If I could actually sing properly life would be a lot easier here. I’m always open to different methods as I find them.

I don’t think anyone’s mentioned this yet…

I think that the whole mix needs to be approached with the vocals in mind. In most musical genres, the music is there to support the vocals.

I’m just as at fault here. I start my mixes “from the bottom” and get the instruments sounding great then try to make the vocal fit in to what I’ve created. But really I should be working towards building a “platform” for the vocals and this should be the main focus of my mix.

I’ve not been brave enough to do it yet, but I wonder if I should try mixing “top down”, ie start with the vocal and work out.

Limey’s Pyramid!


"I start my mixes “from the bottom” and get the instruments sounding great then try to make the vocal fit in to what I’ve created."

Guilty here as well.


Excellent point.
Unless its an instrumental song, the instruments should embed the vocals.

For every singer the requirement varies. Personally for me, I HATE singing against synthesized sounds. I dont hate synthesizers, they just dont reach me when trying to get that vocal performance. I’ve been more predisposed with the piano and or guitar. So I would track the basic drum loops first, than the guitar or piano and sing a comfortable scratch vocal and THEN add the layers of guitar, piano, violin, and more drums. Sometimes, by piling on a lot, I can hear what doesnt belong in the mix and strip it down and then afterwards re-record the vocals.

VatRat, I would strongly suggest vocal comping. Even sometimes the best singers are not that comfortable in a studio so comping verse by verse may help ease your tension. Also try adding a little compression and reverb to your headphone monitor mix but record the dry signal.
Singing in a studio is VERY different than on stage…even the best musicians RARELY VERY RARELY can make their studio vocal recordings sound live. Its all in your head and the energy being live cannot be recreated in a studio. Don’t think too much. Just ENJOY the process.
Contrary to what some believe, many artists, even the best ones do NOT like to hear their own voices even tho millions others do. Sounds odd but true so try to factor in that you may be predisposed to be prejudice and cringe at the sound of your own voice.

Best of luck and thanks to all of you for your wonderful advice

Well, reverb was mentioned and not using too much, but reverb can be a good thing. The deal with those “It sounds like a vocal layed over a karaoke track” is that the room the vocals are in are different than the rest of the music. If you have a shower stall reverb on the vocals with the music tracks in a large hall, well, your ears know something is up. Think of the room this performance is happening in and add reverb/delay accordingly.

I like to roll of a significant amount of bass freqs below about 200Hz or so. This keeps the vocals from hogging such a big aural spectrum and seems to help them sit better in the mix.

As for effects, the best rule of thumb that I’ve heard is to put the effect up to where you think it sounds good, and then turn it back down by about 20-30%. (Unless you’re going intentionally going for some radical sound, that is.)