Preparing the Mix for Vocals

Before you record and mix your vocals, you need to make sure your song has room for the vocals in the mix. Looking back at the roles of each sound (from Mixing Theory), adding vocals to your song changes the division of roles in your mix. Because the vocal usually plays the most important role in the mix, other sounds have to make space for it. Here are some things to look for when making room for vocals.

  • The first thing you should look for is your elements. How is your song built up? If there are complex lead melodies playing in your mix, like a guitar solo or a loud synth melody, there is not enough room for vocals. When adding vocals as the lead element, there should be no other lead melodies playing at the same time. Only supporting melodies that do not interfere with the lead vocal melody. Of course, you can bring these other lead melodies back in parts of the song where the vocal is not playing.
  • The second thing is volume. You want to make sure the supporting elements are not overpowering the vocal in loudness. So when producing an instrumental to fit a vocal, you want to already make sure of that. As discussed, the drums are usually louder than vocals, so these can keep the same loudness, but the supporting melodies are usually softer than vocals, so it’s good to already put them softer in the mix. The instrumental may sound a bit empty, but that means that there is room for vocals.
  • The third thing is frequencies. Vocals have their most important frequencies at about 1kHz – 3kHz. This is the speech region. So you want to make room for the vocals here too. That means that it’s good to make some cuts in the supporting melodies in this area. Additionally, as discussed before, reducing high frequencies places a sound more in the back. This is usually also a good idea for supporting melodies, so they are behind the vocal.

Doing these things before you record a vocal will greatly improve the rest of the vocal recording and mixing process. When there is enough room for a vocal in an instrumental, the mix becomes much easier.