[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Rob Mayzes. For more on mixing, check out our recent #MusicMadeMe Podcast episode with producer/engineer/mixer Dom Morley!]
Mixing is crucial to getting a professional vocal sound, but it’s easy to mess up. When you first start mixing, vocals are one of the hardest things to get right.
In this article, I’m going to show you three of the most common vocal mixing mistakes.
So if you want to avoid a mix disaster, make sure you avoid these common problems!
Mistake #1 – Setting the Vocals Too Low
This is the number one issue I see in a TON of people’s first few mixes. Everything sounds pretty good, but the vocals are absolutely buried beneath everything else in the mix!
This mistake is especially common when the singer is also mixing the song.
Let’s be frank, it’s scary to put yourself out there! The vocals are usually the most vulnerable, human element of the entire mix. Which can be terrifying for singers! But it’s also why you want your vocals to be crystal clear.
With that in mind, you need to put your vocal front and center, even if it’s a bit scary.
A good way to make sure your vocal is at a good level is to check your mix against a pro reference track.
Hearing how loud the vocals are on a professional track will ease any anxieties you may have about turning up your own vocal volume.
The more you do this, the more you’ll instinctively place your vocals at the right level in your mix.
Mistake #2 – Aggressive EQ
The second mistake is using EQ too aggressively.
When you hear your own singing voice, it can be super jarring. Most people hate hearing themselves recorded because it’s not the way we hear ourselves in our head.
A lot of times, people will grab an EQ and go crazy trying to “fix” their vocal by adding a ton of cuts and boosts.
Here’s the issue…
Our ears are very, very attuned to hearing other people’s voices. Huge changes are instantly noticeable to us and make the vocal sound fake or just plain bad.
When working with vocals, you want to chill out and take an objective approach.
Before you reach for your EQ, get comfortable with the fact that your vocal might not sound “right” to you. But just because it isn’t what you expected doesn’t mean it sounds bad!
Focus on objective issues like a weird room tone, boxiness, or ringing.
By focusing on the bad sounds you can actually control, you’ll end up with a natural and pleasant vocal.
Mistake #3 – Too Much Reverb
A lot of new mixers don’t have a ton of experience with reverb and will go a bit overboard with it. Especially on vocals.
Unless your genre calls for super atmospheric melodies, too much reverb can make a mix sound amateur or boring.
Many modern pop/rock/folk songs opt for a much drier vocal sound than older recordings.
When you apply reverb to your vocal try to add enough that you start to hear it, then back it off just a touch.
If you mute and unmute your reverb, you should still hear a huge difference in the space of your vocal, but the reverb won’t be as distracting and take away from your vocal performance.
If you still feel like you’re missing a larger, or more out of this world sound, try delay.
By avoiding these common pitfalls, you’ll be one step closer to creating your next best track.
Keep these tips in mind on your next vocal mix and you’ll be mixing fantastic vocals with ease!
Rob Mayzes is a producer, mix engineer and founder of Musician On a Mission, a site dedicated to providing valuable tips around recording from home studios.
Tags: featuring mixing production vocals