A vocals mixing question

Many (like 20) years ago, for a short time, I opened up to questions on my site and people would email me stuff…I have just a couple of those that haven’t been lost and here’s one…


…you know how some CD’s are mixed so that the singer’s voice sounds “farther away” from your ears with the headphones on? and some sound very up close and in your face? well basically, my voice sounded way to up close and i was wondering how to get it to sort of blend in better with the rest of the mix. this may be a silly question but like i said, all of my recording so far has been instrumental so i havent had to worry about it so much, and of course i am self concious about my voice right now. i dont think its simply the recording level, because that just makes the sound quiet, but doesnt change the sound in the audio field. so is it a question of mic type or placement? or of how it is mixed? or some other professional equipment effect that i dont know about? i would love to hear your thoughts on this!


Actually this can be a tricky thing for me too. You’d be surprised that sometimes it really is level…try lowering the level on the vocals. Also yes mic placement is important. You definitely get a different sound if you stand farther away. 1,2,3 feet and even farther are all different distances I’ve used. Also, reverb can be what you’re looking for. If you try adding a little more reverb and and less of the dry vox in the mix, it tends to sound “farther” away. Sometimes maybe even eq will help you here (with eq on vox I almost ALWAYS roll a little low end off, give it a little extra hi-mids and a tiny bit more high end). Sometimes I try making the vox a little thinner. Sometimes I try the opposite of what I’m thinking, and that sometimes helps. Try doubling up the vocals. (doubling up sometimes cuts through my self consciousness too…don’t do it unless appropriate though)…tweak a lot, try all the things you can think of…also compression…technically, compression will do the opposite of what you’re asking, but compressing the vocal is so common, that to your ear, it’s gonna’ sound more like a finished recording and thus less like naked vocals…at least that was true in my mind on a number of occasions.. Watch out for your self consciousness though. You could be getting mixes that are perfect, but sound WAY out front to you, because you’re scared (let other people hear the mixes…I try to have one or two very select people in the room with me mixing, or at least have them listen later). I always take what the vocalist tells me about the mix with a grain of salt. They (vocalists) almost always bury their vox. You should definitely try things out…try way too much reverb and not enough dry signal, and see what that does, etc…on every mix I’ll try one extreme and then another, and everything in between, just to see what the stuff REALLY needs to sound like. First thing’s first though, get over that self consciousness! πŸ™‚ If you’re a guitarist singing some vocals, become a vocalist too. Take lessons, if that’ll make you feel more confident (it probably will, since it’ll probably make you better). If you’ve already taken lessons, take some more. I don’t know how good a vocalist I am, but on my recordings, I am confident and do whatever I want (even when I shouldn’t probably πŸ™‚ ); one of the reasons is I took a singing class and it scared me to death and that helped; also I ALWAYS sing in my truck driving around (break the speakers in your vehicle, you’ll see *grin*) Make it a point to sing in front of people. Not just at concerts, but always. I don’t know how much of this stuff you already do, but it helps your MIXES, trust me. Also, record your voice a LOT. every DAY make three or four acapella vocal recordings and maybe even some spoken word and listen to it a lot (they don’t have to be good recordings, in fact vary it a lot, listen to your voice in lots of different contexts). You know, get real used to hearing your voice on tape, ’cause it sounds different. I’ve recorded hundreds and hundreds of songs (way way way more than I’ve released, I mean some were on a freakin’ boom box, but hey, I got used to hearing my voice on tape)…all this so you won’t bury your vocals in the mix. πŸ™‚ Now just watch out you don’t get cocky and crank ’em up too much!

An added ps: Don’t mix with the monitors loud. Vocals tend to get too hot in the mix this way. Also you burn your ears out, of course.

It’s quite alright with me, btw, if you want to send questions like this – I’ll post answers – I’m at aarontrumm @ nquit . com πŸ™‚

Meanwhile, grab some free stuff over at recordinglikemacgyver.com πŸ™‚

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