Vocal Thickening Trick: How To Mix THICK Vocals

Hey, this is Jason from BehindTheSpeakers.com and today, you’re gonna discover a simple mixing trick that will immediately make any vocals sound thicker. Apply this to your vocals to make sure your listeners can hear every word.

Now, before we dig in, I put together a vocal mixing cheatsheet that’s packed with additional tips and tricks for making your vocals sound amazing. So if you’re ready to take the sound of your vocals even further, click the link in the description below or up there in the video to download this free vocal mixing cheatsheet right now.

When I was in high school, I sang in choir. We had this big concert choir—over a hundred people. But most choral music is only four parts, right? We have the bass part, tenor part, alto, and soprano.

Basically the way that we would sing this music is, 25 people in the choir would take the bass part and 25 people would take the tenor part. And basically, we would divide these four parts among all of the different singers in our choir.

When you have more than one singer singing an identical part, so it’s the same performance, the same notes themselves, but each singer kind of adds their own kind of flavor and spice to the performance. So, some singers might be a little bit sharp and might be slightly above the notes more often than not, and some singers might be a little bit flat sometimes. Together all of these different variations and you know, singers, and all of the different, unique ways that they sang this identical part produced the sound that we’ve come to expect from a choir, which is this really thick, kind of larger-than-life, kind of block of sound.

If you wanna make something sound thicker, introducing these kind of subtle variations into a sound, where there’s kind of multiple versions of the same part, of the same actual notes that are just being performed slightly differently, where there are slight pitch changes or there’s slight variations, can produce this kind of thicker sound where it just feels like almost choral. It feels kind of larger-than-life.

There are a couple different ways that you can do this within the mixing process. Now, most of the time, if you’re mixing a track, you don’t really have a choice to record more than one part. Maybe the recording has already been done or you’ve been sent the recording. If you do have a choice to record more than one vocal performance, that’s usually a great way to pull off this technique, where you can actually fade in multiple versions of the vocal performance. Often these are called doubles, where there are just slight variations between these individual performances that kind of thicken up the sound of the lead vocal.

But another way that you can do this within the mixing process is by using processing that basically introduces these slight variations into the sound and then fading in those kind of variations into the original signal and the original performance. So I wanna jump into my DAW next and show you how I use this technique to thicken up the vocals in my tracks and mixes.

Okay, so we’re here in Pro Tools, and I have a track called “It Starts Today” by Leah Capelle. I wanna play you a little bit of this first verse, and I want you to take a listen to the vocal. To me, everything sounds great, the vocal sounds clear and balanced, but it just feels like it’s a little bit lightweight in the mix. It feels like maybe it sits behind everything, it just doesn’t have the presence that I want it to have in the track. So take a listen.

♪ Today I was talking to my mama, she said ♪

♪ Baby, it’s time to fly away and you got ♪

♪ Two days to find yourself a job ♪

♪ Get a car and make some money ♪

♪ Three days later ♪

So, again, it’s not really so much a level thing. It feels like the vocal’s sitting in a good place, it’s more so, it just feels like it’s kind of sitting behind everything else. It just sounds a little bit thin and lightweight. So I wanna see if I can thicken this vocal up and give it a little bit more presence so that it cuts through the mix a little bit more.

So, what I’m gonna do is, basically, this is the lead vocal track here and I have this sent to a lead vocal subgroup bus, and the only reason for that is because I have a harmony here that’s also being sent to this subgroup. So, basically I can control both of these tracks with one fader. Not super important, but you can see here, I have this subgroup track being sent to bus 27/28, and on that bus is a simple delay, and on this delay, I basically have the left side of the delay. So, this is a stereo delay set to a 10 millisecond delay and the right side set to 20 milliseconds, so there’s a difference between the delay times on the left and the right side. The right is slightly later than the left.

And then there’s this Modulation section, which basically allows me to introduce some kind of subtle variation into the sound. And so, I have a little bit of this rate and depth turned up, and you’ll notice that on the left side and on the right side, the parameters are slightly different. So, this one has a rate of 0.5 hertz, this one has a rate of 0.4, depth of 25, depth of 15.

So, basically what I’m trying to do here is create some of these variations that you might get if you had multiple versions of this performance being sung, either at different times or by a different singer. So almost like this choral effect. We’re trying to create these subtle variations and kind of blend these in.

And so basically, I have this being sent at -14 dB, so it’s pretty low in the mix, but my whole kind of technique here is just to kind of fade this in under the original until I start to hear it and then back it off a little bit. So, I really don’t want this to be something you notice, but its more so something that just subtly kind of thickens the sound of the vocal.

So, I’m gonna mute this, or unmute this, excuse me, and I’m gonna back this down, and then play the track and slowly fade this up in the mix so you can hear what it’s doing.

♪ Today I was talking to my mama, she said ♪

♪ Baby, it’s time to fly away and you got ♪

♪ Two days to find yourself ♪

So, you can hear it there, it’s obviously not subtle there and I wouldn’t have it that high, but you can hear these doubles coming in on the side. Take a listen again.

♪ Today I was talking to my mama, she said ♪

♪ Baby, it’s time to fly away and you got ♪

♪ Two days to find yourself a job ♪

♪ Get a car and ♪

So, I’m gonna back this off to where I had it and let’s take a listen to it at a more natural level.

♪ Today I was talking to my mama, she said ♪

♪ Baby, it’s time to fly away and you got ♪

♪ Two days to find yourself a job ♪

♪ Get a car and make some money ♪

So, I’m gonna play it in bypass now and flip this in and out, so you can see this mute button here. When it’s muted, it’s out, when it’s not muted, it’s in, and I want you to take a listen to the difference, and just listen to the presence the vocal has in the track. So, first we’ll listen to it without our vocal thickening trick.

♪ Today I was talking to my mama, she said ♪

♪ Baby, it’s time to fly away and you got ♪

♪ Two days to find yourself a job ♪

♪ Get a car and make some money ♪

♪ Three days later I was driving down the ♪

♪ Highway, didn’t know where I was going ♪

♪ Me and my guitar somehow ended up in L.A. ♪

♪ Hey ♪

So, it’s very subtle, right? But to my ears, it feels like the vocal takes a step forward in the mix when we enable this. And it’s not just the level thing. The vocal is slightly louder, but it’s this kind of stereo effect where we get a thickening. The vocal sounds like it’s kind of three-dimensional, and so rather than just sitting right down the center of the mix, suddenly we have this doubling effect that just makes the vocals sound a little bit thicker and more robust. And in this case, I think this is the perfect thing to just bring it forward in the track a little bit, to give it a little bit more presence and make it sit just a little bit in front of those guitars so that it really cuts through the mix.

So, I hope you enjoyed this tip for thickening up your vocals and if you wanna take the sound of your vocals even further, I put together a free vocal mixing cheatsheet that’s packed with additional tips and tricks for making your vocals sound amazing. So, if you wanna download this, it’s completely free, you can just click the link in the description below or in the video and you’ll get instant access right now.

Thanks again for watching, and if you want more vocal mixing tips like these, check out my website, BehindTheSpeakers.com. Take care.

Video features music by Leah Capelle.