Do your vocals get lost in the mix? Are certain words hard to understand, leaving your listeners to wonder what your songs are actually about?
If you’re struggling to craft vocals that cut, you won’t believe the impact this trick will make on your mixes…
You probably already know that, in addition to compressing a vocal, automating the vocal fader (riding up the words, phrases, and notes that get lost in a mix) is one of the best ways to craft vocals that cut through.
But today I want to teach you a simple trick to use this automation technique more effectively.
When you’re getting ready to automate your vocals, turn down the speakers so that they’re so low that you can barely hear your mix. I mean, seriously so low that if someone was typing or texting in the background, it would be distracting because you would be hearing the sound of their fingertips on the keys, and this would be almost as loud as the mix itself!
Now force yourself to perform all of your automation moves at this incredibly low volume.
There are a couple of reasons why automating vocals is much more effective at ultra-low volumes.
Number one – there are these things called Fletcher-Munson curves. You don’t need to know all the technical details, but essentially what they mean is that our ear actually hears differently at different volumes.
When you turn your speakers down low, the ear is actually much more sensitive to midrange content…midrange frequencies, and less sensitive to the low end and high end of your mix.
Remember that vocals predominantly live in the midrange. The core of the vocal sound is really in the midrange of your mix. By turning down your speakers, you’re really zeroing in on that midrange. You’re tuning your ears to be more sensitive to that midrange information. And that will help you make more discriminating decisions…better decisions…in that area of your mix.
Number two is by turning your speakers down, a lot of the low-level details in a vocal performance – tail ends of phrases, low notes – are just going to get lost completely. You’re not going to be able to hear them at all.
You’re actually going to have to work a lot harder. You’re going to have to ride faders more aggressively to get that vocal to cut through. This is going to help you craft a vocal sound that works great at low levels, and also sounds great when you crank the speakers.
Here’s how I like to use this technique. I’ll kick on the automation. I’ll turn down the speakers super low. And then I’ll listen, 15 seconds at a time, through the course of the song. I’ll really make sure I can hear every single word…every single syllable of the vocal.
There are a couple of areas I really focus on. One is the tail ends of phrases, where a vocalist trails off. These are often areas where a vocal will get lost. The second area is the beginnings of phrases, where a pickup note exists or a vocalist ramps up to a phrase. Number three is low notes, where a vocalist dips low into their range. These are three areas where you might find that a vocal gets lost. You might need to kick up, or ride the faders up to make sure you can really hear every word.
Thank you so much for listening. Hope you found this tip helpful.
For more of my favorite vocal mixing tips, click the link below. I’ll send you five of my favorite vocal mixing tutorials, right now.