Sometimes the task of troubleshooting a vocal layout can be quite a tough challenge.
And while the catalogue of possible hindrances can obviously turn out to be quite limitless, we gathered some fundamental ideas that might offer a shortcut.
Often, everything and even more is already in place – and exactly that might also be the root of the problem. Really being tough on the mix and deciding what has to be in there, and what can be left out is probably one of the hardest decisions.
Killing your darlings always is. That’s why I’ll address this issue in the first pointer, and move on from there:
Fighting for space
A crammed mix can ultimately destroy the potential of a great vocal performance.
Knowing when to make a mix lighter and when to thin things out is vital in the process, and should not be underestimated.
The idea of “fixing it in the mix” is definitely not the rule-of-thumb you should pursue on this one. Or ever if you ask me.
Fight for some space, or better, fight for your vocal’s space and that might work some magic on the spot.
Especially if you’re presented with a unique timbre, make sure you carve out a tailored EQing for that voice.
Nothing kills vocals facets like harsh EQing of a pre-set, even one that might work incredibly well on other instruments.
Take the extra time and also EQ the backing vocals according to the lead vocal. You’re working on a holistic sound here, and with vocals as centerpiece, you should try to keep it as alive and breathing as possible.
Similar to the EQing, compression can take the wind right out of your vocals.
Act very resourceful when using compression, and don’t use it out of laziness or lack of time.
Software can work it’s magic, but it will always add or retract certain elements that will eventually change the way the pure vocal sits in the mix. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not making a case against compression here. It’s more about the HOW, and laying it on like thick sauce that covers the riches lying beneath.
If your vocals fail to hit the sweet spot, even after working extensively on the performance and EQing, try a mic-shootout.
Go to your local music dealership and really dig deep, testing 5-10 different mics of varying price ranges.
And even if you don’t have the spare change to invest in a new Neumann, take a look at some attractive software/hardware simulations.
Finding the perfect mic for a given timbre can be vital if you are pursuing expressive vocals.
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