The foundation of a great recording is a great guide track. What’s a guide track you might ask? Simply it’s whatever you setup in your DAW to help your actual recording sessions go smoother, faster, and more efficiently. In a jet-lagged stupor I show you in today’s video what three key elements are in every one of my guide tracks and how you can copy my workflow.
To edit out breaths or not to edit out breaths, that is the question. Actually, the way I prefer to work is a hybrid approach. By trimming and ramping up certain breaths while leaving in other breaths entirely I get a controlled, yet natural vocal performance that holds up well even under heavy compression.
Part 28 of 31 – As you near the end of your mix, one of the best things you can do is reverse mix it. This simple little move will tell you a lot about your volume balance between kick, snare, and vocals.
What Do You Hear Down There?
If you take your monitors and turn them all the way down and then bring them up in volume ever so slowly, what is the first thing you hear? Ideally it should be vocal, snare, and kick drum. What’s that you say? You haven’t tried this little trick?! Today’s your day!
We all know that EQ is a critical part of the mixing process. But how do you know what you’re supposed to do with it? What frequencies should you be cutting or boosting? Where do you start? Are their good rules of thumb to follow? These are all questions I get on a weekly basis from readers. I understand the frustration, so today let me give you three questions to ask yourself to help guide your EQ decisions in the future.
What Frequencies Are Not Adding To The Track?
Let’s start with a basic question: what frequencies can I take away from this track that simply do not bring anything of sonic value to the table? Have you ever thought about the fact that there is sonic information in every track that just doesn’t do anything for anyone. It’s a waste of headroom. Usually this is the low frequency stuff, below 40hz. Do yourself a favor and use the most classic of tricks, the high pass filter to roll off that unneeded information, because it’s not adding anything but it is taking up volume in your track.
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In most cases the lead vocal is the most important part of your mix. The best mixes out there always seem to find a way to get that vocal to sit right on top of everything else. How do they do it? Well there are a lot of small steps to get you there: vocal compression, riding the vocal with automation, and of course proper use of EQ. But today I want to show a super easy “hack” to making sure your vocal always sits on top of the mix nicely.
Recording vocals seems easy at first. Just put a mic in front of your face and hit the “record” button, right?! If that’s the case, then why is it that everyone and their mother is asking about how to get better vocal recordings? Vocal recording and production is a huge topic mostly because vocals are what drive modern music, so you want to get them right.
The first step to a great vocal in your tracks is to record it better. So today I want to give you one very simple, very easy, no cost way to record better vocals at the source. This will make your mixing life a lot easier and you’ll enjoy the final product more. Are you ready for it?
Move Your Singer Further Away From The Mic
Too many of us home/project studio people think the best way to record vocals is to put the vocalist right up on a mic. And when I say “right up on a mic” I’m talking anywhere from 1 to 6 inches away. Why do we do this? Two reasons: Because it’s what we see in the magazine ads and because we’re afraid of our “bad” room sound.
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The lead vocal is so important in a mix. We do all kinds of things to try and get it to sound clear, polished, and larger than life. But sometimes even the right EQ and compression isn’t enough to get vocals standing where you want them in the mix.
The Secret Presence Track
One little tip that many people use is something called a harmonic exciter. It adds harmonic content to the track and gives it a bit of life that wasn’t there. One way to do this in your DAW without that type of effect is to create a vocal presence track that no one will ever know is there, but it makes all the difference.
The more mistakes you stop making, the better your mixes will be. Plain and simple. And we all make mistakes, it’s how you learn. In this series of posts I want to help you eliminate six of the most common mistakes I see young engineers making (and that I’ve made myself) in order for your mixes to improve. If you missed part 1, go check out the first two mistakes and then come back here.
Mistake #3 – Boosting With EQ
By way of preface, let me just say that there is nothing inherently “wrong” with boosting frequencies with an EQ. The point I’m trying to make rather, is that it is way smarter to train yourself to cut instead of boost. The reason is simple, when you boost an EQ frequency in order to shape a sound, you are only adding noise to the track and to your mix. If you could achieve the same sonic result by cutting other frequencies, then you would have less noise, more headroom, and more clarity in your mixes.
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The lead vocal is typically the most important part in a mix in modern music. You want it sit just right against the other tracks while remaining balanced and featured at the same time. Today’s delay trick can really help your vocals do just that. It’s a good one and I use it on practically every mix I do!
It’s Time For A Little LPF
You may recall a few days ago we covered the concept of using a high pass filter (HPF) in your mixes to clean up the mud and save you headroom. Well, today’s trick involves using the opposite, a low pass filter (LPF) on a delay plugin to create the perfect effect for giving your vocal ambience without washing it down in reverb. Enjoy!