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Volume of Vocals in a mix

Posted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 7:33 am
by rickyd
When mixing vocals, talking about just track volume balancing, is it common practice to have the vocals tracks sit a few dBs higher than the other tracks? When I listen carefully to a lot of my favorite songs (or just songs in general) this seems to be the case from what my ears tell me. I have not yet worked with any vocalists, being as my studio has not fully been setup, so I am a newbie and would like to know how this is done.

Re: Volume of Vocals in a mix

Posted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:53 am
by Stab Frenzy
You just mix it so that the vocals sit at the level which you believe is appropriate for the style of music that you're mixing. I've mixed things where the vocals were so low that I forgot there were any in the mix until I listened back to the track on a big PA and realised there were some there; I've mixed things where the vocals were sitting quite back in the mix and the same level as most of the instruments; I've just finished mixing an R&B record where the vocals were right up front and the loudest thing in the mix. It's totally dependent on what your finished track should sound like.

It's also worth noting that things like EQ and reverb also have a big part to play in this. You can mix the vocals lower if you EQ the other instruments to have less going on in the frequency spectrum where vocals sit. Likewise, the drier the vocals are the further forward they sit in the mix; you can put a heap of reverb on the vox and have them loud and they'll sit back in the mix, or you can have them mixed low but dry and they'll be quite upfront.

When people are listening to music they often use the vocals as their reference point to the relative levels of the rest of the mix, so if you have one part, say a lead line or guitar, mixed at the same level as the vocals it'll sound loud, whereas if it's lower than the vocals it'll sound quiet. The side effect of this is that if the vocals are mixed too loud then the whole of the rest of the track will sound too quiet.

Re: Volume of Vocals in a mix

Posted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 9:06 am
by rickyd
Thank you much! Now I see that there are many ways to mix vocals depending on the desired results. I was just curious as to what my ears were telling me

Re: Volume of Vocals in a mix

Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:49 am
by iProg
The trick is to use automation to enhance certain lyrics and to be quite rude with compression.
In modern R 'n B for example, the volume in the mix is the same when, let's say, Beyonce sings a soft quiet part as when she sings really loud and high in the chorus. This is thanks to automation and compression.

Instead of trying to mix using only faders, try to affect the volume with EQ. Often it is just a small part of the frequency spectrum that needs to shine through for the track to really sit in the mix. You don't always want to effect the volume of the entire take, just some nuances!

Re: Volume of Vocals in a mix

Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:14 pm
by Hair
I've found that when searching for where to put a vocal, it's actually really good to check on a pair of small, ratty speakers like these eco-speakers you can usually find at Radio Shack or Five Below for like $5: ... peaker.jpg

A really, really poor man's Auratone haha.

The rationale behind this is that for me, a lot of levels work in good studio monitors, but on speakers where the mix falls apart really quickly, the right levels are way more apparent. Generally speaking, I get the mix where I want it in my monitors, then check whether anything's jumping out or buried when it shouldn't be in the horrible little ecos.