Making your backing vocals stand out without cluttering up the lead vocal is tricky.
You want them to add depth and push to the lead melody, but you need to do so without taking the attention away from the powerful lead vocal.
Here are 4 useful ways to make your backing vocals blend in better.
1. Use Less Volume
This might seem obvious, but are your backup vocals not blending together because they’re too loud? Get the lead vocal to where you want it, pull the faders down on your backup vocals and then slowly bring the faders up until they sit correctly.
Only with the correct levels can you continue blending them in. If they’re too loud to begin with, they’re going to stay that way regardless of what you do.
2. Roll off the Highs
If you want something to blend in, the easiest way is to roll off the high frequencies. They might sound odd when solo’d, but combined with the lead vocal they might blend in perfectly. This also works well when you want to blend in a vocal double that’s singing the same thing. If you want to make the double less noticeable, but still add some thickness and depth to the lead, roll off the highs with a high-shelving EQ.
3. Use Larger Reverbs
Make the lead vocal sound closer with shorter reverbs or delays while you push your backup vocals further away with a larger reverb. Don’t drown them in reverb, but use enough so that you can hear the separation between the two spaces. A short plate or a medium delay on the lead vocal and a hall reverb on the backups creates a nice separation between the two.
4. Use Darker Reverbs
Similar to #2, if you want to make something blend in, make it darker. A darker reverb can do the trick nicely, especially combined with a shorter and brighter plate on the lead vocal.
Separate but Equal
It’s all about creating the separation between the lead vocal and the backups. At the same time you don’t want the backups to take up the space reserved for the lead.
Use correct volume, roll off the highs on the backups and use larger and/or darker reverbs to create separation.
If you’re struggling with mixing backing vocals, or just mixing in general, I encourage you to check out www.MixWithUs.com, a great training course that tackles all the typical problems a mix might face.
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