4 Ways to Effectively Blend Backing Vocals into Your Mix

how-to-mix-backup-vocals

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.

Image by: familymwr

 

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  • Navarre

    These are all great suggestions that I’ll try on a track as soon as I get home. However, one question I have is how to think when panning backing vocals. Any suggestions here? 

    And a more nagging question I have is, if I duplicate a vocal track and pan its duplicates left and right, offsetting from each other by 10ms or so, do I still run the risk of these phasing each other out on a nightclub system that collapses to mono? Sorry if you already have an article about this somewhere on the site. Thanks!

    • http://audio-issues.com Björgvin Benediktsson

      You might run into some phasing issues, but you can always check your mix in mono before you play it somewhere. Most DAWs have a way for you to listen in mono so just see how it sounds and go from there.

  • Gertikeci

    THANK YOU GREAT SUGGESTIONS

  • ProfessGrizz

    Good stuff here. Definitely a good outlook on how to use or I should say when to use particular effects.

  • http://twitter.com/luizfreitag Luiz Freitag

    Really good stuff! Helped me a lot, as your posts always do!

    Something I noticed from backing vocals (while listening to Muse), is that the lows and mid-lows are very very shelved down. Now you say the same about the highs, and I came to this confusion:

    If I cut off the lows (Really works), and the highs (works either), will I end up with telephone backing vocals?

    cheers!

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  • https://soundcloud.com/nauriz nauriz

    Thanks, mate, #2 helped a lot.