Got a question about how to blend backing vocals recently.
Here are a few tips you can use right away to solve that particular problem.
1. Blend Using Volume
It goes without saying, but getting a good blend with volume and the right balance between the vocal tracks is the first order of business.
If both tracks still clash too much you can either skip right to #2 on the list, or you can try automating the phrases that clash more than others. For instance, if the backup vocal is doing a combination of oohs and words then it might clash more in certain places than others.
Using automation to adjust the volume accordingly is a good way to get rid of the occasional clash if the vocals sit well together most of the time.
If that doesn’t work, try the next trick.
2. Blend Using EQ
The lead vocal usually has a pronounced presence somewhere in the high mids. Coincidentally, that’s also where all the other vocals have their presence, them being vocals and all.
If you can cut the same high-mids in the backup vocals they usually don’t clash in that frequency area any more, resulting in a better blend between all the vocal tracks.
A good wide cut from about 900 – 5 kHz could soften the presence of the backup vocals, helping the lead vocal stand out more.
3. Blend With Reverb
EQ should get you most of the way, but it’s not the entire battle. You’ll inevitably want to add some reverb to your mix to give each instrument some space and that’s where this third tip comes in.
Blending the vocals in the frequency spectrum is one thing, but that doesn’t help your vocal depth. Using varying amounts of reverb on each of the vocals tracks will help blend them better from front to back.
Two quick ways of doing this are:
- Adding the same reverb to all the vocal tracks but giving more reverb to the backup vocals. This pushes them behind the lead vocal. A pre-fader reverb send on the backup vocals makes it even easier to push them behind the lead vocal.
- Adding a larger reverb to the backup vocals. This could make the backup vocals sound bigger, but farther away. Be careful about overdoing it because they might end up sounding washed out if you add too much.
Of course, as with all things, EQ also helps when you’re adding reverb. So if you try either of these reverb tricks make sure you also add an EQ and cut the lows if the reverb is rumbling, and cut the highs is the reverb sounds too bright.
See Me EQ Backup Vocals With Mid/Side EQ
In my hour-long walkthrough in EQ Strategies – The Ultimate Guide to EQ I spend a lot of time EQ’ing backup vocals to fit with the lead vocal.
The tips I gave you above are definitely a good starting point but if you want to see some advanced techniques in action, head on over and grab your ultimate EQ guide: