How To Make Vocals Cut Through the Mix Using EQ and Compression
Making the vocals consistently cut through the mix without feeling glued on top of the arrangement seems to be a common problem for home studio producers.
If that’s something you’re dealing with then I have some suggestions on how to fix it.
Cut the Lows and Get Rid of Boom
Sometimes the vocal sounds on top of an arrangement because it doesn’t sit well in the low-end. You might not necessarily hear the low-end in the vocal but the presence of the low frequencies make the vocal feel glued on top of the frequency spectrum.
Start by cutting the very lows with a filter up to 100 Hz. Then use a parametric EQ to cut the low-mids somewhere from 150 – 250 Hz until it seems to sit better.
Use Compression for Consistency
Certain phrases of the vocal tend to get buried in the arrangement. Especially if the vocalist is very dynamic and sings both loud and soft parts.
If that’s the case then it’s time to pull out the compressor to tame those dynamics. Compression isn’t just for keeping the loud parts at bay, it’s also great for pushing up the quieter parts.
It’s easier to deal with a vocal part that has a more limited dynamic range so squeezing the vocal a little bit can make your life easier, as long as you’re not over-compressing and squashing the vocal (unless that’s what you’re going for).
A low ratio and a high threshold can push both the quiet and loud parts closer together, making the vocal more consistent in the mix.
Boost for Character and Presence
If you do the two aforementioned things you should have a pretty clear and balanced vocal, both in frequency and dynamics. But you might need to add some extra character to really get the vocal to cut through a busy arrangement.
If that’s the case head on over to the high-mids and add some character boosts. 1 – 2 kHz sometimes works to bring out enough edge to the vocal, but beware of boosting too much because it might make the vocal too honky and nasal-sounding.
Alternatively, a dose of 3 kHz can add some clarity to the vocal, whereas a bit of 5 kHz can add some presence.
Try That Next Time
If you’re having difficulty getting the vocal to cut through in your mix, try those three tricks out next time.
EQ and compression can solve almost every problem when it comes to creating separation between your instruments. That’s why I created EQ Strategies – The Ultimate Guide to EQ and combined it with my Compression Masterclass.
It’s a double package packed with practical EQ and compression tips you can use right away to make your mixes sound better.
Check it out here:
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Compression, Equalization, Music Mixing