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Separation Between Your Vocals Isn’t Always Great. Here’s Why.

A while back I worked on this atmospheric and sparse folk track for a client.

A sparse arrangement means you get to experiment with a lot of space in your mix and some cool effects on the vocals.

I always strive to make sure everything can be heard clearly in a mix, but this time it was not what the client wanted.

When the backup vocals came in on the second verse I tried to give each vocal part its respective space in both the EQ and stereo spectrum.

So I panned each backup vocal to the side of the lead vocal and did some EQ adjustments to make them poke out through the mix so they would complement the lead vocal.

I tried to make it sound like the harmonies on the second verse of “Take It Easy” by The Eagles. You can very easily pinpoint each singer in that song because of the separation between the vocal tracks.

Turns out, this amount of separation was distracting to the client because it was too separate. He wanted more of a vocal blend that filled up the lead vocal instead of three separate vocal tracks.

So here’s what I ended up doing:

  • I panned the backup vocals back into the center.
  • I cut them from about 900 Hz – 3 kHz to make room for the lead vocal in the center.
  • I added a different reverb mode than the lead vocal to push them behind the lead track.
  • I added some stereo spread to push them to the sides.
  • I automated the volume so that the backup vocals wouldn’t come in as strongly as the lead on the first syllables and phrases.

That made the client happy and taught me a valuable lesson that I’m paying forward to you.

Don’t spend a lot of time going for what you think sounds the best because you might waste a lot of time mixing before you get feedback from your client.

It’s sometimes better to just get a quality mix up and running quickly so that you can send the client the direction you’re going in.

In this case I needed to blend things together instead of making them stand out. As always, EQ was there to help me out.

If you need help with making your vocals stand out (or blend in), EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ is guaranteed to help you out.

Here’s what John Dandrea had to say about it recently:

“So far I have begun to make much better-sounding mixes based on just the EQ alone…Learning about particular frequencies for particular instruments (voice included) and learning about cut and boost. It at least got me going in the right direction, with notable improvement. I’d highly recommend it – it helped me in the first 1-2 days of reading, watching your videos, then applying those tips. It really is an excellent required step in learning to mix better. Learning about EQ is just so essential.” 

So if you’d like to make your recordings sound better and want to learn more comprehensive EQ techniques to tackle the specific problems you have in your mixes, check it out here:

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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