Mixing female vocals (rock band)

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by shock, Oct 26, 2004.

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  1. shock

    shock Guest

    Hi guys!

    I'm new to this forum and quite new to recording and mixing. I've done a few classical recordings and some mixing on entirely electronic music in the past, but now I wanted to give it a try and record my first rock band (all-girls rock band, that is). Since I've never miced and mixed drums, guitars and stuff before, it was quite a task. However, the problems I have are with the lead vocals:
    I used the Rode NT2 through the built-in pre-amps of the Sony DMX-R100 (I don't like these, but I didn't have a choice), recording to ProTools. The female singer has that very high, clear voice, and the recording turned out to be too harsh without really being brilliant and "breathing", and there's not much body and power, it's rather flat and somewhat "digital" sounding (if you know what I mean).
    I've done a rough mix, and the vocals don't sit well in the mix. I'm kind of lost right now. I don't know if they don't fit in because

    - of the recordings I made which can't be fixed in the mix
    - I'm making some mixing mistakes
    - the singer's voice doesn't work for that kind of music

    You can find the rough mix here:


    It's called "Died Inside". (2.2MB)

    There's some de-essing and compressing on the vocals, and some reverb. Not much of EQ yet, just a highpass at 100Hz and a notch at 4555Hz (-5dB), plus I tried to reduce some of the "harshness" by taking out 4dB at around 11500Hz, which may have been the wrong approach.

    Any help would be appreciated! Thank you.

    (There might be some other problems with that mix, but hey, I'm still learning, so please be gentle. :) )
  2. britbrian

    britbrian Guest

    I think the main problem is that the lead vocal is not forward enough in the mix(i.e. not loud enough).
    For interest, I did a little mastering on your track, using multiband eq, compression, and stereo placement, and have uploaded it to


    Click on the 'Download Files' link and your track is titled DiedInside_eqML.MP3
    Obviously, the lead vocal is still too low in the mix IMO.
    If you like it, the charge is a picture of the band!

  3. shock

    shock Guest

    That was one quick reply, thank you very much!
    You're right about the lead vocals being to low; I've corrected that, and it does help a lot. However, I feel like it's not only a problem of volume here, but I still can't nail it.
    Any other input would be very much appreciated!

    As for your mastering:
    First of all, thank you, I didn't expect someone going as far as actually mastering my mix! Too bad the quality of that mp3 is, well, horrible, but - I get an idea. I think compressing that song did help a lot, it seems to be better balanced now. Your EQing is a bit over the top for my tastes, though, the mix does sound too sharp and tinny now - but maybe that's because of the bad sound quality of the mp3. What I do like about it is that it adds presence and a kind of "grunginess" to the mix (which fits well with the song; I realized that a too clean sound may not be appropriate for that kind of music). As I've said, just maybe a bit too much here.
    I'd be interested to know what exactly you did regarding stereo placement.
    I'll get you some pictures of the girls soon. :wink:

  4. britbrian

    britbrian Guest

    The 'tinny' sound may be due to your monitoring speakers. What are you using? If they don't have much bass frequency response, then the sound may appear 'tinny'.
    I didn't apply much compression, as I think too much just deadens the dynamics. I think your main problem is that the vocal and distorted lead guitar share much of the same frequency range. Perhaps most benefit would come from some complimentary EQ.
    Unfortunately, that can't be done on a final mix, but needs the vocal track and backing to be processed on their own.
    The stereo placement was an attempt to move the backing tracks outwards, in order to leave the central vocal better defined, as I couldn't improve the vocal on its own.
    Bear in mind, that someone working with the original tracks would probably do better than my attempts with an MP3 as original! lol.
  5. shock

    shock Guest

    Of course. I still appreciate what you did, it helped a lot.

    I'm using the Dynaudio M2, so no, I do not think it's due to my speakers. But if you listen to the hihat, you'll notice that the mp3 compression did some pretty horrible things.

    I'll try that. Thanks!

  6. sharmon

    sharmon Guest

    My two bits

    damn i just posted a reply and forgot to submit it...
    Anyway, here's the gist of it:

    I think the vocals sound weak for this kind of music making it difficult for them to sit right, but it is also interesting that they are like that.

    I think the vocals could do with a lot more compresson than they seem to have now. Maybe also some more reverb/delay to give them more body, however, the cleaness of them is also nice.

    I don't think seperation is a problem, they seem to be standing out nicely, but do get drowned out in the louder parts of the song, compression should take care of this tho.

    If i was recording her i would have cringed and complained untill she sang more powerful, but i like power vocals especially in rock music, so thats just my opinion. :) variety is the spice of life as they say...
  7. britbrian

    britbrian Guest

  8. MrPhil

    MrPhil Guest

    OK, as most have said, bring it up in the mix, both lead and backing vocals. Right now the left rythm guitar is the thing that is in focus when it comes in.
    Don't grope out so much at 4-5k. Try what happens if you reduce 2-3dB at 1-2 kHz instead, or at 5-800 Hz. And compression lifts it thru the mix too.
    For a first rock recording you've done pretty well. :)
  9. sharmon

    sharmon Guest


    What was the "duh" for? Was i saying something stupid? or obvious maybe? I did say i was giving my two bits y'know, isn't that what this forum is all about? Sorry if i am not as intelligent and experienced as you. Incidently, all i meant was that in terms of freqs overlaps i didn't think the vocals were getting washed out by any other instrument and they just needed something more in terms of compression. Maybe i'm wrong, maybe i'm right, i'll learn tho, thats what i am here for.

    Thanks for the very constructive "duh" tho.
  10. theholotrope

    theholotrope Guest

    have you overdubbed the vocal? if the vocal sounds too thin or gets lost, we usually overdub about 2 more tracks for verses and 4 more for chorus to get more power. sometimes overdubbing is better than filling up the vocal with reverb and effects. it depends on the song but you know what im saying. pan them out as you like, could spread out throughout or sort of tight in the middle with 2 more left and right at 11 and 1 in the verse, for example. the key is in the mix. the middle vocal is louder than all the rest, they are only for support. the more they sound like each other, the better. good luck, hope this helps...

  11. britbrian

    britbrian Guest

    You caught me at a grumpy moment ... but nevertheless, your two sentences do contradict each other. In the first you say that the vocal is 'standing out nicely' , and then you say ' but do get drowned out in the louder parts of the song'.
    So, which is it?
    It's a matter of opinion, but I think that the vocal is fairly consistant, so probably doesn't need compressing, so the easiest thing to do is just bring it up a little in the mix, maybe ride the fader a little. I sometimes think that people complicate matters, when all that needs to be done is a small adjustment to the balance.
    Like you, just my two cents.
    It would be interesting if Manu could post a link to a track of just the vocal, and we could play around with the mixing. ;-)
  12. sharmon

    sharmon Guest


    well, i was using the word "seperation" referring to having it's own place frequency-wise, not volume-wise, the vocal does seem to be fighting for space in the louder parts of the song (I.M ever so H.O) :wink:


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