Just a few weeks ago I had a client reach out to me requesting some help with EDM vocal mixing. He told me he was having issues with getting his vocals to sit in his mix.
After listening to his track, I noticed that the vocals didn’t really sound too bad. However, I would need a closer look at his project as a whole.
He scheduled some time with me so that we could go through a vocal mixing lesson. The lesson went great, he learned a lot which made me very happy. Not only did he learn a lot, but I felt like I learned just as much, if not more than him!
I wouldn’t call myself an elite vocal producer. However, I would say that I know how to process vocals and mix them to give you that extra edge in your track. With that said, today we’re going to talk about how to mix a top line vocal for your EDM track.
Too Much Reverb in EDM Vocal Mixing
This might be the one tip that is found on just about every single amateur track out there. Here’s another previous article where I talk about the use of effects – How to Use Effects in EDM Like a Pro. If you’re not sure whether or not you use too much reverb, check out that article.
A lot of producers I work with want to make their vocal sound as BIG as possible. So much so that they will drown out the natural tones of a vocalist with reverb.
I understand their thinking and what their goal is.
They want to make the vocals seem huge, so naturally they throw a reverb on. The reverb will act as a boost to the size of the vocal.
This is true. However, improper use will create a washing effect that inadvertently makes the vocalist lose its power.
I suggest that you use a more subtle reverb effect that sits more in the background. This will help with you mixing and allows you to turn the vocal up louder. Use volume as a measure for how big the vocal is. Reverb should be there as a texture element, not something to make the vocal sound “huge.”
One vocal trick I’ve been toying with is to duplicate the vocal. Now throw a reverb on the duplicate and really make the reverb huge. Lots of mix, make the decay and size large, and try to make it as far away as possible.
Next, mix the duplicate vocal into the background of the main vocal. The duplicate should be acting as a sort of “background” vocal.
Duplicate the background vocal and pan each one left/right. Mix it a little bit more into the main vocal, and now you should have something that’s much bigger.
You can add just a touch of reverb to the main vocal, but try to leave this one fairly dry. This allows the main vocalist to just focus on each word and let the listener understand the words. The background vocals are now doing all of the heavy lifting and processing.
This should subsequently give you a bigger vocal.
Lack of Compression in EDM Vocal Mixing
Lack of compression is the biggest issue I find in amaetur vocal tracks. I don’t know if producers are too afraid to use compression, or they’re just not sure how to use one. If you’re in the category of not knowing how to use one, go check out article #5 – When and How to Use Proper Compression in EDM.
Regardless, compression is where a lot of producers lack. Don’t be afraid to really drive compression home to help control the volume of the vocal. A vocalist will naturally have volume changes throughout a recording.
Use your judgment to decide which recording is best, and then start with a compressor.
I know, this goes against everything I normally say when producing. But, vocal production is a completely different beast than normal production. You need the soft parts of the vocals to be accentuated, while not allowing the louder parts to be too loud.
Compression will actually help your vocal sit better in the mix. I’m sure you’ve experienced the issue of the vocal being either too loud, or too quiet. It feels like it’s impossible to get it just right. Compression eliminates this issue and will allow your vocal to sit just where it needs to in your mix.
Don’t believe me? Try it!
I personally like to go the route of parallel compression. With parallel compression, I’m able to get more control of not just the compressor itself, but the vocal as well.
Don’t be afraid to test out different compressors as you mix the vocals. You never know if the compressor you never use will bring out the sweet spot in someone’s voice.
If you want top of the line vocal mixing for your EDM track, compression is a must to achieve a nice consistent sound.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves.
I know I’m not alone, because it’s also the same for every single listener out there.
If your vocals are not pitched correctly, people will immediately notice it, and it’s all they’re going to think about. It’s one of the most distracting things you can ever experience. I’m sure you’ve heard it before too.
It’s extremely rare to find a vocalist who will nail every single recording, perfectly on pitch. That’s why you should always comb the track and ensure that it’s pitched properly. If you do find a vocalist who happens to nail the recording every single time, please send them my way!
Melodyne is the industry standard for pitch correction. – It’s a highly recommended tool to have on hand.
On the opposite hand of unpitched vocals, are vocals that are “too pitched.”
The robotic “autotune” effect is one of my least favorite effects out there.
It’s a pretty big sound with Mumble Rap these days, but that’s not what we’re producing. Just like an unpitched vocal, it’s pretty obvious when something has been overpitched. You can physically hear the machine doing the singing for the vocalist, it’s quite unpleasant.
If you go the route of pitching your vocals, be very careful. It’s just as easy to over pitch-correct and make someone sound like a robot. Some vocalists take offense to this, and I understand why. You’re basically telling them that they can’t sing.
I would honestly suggest to not spend your time working on pitch correction, unless that’s truly what you want to do for a living.
It takes a lot of time to do it, and do it well. Especially when you’re first starting out.
Save yourself time and heartache and just hire a vocal producer, they’re pretty inexpensive. If you don’t know where to go to get one, check out my affiliate page. Sam Heights Garay, from episode 005 of Electronic Dance Money – How to License Your Tracks to Create Passive Income – is an amazing vocal producer for hire!
Really focus on your compression work when it comes to mixing your vocals. It’s how you’re going to get your vocal to sit well within your mix. Be wary of how much effect you’re placing on your vocal. Just remember that less is more.
More importantly, check how well tuned your vocal is. If you’re unsure if it’s tuned, just have someone else listen to it. Ask them if anything sounds out of tune. Even a non-musician can tell if something is out of place or out of tune. If you don’t want to tune your vocal, hire a vocal producer!