One of the most common mistakes that home producers make when mixing their songs is applying an inconsistent or quiet level to the vocals. The vocals need to be loud–usually, louder than you think that they need to be. Of course, it’s difficult to make a good mix of a song that will work well on any set of speakers without knowing the why vocals need to be up front.
Here’s a look at why it’s important to keep vocals loud in the mix of your home audio recordings.
Audience Focus. Whether you want your audience to focus on the vocals or not, that’s where most of them are going to focus, because not everyone has a guitar or a drum kit, but everyone has a voice. They’ll want to hear what the vocalist is doing, even if the singer isn’t too hot–it’s just the way that we’re conditioned as Western music listeners.
Bringing the level of the vocals up will allow your listeners to focus on the other instruments better, as bizarre as that sounds. It will also make the song sound more balanced.
Vocal Checklist. When you think that you’ve got the vocals at the right level, listen to your mix. Make sure that you can hear the lyrics clearly, that the vocals are near the center of the track (unless you’ve got a very, very good reason for putting them in another place in a stereo mix) and that each instrument can be singled out and easily listened to without messing with the levels. If all of these things are true, your vocals are probably properly mixed, and the rest of the song should sound pretty good.
If you’re not sure whether you can clearly hear the lyrics or not, don’t worry. Your ears might be used to hearing the track, and it can be difficult to tell. Make sure that there aren’t too many effects on the vocals, then call in a friend to listen to your mix. Ask him (or her) about the vocals after the track has been played–not before. They’ll be able to give you an unbiased opinion on how your vocals sound.
Mixing the vocals can be one of the most important and difficult parts of coming up with a great sounding song. Keep them loud and in front, and you’ll have a track that sounds clear, balanced, and ready for radio play.
If you have any questions or comments about mixing vocals, post in our comments section below.