How to Mix Vocals Over Beats


The human voice is a dynamic instrument. While that dynamism makes our voices expressive it also makes our voices difficult to mix. When mixing vocals over beats, or small looped sections of music, however, a proper mix is paramount. Mixing, or getting the right balance of sound, is a difficult process requiring both skill and experience. This article provides some starting guidelines for working with vocals in the mixing stage of recording.

Things You'll Need

  • Audio editing software
  • Studio quality speakers or headphones
  • Set the volume of the vocal track by adjusting the volume fader on your music editing software. A vocal track should stand out from, but not overpower, the beat. The ideal volume for a vocal track is -3 decibels or "db." If at -3db your vocal track is still too quiet, try lowering the volume of the beat until the sounds are balanced.

  • Add a compressor or limiter from your software's plug-ins array to control the dynamics of your vocal track. If you do not have a compressor or limiter, download one from VST Planet (see Resources). A compressor automatically lowers the loudness of your track and raises the softness. Set your compression ratio to 2 and threshold to -3 to start, and tweak until the vocal track is smooth.

  • Equalize the vocal track by using your music editing software's multi-band equalizer. If your software does not already have a multi-band equalizer, download a free equalizer from VST Planet (see Resources). The purpose of equalization is to cut out certain frequencies from the vocal track that conflict with the beat track. Which frequencies to cut depend entirely on the content of the beat track. Try cutting different frequencies on the vocal track until you notice the beat sounding clearer or the vocal sounding louder. Then do the same for the beat track.

  • Add space to your vocal track by using a reverb plug-in in your music editing software. A small amount of reverb makes the vocal sound more natural, but adding too much reverb will cause the vocal to clash with the beat. Set the reverb time to fifteen milliseconds at most and the mix ratio to 15 percent. You may need to raise the volume slightly at this point by up to 3db.

  • Even out the entire mix by adding a small amount of compression to the master track. Applying a compressor plug-in to the master track in your music editing software compressed both the beat and vocal. Set the ratio to 1 and the threshold to -1db to start, and tweak to taste. Keep the compression ratio below 3 and the threshold below -3db for best results.

Tips & Warnings

  • Whenever you add equalization, you must make room for it by subtracting it elsewhere. If you boost the vocal track at 2000hz, try cutting the beat track at 2000hz.
  • Mixing is a difficult process and requires trial and error to find the right balance. Each track is unique and requires unique attention.

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