Tips on Mixing Vocals in Ableton

Even the greatest vocal performance requires extensive mixing and editing before it's ready for release. A good vocal mix brings out the best in a recording by altering the vocal's sound character and adding effects that increase its impact. The Ableton Live digital audio workstation includes several mixing features that can help you create an outstanding vocal mix.

  1. Doubling

    • Double a vocal track in Ableton to add fullness and bring it forward in the mix. Click the vocal track, then press "Ctrl" and "D" simultaneously. Click-and-drag the "Track Delay" field at the bottom of the second vocal track to add a slight delay; this delay prevents a phasing sound from appearing. Add Ableton's EQ Eight plug-in to the second track, then adjust the equalization to bring out the higher frequencies in the vocal. Lower the volume of the second vocal track so it's supporting the main vocal track but not conflicting with it.

    Delay

    • Use a subtle delay to add a short repetition effect to vocal phrases; this effect fills out the vocal in the mix. Drop Ableton's Ping-Pong Delay effect onto a return track, then set its filter to a high frequency and turn the feedback knob down. Turn the "Dry/Wet" control all the way up. Drop Ableton's Compressor plug-in to the left of the Ping-Pong Delay and enable its external sidechain feature. Select the vocal track from the Audio From menu, then turn the compressor's "Ratio" setting up to "Inf." Use the "Send" knob on the vocal track to send the vocal to the return track, then adjust the compressor's "Threshold" slider until you hear the repetition effect.

    Equalization

    • When two tracks use the same frequencies in the sonic spectrum, they can conflict with each other. Ableton's Spectrum and EQ Eight plug-ins can help you fit a vocal track into the mix by reducing conflict with an instrumental track. Drop a copy of Spectrum onto the vocal track; drop a second copy onto the instrumental. Play the two tracks together, then switch back and forth between them. Spectrum will display a visual representation of each track's frequencies. Note the frequencies of the peaks that Spectrum displays, then compare the two tracks' frequency peaks. Drop an EQ Eight onto the instrumental track and use it to reduce or remove any conflicting frequencies.

    Chorus

    • Ableton's chorus effect adds richness to the vocal track, highlighting it in the mix. Drop the Chorus plug-in onto the vocal track, then use the yellow circular X-Y control to adjust the rate and timing of the chorus effect. Keep both settings fairly low: A chorus effect should add subtle richness to the vocal without altering the sound excessively. Set the "Feedback" knob to zero, then adjust the "Dry/Wet" control to determine how much of the effect Ableton applies to the vocal.

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