I wanted to tell you a little about what I am thinking when mixing a song. The first thing I start with is listening to the whole track all the way through. The reason for this is that I will get a better feel for how I want to hear the track later on. This gives me a chance to hear what effects I want to use as well. I may listen to the track several times before I start editing and mixing.
The next step I take is to break the song into parts: chorus, verse, bridge. This way I can focus on each part individually. Usually, the chorus is the biggest part of a track, so I will spend a bit more time on it often using plugins to make it sound wider and bigger. I like using waves plugins, in particular waves doubler. It gives the voice a doubling and widening effect. I will throw this plugin on an aux track, send the chorus vocal to it, and use it to my liking. Without getting too technical, I use a basic plugin set up for all my vocals including Renaissance EQ, Waves DeEsser, CLA-76 Comp. This just gets the vocal to sound clean, crisp, and clear. The rest of the plugins I use are mainly to give color to the vocal.
Simultaneously while mixing vocals, you also want them to sit right in the mix. It can take a lot of practice to get this just right, but a good rule of thumb is to set the vocal in line or a db above the snare. It can depend on the song too and what you want to feature the most, the music or the vocals. For this particular song, "Dreamer," the vocals sit just above the snare.
QT likes to have some autotune on his vocals. I know that the chorus will definitely need some treatment. The key with autotune is to set the tune to the key of the song. In this case it is C major. He did 3 different vocals for the chorus, so I will need to blend them to sound as close to one vocal as I can. Mostly, you will try to do this in the actual recording part, but since I am only getting what was pre-recorded, I have to blend the best I can. I will set the level of the vocal that I want to be up front and then use the others to complement it. Using panning and my doubler effect, I am able to get the 3 vocals sounding nice and blended together. I have sent all 3 vocals to the doubler aux, reverb aux, and slight delay aux send. The delay and reverb are mainly there to help fill some space in the mix.
The next part I worked on was the verses. There wasn’t too much to work on since QT didn’t want any vocal effects, besides the normal treatment. I used EQ, Deessing, and Compression to clean up the vocals. Then used the doubler aux, reverb aux, and Waves H-delay aux. Doubler was used to beef up his vocals since they were only 1 take. The reverb and delay were used for filling up space in the mix. I used the same treatment on the non-singing part of the chorus and the at the end of the track. I also noticed that the second verse was a little louder than the first verse when it was recorded. Since I had both verses on the same track with the same treatment, I used Automation to lower the volume a bit on the second verse.
On the Master track, since I am not really mastering the track, I will still give it a mastering treatment, so the artist can hear what it would kind of sound like when it is mastered. I used the PuigTec EQ1-A, SSL COMP, and L2 limiter, basically, some mastering eq, not too much, but just enough to clean the track a bit. Some basic compression to even out the entire track, and the limiter so the audio will not clip or distort when it is played back in a car or stereo.
I know this is kind of broad, but I can’t give away all the secrets. It has taken years of learning to get the mixing part down, and I still feel that I need improvement. I’ll let you guys be the judge though.
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