Mixing Vocals 101: How to Mix Vocals Perfectly

by Ilan Adar, NoiseWorks CEO  15.08.2023
Mixing Vocals 101 - NoiseWorks
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Referencing songs for better vocal mixing

When mixing vocals, referencing songs is an invaluable technique. By comparing your mix to a professionally mixed and mastered track, you ensure that your vocals sit properly in the mix, both in terms of frequency balance and volume. It’s like having a roadmap to guide your mix decisions, ensuring that your vocals shine and stand out, just as they do in your favorite tracks.


Things to Compare with Your Reference Track:

  1. Arrangement of Your Reference Song
    • Types of instruments used.
    • Structure of the reference song. Are there genre-specific properties you need to incorporate?
  2. Sound of Each Instrument
    • Vocals: Consider the effects and techniques used to create specific vocal effects. Are the vocals heavily compressed or lightly? Are effects like chorus, bright reverb, or room ambiance applied? Which frequency is dominant?
    • Drums: Is the kick sharp and punchy as in modern productions, or softer and more recessed like The Beatles? How does the snare sound? Is it robust with a resonant tone, or is it thin with a pronounced attack, as often found in heavy metal productions?
    • Examine every instrument, describe its sound, and consider which effects the mixing engineer might have used to achieve the desired sound in your reference track.
  3. Positioning of Instruments
    • Determine where each instrument is placed in the mix. This involves understanding the stereo placement and depth, which can provide a sense of space and dimension to the track.

Use plugins

Certain plugins enable loading reference tracks, simplifying A/B testing.

For insights on A/B plugins, check out this blog.

Record your referenz from Spotify

To record your reference directly into your DAW, consider using a virtual sound card like Soundflower. Be aware, though, Soundflower isn’t compatible with Apple M1 and M2 processors.

Step 1. install SoundFlower

Begin by downloading SoundFlower. Once downloaded, extract the file and run the installer. Follow the installation steps, and you’ll be set to use SoundFlower. Download SoundFlower here.

Step 2. Create a new output -device

On your Mac, look for the “Audio – MIDI – Setup” application. Once opened, you can add a new device by clicking the + sign located at the bottom left.
Audio midi setup - create new Output device

Step 3. The sample rate

After creating your new output device, you can select the sample rate. For video sound recording, opt for 48.0 kHz. For song recording, use 44.1 or 88.2 kHz.
audio midi setup - mac

Step 4. The output device

Select SoundFlower as the output device. Additionally, I suggest selecting another device, such as your audio interface or integrated sound card. This allows you to hear the audio you’re capturing, especially when recording from sources like YouTube or Spotify.

two devices

Step 5. Give it a name

Remember to name it! This is crucial if you’re using multiple custom-designed output devices.

Step 6. New output in the preferences

You’ve successfully set up your custom multiple output device. To capture any audio on your Mac, head to your preferences, select ‘audio’, and choose the newly created multiple output device as your output option.

Audio settings

Step 7. DAW audio setup

Within your audio recording application, head to the audio setup. Select SoundFlower as the input device and for the output, choose your listening device (e.g., headphones, integrated speakers, external interface).

DAW - Audio - Setup

Step 8. Create a new stereo track

Create a new stereo audio track, selecting channels 1 and 2 as the input.

choose a stereo track in your DAW

Step 9. Start recording

You’re now set to record your Mac’s output signal, be it from YouTube or any app with audio output. Press ‘record’ in your DAW or recording tool and play the application you aim to record from. Since we’ve selected more than just SoundFlower as the output, you can hear the app’s audio even if the DAW is closed and no signal is passing through.

recording with soundflower

And now ?

You can now capture audio output from any device. This is useful for recording your editing sessions in the DAW or importing reference tracks directly without downloading from the internet.

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