EQ Tricks for Vocals?

topic posted Fri, March 23, 2007 - 5:26 PM by  Alan
Despite EQ for about everything else, vocals are the biggest problem by far for me. What do you all do to mix EQ with vocals, assuming you have it tracked fairly well with a decent condenser mic?

One would think at that point it'd be a putt from the green but it's turning out to be the Putt Putt course from hell.
posted by:
  • Unsu...
    One thing I would be careful of if you started boosting high frequencies is the sibilants... depending on the vocalist, the "sss" can get harsh and ear-cutting. So if you have a *good* De-Esser, use it... and use it wisely b'cuz it can do more damage than good if you don't nail it.

    When I'm De-Essing, I like to use a narrow-band de-esser so it doesn't drop all of the highs or the entire volume when the S's hit.

    I am a fan of cutting out some lows in vocals to make room for other instruments. Although, that all depends on the style of music and how full the mix of instruments is. If the mix is sparse and open, the vocals should probably be given full-reign and not have too much of one frequency cut or boosted. It will stick out too much and be a distraction. However, when you have a mix that is filled with all sorts of sounds and nuances, (especially if there are big basses or sounds that need to be given bass priority) it doesn't hurt to shelf out some bottom to allow for clarity and separation between things. I usually do a low-cut as well (hipass) to drop everything below a certain frequency. I usually won't put it above 80 or 90 Hz tho..

    I like to automate EQ's for vocals since at different points in a song, the mix changes. If the drums cut out and there's a breakdown where the vocals are amongst very few other instruments, I'll raise the gain on the low-shelf EQ so that they sound more natural.
    I don't automate the highs (or mids) though... I leave them set where they sound good.

    I agree with Steve that boosting 10-16K (air) adds a LOT to vocals... or using some form of exciter.
    I also agree with Bobby that boosting the high mids (not too wide or narrow a band) slightly (1-2dB) helps the vocals to pop out front if you have a full mix.
    • I'm sorry, but I think anyone making any replies to this without actually *hearing* anything isn't going to do you any good.

      How do you know that EQ is the problem? Can you post examples?
      • Unsu...
        >> I'm sorry, but I think anyone making any replies to this without actually *hearing* anything isn't going to do you any good.

        Since the subject title of this thread is "EQ Tricks for Vocals", I would suggest that it's fair to offer *general* suggestions of techniques that tend to work well across the board... of couse, there are very few of those. I happen to think adding some "air" to make the breathiness and upper harmonics more audible is *generally* a good thing to do for vocals.

        Also, he didn't say he's having problems with a particular vocal track, vocalist, mic or song style, he was asking what types of techniques we all like to use.

        Here's the active excerpt from the original post: "... vocals are the biggest problem by far for me. What do you all do to mix EQ with vocals..."

        So I would argue that it can in fact "do some good" to convey general "tricks" that have been used, agreed upon and taught by numerous award-winning producers.

        And what is really the point of hearing one vocal performance and commenting on how it could be made better? How is that going to help the person to treat another vocal with different characteristics in the future? It may help them to treat the initial case, but next time they'll probably be asking the same question all over again.

        There are different approaches for different vocals, but some things can be recommended as generally good practice.
  • My personal preference, is finding a mic that matches the singer well. Each mic has it's own frequency response, and finding one that matches well, removes (or lessens) the need of EQing a vocalist. If you aren't looking for a big investment in carrying a lot of variety of microphones, Antares also has a plugin that simulates the different characteristics of microphones.
    • Unsu...
      The thing with simulation plugins like the Antares though, is they're just modeling via applying eq to the sound, so you're just back at step one trying to figure out how to eq your vocal sound properly. Though it may point you in the right direction for the sound you're looking for, I might give it a shot if I were you.

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