Vocal EQ work can make or break a mix. A solid vocal mix will capture the listener’s ear. Follow these six steps to create a better mix with vocals that pop.
1. Select the Right Microphone
Proper vocal mixing begins before ever touching an EQ knob. It starts on the stage. Microphones differ in many ways, from type (ribbon / dynamic / condenser) to sensitivity to polar pattern to where step one is focued; microphone frequency response.
Each microphone make and model treats frequencies differently. For example, some microphones will boost certain frequency ranges while other might cut them or not affect them at all. Look at the frequency response charts for a few popular vocal microphones from Blue, Shure, and Sennheiser.
2. Start the sound check with the lead vocalist in mind.
The standard sound check involves setting gains and then EQ’ing the band, going from low-end up to high, with singers on top. For example, setting the gain for the drums, then bass, electric guitar, etc. until getting to the vocals. The next part would be doing the same with the EQ process until reaching the point oft EQ’ing across channels for blending. EQ’ing across channels would be like setting the EQ for the bass so it sound different than, yet fits with, the kick drum. But before touching the first EQ knob…
Keep in mind the sound of the lead vocalist. Let’s say the band is starting the sound check by playing their first song. While working on the EQ of the different instruments, keep in mind the sound of the lead vocalist. The thought is that while EQ’ing the instruments, you’re consciously carving out a bit of room for the lead vocalist to sit in the mix. By the time you are up to the lead vocalist, you already have a spot for them to sit in the mix. All you need to do is tweak their vocal EQ settings. This leads to point number 3.