Tips & Tricks to Record and Mix your Vocals
Recording And Mixing Your Vocals
Back when I still used to rap and couldn’t afford costly mixing services, I had a lot of problems mixing rap vocals. It was no challenge to make the beat sound decent, but I always screwed up on the vocal mix. However, I never gave up and kept on mixing my own rap songs. Over time I got better and better at creating a solid and professional sounding mix.
I know how challenging it can be to mix rap songs and vocals. And most rappers don’t have enough money to spend on a professional mixing engineer. That’s why I decided to reveal some of my easy and powerful mixing tricks and techniques. With these tips you’ll be able to make your rap song sound decent and professional. So listen up and read on...
Tip 1: How To Record Rap Vocals
Before you mix any of your rap songs, you should make sure that your vocals are recorded the right way. Make sure that you use a decent mic. The best mics to record rap vocals are condenser microphones. I personally use a Neumann TLM 103 mic to record vocals, but that one’s pretty expensive. Just make some research on forums and Google to find out what mic suits you best and is in your price class. However, a mic is something very personal. Rapper A sounds different than rapper B, even though they may be using the same microphone. So if possible, test your microphone before you buy it. And if you like how your voice sounds, buy it.
When it comes to recording vocals, always record in mono and never in stereo. Always record your vocals clean, don’t add any effects when you’re recording. All effects and mixing is done afterwards, not while you’re recording. Record every 16 bars separately (I don’t recommend to record it twice and then layering it, instead train your voice to get more power and volume). Then record two separate double tracks for every 16 bars: In the double tracks you accentuate specific parts of the song to get more volume. When recording two separate double tracks, make sure
you double the exact same parts of the song. The more exact your doubles are, the better your vocals will sound. This is HUGE!
If you want to, you can record a fourth vocal track and add some «yeahs» and «Ah’s» and other additional words, atmospheric or funny phrases. But don’t overdo this one.
For the hookline, do the same as for the verses. But this tame you can record the entire hookline two or even three times and layer it. This will make your hookline stand out from the verses and make it sound really powerful. And don’t forget to record your doubles twice for the hookline. Don’t record your doubles once and then duplicate it. If you want your vocals to sound really cool, always record your doubles twice and make sure you rap on point.
Tip 2: The Best EQ-Preset To Mix Rap Vocals
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to mixing rap vocals is the EQ (equalizer). I struggled with equing my vocals for a long time, it just didn’t sound professionally no matter what changes I applied to the EQ. But then I found an incredible EQ-preset that changed everything. I know, most engineers don’t recommend to use presets when mixing your rap songs. However, if you don’t have a lot of experience with mixing rap vocals, it’s definitively a good idea to use presets. Use presets as a foundation and then modify the settings from there. That’s the best way to roll if you’re new and want to see (hear) fast results.
When you’re equing your vocals, always use a paragraphic or parametric EQ. A parametric EQ lets you apply mathematically exact modifications to the vocal frequencies. I personally use Waves Q10 Paragraphic Equalizer. Just make some research on Google and music related forums to find a free parametric or paragraphic equalizer.
Here’s the exact EQ preset I use as a foundation to mix all of my rap songs:
Use these EQ settings in your parametric or paragraphic EQ and then save them as a preset (if your EQ allows saving presets). Depending on your mic, the recording circumstances and your voice you’ll have to modify the EQ settings. These presets are not a magic bullet for good sounding vocals. Keep in mind that this is only a basic foundation to work with but not a substitute for manually mixing your song.
Tip 3: Panning Your Vocals
Assign one of the hookline tracks to the right pan and one to the left pan. This will boost your refrain and keep it clean and comprehensible at the same time. Play around with the stereo panning until it sounds good. In many cases it’s not a good idea to pan 100% to the left or right. Often it’s enough to pan 25%-75%. This will create a cool stereo acustic space.
Leave the third track of the hookline centered and don’t apply any panning here. Play around with the volume until it sounds cool and coherent. Usually you’ll want to leave the two tracks with panning at the same volue level, otherwise it may sound weird. The volume of the track in the center will usually vary from the two tracks with panning.
In the verses, use panning on your doubles. Assign one double track to the right and one to the left. Make sure they have the same volume. If you rapped on point, your vocals will sound incredible. When panning, it doesn’t have to be 100% to the right and left. Play around with the panning until the verse sounds coherent. Tip: Most rappers boost their doubles to the point where they’re much too loud. Forget about your ego, you don’t have to give your vocals an excessive boost. This will sound unprofessional and much too loud in the ears of your listeners. Less is often more. Never forget that.
Tip 4: The Best Vocal Compressor For Rap
Compression is just as important as equing. In fact, it’s probably even more important when it comes to rap music. Rap vocals usually have a huge amount of compression. So don’t hold back when applying compression for your own vocals. Go crazy!
One of the best compression plugins for rap vocals is «Voxengo Voxformer». A mixing engineer recommended it to me some years ago and it changed everything for me. Believe me, it makes a huge different which compressor you use. Picking one that’s good for vocals is crucial.
You can purchase it for 70 $ here. I know it costs some money, but if you’re mixing your own rap vocals this plugin is a no-brainer. The plugin has four very good sounding presets for rap vocals and it’s very easy to use. Even if you don’t use the presets, you’ll find it much easier to make your vocals sound incredible than with other compressors.
A good basic strategy is to use the 20/200 rule. Use a 20 ms attack and a 200 ms release and then modify the attack and release slightly until it sounds good.
Tip 5: Mixing The Hip Hop Instrumental
The mix of your instrumental will have a huge impact on the mix of your vocals. You can’t look at the vocals and the instrumental as separate parts. They’re all part of the same mix. The basic rule is: If you modify one single part of the mix, the entire mix will change. However, it’s often a good idea to lower the middle and high frequencies of the beat a little bit to create some space for your voice. If you have the separate tracks of the beat it’ll be way more easy to mix your song and create good sounding vocals. Keep this in mind when buying beats.
I hope these tips will help you mix your rap vocals and make them sound even better. It’s manageable to mix your vocals by yourself with a little bit of practice and trained ears.
How To Rap With Emotion And Energy
We obviously live in a society where people mumble words in a dull and undynamic way and think that whispering is the equivalent of talking normally. In other words: We live in a society of whisperers, as vocal coach Roger Love describes our modern age. But even worse, when people talk it’s not coming from a place of strength and personal power. There’s no energy behind the words. And the result is boredom and apathy.
I see the same pattern occur when I listen to most newbie rappers. Their flow is starting to kick in, their rhymes are getting more versatile, but they still suffer from one big problem: There’s no energy behind their rap. They basically just spit words in a rhythmic way, but there aren’t any real emotions coming through.
The Truth About Communication
I want you to think of your lyrics as the surface level of your communication. It’s what the fans get to hear on a logical level, they process the content of your lyrics and like them or dislike them. However, beneath the logical content of your lyrics, theres a deeper level of communication. This is what is called subcommunication. Psychologist have found out after many years of research that most of our communication (something between 80-90 percent) is non-verbal. These 80-90 percent are what is called your subcommunication.
It’s absolutely crucial that you start focusing on your subcommunication. This has nothing to do with the logical part of your song, aka with the content of your lyrics, but with the deeper emotional layers of your lyrics. So what transports the emotional message in your song is actually not – as so often misinterpreted – the content of your lyrics, but how you communicate that logical content to your listeners. Whenever you perform or record your lyrics, they should come from a place of energy and emotion from deep within you. In other words: True art is found in the delivery!
The 3- Minute Exercise For Power Rapping
There’s a simple exercise that you can use to rap with more emotion and power. In fact, I do this same exercise almost every day to talk with more energy and emotion in my day to day life. All you have to do is set a timer for three minutes and then talk about the most boring thing that you did today or the day before with as much enthusiasm and energy as possible. You can talk about whatever you want to, as long as the content is fucking boring. Talk about your train ride to work or how you cooked your food or something similar to that. But when you’re talking, talk as if it where the coolest thing that you did in your entire life. Talk with passion, excitement and enthusiasm.
If you do this simple little exercise every day for three minutes, you’ll naturally start to talk from a place of energy and emotion in your day to day interactions. And more importantly it will massively improve the emotional delivery of your lyrics. Instead of rapping like someone who is mumbling words in a rhythmic way, your words will be carried by an emotional wave of strength, power and authentic emotion. I can guarantee that this will also have a huge impact on your live performances. Your listeners will just feel the intense energy behind your rap.
And the fire behind your lyrics will also ignite a fire in your fans and listeners. Go ahead and try it. It’s just 3 minutes a day.
How To Get A Booming Voice
The vocal chords are a muscle like every other muscle in your body. And they can be exercised just like any other muscle. Imagine how cool it would be if there was a gym for your vocal chords, a place where you could go and train your voice to become stronger and more powerful every day.
There’s some good news: You can actually train your voice by doing some simple exercises every day. You don’t even have to go to the gym. You can do it all at home.
This information was taken from "Booth Master Handbook Recording And Mixing Your Vocals".