So in today’s episode, I’m tracking and mixing pop vocals in Pro Tools. I’ll be sharing some of my go-to techniques as well as teaching you the tricks that I use to make a vocal sound full… and I do it on a dynamic microphone! Stick around until the end because there’s some good stuff in here!
*I’m going to be working extremely quickly to show you that you can get results fast. I will be doing a more in depth approach to mixing pop vocals in an upcoming masterclass.*
Watch the video below:
Mixing Pop Vocals In Pro Tools
So in the video, you will notice that I did some processing on the way in. This is normally what I would do when mixing a vocal. I tend to treat my vocal similar – get rid of some mid boxy tones, boost some lows, and boost some top end for some silky presence. In this instance, I handled the majority of it on the way in. Is this a perfect vocal mix? No. Do I get something that would be close to usable in under 10 minutes… yes.
Make Decisions Quickly
One of the keys to not just mixing pop vocals in Pro Tools but mixing anything is to make decisions quickly and trust your gut. I know that this sounds super Yoda like but it’s true! I can’t tell you how many hours that I’ve wasted aimlessly tweaking one small setting. When you make decisions quickly you commit, you learn, and you clear the path for the next decision.
A song is just 1,000 decisions that had to be made.
Check out this article all about how I had to make decisions fast before moving to Thailand.
So make decisions, make mistakes, move on, and keep learning!
It’s All About The Auxes
In this example, the question that Jacob asked was about getting that super wide pop vocal sound from a bland, boring mono vocal. For me, I will typically stack vocals on top of each other, tune them meticulously, time them with vocalign, and then pan them respectively.
But not when time is a factor.
So today I set up aux sends which serve as parallel processing. By doing this I can blend all four of this different effects to give my vocal width, depth, realism, and shine.
For this trick I used the following:
- Ocean Way Reverb from UAD – This helped me add realism and a small room verb to my boring dynamic SM7B
- Waves ADT – I used the fake stereo mode to create a fake double-tracked vocal sound and width
- Soundtoys Echoboy – I used the pop radio fx setting. This gave me a 1/8th and 1/16th note delay that panned with a telephone effect on the EQ
- Slate VerbSuite – I used a vocal plate setting to add that final verb touch
When blending all of these I got a nice cool almost washy vocal sound. If I were to sit down and do this a mix I would automate these sends (auxes are also referred to bus sends) to change in volume based on times in the arrangement.
*Note: All of these plugin settings and effects can be achieved with most of the tools that you have available. It just requires more time, work, and an understanding of not only what they do but WHY you’re using it. Just look at my description of the delay I used. You can achieve this with a series of mono aux sends and EQ.
Use Your Ears
Don’t just take my word on mixing pop vocals in Pro Tools. There are many options and different approaches so in the end… always trust your ears and your gut decisions! Don’t just grab plugins just to grab them. Understand why they need to be used!
I hope that these tips help and remember… you’re just one song away!