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Fix It In The Mix

Lesson 12 of 17

Vocal Techniques

Kurt Ballou

Fix It In The Mix

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

12. Vocal Techniques

Lesson Info

Vocal Techniques

So the lead vocalist is hand held and the backing vocalist is on a stand so that's kind of two different vocal approaches and weaken we can treat them we can treat them differently so with the lead vocals we know that um because of the bleed and we will actually go back and check this and the the unmixed version of this because of the bleeding to the vocal mike we'll be hearing some sort of modulating face stuff so we probably just wanna kind of like edit out or strip silence or how everyone approach it all the stuff on the lead vocal track that isn't vocals fortunately singers things of the micro you know in front of his face so his head is sort of acting as an acoustic baffle from the rest of the band so when he's actively singing there's not a whole lot of of the band bleeding into the vocal mike so it's it's pretty well isolated um going to use some kind of just you know, standard e q compression and a bit of set different types of sad saturation um and reverb on lead vocals it's a...

ll aside from just editing out the stuff between the vocals it's all pretty standard stuff so let's uh let's check out we first kind of demonstrate why we want teo remove the stuff in between the vocal tracks I think I'm going to seoul though go back to the original unmixed version and solo the guitar and the lead vocal. Go further back. Cab driver theo okay. That's. That's. Really? The perfect area. That's that's. What I'm looking for check. Check out this area right here. Can you hear that little phase effect? That's that's. Because the distance between the vocal mike and the guitar cabinet are are changing over time. So the phase relationship between the guitar bleeding into the vocal mike and the guitar in the guitar mike is varying and we get a phased sound. So we're definitely going to want to remove all of this bleed, which is this wei don't need that that's that's on unnecessary content in the vocal mike so good at all that stuff out of there. And, um, no chop chop up the lead vocal that's this blue track here. So just the areas that we need yelp there? Yeah, try that. Okay. So something's weaken dio there's a bit of thisa. Bit of like, uh, sibilant ce and close it is. And stuff coming out ofthe a vocal mike, we could do a bit of a queue and compression to kind of real that stuff in make make the, you know, make it more focused on this kind of mid range, the vocal and less on the the hissy stuff unless on the low frequency plo sieves by doing a bit of q on dh filtering so let's let's just check out what I'm doing with the ex consuls pretty subtle through that guy shuttles wrong now you hear this like kind of like a bellowing residence we wantto kind of curtail that a bit that guy shut now who are so fira? Why that amusing the compressor in with a really fast attack here and also a very fast release in order just we're not trying to be a character out of this compressor we're just trying to contain the dynamics and we don't really want, you know, like with on a snare drum, you might wantto let some of the transient through so that's near durham has a bunch of extra pop to it, but with vocal sound we're not looking for a bunch of extra attack on the vocal we just want pure pure level control. We could do something similar by doing a lot of extensive volume automation, but um I don't really have time for that, so I'm just using a compressor at a fairly low ratio is it about it's a little under four two one and and just set superfast knocking about five d b or so off of the loudest passages of vocals so again let's give it a quick listen who are so fira why all right, so that's that's better that's still that's still kind of shrill um but that might sound that sound okay sort of feeding into this air distortion thing which which will add a bit of throaty this but we're gonna want to filter out some of that shrillness and sizzle later on but let's check out what air distortion does for it. There's nae shuttles run now so phil's fira why who how are never seen you before? It has a bit of consistency to the breath penis of the vocal and seems to make the mid range a bit less sort of honky um and then I'm gonna but it's pretty subtle so I'm gonna add an additional layer of saturation and filtering with decapitate er hopefully we can get without making the vocals dark we can get rid of some of the semblance this way we also obviously use a dsr um I'm just not choosing to use that in his case through the ni shuttles wrong now poor sophie fira why I know that between the saturation of the filtering that we're doing with the capitated er it's bringing low mid forward and sort of connecting the full frequency spectrum of the vocal so let's do another quick little comparison this time I'm going to try really quickly by passing on bypass all the plug in so you can hear nothing versus all three plug is acting through the ni shuttles wrong now so phil's fira, why how I never seen you before so it's definitely thinner sounding than unprocessed, but it's also mohr steady in cohesive. You don't really with with a hundred hold vocal tough move where your rear right up close to getting a massive proximity effect in huge bass boost that you really don't need in that case. So I've removed a lot of that justo, just to make it sit into the mix better alright, so back to the slides for a second. Um oh, yeah, I forgot to add reverb, but, you know, river, whatever. Um, so backing vocals, we could take a different approach to the backing vocal or a slightly different parts of the backing vocal, because this is a stand mounted vocal, so it's it has a steady phase relationship to the other instruments, so we don't need to edit everything out of the backing vocals, and this actually only backing vocals in a very small portion of the song. So what I've decided to do is treat this backing vocal mike as as a bit of a room like, and this is this's, a technique I've used quite a bit there's been a few times, many times I've had to had to mix live recordings where there were no overheads, you know, there was a small venue and they just took a feed off off the board and they were no overhead mike. So the only place to grab symbols is either by, you know, smashing the tom mike's and pulling symbols out of tom mike's or by using the backing vocal mikes. Teo, get the cymbals and, you know, my band convergence this you know, this a guitar player, the bass player who each have ah backing vocal mike on either side of the stage that actually works out really well, they have, like, a stage left and a stage right static microphone, then unless our faces or in front of them pretty static microphone that can capture like the high frequency stuff coming off the stage. So we're trying to do a bit of that, um, with this mike and sort of treated as a bit of a supplemental overhead that gives a bit mohr sort of with panning information to the overhead. Unfortunately, it's on stage left and stage left was the side of the stage. It's kind of dominant in the overhead mike already. Um, if it had been on stage, right, it would've been cool to get more of, like the symbols that were on stage, right? But we're gonna do the normal thing that we did um to the other vocal track with with the ex consul. Just just a bit of range control and filtering, so check that out, so basically class it up, removing some of the some of the rumbly stuff, and we don't need the gate engaged. Uh, ruin some of the rumbly stuff and, um, sort of, you know, smoothing out the top and a little bit one of the big things we can do is kind of remove a lot of the dynamics with with maxim and that'll be we don't need to do any annoys shaving. Now maxim is just kind of like an older style limiter plug in that came become stock with with pro tools, but actually works pretty well. It's got a wet, dry mix, it's one of the first things that I ever encountered that had a wet tri mix and just, you know, basic brick wall limiter, we can use that for range control so let's, check that thing out, so we're not really hearing it yet, but let's, let's, look at some, pique your areas so some loud, loud crashes their way could probably even be a little more aggressive with it and a little less wet it a little more wet. Yeah, that's, not really doing much. Oh, you know, I think it's gonna do a little bit more once we get to the vocal area. This only one segment of the song that has vocals and they were, like, super inconsistent. I think the singer or the backing vocalist wasn't particularly, uh, consistent with his mike positioning. So let's hear what maxim does over there. All right, let's, hear that without maxim. Yeah, all right, so it's definitely helping kind of bring it in teo right dynamic range. And then we'll try a bit of decapitate her, which will sort of compress it a bit. Mohr filter out some more that's isley stuff on dh class it up, it's a tent that sounds this sound. This tone sounds pretty cheap as well. Beautiful, beautiful sounding vocals. So, you know, it just kind of brings the mid range forward and makes it sound a little bit more little bit more natural.

Class Description

The best way to get a great recording is to start with great source material, but that’s not always possible. Occasionally you are stuck with a less-than-perfect recording and the only thing you can do is to try and clean it up. 

Lucky for you, there are reliable techniques for restoring poorly recorded audio, and Kurt Ballou will teach you everything you need to know in Fix it in the Mix. 

While replacing drums with samples and reamping guitars are often effective ways to rebuild a sub-par recording, they are time-consuming and can diminish the uniqueness of the original recording. 

Fix it in the Mix will explore organic approaches to recovering and enhancing the natural tones from the original performances. Kurt will use recordings from real-world scenarios and walk you through, in detail, the audio restoration process. 

In Fix it in the Mix, Kurt will show you how to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions to audio restoration problems every engineer has faced. 



An absolutely fantastic course for anyone who is new (or even experienced) on how to use very innovative techniques to help bring some life to an otherwise poorly recorded demo. Thank you Kurt!


another fantastic course in the creative live audio section, kurt kills it,!! thank you!

Ashton Thebault

Definitely some handy tips in here that are useful for mixing live music, poorly recorded tracks and anything else that couldn't be rectified during recording. Kurt gave some tips I had never thought of and there were some valuable insights that came out from his discussions with people in the room. Very valuable if you deal with any sub-standard recordings and if you just want to get some tips.