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FutureStarrEQ Tips For Enhancing Clarity and Presence of Vocals in a Mix
As a rule of thumb, starting off your vocal production should include applying a high pass filter. This will reduce a lot of lower frequencies that may cause issues (electric static and mic stand rumble are common culprits). Next, use an equalizer (EQ) to reduce mud at 250Hz and 9kHz and boost high shelf boost at 9kHz for additional clarity. Finally, de-essers may help decrease sibilance levels. 1. Boost the low end Increased low end vocal boost can increase clarity and presence by eliminating the 250Hz to 500Hz range where most muddiness resides, so by decreasing this frequency we can ensure there is enough clarity for listeners to understand what is being spoken out loud. But be warned; going too far with this can dilute some of the warmth from our vocal take and cause it to sound unnatural. An HPF on vocals is an effective way to start the EQ process, as it will remove many low frequencies that don't belong in the mix - such as electrical static, 60Hz hum, mic stand rumblings or desk noise, self-generated microphone noise or any other unnecessary low frequencies that muddie up vocal performance. As you progress up the frequency spectrum, you can begin shaping the vocal to fit into your mix. Many people make the mistaken assumption that they must boost everything for an ideal vocal, however this is often not necessary. Instead, try and reduce any muddiness present in the low mids (around 2kHz to 5kHz), by decreasing resonances caused by being too close to mic or room reflections; increase its amplitude slightly so as not to lose presence within this region. As it's important not to overdo this step, as too much boost could make vocals harsh or aggressive and clash with any low frequencies present in your track, such as bass or kick drum. Instead, find a suitable middle ground by employing a narrow Q peak with its amplitude increased to half of one decibel; you could then use half of this boost boost for any harsh sibilance present (usually 4kHz-8kHz) by decreasing its amplitude with de-esser (compressor sidechained from an equalizer). Caution must be observed with regards sibilance as adding too much sibilance can make vocal sound unnatural - use moderately until found acceptable results! 2. Boost the mids Vocal boosts can significantly enhance their clarity and presence in a mix. This is particularly essential when mixing in the studio, where various instruments may compete for similar frequency ranges with vocal recordings - leaving vocals vulnerable to being lost within their mix due to overpowering other frequencies. Start off a vocal track right by rolling off bass frequencies with a high-pass filter to reduce noise and feedback from recordings, as well as any unnatural low frequency energy created by proximity effects in vocal microphones. If there is too much distortion or fuzz in a vocal performance, boosting some mid frequencies may help smooth things out. Just be wary not to make too great of an adjustment here as too much change could make the vocal sound harsh and unnatural; typically no more than 5dB should be added here. Another key area for emphasis is between 1 kHz and 5 kHz, where vocal tone has its "umph." Intelligibility depends on this area as you use this to decrease sibilance (which sounds similar to letter "S") that could make words difficult to hear. This range is where most vocal "harshness" can be found, so if your vocal is sounding harsh you should comb through this area using a very narrow Q (around 0.5dB). This will enable you to pinpoint which frequency(ies) is causing harshness before gradually decreasing its strength until your voice no longer sounds harsh. There are other frequencies that can help enhance vocal clarity, but these six are the most frequent and effective. Remember that all these techniques depend on the vocalist - dull vocalists will need more effort than lively ones in order to bring out their full potential; and energetic singers can make even difficult mixes stand out more clearly. 3. Boost the highs Boosting highs can make vocals sound brighter and clearer, but too much boosting can lead to voice sibilance (hissing sounds on "s" sounds). To prevent this issue from occurring in songs with lots of "s" sounds, try keeping your boosted frequencies below 5KHz. One high frequency range that's often neglected is the 3-6kHz range, which provides much of the clarity in voice clarity. If your vocals seem muffled, try increasing this range with a low Q. Just make sure not to go too far, as doing so could make the vocals sound muddy instead. Lower midrange can present challenges when singing in live situations or recording studios where microphones may pick up vibrations from speakers and other equipment. To prevent this, it is advisable to use a high pass filter with cutoff frequencies below 80 Hz in order to remove any unwanted rumble in recordings. This will provide better audio quality. Aspiring singers may be tempted to boost the entire vocal spectrum in order to increase clarity and presence; however, this may sound artificial or overproduced. Instead, try targeting specific frequency ranges that need attention: for example if your vocals sound thin and muffled try cutting frequencies between 100Hz-300Hz range; this can also help with recording with boomy room or vocal mics. Dependent upon the recording setup and room, adding a high shelf in the 3-4kHz range may also help add brightness and clarity. This can be particularly helpful for female vocals which often sound flat without some added brightness. Finally, be careful not to overdo it with highs as too much can create harsh sibilance on certain sss sounds - which can be hard to fix! If this occurs frequently then using a de-esser plugin may help soften harsh sounds. Using these six EQ tips should help enhance clarity and presence while increasing clarity and presence with vocals - and don't forget testing in headphones so you can hear the results! 4. Boost the treble Increased treble on vocals can add extra clarity, as well as make them sound fuller or "solid", making it easier for listeners to understand what is being said. Try increasing between 4 kHz and 5 kHz - however be careful that this harmonic frequency is above your core fundamental frequencies! As 7 kHz is home to many vocal resonances, increasing it may help create extra clarity and make the voice seem more present in the mix. Just be mindful not to overdo it as over-boosting may cause it to sound shrill or unnatural. One thing to keep in mind when recording vocals is that all vocals differ and need to be treated individually depending on the recording situation. If they were recorded in an overly boxy room and too close to the mouth, for instance, you may need to use a high shelf EQ filter in order to eliminate some harsh resonances that result from this close mic placement. If the vocals were recorded in an extremely dry studio, adding top end with a high pass filter or adding mild boost using an EQ could help add some top end and add depth. A good starting point when searching for what sounds best would be sweeping a wide Q on an EQ and seeing which setting sounds the best before listening back and making necessary changes as soon as you find your settings; especially important when working live! EQing live tracks may alter what needs to be done to achieve great sounding vocals!