Join Skye Lewin for an in-depth discussion in this video Mixing a pop vocal track, part of Logic Pro X: Mixing and Mastering.
In this song, there are a lot more vocal tracks. We have 2 lead vocals, an adlibs track, a vocoder track, and 12 background vocal parts. Each one of these background tracks is actually a sub-mix of four different vocal performances. If these weren't already sub-mixed, we'd actually be working with 52 vocal tracks. This kind of high-track count is common in pop music. In fact, it's really not uncommon to have a lot more vocal tracks than even this. So, the process is going to be pretty much the same, we just have a lot more to work with.
Let's open up the mixer and do a first pass just to get a static level between the different lead vocal parts. Now, we have an A and B lead vocal, so let's balance between the two. And I'm going to jump to maybe the verse or the pre-chorus, probably the pre-chorus is a good spot to start. That's going to be marker number three, so I'm going to press the numeric keypad number three,. And that's actually not a bad balance between the two. So we can leave out there to start. Now, let's add in more of the vocals. The next track is an adlib that's going to come in near the end of the song.
Let's take a look at this. I'm going to close the mixer so I can see where this actually starts in the arrangement. And I can see the adlib's going to start looks like at the end of the bridge, really just through the fourth chorus. So let's add that in and go to the fourth chorus and get a balance on this. All right. So what we might want to do with this, for example, would be treat it a little differently so that it doesn't sound the same as the other vocals. One thing we could do is EQ it to make it a little bit filtered sounding.
Now, it looks like I've cut way too much high end out so let's put some of that back. Another thing we could do to accentuate that even further is add a little distortion, and we'll try a little bit of Overdrive. Great. Now, we just need adjust the levels since it's now louder. And again, this is a static level. We're going to want to automate this level as we get further in the mix so that it's just the right amount in just the right places. Now let's do another static pass to get some basic levels between the two different background vocal sections. In this case, we have background vocals one, and background vocals two.
So I'm going to unsolo these tracks. And if you hold the Option key and click on the Solo button, it will deactivate all of the Solo buttons in the mixer. So now I'm going to solo the Background Vocal one sub-mix which we've already set up. And the Background Vocal 2 sub-mix, and just get a little sense of what we have here. You know what? There's quite a bit going on there so maybe we'll start with one and just get the levels in the one, right? And then add in the others. Cool. So we have an A and a B thing, and a little harmony on the end of the B. All right, so that's pretty decent.
Let's get the other part in there now. This is pretty decent already as well. We can already hear that there are some panning baked into these tracks. So, there's already some of the mix work done for us. Now let's bring them both in, and let's add back in the lead vocals. And let's get a sense of the sound with all of these in place. So there's quite a lot going on there, and our goal is to make it so that we can hear everything without it getting too busy and in our face. Now, I'm going to compress the lead vocals a bit.
We could process both of these together since there an A and a B on a similar sounding part. And the way we would do this is by sending them out to a sub-mix. So instead of outputting to the stereo out, we would use an available bus. And Logic's going to create a new aux return for us, and we can call this lead vocals. Now if you want to move this channel so that it's right next to the lead vocals in the mixer, we can create a new track, close the mixer, and find that track in the Arrange window. And then we can move it up where we want it to be.
And now our lead vocal channel is going to be in the same position that it's in the main window. Let's add a little compression in EQ, and get a little bit more dialed-in with our sound. Now, I'm going to take the adlib out, since I'm just going to work on the leads real quick. And I'm going to take the backgrounds out as well and just focus on what we're doing. So that's going to add a little bit of brightness and bite to the sound, which we want to help it cut through the mix when everything else is in place. But what we're going to need to do is double check it once we have all the other instrumentation in around the vocals.
So I'm not going to go too far with it just yet. And again, we are going to filter out some low frequencies since there's even less with the female vocal. And if we want, we can just copy and paste these on to the backgrounds as a starting place. Although we'll probably want to tweak them further. I'm going to pop this background vocal in. Yup, and you can see the compressor threshold is hitting a little harder on these vocals, so we really need to dial them in. And I probably need to give a little bit more low-end for this background parts as well. And I can copy these plugins over to our background vocal two sub-mix as well.
Let's bring that in and hear it. Now, this part has a little bit more low-end, so I might want to emphasis that with a little boost, maybe between 500 hertz and 1 kilohertz. Subtle, but it does help a tiny bit. Now, let's bring in our vocoder track that we haven't even played with yet. I believe this only plays at the end as well. It's already sounding fairly filtered, but it might benefit from a little more processing. I'm going to try a little distortion on this as well. And I can just clean it up by taking out any low frequencies that don't need to be a part of that signal, just in case there are some in the recording.
So I'm not taking much, but you can see that there is a little bit of low frequency that the analyzer is showing that I'm removing. Now we have a pretty basic static mix of our vocals. Let's add a little bit of reverb and some delays. I'm going to scroll to the end here and just double check. It doesn't look like there's any reverb return created yet, so I'm going to go ahead and create one. And in this case, I'm going to create it from the lead vocal sub-mix itself. And I'll set the level to zero for now, which is probably far too much.
And we'll rename this vocal reverb, and let's put a Space Designer plugin on here. And let's see, let's dial-in some sort of a good sound for this reverb. That's a little bit bright and shimmery, but let's play with it. I'm going to take everything out except for the leads just so I can hear the reverb a little better. Scroll back over here, and just solo the lead again. All right, that's not bad. We can definitely do better. Let's try one of the IR samples, maybe a small room might work or a plate would be nice.
Let's try a plate. I'm going to try bright or clear vocal and see what one of these sounds like. It's a little more in the ballpark. It's a bit short, we hear a bit of pre-delay slap on there which is nice. Okay. Now, that might not be the same vocal reverb that we want to use on the background parts. So let's create another vocal reverb that we'll send from the backgrounds. And, I'm also going to snap this up to zero. And put the same send on the other background part. And then I'm going to rename this one EG Reverb.
Now, let's pop Space Designer on this as well. We probably want something a little warmer. Let's try an IR, maybe a medium space, and maybe some sort of a room would be good. Let's see what we've got here, maybe medium suite, that sounds nice, let's see what this sounds like. And I'm going to bring in just those channels again so I can hear them. It's a little bit bright, so maybe I'll dampen it a little bit by using the high shelving filter in the EQ in Space Designer.
It's a little bit better. Now, I've also got a little bit too much so I'm going to dial that back by changing the amount being sent there. Yeah, somewhere in there is decent. And let's add a little bit of delay. In a pop mix, we definitely want to use delay to help make the mix move a little bit more. We'll go ahead and add this on all the parts for now. And we could do this all at once by selecting each channel in the mixer and just inserting it once, instead of doing it on each channel separately like I am doing now.
And I'm going to rename this Vocal Delay 1, and let's insert the basic Echo plugin for now. I'm going to try out the eighth note, maybe dial the repeats back a little bit. That's quite a bit, maybe we want a little bit more repeats and were going to want to definitely tweak this sound more. So let's, let's keep working it with it, but I'm going to dial it in more. So first thing, I'm going to put a little EQ after this to make it not so full bandwidth. So we can do the same trick and filter out a lot of the low frequencies and make it a little bit more telephone filter sounding.
I mean, that's already a lot better. Now, we can dial it in a little further by getting just the right amount sent from each channel to the delay. So you can hear how that brings the mix to life and gives it a bit more bounce. Now in a pop mix like this, you might want to also add another quarter note delay and maybe a half note delay for certain keywords. So go ahead play around with that. We're not going to add them for now. The process though is the same as what we've just done. And keep in mind that those will probably not play all the way throughout the mix, so you'll want to automate those delays in and out as needed, especially on the longer half note delay.
And again, we'll cover automation in the next chapter. You may even want to set up a sub-mix for all of the vocals. This allows you to EQ or compress the whole a capella together if desired. It also allows you a quick way to bounce just the vocals if you want to print an a capella mix of your song. Let's set this up real quick. It's the same process that we've all ready done and so it'll be pretty easy. The only difference is that since we already have certain sub-mixes in place, we don't want to send all of the vocals. What we want to do instead is send just the channels that are going to the stereo out.
So the adlibs, our lead vocal sub-mix, our background vocal sub-mix, and our second background vocal sub-mix, and if we want to include it, the vocoder. And I should point out that I'm selecting each channel by holding the Cmd key and clicking on each one that I want to include. Now, we can just set the output to an available bus and let's scroll over and rename it. Whatever you want to call it, A Capella, Vocal Sub-mix, I'll call it A Capella, and there we go.
So now that we've created a sub-mix, all of our vocals will play through here. You can see that the tools and techniques for mixing vocals in these different genres of music are actually really similar. However, the choices that we make are the main difference. And that's why it's so important to hone our ears, and to learn to trust our instincts when mixing. Learning the tools is really the easiest part. Next, we'll mix the drums in both songs
- Importing audio
- Using Track Stacks
- Working with the Logic Mixer
- Mixing a song
- Automating and bouncing the mix
- Mastering the final track(s)