Join Bobby Owsinski for an in-depth discussion in this video The large and thick background vocal trick, part of Audio Mixing Master Class.
- [Instructor] Background vocals never seem to be wide enough and fat enough, but this trick will add both. You'll find you'll want to use it on every mix. So first of all, listen to this particular mix, and it has all the instruments in, but zero in on the background vocals. ♫ ("The Bridge That You Don't Burn" by Patricia Bahia) Listen to them just by themselves, and these are four unison parts that are spread left and right. ♫ (Background vocals from "The Bridge That You Don't Burn") Now, there's a delay on it and there's a reverb on the delay, so that gives you the effect, but we can actually make this a little bigger.
And the way we're going to do it is by adding not one, but two choruses. So the first one we'll add over here, and what we'll do is, we'll set this for 100%, and just have a listen to what it does. ♫ (Isolated vocals from "The Bridge That You Don't Burn") So it makes it a little bit bigger-sounding, and now we'll do the same thing. We'll add the same chorus on the right-hand side, but now there's two tricks to this. The first one is that, we're going to make the choruses overlap panning-wise.
So, in other words, instead of panning 'em hard left and hard right, we're going to pan one hard left and a little bit to the right, and then the second one, hard to the right and a little bit to the left. That way, they'll overlap. Now, we're also going to change one of the choruses, it doesn't matter which one, but we're going to set rate a little higher and the depth a little higher as well. We want them to sound different, and that's kind of the secret to making this really thick. So, now let's listen to what happens. ♫ (Isolated vocals from "The Bridge That You Don't Burn") Do it straight.
♫ (Isolated vocals from "The Bridge That You Don't Burn") Now, you can hear the chorus effect, and you might think it's too much, but in fact, it could work very well on the track like that. We might have to back it off a little bit, but sometimes, just having it to the point where you can hear it when it's soloed, is perfect when you actually add it into the mix. So, let's listen now. ♫ ("The Bridge That You Don't Burn" by Patricia Bahia) So listen without it.
♫ ("The Bridge That You Don't Burn" by Patricia Bahia) You can hear it's a lot thicker when we actually have the choruses in, it makes it just that much wider and that much fuller. And sometimes, that's exactly what we need, especially for unison vocals. Unison vocals can sometimes sound flat, and this just gives them some life and makes them sound bigger and thicker. But it can also work on harmony vocals as well. So, try this, try it on any background vocals that you have, and you'll find it's a really fun trick to have in your bag of tricks.
To make your background vocals extra thick and fat, first, create two new stereo chorus channels. Pan one stereo chorus hard to the left and slightly to the right at around two o'clock, and the other chorus hard to the right, slightly to the left, ten o'clock. Set one of the choruses to a slightly deeper depth and faster modulation rate. Finally, send the same amount to each chorus from an AUX in on the background channels or subgroup.
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