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How to Mix Vocals in Pro Tools 8: Tips for Mixing

Updated on April 4, 2011
How to Mix in Pro Tools 8
How to Mix in Pro Tools 8

Mixing vocals is an art form, whether you are using Pro Tools or another software. Before you start mixing vocals be sure the rest of your track is mixed where you want it 99% of the way. You may have to still tweak it a little once you get the vocals where you want them but the rest of your mix should be pretty much done.

To start mixing vocals in Pro Tools send all of your vocal tracks to the same bus. In my case I always use Bus 1. Do not bus them in stereo, vocals are always mono and always center unless you are doing an effect. While we are here you should have done the same type of group busing to the rest of your tracks, all the drums to a bus all the guitar tracks to a bus etc. If you haven't already done this do it now, even if you one have one bass track send it to it's own bus so that everything goes to a bus either alone or with a group. This makes sure there is no extra delay that differs between tracks and also makes it easy to automate the groups as one. If you are using effects add them to the bus and not the track with the audio, unless the effect is only for that track and not the whole group.

Now that you have grouped your vocals, mix the individual tracks, not the group to get a good level from start to finish. Do this a little at a time till you get to the end then play the whole song back and look for errors in the big picture.

After you have a good level check to see if you can understand everything. If not is it an instrument that is getting in the way? If so this is where EQ comes in. Say when you hear your snare drum the words that play at the same time get less intelligible. Open and EQ plug in on your Snare drum track and give it like a 2-3 db dip, then move the dip around till you find where it is in the same place as the frequency of the vocals that aren't coming through. Once you find it adjust it so that you are taking the least amount of EQ out of the snare but still making your vocals stand out more. If 3db helps but isn't enough do not go past 3db on the EQ but open an EQ plug in on the vocal track and add a 1-3 Hill at the same frequency of the 3db dip on the snare track. Add this plug in to the whole group if it occurs throughout the song of just to the track if it happen in just a smaller place. Do this for any problems with any instruments. This gives the vocals their own frequency space.

To give the vocals their own physical space just make sure nothing except vocals is panned 100% center. Also give the vocals group a touch of reverb. Not like an effect just a hardly noticeable amount. This makes it sound more cohesive especially if it wasn't all recorded in one take, which it never is.

Those are the vocal tricks for mixing in Pro Tools. After you have mixed your vocals to your satisfaction leave it alone and come back to it in a few hours and make sure you have the same feeling about it. Also, remember not to mix too loudly. As in, turn your monitors do to a loud talking level not blasting. This makes for a good mix on all speaker levels not just for blasting it. One you have come back to the mix and still love it give the Master Fader a small touch of hardly noticeable reverb too to give the whole track that cohesive feel just like we did on the vocals. Last step is to bounce it out and let others hear it and take constructive criticism, until you mix a ton of tracks you are going to need to help of other peoples ears to really know how well you did.

The Best Book Ever Written On Mixing Audio


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    • AlanSwenson profile image

      AlanSwenson 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      That is a whole other topic... best it is always best to have never had any background noise to start with as removing them can be easy in some cases to almost impossible in others.

    • profile image

      Carlos Finales 5 years ago

      How Can I clean up background noices in my Voice Record?

    • AlanSwenson profile image

      AlanSwenson 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      @Glen - I don't remember saying there is a right way to mix. Sure you could boost a frequency 15db but it will change the timbre of the instrument or voice. If that is your intent then do it. If your intent is to make a part stick out and not change the overall tone then I would not do that. Being a professional mixer myself, I would encourage any input to my article. Of course the article is advice and not meant to be an end all be all on the only way to mix.

    • profile image

      Glen Marchese 5 years ago

      Being a professional mixer I can honestly this could be the worst description on mixing I've ever seen in print.

      If you can only eq something up to 3db why do company's make the eq +/- 15db. You have to use your ears to mix not your eyes.

      Use your ears there is no right or wrong way to mix only the results you get.

    • profile image

      k33f 6 years ago


    • AlanSwenson profile image

      AlanSwenson 7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      @DJDJ - Pro Tools does not compensate for plug in delay automatically, so busing all tracks to their own channel groups keeps them in sync. This may require more explaining... I may write a future hub just on this topic.

    • profile image

      DJDJ 7 years ago

      I wonder about what you are saying about avoiding delay between tracks by sending them to an aux? I can't see that got any special effect..