Background vocals. The jelly next to your peanut butter. The mint in your mojito. The Jesse to your Heisenberg.
They can either add solid depth and power to the lead vocals; or they can step all over them and cause chaos in your mix. Let’s try to get closer to the former.
Today’s quick mixing trick:
Use a solid serving of chorus on your background vocals. This will get help them to not step all over the lead vocal and will get them blending into the mix instead of sitting on top of it.
My favorite (favorite, favorite) plugin to use on background vocals is the Digidesign Ensemble stock plugin. I actually don’t remember the last mix I did that had background vocals where I didn’t use at least a little bit of this on ’em. It’s a chorus-esqe type of plugin that is very transparent when used sparingly. And it takes very little knob fiddling to get it sounding great.
If you don’t have that particular plugin, just play with a gentle chorus on your background aux track. Simple pimple.
Let’s use an example from a crusher of a rock band named Fameless. These guys are from Romania and are absolutely killing it. Their singer won “The Voice” in Romania and they’ve been on a roll ever since. We finished up their first full length album earlier this year and it was just released a few months ago on Universial Music. Check out this balls-to-the-wall track. Pay special attention to the background vocals at 1:40.
Now let’s take a look under the hood.
The background vocal track with no Ensemble.
The same track with the magic goo of Ensemble smeared all up on it.
Lead vocal and background track together.
And the whole band at that section.
That vocal sits in there, supports the lead, but doesn’t step on it. Magic in a stock plugin. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the singer is frickin’ killer.
Honestly, I find that in most cases, the only knob I’m tweaking with Ensemble is the mix knob. The plugin is that good. If you’re using a chorus, just play with it so it does what it needs to do without being overly obvious.
Squishy, delicious background vocals in less than thirty seconds. Amazing. Also, make sure to use this when you need multiple background vocals to gel together. Some gooey chorus helps there just as well!
Check out Fameless:
Jeffro is a recovering gear-aholic who spends somewhere between 2 and 300 hours per week mixing music. Going strong in the studio world since 1999, he loves long walks on the beach, baskets full of puppies, and writing in the 3rd person. Shoot him an e-mail anytime.