Getting Vocals to Cut Through Guitars

Getting Vocals to Cut Through Guitars

Distorted electric guitars and lead vocals often take up energy in the same frequency spectrum. This poses a problem. We still want the guitars to sound crunchy and present, but the vocal must sit on top of the mix and maintain its clarity. The solution? Using side-chained multiband compression.

Rather than merely EQ the conflicting frequencies out of the guitar, we’ll get more creative. This method allows us to keep the energy in the guitars when the vocal is not present, and back off this frequency area when the vocal is present.

The Mix Setup:

  1. Insert a flexible multiband compressor or dynamic EQ such as Fab Filter Pro-MB on your guitar buss.
  2. Send your processed vocal (pre-fader, post effects) to the side chain of the plug-in on the guitar buss.
  3. Create a band of compression somewhere between 1k-6k where the vocal clarity lies. Set your compression ratio/attack/release settings to taste.
  4. Ensure the compression ONLY takes place in the MID channel – leaving the side channels untouched.
  5. Listen and watch as your vocal triggers compression in the mid channel only at the frequencies which conflict with the vocal.

Fab Filter Pro-MB

In the end, we now have a way to keep all of the energy in the guitars, while keeping the vocal on top of the mix. Neat! The best part is, it happens so transparently because we’re only working in the mid channel with smooth compression. You don’t hear pumping or dullness, but the vocal maintains priority.

Checkout the video I made of the process!

How to Mix Guitars
Article Name
How to Mix Guitars
Mixing guitars and vocals can be tough as they both take up the same frequency range. Here are some tips to allow the vocals to cut through heavy electric guitars.
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Virtual Mix Engineer
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