How to Make Vocals Sit in The Mix

Have you ever heard the term "Sitting in the mix" What is it? And how to make vocals sit in the mix? We'll find out together right here.

by Derrick Reeves | Updated: July 28, 2021

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"Sitting in the mix" is a music production term that refers to how well the vocals fit with the other instruments in a song. This post will go through some tips on How to Make Vocals Sit in The Mix so you can produce better-sounding mixes and get your vocalist or singer more excited about their recordings! 

How Does This Happen?

There are a lot of reasons why this might happen, but a few common situations that could lead to vocals not sitting in the mix are an overall lack of volume and/or presence on the vocal channel.  

Often times when mixing, instruments will be louder than they should because they're easier for your ears to pick up over other instruments or drums. 

How Can You Prevent Or Fix It? 

get vocals sitting in the mix

Adjusting Fader Levels 

Depending on the situation, adjusting fader levels may be all that's required to get vocals sitting in the mix.  

If you find an instrument is too loud and it seems like everything else needs to be quieter to compensate, then lowering its volume level or turning down a track could help with this issue.  

If instruments need more presence but are already at their appropriate volumes, adding some reverb from e.g., EQs can help make them stand out against other parts of the song without increasing their gain (or volume). 

Adjusting Mute Levels 

Another solution for getting better vocal sit-in-the-mix would be to adjust which channels you're muting or leaving active during different sections of your song.  

Try a Different Tone 

Try a Different Tone While Singing

Sometimes try different tones can make vocals stand out more. Swap instrument, try different plugins or band play style, take out the drums, or try a new tempo. 

If you're not sure if something will work in your song and want to test it without going through the whole process of recording vocals again, use an alternative instrument like synth pads, strings or guitar chords for example then add them back into your mix with the vocals playing on top after you've tweaked levels until they sound good together.  

Once everything is sounding well, record vocals over this section so that when they come back up later in their original form (without any alterations) they'll already have been sitting nicely against other instruments in the background thanks to these tweaks. 

Sound of your Room

Try to record everything in the same room. Some parts of the songs may need to be re-recorded later but it will sound better if you are already in the same room with a similar setup. 

If the vocals have been recorded in a small room, you may hear echoes, which can be reduced by using a vocal booth or hanging some blankets on the wall to absorb sound. 

If you must record vocals in another room, try to match this room as closely as possible with regards to size and type of surfaces (wood vs tile).  On the other hand, using a pop filter will also help.

Compress The Mix 

Compressing the overall mix is a great way to make the vocals sound smoother.  

You can also use compression on individual tracks (reverb, guitars, drums) if you want them to sit more in the background. 

Add Reverb and Delay To The Mix  

Adding reverb or delay will increase the size of your mix as well as give it depth and breadth; this effect could be useful for adding some excitement when mixing down an otherwise flat vocal performance. 

Make Vocals Stand Out With EQ Settings  

Make Vocals Stand Out With EQ Settings

Not everything has to do with volume: adjust frequency settings too!  

Cutting out other frequencies around 300Hz or 500Hz might help emphasize vocals while keeping things sounding natural - we're not talking about boosting all these frequencies either! 

Adjusting Volume 

You can try using volume automation to make vocals sit in the mix better.  

Reduce the backing parts volume, and then turn up the vocals a little.  

With this technique, you'll be able to have both parts at the same volume but with more of each element in the mix. 

Send everything except the vocals to their own aux. Apply a very small amount of compression to them. Then, side chain the vocals to this compressor. This will dip the volume of your track by a few dB’s every time you sing.  

Adjusting Panning Settings  

This will also work for making vocals stand out: adjust where each of your instruments is mixed so they don't conflict with the vocals - then you can adjust how much space there is between them (known as stereo width).  

You can also add a bit more of one instrument than another if it helps create separation and clarity; try experimenting by using pan settings! 

Boost Presence 

Boosting the whole mix 3-5 kHz can help your vocals sit in the mix, especially if you have a lot of low end and some other instruments. 

It’s also important to make sure that each element is present within its own frequency range so it doesn't overlap with another instrument's sound; this will give your vocal clarity without adding any "mud" or distortion! 

Limit The Mix 

Limit The Mix

Limiting the signal can boost the overall volume and make your vocal sit in the mix. 

Limiters are a great way to create a control for loud dynamic instruments like drums or electric guitar, without overdriving them into distortion! 

Running your limiter with the quickest release time possible, about 5 ms will also make it easier to catch the vocal sound when you need it. 

Set the preset level (threshold control) so these peaks are around -0.01 dBFS, and slowly raise the output level to taste while sweeping through frequencies in your mix. 

Be careful not to over-limit or distort your vocal sound! 

This is a great way for you to bring up any "filler" sounds like mouth noises without losing clarity.  

Just be mindful of how much gain reduction you're using on other instruments when limiting vocals, as it can quickly cause distortion with too many peaks being reduced at once (this applies whether you use an external limiter plugin or an internal console). 

Conclusion 

That's it! 

With a better understanding of how to Make Vocals Sit in The Mix, your vocal recordings should sound even better. 

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