The Secret to Mixing Rap Vocals

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Need to mix dope rap vocals? There’s a few secrets you need to know. In this post, I’ll discuss how to mix rap vocals for beginners. I’ll cover the basics of vocal mixing, including EQ, compression, and effects.

I’ll also provide some tips for creating a powerful and polished vocal mix.

The Rap Vocal Chain

When you’re mixing vocals for a rap song, the first thing you need to do is set up your vocal chain. This will determine the overall sound of your vocals and how they sit in the mix.

The basic components of a vocal chain are:

1. a microphone
2. a preamp
3. a compressor
4. an equalizer
5. a delay or reverb

Let’s take a closer look at each of these components:

Rap Mic selection

When starting out, it’s important to select a mic that will capture the vocalist’s voice in the best possible way. There are many different types of mics on the market, but condenser mics are often the best choice for rap vocals. They’re able to capture a wide range of frequencies, and they produce a clear, crisp sound that is perfect for modern music production.

Once you’ve selected a mic, it’s important to find the right placement for it. The best position for a rapper is usually just in front of the mic about 4″ to 5″ away. This will help to create a more natural sound and prevent any unwanted panning issues or distortion.

You’ll want to experiment with standing closer or further from the mic until you find a spot that works best for your voice/vocal projection.

Bonus: What’s the Best Mics for Recording Rap?

Pre-amps

A pre-amp is an essential piece of hardware for recording vocals. It boosts the signal of the microphone, which is necessary in order to get a clean recording as well as connect your headphones to hear the beat playing while recording.

When choosing a pre-amp, it’s important to consider the type of rapper you are.

If you are doing old school hip hop, you will want a pre-amp with a lot of warmth and low end. This will help to give your vocals a thick, soulful sound.

If you are recording pop rap or modern hip hop vocals, you’ll want a pre-amp with more clarity and high-end. This will help to make your vocals sound crisp and clean.

Compression

When mixing rap vocals, compression is your best friend. Compression evens out the dynamics of a vocal track, making it sound more consistent from start to finish. It also makes the track easier to mix with the other elements of the song.

To compress a hip-hop vocal track, start by setting the threshold. This is the point at which the compressor begins to act. The ratio determines how much compression is applied above the threshold. The higher the ratio, the more compressed the track will be. Finally, set the release time to determine how quickly the compressor will return to normal after it has been activated.

Experiment with different settings until you find what works best for your track. But remember, you don’t want too little compression as your vocals will stick out on certain words and you don’t want too much compression because your vocals will sound dead.

Bonus: Mixing and Mastering Services

EQ

When you’re working with vocals, the first thing you want to do is make sure they’re sitting in the right frequency range. You can do this by using an EQ. An EQ will let you cut or boost certain frequencies, which will help you get your vocals to sit in the mix.

To start, apply a high-pass filter to your vocals. This will help reduce any unnecessary low frequencies and make the vocals sound clearer. Next, boost the EQ around 10khz to 20khz. This will help make the vocals sound brighter and more upfront.

After that, it’s time to listen to the vocal for any errant frequencies, what I do is is remove anything that hurts my ears.

The amounts and types of frequencies you use will depend on the recording quality as well as the vocal performance. For example, for songs recorded in bedrooms that have a ton of issues, you’ll have to get creative with how you address and fix those issues.

As you gain experience and confidence, you can experiment with different plugins, but if you’re a beginner, I’d suggest to just keep it simple and don’t go plugin-crazy!

Delay and Reverb

There are two main effects that you will use when mixing vocals for hip hop: delay and reverb. Delay will add extra time between the original vocal, almost sounding like a call and response. Reverb will add space and depth to the vocal, making it sound like it’s coming from a farther away place.

When using delay and reverb, it’s important to use them sparingly. You don’t want the vocals to be overpowered by these effects. Start by adding a small amount of each effect, then increase or decrease the amount as needed.

It’s also important to match the delay and reverb time with the tempo of the song. If the song is fast, you’ll want a shorter delay and reverb time. If the song is slow, you’ll want a longer delay and reverb time.

You can use a reverb calculator to calculate the reverb and delay times (if your plugin doesn’t do it for you).

The Secret to Mixing Rap Vocals

Mixing rap vocals isn’t hard, but it takes an experienced ear to know what plugins to use and when to use them.

For example, it’s taken me 15 years to get my rap vocal mixing process down and I’m still refining it by adding and subtracting different hardware and plugins depending on the rapper’s voice and vocal recording.

And I’ve mixed thousands of songs, including my own, so I have a personal interest in this and have developed special techniques for vocals recorded in less than ideal situations (*cough* bedrooms *cough*).

Remember the whole point of hiring an audio engineer is so that you can borrow their experience and accomplish your goals quicker.

So if you’re looking for professional hip hop mixing and mastering, listen to the before and after on that page because the results are life-changing.

 

 

Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

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