The use of background vocals is common in music production, particularly in the pop and country music. However, background vocals are often challenging to mix typically for a beginner in audio mixing.
This short guide will help you get started in mixing background vocals so that it will stand out from your mix while not affecting or drowning the lead vocals which of course is more important than the background vocals. For mixing lead vocals, refer to this tutorial: Tips on how to mix vocals and put some effects like a professional. Update: September 27, 2011: For guide in tracking vocals, you can read this tutorial on how to record vocals properly on your PC.
The most important audio parameters that can be adjusted to create great background vocal mix are the EQ , Reverb and Panning settings. Compression techniques are still useful but not as useful as the three based on my experience.
So lets start with EQ Settings:
Cut -9dB to -12dB, 3000Hz, Q=1.4
Boost +6dB, 15000, Q=1.0
Apply high pass filter starting at 250Hz
Graphically, it will look like:
The 3Khz frequency range (Q=1.4) is cut to give way for lead vocals. The amount of dB to be cut from that range is around -9dB to -12dB. It is highly important to use your ears during mixing, and these figures may not be applicable in all background mixing scenarios.