How to Mix Background Vocals:EQ,Compression,Reverb & Panning Settings

For example, in some instances -6dB cut is enough.

It is highly important to boost the hi-fi range (15Khz) to give smooth thin background vocals (with positive sibilance effect) which are desirable in pop and country music.

Since bass vocal frequencies can often cause masking in the background/lead vocals, it is filtered using a high pass filter.

Panning Settings:

For panning, the lead vocal is always positioned in the center of the mix. But the background vocal can be either be panned slightly left or right. The suggested settings: LEFT (-10 to -20) , RIGHT (+10 to +20).

Compression Settings:

Compressing background vocals is often desirable especially if it fairly occupies a substantial portion in the mix. I use the settings mentioned in this tutorial: Audio compression tips for mixing.

It is important to balance the overall volume particularly between the lead and background vocals. After you compress the background vocals; you need to adjust the overall volume of background vocal track in such a way it will not overpower the lead vocals but not too soft.

Reverb Settings:

Reverb settings in background vocals is very important. Typically for lead vocal and background vocal mix, the lead vocal is left dry or with very little reverb (~300~500ms) but the background vocal reverb will have a higher reverb settings (around 1000ms ~2000ms).

Again use your ears to adjust the settings. If you use Sony Express FX reverb, background vocal settings is around 50% reverb and 50% dry. The most desirable reverb type for vocals are “plate” reverb types. For more details, read this tutorial: rock vocals reverb settings.

Content last updated on June 17, 2012