If you mix hip-hop, you’ll find yourself often having to mix rap vocals. Sometimes you’ll get a great raw recording. Other times you’ll get a vocal that has ample room for improvement. Sometimes you’ll need to ask someone to rerecord their vocals. Mixing Rap Vocals, the video tutorial series by engineer Matthew Weiss, gives you an effective approach to mixing rap vocals.
The Mixing Rap Vocals video series reaffirmed many previously learned concepts and gave me added confidence in mixing rap vocals. If you’re a beginner looking for a primer on mixing rap vocals, then the Mixing Rap Vocals video series will be good for you. If you’re experienced and want a relatively concise and clear understanding of how and why what you do works, then the Mixing Rap Vocals video series will be good for you.
The series is broken into the 4 main steps of Matt’s rap vocal treatment process:
- Clean Up
- Dynamic Control
Clean Up is preceded by a brief introductory overview. Ambiance is followed by an example of the entire process applied to a fresh set of vocals. There’s also a bonus video that includes an interview with Vocal Producer Laura Zahn. If all rappers listened to Laura Zahn’s advice, the world would be a better place.
Part 1: Clean Up
In the clean up section, Matthew breaks down the importance of cleaning up your rap vocal first, rather than immediately trying to enhance what you have. Then he shows you how to actually clean up a vocal.
Matt explains and demonstrates the subtractive EQ approach (cut the bad frequencies out and leave the awesome goodness behind). Matt teaches you to eliminate rumble in a vocal with a high pass filter and cut muddiness in the mid range with a bell. He concludes the section by reminding you to match levels between what you EQed and the original vocal so you make an honest assessment of your processsing.
Part 2: Dynamic Control
In the Dynamic Control (or Compression) section, Matt breaks down the idea of compression, how it applies to mixing rap vocals, and how to use it on a rap vocal.
Matt runs through a general explanation of how compression works as well as the main 4 controls found in every compressor. He graciously spends most of the time demonstrating the effects of the different controls, especially Attack and Release, in the context of mixing rap vocals.
Again, Matt concludes by reminding you to match levels before and after processing to give you a better assessment of your processing.
Part 3: Enhancement
In the Enhancement section, Matt goes through the ideas he typically uses on rap vocals:
- Vocal Brightening
- Parallel Compression
In the vocal brightening portion, Matt tilts the EQ curve towards the treble side and adds some sparkle to the vocal. He shows you how to do so yourself, and audible demonstates the benefits of doing so.
After vocal brightening, Matt shows you an example of parallel compression. You’ll get your money’s worth in this section alone. The improvement parallel compression adds in Matt’s demo will bring a smile to your face. When you apply it to your own mixes, that smile will be permanent. On top of that, Matt introduces the idea of using compression ratios as a form of tone control. You won’t find that mixing nugget anywhere else.
Part 4: Ambiance
After the Enhancement section comes the Ambiance section. In this section, Matt gives an awesome explanation of using reverbs and delays in the context of mixing rap vocals. His explanation of reverb, specifically early reflections, complex reflections, and the ratio between the two types of reflections impact the sound is excellent. Matt also goes through ways to add ambiance through delays.
Matt follows his explanation of Ambiance with a complete treatment example. You get to look over his shoulder as he goes through the vocal treatment process you just learned on a whole new set of vocals. Matt also sneaks in some additional teaching on DeEssing. He demonstrates how to get a good sound even with the stock Pro Tools.
In addition to the complete treatment example, Mixing Rap Vocals includes an interview with vocal producer, Laura Zahn. Help yourself by watching the interview and strongly encouraging the rappers you mix to apply her principles.
Verdict: I definitely recommend Mixing Rap Vocals
Mixing Rap Vocals is 80 minutes of rap vocal mixing gold. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself learning new things and nuances each time you watch.