To mix vocals in REAPER, start by using ‘ReaTune,’ ‘ReaEQ,’ ‘De-esser,’ and ‘ReaGate’ to clean up your vocal track. After you have done this, you can use ‘Saturation,’ ‘ReaComp,’ and volume automation to control your vocal track. Finally, insert ‘ReaVerb’ and ‘ReaDelay’ to enhance your vocal track and add effects.
Mixing Vocals In REAPER
Mixing vocals can be tricky to do in the world of music production. There are many steps to vocal mixing, such as correction, clean up, dynamics, effects, etc., and they are all equally important.
If you do not know what you are doing when it comes to mixing vocals, the other elements in your mix will drown them out, and they will be unintelligible to your listener.
Thankfully, REAPER comes with stock plugins that you can use to get a great vocal mix for your track!
In this step-by-step guide, I will show you how to mix vocals in REAPER.
What You Will Need
All of the plugins you need for this tutorial come with the program and will not cost you extra.
You will need:
- REAPER DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
- A vocal track that needs mixing (dry and unprocessed)
Step One – Editing and Quantizing
The first step for mixing a great vocal track is properly editing and quantizing it.
Editing and quantizing is all about choosing the best vocal recording from the various takes you have and then lining them up with the grid, so they are on time.
In REAPER, if you have multiple vocal recordings on a single track, the selected item is the one that REAPER will play.
If you want to combine bits and pieces of different vocal recordings, you can split each item and then crossfade them to avoid clicks and pops. This is very easy, especially if you enable ‘Auto-crossfade.’
Once you have two different vocal recordings lined up the way you want them, you can permanently combine these items by gluing them together. Alternatively, you can leave them separate from each other.
Quantizing your vocal recordings is essential if you want your vocals to sound on time with the rest of your track. This is especially true if you work with a sloppy or more beginner vocalist.
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Here is a previous article to give you a detailed look into quantizing in REAPER.
It is important that you start the vocal mixing process by editing and quantizing. This enables you to have the best possible raw vocal recordings before processing them.
Step Two – Pitch Correction
Now that our vocals are correctly edited and in time with the rest of our track, we can apply pitch correction to them using ReaTune.
To do this, insert ReaTune onto your vocal track and click the tab that says, ‘Correction .’Once you have done this, you will notice that there are controls to change what key you are trying to tune to, what type of scale/mode the track is in, and the desired minimum/maximum pitch (if you want to select one).
If you are unsure what key your song is in, you can use the first tab on ReaTune called ‘Tuner’ to help you figure this out.
Once you have the correct key and scale selected, you can set your attack time. To do this, enter your desired amount in the box that says, ‘Attack time .’
The lower your attack time, the more unnatural your vocals will sound. However, if you are looking for the super autotuned effect that you sometimes hear in pop and rap vocals, a low attack time will help you get there.
Keep in mind; you can also manually correct individual notes if you select the tab that says, ‘Manual Correction.’
Step Three – Corrective EQ
Now that we have our vocal recording pitch-corrected, I will use ‘ReaEQ’ to do some corrective EQ.
Corrective EQ is cutting out different frequencies that are affecting an audio track.
I’m noticing some frequencies in the lows and mids that make my vocal track sound muddy and unclear.
I’m going to use ReaEQ to cut these out.
Step Four – De-esser
With our corrective EQ process well underway, it is time for us to do some de-essing on our vocal recording.
De-essing is the process of EQing out specific frequencies in vocals that cause a hissing sound.
To do this, we will be using ‘JS: De-esser.’
Once we have our de-esser plugin opened up, we can adjust some settings to control how drastically and when it processes our vocals.
Step Five – Gating
The next step in the vocal mixing process is for you to gate your vocal recording. To do this, we will be using ‘ReaGate.’
Using a noise gate will help cut out background noise between vocal lines and clean up your vocal recording.
The key to using a gate for vocals is to sound as natural as possible by having a slow attack and fast release. There is no need to go overboard with gating a vocal recording because all we are trying to do is eliminate background noise.
Step Six – Saturation
Now that our vocal track is tuned correctly, corrective EQed, and gated, we are finished with the clean-up portion of the vocal mixing process.
The next thing that I like to do is apply some saturation using ‘JS: Saturation .’This will help add some presence and warmth to our vocal recording.
Once JS: Saturation is inserted onto your vocal track, you can select how much saturation you want by adjusting the slider.
Because there is still more processing that we will be doing on our vocal track, it is essential not to use too much of any single plugin when mixing.
Step Seven – Compression
The next step for mixing vocals in REAPER is to apply some compression using ‘ReaComp.’
Using compression on your vocal track will help make them stand out against the other elements in your mix and boost the volume of any quiet parts in a vocal recording.
ReaComp features a few vocals presets that you can use or manually enter the settings.
Remember, when compressing vocals, you do not want to be so heavy-handed that your vocal sounds are crushed or unnatural (unless this is the desired effect). Ensure that your ratio, attack, threshold, and release are not set too aggressively to avoid this.
Step Eight – Volume Automation
Now that we have saturated and compressed our vocal track, it is a good time to see if we will need any volume automation.
Volume automation is when you manually adjust the volume level of a particular section of an audio track so that you can hear it as clearly as the rest of the track.
If there are sections of a vocal recording that you cannot clearly hear even after saturation and compression, chances are, they will need volume automation.
You can do this manually in REAPER by separating an individual section and increasing its volume.
You can also open up the envelope for volume automation by clicking ‘v’ while you have a track selected. Then shift-clicking the green line to enter individual points that will change your track’s volume in desired sections.
Step Nine – Additive EQ
The next step for mixing our vocal track is to use ReaEQ again, but this time, for adding specific frequencies instead of cutting them out.
I have noticed that my vocal recording sounds a bit dull and could use a boost or two in the high mids and highs.
Now my vocal track is sounding much brighter and more present.
Step Ten – Reverb
One of the last things we will be doing to our vocal track is applying some reverb using ‘ReaVerb.’
Using reverb on a vocal recording adds space, dimension, and width. It will also help make your vocal track blend with the rest of your mix.
ReaVerb has a couple of presets that you can use or dial in your own settings.
I like to use the ‘sweetverbo’ plugin and adjust it as needed.
Make sure that you do not use too much reverb. Otherwise, your vocal track will sound thin and washed out.
Step Eleven – Delay
The final plugin I want to use on my vocal track is ‘ReaDelay.’
Delay is not something that you have to use on your vocal track, but it can work really well and add a cool effect in some cases.
ReaDelay also has some great presets to choose from if you do not want to dial your own settings.
Because delay is an effect plugin, using too much will make your vocal inaudible and do more bad than good. Be careful when using it!
Step Twelve – Final Tweaks
The final step in the vocal mixing process is to take a final listen and make any adjustments as you see fit.
I always find it best to take some time away from my computer before I do this to give my ears and my head a bit of a rest.
After you have made a couple of passes through your track and are satisfied with how your vocal sounds in the mix, you can sit back and relax because you have finished mixing your vocals!
Does REAPER come with plugins?
Yes, REAPER DAW comes with an extensive collection of different mixing and processing plugins that you can use in your mixes.
However, unlike other DAWs, REAPER does not have any VST instruments or sample packs.
What order should you mix a track in?
In my opinion, the best way to mix a track is by starting with rhythmic elements like drums and percussion and slowly moving on to more melodic parts.
For example, this is the order in which I carry out my mixing process:
2) Extra percussion (shaker, tambourine, hand drums, etc.)
3) Bass or other low-end elements
5) Keys, synths, other melodic elements
What should you record first in a song?
When recording a song, I always like to start with drums to lay down a rhythmic foundation for the rest of the instruments.
Once I have done this, I move on to bass, guitars, keys, vocals, and then any other elements that I want to include.
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