Recording and Mixing Rap Vocals and Beat at Bad Racket Recording Studio
When mixing rap vocals the most important thing is clear, strong main vocal on top of the mix. The number 1 complaint about a rap mix? Can’t hear the vocals. So mix it loud and proud! Of course we are the best around at recording and mixing hip hop and rap music so if you’re looking for a rap studio for recording, and rap studio and production related services, you gotta come down to bad racket recording studio, our Cleveland music studio located here our recording studios in Cleveland Ohio.
Typically, hip hop and rap artists get the beat already as a stereo file. The beat file is imported into the session and then the vocals get up on top. Getting a high quality beat in wav or aiff format is important to getting the highest quality track you can get. 44.1k 24 bit file is usually good. Alternatively, you can get the stems for the beat, or the individual tracks to mix together. That way you can get a sweet instrumental mix going on to lay your vocals on top.
The Instrumental Mix
Hip hop or rap instrumentals are usually made up of a few common elements. Kick, Snare, High Hats or Claps, Synth, and Bass. Each of these elements is important to get EQed right to fit into the mix. Strong bass in the Kick drum and a sharp snap in the snare and high hat samples. Don’t be afraid to boost the highs on snare and claps to give it a snap. Kick can be EQed and Limited to give a powerful bass response in the mix. Get those subs pumping! Synth tracks and whatever else textural tracks that are over-layed and usually take a backseat, and can compete with the vocals in the mid range, so keep em wide and lightly atmospheric in tone and spacial positioning. Any obnoxious synth solos can be loud and proud, but be sure that the synths and mid range content is scooped to allow for a nice vocal pocket in the middle. Sometimes, if the beat is just a stereo file, you can take a MS EQ and take some of the mid-range out of the mid channel to make an EQ range for the vocals to sit. Don’t be afraid to boost the bass if you need to, but listen to it on a powerful sub woofer to see if its too way much!
Vocal Tracking and Mixing
Vocals are the most important part of Rap and Hip hop music. Sometimes DJs even cut the mix out, and the artist will do an acapella number with no instrumental track at all! So keep the vocals strong and clear. Use NO reverb. You want that in your ear, un muddled clear vocal. Unless its a special part, or a background part, reverbs tend to push it into the background, and you want it in the foreground. Vocals should be free from distortion and overdrive. We’re not making a grimey garage rock album. Its about clear precise vocals. Record your vocals with a good microphone in a properly treated room. Use a good windscreen (even 2!) A large foam windscreen is usually the best for rap music. Keeps the spit splatter off the mic too!
Compression of the vocal should be a clean, and hard. Lots of NY style parallel compression. I find a Black 1176 in buttons in mode on an AUX, and another Black 1176 with a 4 to 1 ratio and an easy attack and release on the channel usually does a good job of layering a hard compressed vocal under the lighter compressed version from the channel. This is also called parallel compression and is a great tool to getting really up-front main vocals.
EQ for vocals should be slightly scooped in the mid with enough air band and high frequencies and a rich low-end proximity effect from the mic. Get a good windscreen and get close!
The Mic should probably have the PAD on it just to be safe, and minimal compression on the way in. A light 2:1 or 4:1 through a clean outboard pre is nice, but not entirely necessary.
If the vocals are too piercing you can use some de-essing and EQ to tame it back to fit into the mix nicely and on top. Backing vocals can be more subtle with less high end and lows, with more reverb and slap back to make them fall into the background. Often times the Ad libs or backing shouting parts can be put through a telephone type EQ to make them sound like a megaphone or something. Sounds raw!
Mastering Hip Hop and Rap
Hip hop stuff is LOUD! This music is supposed to be played by a DJ in the club so make it Loud and PROUD and free from distortion. Taming back the low-end with multi band limiting, or high frequency de-essing are common. Try running a crush bus, and don’t be afraid to go back to the mixing phase if you have to re-do a mix.
Make sure you listen to your track on multiple systems and ideally in a car with a loud sub. Bump that shit through the block! Is the bass too loud? are the Hats and snares too sharp sounding? are the vocals clear?
Listen to your track on a crappy cell phone speaker or through a mac book. Does the mix hold up? You need to make sure your mix translates well to these crappy systems, because not everyone has the 1000 watt stereo or nice studio monitors. Don’t be afraid to ask for a revision from the engineer. Ask for a vocals up mix, and a beat up mix to see what you like more.
Looking for a quality studio in downtown Cleveland? Look no further than Bad Racket! We have beat producers and free beats for you to use if you need production too!