Kim Lajoie's blog

Bob Ludwig’s tips for mixing vocals

by Kim Lajoie on January 18, 2012

Bob Ludwig (Via Bobby Owinski):

The vocal is everything to the success of a song. Make it loud enough to be able to hear the lyrics. The problem is, if the vocal level is too high, all the energy of the track disappears, if it is too low, you can’t understand what is being said.


A mix with a bright vocal and a dull drum sound is really a problem. The all important snare takes up a lot of spectrum and trying to brighten it with eq will make the bright vocal even brighter and quickly become unacceptable.

This is a really important part of getting the balance right in the mix. And, unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of beginner and intermediate mix engineers don’t know about.

My general rule of thumb for pop music is that the vocal is usually about the same (perceived) level as the snare and the sibilance is about the same (perceived) level as the top of the drums – either the hats, snare or overheads.

Also read part one of the interview. Great stuff.


5 thoughts on “Bob Ludwig’s tips for mixing vocals

  1. Rich says:

    I worked in the ‘Gateway garage’, the parking garage right above Gateway mastering for 9 years: not once did I step foot through Bob’s door..though passed him in the hallway several times.
    He always had a smile & a hello.
    I could feel the coolness vibes coming through the walls from that place that was only feet away from me..

  2. You’re right in what you say about getting things right in the mix. Bu if that’s not possible and something has arrived at your hands in the mastering stage that didn’t sound quite right, there is a chance to differentiate guitars from vocals when correcting EQ…

    If guitars are panned away from the center and the vocals are on the center, using M/S format mastering might help, chaning the EQ on M if vocals are wrong, for example, and leaving S untouched. But everything we change will affect the whole mix, unfortunately…

  3. Kim Lajoie says:

    Very true. If the mix is fundamentally flawed, mastering can’t fix it. When I do mastering jobs for other people, I always include a mix consultation and give the mix engineer a chance to fix any glaring problems before committing to a final version.


  4. Kim Lajoie says:

    Lucky you! I’d love to have lunch with him and hear his thoughts.


  5. As for the vocals when recording balance is really the key because I personally have tried it and at first it was really difficult to adjust until I found some tricks on some blogs and this is one of them and it helps me now in mixing vocals.

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