Help Me Out! Beginner Engineer on a rap track

Hey Guys, I’m very excited to share this mix with you. This was recorded a couple of months back in a DIY vocal booth in my garage (Using a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Interface and AT 4040 Microphone). I have been messing around with it for some time now and am still not very satisfied. The first mix that I sent you guys was mixed entirely on a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pros. Personally, I was pretty satisfied with the mix… until I played it on some different kinds of consumer based speakers. It sound alright in the car, but other than that not at all. After some research, I decided to buy a pair of JBL LSR 305 studio monitors and reworked the mix (that is the second mix on the list). Now I feel that I’m at a point where it sound decent on the monitors and less decent on headphones. I did get to mess around with the hook on the first mix, but not the second. sorry about that. I also thought about adding the hook back in at the end, but I like how it rides out and fades in the headphone mix. I’m not asking anyone to take too much time out of their day to help me, but please Bash these mixes as much as possible, for I’m only trying to get better from where I am. If anyone needs any additional information about the mixes, please leave a comment! Thank you, Alec
Headphone Mix:

Monitor Mix:

I am liking where you are going with the monitor mix it is an improvement in my opinion. Not my usual music, but from what i can hear you have a good mix going here.

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Thank you, I appreciate your input! Other than needing to finish the hook, is there anything that you would personally change?

I want to keep it sounding kind of raw, but at the same time I’d like to eventually persue a “radio-like” quality. I just don’t know how to get there yet

If I was to only suggest doing one thing to this track then I would suggest taming that kick drum, it’s a little overpowering on my monitors so it will probably be too much on some systems.
Are you using a reference track? Since you still need to learn your speakers you’ll have a better chance of getting a mix that translates well by using a reference track.

If you want a somewhat live feel then you could probably reference a track off “Black Messiah”

The bass is a little low on your track, bring down the kick and bring up the bass a little bit and add about 3db at 11khz to the vocal so it’s a little easier to understand.

Edit: Just noticed a little bit of sibilance on the vocals, nothing major but I would address that as well.

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Wow . I am old and can’t figure out what to say. I appreciate that you are young, starting out, and trying to make your mark and have success. Not to take away from you mixing ability, I don’t get what redeeming quality can be found in this vocal. There is no singing, only filthy lyrics. Is this typical of rap music. Is this what we have become???

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I agree with @redworks that the monitor mix is the better of the 2. Coming along nicely, and that vocal! Sounds like the hip hop version of Barry White! Dang that’s smooth!

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The music has a really cruisy feel - I like it…
Rap ain’t my thing as such, but the groove is totally cool.
Sounds good generally also

That swirly sound, is that a guitar - or how did you make that?


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@feaker, yeah, generally rap and hip hop don’t feature singing as the lead vocal. Not to say it isn’t ever done. Also, I’ll tag the post just to give a heads up to those wanting to listen that it’s explicit. Also not uncommon in this genre. As with any genre, subject matter widely varies from artist to artist. :+1:

Awesome! Thanks for the advice, for I will definitely be trying it out.
As for the reference track… I have heard about that in the past somewhere, but I mistakenly didn’t look too much into it. That’s a very useful piece of information that I was missing, so thanks. Very cool song by the way.

haha I understand. I apologize for not warning everyone that the song was explicit. As for the lyrics, I currently don’t have much of a client base to pick and choose from, so I simply work with what I’m given. Although this particular artist’s song is explicit, I still feel that it has value and meaning, to the right audience that is. I also really wanted to add some sort of female soul-ish singing to kind of push it in that direction, but time was limited and the client wasn’t interested. As far as a mixing standpoint, how are you feeling about it?

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Sweet, thank you for the input! and right! I always tell him that he should try to get some sort of radio job or something haha

no i would say that you are right on track

Hi Ahudson97…and welcome to the forum.

I’ll be a little bit harsh on this one, but don’t take it personally…it seems you’re after some detailed feedback.

The first thing that stands out to me is that I feel the contour of the kick samples are lacking drive. I don’t think the sub frequency under 60 hz is very well balanced, and when I switch to 2 way monitoring and then listen on a laptop, you loose some of the intensity of the at 120-300 in the midrange bass information which implies a monitoring translation problem. I think there’s a serious lack of bass guitar (or synth bass whatever it is) in the 700-800 and the 1.3 range, but this can’t be fixed by simply eq-ing it. I think the trills in the guitars need more width. They’re boring. Something like an autopanner or a modulated phaser. Perhaps just a ping-pong delay is needed here to give them some more motion. They’re pretty central to the composition or vibe of the texture so I wish they had a little more action.

I do really like what you did with the lo-fi effect on the verse, the problems is that apart from the clap/snare the vocals are occupying an unreasonable amount of 8K and up. The AT4040 is an inherently dark mic with a wonderfully lush silky smooth natural curve, so I can see that you were trying to boost the upper register of the vocal with a hi-shelf, but I think you took it too far for the track. I realize that rap and pop tracks have vocals mixed blaring bright these days, but what you have to realize is that other timbres within the mix are also brightened to accommodate the high shelf on the vocals. The vocals in this case either need to come down or go darker.

The other thing that is out of balance on these vocals is they lack width. There are a bunch of ways this can be addressed. If you youtube something like ‘how to make vocals wide’, you’ll get some interesting ideas.

Whenever you hear an “S”, the S pokes out in the verb. There are three ways I would suggest dealign with this.

  1. you might try just rolling some top off the verb.
  2. …But if that changes the vibe of the verb too much, you can try placing a de-esser INFRONT of the verb
  3. Or you can put a multi-band compressor AFTER the verb (hopefully you have the verb on a bus and not directly on the track). What you would do is have the multi-band compressor target the offending frequency after the verb has processed the vocal and control them together rather than the second suggestion, which prevents the vocal from trigger the verb in the first place.

Overall its not a bad mix, but your mix of the track is way better than your mix of the vocals…I would massage the vocal into the track and not the other way around.

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