Quick tip: Mixing background vocals in REAPER (Kenny Gioia)

IDK if anyone would be interested in such a post, but I was just watching a KG video on mixing background vocals in REAPER and found it helpful. I thought his setup was pretty interesting and creates a quick workflow. Very cool. The video is here, but the gist of it is below.

The bottom line is that one track is set up to monitor the vocals as they record, but does not record the vocals. Vocals are recorded to the actual BGV tracks. So, record monitoring is done on one track, actual recording on the other tracks.


  • Start with one new track. Name it Vocal.

  • Ready that track to monitor recording:

    • Set the input so the mic is selected

    • Put it in record, but R-click the record button and select Record: disable (input monitoring only) - this configures the track to monitor recording only, but to not record to the track

    • Turn on input monitoring

  • Set up all background vocal tracks in advance, and monitor thru that first track:

    • Insert > Multiple tracks…>Select 6-8 tracks, and name them (it will auto-number the tracks)

    • Select all of the new BGV tracks (next steps will affect all tracks)

    • Select input to be the vocal mic

    • Leave input monitoring off (you’ll monitor thru the first track, above)

    • Set panning for each of the BGV tracks: e.g., select odd tracks and pan left, even to the right. Bring their volume down a bit.

    • Add whatever FX you want to use

  • Select each BGV track you want to record to; sing doubles of each track part on successive tracks

  • When done, all parts should already be fairly well blended in w/o changing anything (levels or panning)


wait… I dont do that shit.

What do they hear? I don’t want them to hear their own harmonies… or they will totally suck.

Did I even understand that right?

I dont even care about a balance, until they stop singing.

I dunno, that was totally new to me. :slight_smile:

Record monitoring (of what they are singing) is done on the first track, but is recorded on the other tracks (which have monitoring turned off). So the idea is that you can turn the volume down on those tracks (or off) as you record.

Why wouldn’t you want them to hear the harmonies along with the main vox, instruments, etc.? I’m thinking it allows them to blend their timing and volume better. No? But again, you can turn it all off.

The idea is that having the vocalist be able to listen thru a separate monitoring of their voice (maybe with it’s own FX?), independent of what is recorded to track could have it’s own benefits.

Would be interested in hearing the approach others have to recording BGV. What do you do, Vaughan?


I have an input channel and a whole lot of other unbalanced/unpanned channels to dump tracks to ALL MUTED (Cmd/T is the shortcut in Reaper). Once we record a harmony to the lead vocal guide track, which is admittedly turned down quite a bit, I push the new harmony to a muted track so we both can’t hear it while recording the next one…

90% of my vocalists don’t want to hear themselves on other tracks, they just want to pitch ‘one time’ to the lead vocal. Maybe I’m weird, but thats the way I’ve always done it.

PS. I’ve NEVER recorded Queen, (yes, I watched the movie) but I’ve worked with a man who has…

I tend to do things the “old man” way. First I render an instrument mix down to a single stereo track. Then I insert that track into a new session. This way I can easily create a monitor mix while recording vocals. Then I do any required editing to the vocal tracks before inserting them back into the original session for mixing.


This is probably a good way to do this, @ocnor, actually rendering the bvox to stereo would probably help reduce the track count quite a bit , or just mix them and hide the tracks, which I should probably do as its maybe a little quicker.

Ok Tesgin, I totally missed the point of all that first time around. Its really brilliant from Kenny, as usual… I just cant remember it.

Damn I have to watch it ALL AGAIN. :wink:

Yeah, actually, I “think” it would work beautifully with your work flow as you described it; just mute all of the BGV tracks during recording. The clever piece is that the track that monitors the vocals during recording doesn’t record the vocals: the vocals are recorded to their own tracks which are muted.

I agree, Kenny is impressive. Plus, how cool is that last name! :slight_smile:

ok, I will have to try it… Kenny’s thing. I love his stuff so much, apart from his website. He has totally ditched PT for Reaper, I’m lovin it.

Anyway, I usually ask the talent, in a nice way, like… " you guys can’t pitch for shit if you hear yourselves in the cans, do you want to or not?"

Then they say no. And I prefer that.

Just last week, I forgot to mute a harmony track for one take, and I’m like, “WTF was that?” - “you sound JUST like the bastard machine!”

And they literally harmonised EXACTLY like the digital shitbox would have done. With a dissonant note in there. I ended up muting that ‘word’. It actually sounds ‘cool’ like that.

Not even fucking kidding, :slight_smile: