Rap Vocals Mixing

I was wondering what you guys have to say about recording and mixing rap vocals. I usually record with no compression or eq on the way in, then add effects as i mix. Usually i compress twice, with an eq in between compressors, with a little bit of reverb and maybe slight delay in the end. How do you guys go about doing it?

Rap is one of the few instances where reverb on the vocals is not an assumption. I might do them bone-dry. Getting the compression and EQ right is important, so I do usually use multiple compressors for stuff like this.

Only recorded a handful of rap vocals that were any good.
But I did learn a few tips.
Save any hard compression for the mix. You can slam the vox in the headphone mix is the artist needs to hear it.
Hard compression going to tape is likely to catch bleed from the cans and will accentuate head movement towards and away from the mic.
A straight up limiter on the mic is not that bad of an idea. No reduction… just a safety net. Certain phrases and syllables move as much air as a scream vocal and can be deceiving… :slight_smile:
AN interesting trick is to drop the headphone mix by a db or some slight amount as soon as they start spitting. If you can get away with it, it can make them push a little and get attitude… :slight_smile: An old burnout engineer told me that it was the way to get “radio” performances out of female singer back in the day. The only time I was ever tempted to try it was on a rap single and it worked…
As for mixing. I tend to do really tight edits and almost flatline every syllable with clip gain. I do this on a duplicated track. I keep the original intact and use it for fx sends
Compression can then be used more for color and attitude than for leveling after that.
I always hear “bone-dry” when it come to rap. And you hear rappers say that they want folks to hear “just me”. But bone dry in a mix is a different animal than what you might hear in open air.
Sometimes it takes a lot of added crap to make it sound bone dry. Short slaps, small rooms a hair of distortion… all blended in at a fraction of what would be appropriate for a rock vocal is needed to have it sit in the track… Especially over a pre-mixed 2-track or pre-produced beat.
Now this makes me want to produce/record a hip hop track…
have fun

Well sure, distortion is a whole nother thing - when I said bone dry I didn’t mean no FX, just sometimes you don’t need any time-based ones that blur the vox.

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I produce instrumentals myself, but sometimes i do feel as if my rapping skills are not worthy of my instrumentals. If you feel daring make a simple beat, maybe this time i get something done the right way!

What i’ve been saving for a good take is running vocals through a guitar amp. I heard it on a Delinquent Habits track from their first album, and thought it was really freaking cool! I think Beastie Boys used to have distorted vocals too, or am i mistaken?

Yup… the bone dry thing was not intentionally directed toward your comment. It just subliminally reminded me of the phrase I often hear… :slight_smile: But time-based fx are not off the table and can sometimes be required… Maybe required is too strong. But at least helpful…

Yeah… this too has passed… :slight_smile:
I have a mutual friend that is a very talented writer/rapper. I had a lot of fun shoehorning his freestyles into bit and pieces of my music and loops of iphone recordings of my band jamming.
Did some more serious recording with him and a few others. But he’s got a real producer now and is pretty good with FL.
So I’m kinda over it already… :slight_smile:

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A Waves R-Vox can really help if you have one. I’d take care to make sure the reverbs are short. If its a typical rap session, you stand to get judged on how loud your final mix is. Some guys are weird about that. Don’t be afraid to cut some bottom off to their track to make the vocals balance better. They won’t know its missing when they play it in the car, because if you mash it with an L1 everything (including the subtracted bass) will sound louder all at once.

Word of advice. Don’t get into pissing contests about how loudness wars are silly. Just give them the track with no dynamics mashed to shit. Sorry…thats the way it is.

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I’ve never recorded rap, reading this thread with interest. I imagine if rap ever happened to me I’d try spitty, fast release compressors to push the vocal right to the front. I once tried Waves DBX160 plug and thought if it was a rap vocal that might work well…

Ah, I love these psychological tricks - playing the performer!

It’s the sound they want, right? Might as well tell Metallica they’ll get a much more musical performance if they play through the clean channel of their amps…

+1 on R Vox… I have a parallel RVox that is maxxed out in my template at all times. The return fader stays at -24db. I feed lead vocals into it in varying degrees depending upon how up front I need them. I’ll throw gtr solos into it as well. For a rap I’d hit it pretty hard.
MAxx Volume or MV2 works really well also… I used to run the LV/Rap thru it pretty hard and render/print it. But I flatline by hand now. So I’d stick to the RVox for now.

I use an outboard chain for vocals and wok really well with rap the few times ive done it. its a poor mans classic chain… I go preamp (usually vintech 573) > Warm Audio 1176 (quick attack - slow release 4-6db reduction max)> Chameleon Labs 7802 (slower attack/ release 1-3db reduction) > then into my console and I usually do 3-4db key filtered on any frequency peaks with a quick attack/release. I may or may not use some more compression at that point ITB depending on the vocal, I’m not getting world class rap artists so I never know what its going to be. The use of fx for me is purely on the backing track, some newer songs with piano and orchestral parts have a good amount of ambience and I use reverb sparingly when it calls for it. I tend to use a short delay more often or go completely dry. My vocal booth is pretty dead so I don’t get hardly any room ambience. I do recommend them doing multiple backing tracks either emphasis on words or other things to really get a more spacious and interesting vocal. It really depends on the type of song though.

Here’s little example of stuff i get:

@Jonathan Last year i bought an outboard channel strip just to look like a pro and not get judged on how amateur i was, by rappers. Finally i sold it, because i was getting judged anyway. Now i just produce songs for myself for fun.

@Thunderhouse That’s a really nice vocal chain. I used to have a presonus channel strip. Now i record directly into my 2i2. I like how you try to match the reverb of other instruments.

Rvox has a good opto option and with automatic times you can’t go wrong. But, unfortunately i can not afford it. ThrillseekerLA does my opto compression decently. It also has the “Swedish Clean One” preset which is rare to find.

Here’s one I did a while ago. I’ll see if I can dig for a more modern one. I made the beat too. They brought me a garbage mp3, and I cloned with Maschine, Vienna Strings, Ivory, BFD, Trillian, Arturia Minimoog, and a bunch of other stuff. Literally ripped the instrumental parts of the beat down piece by piece and replayed them myself. Thats the only way to go if you want to have ANY control of the mix.


Thrillseeker LA and VBL were my favorite comps of all time. If they were 64 bit I’d still use them.
The RComp is the one with the electro/opto switch. The Rvox is a little simpler but more to the point.
But sign up for the email specials at waves. I’ve seen The RVox and RComp as low as $29 on a “weekend” sale and sometimes they are free if you buy another plug for $29 or $39.
Have fun

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I am. I have the Trueverb and the SuperTap (or something) from Waves. I never use them, since Waves Center behaves funny on my PC. And when it does work, the plug-ins don’t work with Ableton. So buying anything from Waves is out of question at the time.

@Thunderhouse I can’t see the example, It doesn’t show.

@m24p I just made a song with a reverb on send. I tried to leave them dry, but they would not fit well with the reverbful instrumental. So i went with parallel. Check it out! Here is the thread: Bash: My First Rap Song For The New Year Bash away!

I can see it just fine, its just a song on the forum player

@Arber87 your link to soundcloud doesn’t seem to be available any longer. It is easier if you post to the site player for bashing.