The vocals are the most important part of any song, so they need to sit upfront; right in the listener's face.

The vocals not only carry the lyrics, but also the melody, which is why we want them to be front and center, and easily audible and distinguishable. 

However, it can be easy for vocals to get lost in your mix, and lose intelligibility.

The good news is in this guide I'll share with you 5 tips for getting your vocals to sit upfront in the mix.

That being said, there is ONE key strategy to making your vocals sit up front.

Make vocals sit upfront in your mix by using "serial compression". This is the strategy of using multiple compressors, one after the other, to create an even, punchy, and upfront sound, so you aren't losing sections of your vocals in the mix.

1. Use Serial Compression

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Serial compression or "stacked compression" is going to be your main weapon for mixing vocals that sit upfront in the mix. 

Serial compression involves using mild compression from multiple compressors in sequence (ie, one after the other), and it is effective way to create a very upfront and punchy sound without over-compressing and squashing a sound.

Here's how it works:

  1. You will use one compressor to apply some mild compression to tame the initial transients and loudest peaks of a sound
  2. You'll use a second compressor to then further tame and smooth out the newly compressed source

To accomplish this, use around a 2:1 ratio when you compress and apply 3-6db of gain reduction with each compressor, and adjust the makeup gain to account for volume loss.

By the way, if you're not sure which type of compressor you should be using on your vocals...

Then check out my article here which breaks down the best types of compressors for vocals.

This strategy alone should go a long way toward helping your vocals sit upfront; however, there are some other things you can do to help your vocals cut through...

2. Improve Your Arrangement

One of the biggest things impeding your vocals from standing out could simply be the arrangement of your song. 

If you have other instruments or sounds occupying the same space where your vocals need to sit, they can mask your vocals, and no matter what you do, your vocals will be fighting for space. 

Consider removing some unnecessary elements from your mix. In general, less is more. 

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2. Use Panning

You can also help your vocals to sit upfront by panning the competing sounds out of the center.

By moving other lead sounds to the left and right of the stereo spectrum, you allow your vocals to shine through.

4. EQ

vocal eq cheatsheet

Consider cutting the frequency ranges of sounds that sit in the same space as the vocals. 

This tends to be in the 5kHz to 10kHz range.

By turning down this range in the other instruments in your arrangement, you can help to reveal the vocals. 

5. Volume Automation

Finally, if all else fails, you can apply some volume automation to those sections of your vocals that are getting lost in the mix. 

Simply use your pencil tool to draw in the volume changes you want to make, and increase the volume on those vocal phrases that seem to disappear or lose intelligibility.  

Finish More Songs, Faster

The fastest way to grow as a producer (and to grow a fanbase) is to finish more music faster.

The more songs you finish, the more you'll improve, and the more songs you'll have at your disposal to grow a fanbase. 

If you want proven process for cracking out professional, radio-ready songs quickly…

Rapid Song-Finishing Checklist 2.0

Create Better Songs, Faster

Click below to download my free song-finishing checklist to help you create radio-ready songs without taking months to complete them.

This checklist will walk you through a proven step-by-step mixing and mastering process so that you don't ever have to guess or wonder what to do next. 

You'll know exactly what to do, and when, so you can quickly mix, master, and finish more tracks. 

I hope you found this post valuable on how to get vocals to sit upfront in the mix helpful.

If so, feel free to share, and let me know in the comments below…

What other questions do you have about mixing vocals?

Reagan Ramm

Hi! I'm Reagan, and I've been writing, recording, and mixing music since 2011, and got a degree in audio engineering in 2019 from Unity Gain Recording Institute. I also work full-time in Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and am striving to help fellow musicians and producers improve their art and make a living doing the work they love.

- Reagan Ramm


Mixing, Vocals

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