#5thAvenueBlogs | Vocal Pocketing [Blog]
Toronto, ON – So you’ve found a beat that you want to spit on. You’ve leased a track, found a popular instrumental or a producer has dropped one on you. Maybe you even made the beat yourself. When the time comes to mix your vocals and the instrumental, there is a technique called ‘vocal pocketing’ that can help your vocals sit in the mix instead of on top.
Often times I hear from clients who have attempted their own mix, that they can’t seem to get the right balance between their vocal tracks and the instrumental. A common result of this is vocals that are too far in front in the mix. Instead of focusing strictly on volume and automation, the use of pocketing can really help.
Vocal pocketing is the idea of creating a small EQ cut (or pocket) in the instrumental for the vocals to sit inside so the two can gel together more smoothly. Without getting too scientific (although you can lookup Fletcher-Munson curves for more info), the ears are most sensitive to sounds between 1Khz and 2Khz. In fact, the noise you hear when words are bleeped out on TV is a 1Khz tone. Working in this range is a good starting point as the results should be noticeable, and it is also the frequency range where vocal presence sits.
So, how to do it – use a transparent EQ that has an adjustable Q. Make a wide curve between 1Khz – 2Khz and cut no more than 2dB depending on how wide your curve is. The wider the curve, the less you should cut and vise versa. Sometimes it is advisable to use two EQ points at the extremities of your pocket. It all depends on what you hear, which leads me to my next point.
When you do this, it is important that you are listening to the full mix, and not the instrumental in solo. The whole concept is to create the pocket so the two mesh together. While you do need to make sure your cut isn’t destructive to the instrumentals sound, you need to gauge the location and sound of your pocket based on the interaction between all the elements. You don’t want to take away from the snare or lose the slap of the kick, and cutting in this region can do that.
If you find that you can’t get the right pocket, move to a new range, say 300HZ to 600Hz. There are no hard or fast rules in mixing, and every song and every vocalist is different. This is where your ears and your listening environment become very important. Making these types of fine-tuning adjustments takes practice and patience, but in time, can be a nice tool in your mixing arsenal.