If you’re tempted to mix like Chris Lord-Alge than at least do it right! Pay attention to some vocal tips
If you consider yourself a fan of rock music, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Chris Lord-Alge and his work. The man has left an epic trail of countless excellent records that can be recognized by their vibe instantly and he’s become a legend in the process. Although we suggest striving for your own sound & technique, re-creating that famous Chris Lord-Alge sound can be extremely tempting.
Alge has repeatedly stated that vocals make the mix, so let’s take a look at the techniques and advices for recording/mixing vocals from the man himself.
There’s a reason it’s called mixing
Here’s an easy-to-make mistake – open up your new project and start tweaking vocals in solo and reach a point where it sounds good to you. Then bring in the rest of the band, instruments and see your efforts collapse and make no sense at all. The record consists of various instruments, mixed together in an enjoyable fashion – that’s why it’s called mixing.
This is why Alge prefers to mix vocals last. Supposedly that is the best way he has found for making the vocals sit on top of the mix as the prominent part of the song. Having the final idea about how the rest of the band will sound will definitely give you a better chance of nailing it when it comes to bringing out the best of the vocal track.
Why would you even consider mixing in solo?
Chris has once said that no listener ever hears anything in solo. Hard to disagree with that but anyone who has ever tried to polish the vocal track knows that more often than not adjusting the vocal track in solo mode just seems common sense. But in this case you can easily end up mixing for yourself, for the current moment/situation with more or less subconscious goal to make vocals sound good on their own.
Alge implies that you have to think like a simple listener and he seems to be doing just fine up until now. Also – the major part of your audience will never hear the vocal track in solo and frankly it does not matter how it sounds on its own if there’s an angry alternative rock band waiting to be mixed in.
CLA vocal chain: In an interview for Vintage King Chris Lord-Alge shared that his vocal chain often consists of Universal Audio's Classic 1176 Compressor or Retro 176s with dbx de-essers as well as Plus console EQ and a selection of plug-ins before the desk. Alge admits that he has used up to six delays and four reverbs plus a variety of 70s and 80s effects devices just for the right sound.
Avoid EQ-ing in solo
Although it is very understandable to want to solo the track when trying some EQ moves, you should ask yourself why? Of course it is hard to hear the god damn thing when the rest of the song is playing but again – those are the exact circumstances when listening to a finished, bought & paid for record.
Alge advises to force yourself to listen harder and EQ more carefully. He has stressed that tinkering around soloed track usually results in time being wasted so try to keep your hands off the solo button. Learn to hear things in context instead and it will pay off!
Think about the end result
The point made about vocals being processed in solo mode can and should be applied to other instruments as well. Remember – the song needs to sound good, not just one part of it. Neatly done mix of vocal layers will fail to impress if the rest of the song sounds like something else. Therefore it is paramount to force yourself to think like a listener and frankly it does not mean that you absolutely must dissect the project while mixing towards the sound you desire. Just imagine how much energy is spent while you work with the details of one track and realize that it just does not matter in the context of the full song.