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Old May 25, 2012, 01:50 AM   #1
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How to make rap vocals louder in Garageband

Hi all,

So I've been dealing with this problem for quite some time now and have googled and Youtubed it to death so I'm turning to you guys for help.

Before you ask, I have turned the auto-normalizer off because it seems to lower the overall volume of the song dramatically.

I use these settings on nearly every vocal track:

-Vocal Compression Rap
-Noise gate: -30db
-Visual Eq: Clear Vocals

These settings seem to work the best for me. I will change them on double-up tracks I record, such a putting vocal compression to gentle.

I use a USB AKG Perception 120 Mic and a pop filter.

Here's the problem:

The vocals aren't as loud compared to other "professional" rap songs. I've tried "doubling up" tracks, ie, copy and pasting the main vocals on a new track, turning the volume down, putting the compressor on gentle and putting a tremolo on it. However, my volume levels still peak and the vocals sound so "loud" they hurt your ears if you listen to them for too long.

How do I "double up" vocals in garageband to make it sound more professional?

Can anyone help?

Here's some links to some mixtapes I recorded and "mixed" in garageband. The sound level isn't bad but it can certainly use some improvement.

Any help would be appreciated.



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Old May 25, 2012, 03:36 PM   #2
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I can't listen to your tracks right now, but in general, pro vocals sound pro because of every single element in the chain: singer, room, mic, preamp, compression, eq and processing (reverbs, delays). Then the track is professionally mixed and mastered.

Lead vox are difficult and it's one of those things that can take a lifetime to master. imho, no set of GB plugs is going to replace the other factors, or gain much ground when trying to make up for deficiencies.
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Old May 25, 2012, 07:39 PM   #3
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I understand that about all the elements needing to come into place to make it sound professional.

But are there any tips you can give me to "double up" vocals to make them louder to get it to sound more in line with how professional volume recordings sound?
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Old May 25, 2012, 09:46 PM   #4
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What speakers/headphones are you using to mix and master?
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Old May 26, 2012, 06:32 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TMRaven View Post
What speakers/headphones are you using to mix and master?
I'm using Behringer HPS3000 headphones to mix and master.
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Old May 26, 2012, 07:23 PM   #6
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i listened to parts of a few tracks, maybe 5. of those, Da Capital sounded the closest to the direction i was going to point you in.

couple thoughts:

- the vocals are plenty loud, relative to the tracks. in most instances, they're too loud and don't sound integrated into the song, imho.

- i don't like that mic on your voice, it's way too sizzly. i'm not hearing much bottom/middle of your voice. maybe you have it eq'ed that way. i want to hear more boom/bass in the vox.

- for the most part, the vocals are dry. part of the trick of lead vox is to carve out space around it so it can sit properly w/o having to turn it so far up over the other tracks. i mostly use reverb and delays for this, and some EQ. Da Capital is a step in that direction.

- many people use compression on lead vox to tame that dynamic range. i painstakingly draw volume curves by hand to do the same, then use compression mostly for tone. it takes hours, but i like the result. doing the same should allow you to reduce your vocal peaks w/o hitting the compressor so hard.

- you need to de-ess the vox. like compression, many use de-essers. also like compression, i tend to draw volume curves to reduce them before de-essing (and on backing vox, i nearly eliminate the esses by drawing, as they really tend to stack up with multiple tracks).

- finally, you're probably not going to get the sound you want w/o getting it mastered. if you're going to hire someone to do it (and i believe that should be someone who's going to hear the material fresh, so not you), then it should be mixed with that it mind. to me, that mostly that means getting the song to sound as good as possible w/o doing 2-buss compression or EQ. understand that not everyone would agree with me there.

i think your next move is to audition a bunch of mics to see what you like on your voice. it really starts there. making the lead vox sound good is still a lot of work thereafter; you're just making it harder on yourself by having to compensate for the wrong mic.
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Old May 26, 2012, 09:36 PM   #7
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I actually agree with most everything the guy above me posted.

The vocals have plenty of volume, honestly too much. That's not your issue.

You need to do a few things.

1. Try different mics. The one you're using is awful for your voice. For most rappers we use two different mics, depending on the voice. Either the Electrovoice RE20 (fuller, deeper sound) or the Neumann U87 (Cleaner sound). There are other options, but those are our go-to microphones.

2. Double your vocals. Some producers don't like this, I disagree. Unless you're going for a raw, old school kind of sound, double your vocals. Hell, triple or quadruple 'em. This gives you more layers to manipulate in the mix. You can also do some cool tricks with the way you pan each track. The other thing that needs to be said here is that you need to be good at doubling to pull this off. It takes practice. It sounds simple to just lay a few identical tracks, but it's not always easy to actually perform them identically. Minor differences are ok, even desirable, but the timing has to be perfect.

3. Stop trying to copy the sound of professional recordings. You're using GarageBand. It has it's limitations. You're probably also using equipment that isn't anywhere close to the caliber of gear that gets used on those records. That's not a knock, it's just reality. You absolutely will not, under any circumstances be able to recreate the kinds of sounds that you hear on those records with limited experience and equipment.

4. Don't settle and don't assume you're great. It's not just the equipment at issue here. There is a big difference between performing live (any genre) and recording in a studio. This is especially true for vocals. Don't be afraid to do a hundred takes until you get the one that really works. Try different positions, try different microphone placements, try different rooms. There is a lot of info out there about building vocal booths etc. Forget all of it. They sound stale and flat. Find some interesting spaces and put your mic in them. You'll find a setup that works.

Above all, focus on experimentation and having fun making a record. It's not going to sound like what a major label churns out unless you invest in that kind of studio--and that kind of producer. That's ok. If you really want to learn more, invest in some time at a pro studio. A good engineer and/or producer will employ some pretty cool techniques that you can learn from.
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Old May 26, 2012, 10:00 PM   #8
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interesting, RE20 was what came to mind for me, as well. good points, Mak.
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Old May 27, 2012, 09:29 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input. You're right, I need to find a better mic, however the USB AKG is the only thing I have to work with at the moment.

I forgot to mention that "Da Capital" was one of the tracks on that mixtape I didn't record or edit, but all the tracks on "48Hrs" and most on "Black Eye N Da Game" I did record/edit. Sorry.

I've since gotten a better pop-filter which has helped minimize peaking and has improved the quality of the vocals but I still feel they aren't loud enough.

I'm not very familiar with the terminology you were using so sorry for sounding stupid but whats a vox and lead vox? Like Main Vocals?

I've tried drawing curves for the Vocal Compression setting on Garageband based on tutorials on YouTube of how to mix/master vocals but do you have any settings in particular you could recommend?

I hired an engineer buddy of mine to mix/master one of my tracks, and it sounded great. I'm just hoping to learn more about it though so I can do it myself and save myself the money because it can get real expensive paying to mix/master tracks.

I also have a friend of mine who has logic Pro working on editing some of my songs but they never seem to come out the quality I want them to when he works on them, for some reason.


1.Thanks. Yeah, I definitely need a new mic, I'm going to check those ones out you recommended.

2.Yeah, I do double ups on every track I do. Typically, I'll record a main vocal then I will do a double up track where I double up the last words of every line and then I'll do a second double up track where I double up the first words of every line. I've found this gives it a fuller sound and gives me room to emphasize words. I've also gotten pretty good and making them sync up so they're pretty identical. I don't like to do a full double up track where I would double the entire verse over again because I find I compromise on sound and run out of breath, and I don't wanna punch in.
I will do TONS of takes though, and keep the best ones, and that way I have plenty of material to choose from when I do editing.

3. True that.

4. That's great advice. I have been doing a lot more takes lately and experimenting in terms of mic placement and what I can do with different fx.

-That's what I'm all about, having fun making records. That's priority number one for me above all. **** aspirations of fame and audience expectations, at the end of the day, it comes down to how I feel about the record.
I've been recording since 2003, starting in small studios and then bigger ones. I recorded in a studio in Reno where Dr. Dre and Boyz II Men recorded at but it cost A LOT OF MONEY. So I've been trying to do the whole home studio since and am just trying to work my way up to better equipment and sounds.

I'd say the quality of music I'm putting out now has definitely improved from the links I put up.
For instance, this is my newest track:


If you heard the other tracks, I think you can definitely tell a difference from those and this one. This one I had the better pop-filter, and I did a lot more work on trying to mix it.
I also doubled up the vocals on it (by that I mean, I took the main vocals, copy and pasted them on a new track and lowered the volume on it) in addition to the regular recorded double ups I did to the track.

This song if from a paid session and I experimented a lot more with the vocals, as you can hear on the hook.


Don't know if this gives you a better idea of where I'm at but hopefully it does.

Thanks a bunch for the great advice, guys.
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