Vocal/Music Rendering

Audacity 2.2.1 on a PC with Windows 10.
I do a lot of song recording using karaoke music tracks as background, then recording the lead vocal and sometimes additional backing tracks over the top to produce useable CD’s that sound really good in the car. My issue is this…on many songs, the music and vocal tracks render/mix perfectly and sound as though they are professionally done. On other songs, no matter what I do, the final render leaves the vocals sounding stand alone…as though coming out of some hollow tunnel, making the track seem like amateur hour. There is no telling which I am going to get and I usually do very similar effects on most songs. It is only a hobby that I do for myself and close friends, but I wish I could unlock the secret to getting good vocal/music mixes every time. Thanks for any tips or help!

I should add that I record my vocals using a Yeti Blue USB microphone, then add production effects after getting one clean vocal to work with.

Arguably the most important thing is to get the relative levels of vocals to backing right. If the vocal is much louder than the backing, it will not sound right. If the backing is much louder than the vocal, it will not sound right. If the level of the vocal is inconsistent, it will not sound right.

The “Mixer Board” can be useful for adjusting the levels (https://manual.audacityteam.org/man/mixer_board.html). When using the Mixer Board, keep an eye on Audacity’s meters to ensure that you stay under 0 dB. If the mix is too low, you can always amplify / normalize the track after mixing the tracks down (see “Mix and Render” https://manual.audacityteam.org/man/tracks_menu_mix.html)

You also need to try and match the character of the backing track. If the backing track sounds like natural acoustic instruments, then a more natural sounding voice will probably sit well, but if the backing is highly processed (heavily “produced”) electronic / synthesized sound, then you will probably need a more heavily “produced” sound, with lots of compression and reverb.

Regardless of the mix, it is essential that the vocals are bang in tune, and the recording quality is consistent throughout the track. Multiple takes at different distances from the mic will cause the level and timbre of the voice to change.

Avoid going over 0 dB at all times.

Bear in mind that professional producers spend a lifetime perfecting their technique.

Steve, thx for the tips. I agree, getting the sound levels equal is super important. I can’t even tell you how much time I spend on each vocal track as I always use multiple takes and often record just a few lines at a time to concentrate on getting them tight. More often I will record longer sequences to start, then come back and re-record the lines I know I can do better. I then copy and paste the new lines into the main sequence. Once done getting one clean vocal, I then spend a ton of time highlighting one or two words and amplifying/decreasing the levels to make it all sound equal in its entirety. Sometimes you have to crescendo the vocals to match a louder chorus part. I fully understand why it takes months to produce albums and why sound engineers spend lifetimes learning their craft…it is definitely a time-consuming art…but a great winter hobby for me!