In our career as a mix engineer, we encounter several different types of music genres and tastes. And whenever we try to mix a new genre, we start wondering how to tackle a genre that I never mixed before.
When it comes to Hip-Hop or rap, the picture that we create in our mind is singers and rappers with long t-shirts loose pants and jewelry. Today Rap and hip hop are some of the most popular genres in the world.
So, in your life as a mix engineer, you will encounter this genre, no matter whatever language you are working in. Rap and hip hop is everywhere.
How To Mix Hip Hop
Well, don’t worry. After applying the tips shared in this article, you’ll master it. But before digging into the topic first check out these articles which will give you the few extra tips for successful music mixing.
1. Keep The Vocals at Front
Whatever music genre you have to mix on your table, they all have one common similarity.
If we keep instrumental songs aside then vocals are the heart of all genres. And when it comes to Rap and Hip Hop genre, the vocal is very crucial.
In Hip Hip and rap genres, the lyrics are the life of the song, it should be clear to listen, otherwise, you will ruin it.
So, how do you mix vocals so that it comes on the front of other instruments?
Here are the tips for a good front vocal mix.
- Pan other instruments and give them space on the L-R map.
- Use only light reverb and delay.
- Proper use of compressor enhances the dynamics of the vocal. So the low volume part of the vocal becomes clear.
- Put the reverb on the send channel in the mixer.
Read this guide to mix your vocals like a pro.
2. The Importance of Kick and Snare
After vocals, kick and snare are the most important things to balance. If you can’t balance them in the right way then they will cover up the vocals and your listener can’t understand the lyrics.
As kick and snare are part of the rhythm, we can’t put them totally on left or right. If we do it, the balance of the track becomes unstable and we can’t master at its full intensity. As a result, when we want to amplify the track, clipping occurred on one side.
Well, here are some tips to mix them properly.
- First, put them on the center
- Make sure the volume of the snare should be lower then vocals. Kicks are an exception as they are low-frequency instrument so doesn’t affect much on vocals.
- Add some gentle compression on kicks and snare. You can use presets if you are not familiar with the compressor.
- If kick and snare are on different tracks then you can add a small amount of reverb on snare.
- Always make sure your vocals should have more volume than any other instruments, except kick.
3. Beware of Clipping
In the last section, I have given a hint about clipping. Clipping is the enemy of any good mix engineer. You should always save your mixes from clipping.
Clipping is a sudden increase in the intensity of sound in the tracks which cross the 0dB borderline of the mix and even the 4dB headroom. The result – a bad mix with cracking sound.
So, you should beware of clipping in all the stages of the mix.
So, how do you conquer the clipping in your mix? Follow these tips.
- Use good practices in miking and input.
- Always use a compressor in your channels.
- Don’t cross the 0dB limit
- Use a spectrum analyzer to view if clipping occurs in your tracks.
- Adjust the fader if clipping occurred.
- If, after adjusting you can even listen to the clipping then use clipping remover plugins. However, it’s better to re-record the instrument as clipping remover plugins affect the quality of the sound.
4. Chop The Clips
Rap and hip hop are famous for experiments. You can experiment with your instruments even vocals to serve some unique to your audience.
One of those techniques is chopping. In this technique, you need to add tremolo and other similar effects to cut and chop the audio waves. This effect sounds cool. So you should experiment with this effect.
However, you can manually cut the clips to produce the chopping effect but its way easier to add tremolo and other chopper effects. The added benefit of adding these effects is the cut will be in tempo which can’t be accurate as manual editing.
I use Logic Pro X to mix Rap and hip hop as it has sufficient plugins to add some cool effects on the track.
5. Flip and Reverse
The other cool effect you can use in your hip hop track is flip and reverse. These can be done manually or with the help of plugins.
As from the names flip effect flips the sound clip and reverse will reverse the sound clip. However, they look like very simple effects, when you put them properly on the track, I bet they will transform it.
Pro mix engineers correctly use these simple effects to produce world-class music. You can do it too…If you have a good knowledge of tempo, bars, beats, and melody.
The knowledge of tempo, bars, beats, and melody is required for a good mix.
However, RP Reverse makes it very easier for you.
6. Use Delay
Delay is one of the most used audio effects in the world. Whatever the genre, it’s used in.
Well, in Rap and hip hop we should use it generously otherwise we can destroy our track. Using delay wisely on the track helps produce a good mix.
Let us know how to use the delay effect in Rap and hip hop.
- Always use delay effect in tempo. Daley plugins generally have a tempo automation setting.
- Use it on the tail(the last part of a vocal)
- You can add it to certain places of rhythm and arpeggios to create some cool effects.
- Use all types of delays fro verity such as tape delay, stereo delay, etc.
RP Delay is easy to use but one of the best delay effect plugin.
7. Parallel Processing
Parallel processing is the key to a professional mix in hip hop and rap genre.
In parallel processing, we duplicate the tracks and mix them with the original tracks after applying some cool effects in the duplicated tracks. We can go one step further by panning original and duplicate tracks left and right and applying automation in the track.
Parallel processing will be the best weapon for rap and hip hop mixing if you use it properly.
Conclusion: How To Mix Hip Hop
Well, you have now 7 new techniques to mix rap and hip hop songs. Use them on your tracks and you will see how your tracks will be transformed from an ordinary mix to a pro mix.
P.S: I always use tremolo, stereo delay and chopper on my tracks. You can do some experiments with these cool plugins and experience the transformation.
Don’t forget to share this article in your social circle so that others could get the benefit of these mixing techniques.
Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.