Recording Over Rap Instrumentals

February 6, 2013 // News

A  Quick Overview On How to Properly Mix Rap Vocals Over Rap Instrumentals

Sadly, when Rap Instrumentals come pre-mixed or pre-mastered not a lot of “flexibility” is given to the Mixing Engineer. However mixing over a “2-Track”(name given to a final, mastered stereo file) is a normal procedure. Infact it occurs more often than one would think in the real world of recording.  The development of multitrack recording and new technology such as electric guitars, amplifiers, and better microphones led to a fundamental change in the way recordings were made.


 Making Room

Rap Instrumentals

Empty Room, very Spacious

Before one can place vocals ontop of said rap instrumentals, you should turn the beat’s volume down sigificantly. We do this to combat the “density” that having it “maximized”(mastered) to play loudly caused. Generally, rap instrumentals that’ve been pre-mastered without vocals have been limited to 0.0dB already, so compensation from turning them down is necessary.

Making Additional Room

In some cases, you may notice that even after a beat’s been turned down additional space is needed. You’d be left with having to “open up” the rap instrumentals, ideally using an Equalizer(EQ) of some sort.

The ranges in-question are 2khz up to 8khz (with 2-3khz being where most of the “intelligibility” of your vocal take resides). Still, the main thing you want to do is LISTEN using your own ears. If it sounds like something’s “conflicting” with the vocals, sweep and make the necessary EQ withinin the rap instrumentals themselves. 

Match the Density

In theory, if your rap instrumentals have already been “mastered” it goes without saying they’ve had their fair share of compression. Meaning your vocals will either sound like they’ve been buried by the beat, or so loud that it feels it’s standing over the beat. When in 99.9% of cases, you want it sitting right “in” the beat but forward enough to be the main element.

One could easily combat this “inbalance” by compressing the vocal performance. Ideally you’d compress the vocals until they start to “compete” or sound “even” with the density of the instrumental in question. Keep in mind we aren’t trying to “over-compress” the vocals, to the point where they sound overly-processed!

Match the Space

Rap Instrumentals

Overlooking Saturn from Space

The spatial elements of a beat are important and need to be considered. In most rap instrumentals you can hear the certain musical instruments are pushed to the forefront and sent to the background. Syncing the Reverbs/Delays used on your vocals to the instrumentals themselves are a must. Rap vocals move faster than vocal performances of other genres. So long, drawn out reverbs (as used by singers in Country, Pop, Rock and etc) only seem to blur our performance. We’ve noticed a very wide, short (and quiet!) reverb usually gives a vocal all the presence it needs to glue it over most rap instrumentals.


About the author

Chris Smith (Blue22™) • Music Producer • Author • Contemporary Keyboardist • Born August 5th, 1990 in Dallas, Tx. Founded ShadezOfBlue LLC in late 2012.