+ This lesson is excerpted from Kimbra’s Vocal Creativity, Arranging, & Production course. Access this course, plus hundreds more videos and tutorials on production, songwriting, composing, arranging, and mixing, with a Soundfly subscription.
Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, and producer, Kimbra, needs very little help inserting high-octane energy into her music, whether through powerful production, soaring vocal melodies, or complex choral arranging. Yet there’s another trick up her sleeve that can be equally as effective to reinsert some new life into tracks that feel static or stale.
In the above video, taken from her exclusive Soundfly course, Kimbra: Vocal Creativity, Arranging, & Production, Kimbra walks us through how to use mixing as a creative tool for playing with how your vocals can communicate energy and excitement.
We asked Kimbra how mixing is involved in her process personally, and she decided to show rather than tell us, by remixing her own track, “As You Are” (from The Golden Echo), how a different treatment of the vocals can change the feeling of a song.
The vocals for the song “As You Are” were mixed pretty dry originally, so Kimbra demonstrated what would happen if she took a different approach to them. Once again, we get to see Kimbra’s deeply experimental process at work — combining a lot of ideas and intentions with a willingness to very quickly try things and move on if they don’t work.
Some of the specific techniques she employed on this remix are:
- Adding MicroShift effects to a vocal stack to give it more shine, and then balancing that with more warm frequencies on a complimentary stack.
- Creating and experimenting with lots of momentary effects to give the vocals more contours and movement, including a big reverb throw, a moment of violent. distortion, or a moment of increased echo feedback.
- Duplicating vocal parts and then blending dry and effected versions of them.
- Pitching down vocals to provide more bass.
- Playing with automation to swell sounds instead of having them sound uniformly.
Was there anything that stood out to you about watching her in action?
The goal of this exercise is to gain a different perspective on a track of yours by adjusting the mix. Choose a piece you’ve already finished — can you see any easy examples where a simple mix change could alter your perspective on the song?
Put 15 minutes on a timer and then experiment with some of the ideas below. Here are a few ideas of things to try:
- Bring some background vocals way up for half of a verse section.
- Put drums into another “room” by adding a washy reverb to them, but only for one section of a song, like the bridge.
- Add a chorus plugin to a synth bass or backing vocal sound to make it super wide.
- In the second verse of a song, turn everything down significantly except the drums and the lead vocal.
- Take a small auxiliary part, like a percussion sound, a weird sample, or a small rhythmic guitar or synth line, and make it as loud as the lead vocal in one section.
Those are just a few ideas… obviously, there are endless possibilities for creative mixing! Try a few of your own ideas out, and see how it shifts your perspective on the song itself.
Learn from Kimbra
Grammy Award winning artist and songwriter, Kimbra opens up her creative process to students for the first time in her comprehensive course with Soundfly. Explore how she finds inspiration, improvises over an idea, pinpoints the focus for a song, and expertly produces compelling tracks with her innovative approaches to singing, arranging, production, and more. Whether you’re an aspiring vocalist yourself or a producer interested in treating the voice as one of many tools in your creative shed, this one-of-a-kind course will help you develop new methods for making compelling music.