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How to Fix Boxy Vocals

Dec 25, 2019

Boxy vocals contain too much low frequency energy and lack the proper excitement needed to cut through the mix and command the song. We offer 3 tips on how to remedy this issue.

How to Fix Boxy Vocals

Vocal boxiness is the result of excess energy or resonances between 250-900 Hz. This frequency range also contains the body of your vocal, so it can be difficult to strike a balance between the two. Boxiness is best tackled at the recording stage but can still be remedied in the mix.

1. Choose the Right Microphone/Room

Experiment with tracking through 2-3 different microphones when you record a vocalist for the first time. Determine which microphone best complements their voice. If the singer has a very deep voice, a more mid-rangey mic might be more suitable, rather than a mic with plenty of low end which could exaggerate issues. Be sure to also try a few different recording positions in the tracking space, ideally without too many reflections which can create resonances that contribute to boxiness.

2. Make EQ Cuts on Your Vocal Track

You don’t necessarily need to use the most surgical EQ when removing boxiness from a vocal. Try using a more musical sounding EQ like the Scheps 73 to apply gain attenuation somewhere between 250-900 Hz. Sweep around this area with a narrow Q to find the offending frequencies. Toggle the outside ring on the mid band to either 0.36 or 0.7 and then reduce the level of the band by turning the inside knob counterclockwise.

You could also try boosting and attenuating 100 Hz on the PuigTec EQ, which creates a unique resonant shelf that simultaneously adds body and cleans up boxiness.

3. Sidechain Dynamic EQ Cuts on Your Instrument Bus

If your vocal sounds ok on its own but boxy when played back in the context of your mix, try cutting other instruments within the 250-900 Hz range. An overall buildup of energy in your mix between 250-900 Hz can cause your vocals to sound boxy.

Consider using a dynamic EQ like the F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ to apply gain reduction, but only when your vocals play. Place the F6 on your instrument bus and engage a bell filter with a moderate bandwidth. Set the sidechain input source to your vocal track, reduce the threshold level, and then sweep the band throughout the 250-900 Hz range of your instrument bus until you hear a reduction in boxiness; leave the band in this spot.

Want more quick mix fixes? Get tips on fixing a thin snare drum here.

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