Mixing hip-hop and R&B vocals can be a bit challenging. Not only do you have to maintain today’s standards with crisp, clear, upfront vocals, but you also have to explore creative mixing and production techniques that are present in many modern-day hits, such as delay throws or pitched vocals.

To help you get your vocals where they need to be, I’ve create a small guide with 5 tips for mixing hip-hop and R&B vocals. Let’s dive in! 

Preparing Vocals for the Mix

Before we add any spice or seasoning, let’s make sure those rap and hip-hop vocal tracks are prepped for the mix. 

Clean Up the Vocal Before Processing

The first step in prepping your vocal mix? Get rid of all that background noise. 

5 Tips for Mixing Hip-Hop and R&B Vocals

A high-pass filter can shoo away low-end rumble, while tools like Waves X-Noise can get rid of static hiss or hums that may have snuck in during the recording process. 

If you’re dealing with annoying clicks, pops, or extraneous noise in your recording, you can even use software like iZotope RX 8 Standard.

EQ Techniques for Clarity and Character

When it comes to mixing rap and R&B vocals, clarity and character is paramount. You want to make sure that the lyrics are not only intelligible but also emotionally resonant. 

With the right EQ techniques, you can significantly enhance the vocal’s presence and contribute to the overall sonic identity of the track.

Subtractive EQ for Problem Frequencies

Subtractive EQ is a crucial technique for refining rap and R&B vocals, addressing specific issues and enhancing overall clarity. 

Focus on cutting frequencies in the low-mid range (100-300 Hz) to eliminate muddiness so your vocals can sit prominently without interference. You might also use subtractive EQ to target and reduce any resonances or harsh frequencies, ensuring a smooth and balanced vocal tone. 

5 Tips for Mixing Hip-Hop and R&B Vocals

We often use FabFilter Pro-Q 3 as a precision equalizer plug-in to seek and carve out unwanted noise and resonances.

Additive EQ for Vocal Flavor

Once we’ve cleaned up our canvas with subtraction comes addition. Here’s where things get exciting. We want to look at specific frequency areas that can give those vocals extra shine or warmth depending on what vibe fits best within the context of each unique track.

You might want to bring forward certain harmonics that accentuate natural resonance within an artist’s voice using narrow boosts around key areas typically between 1kHz-4kHz for added intelligibility – but remember less is often more here.

A slight boost around 5kHz can make hip hop vocals tend towards aggression if they feel too laid-back,

When all else is in harmony but your mix lacks that final touch, gently boost frequencies above 10 kHz. This adds a crisp airiness without any unpleasant sharpness, rounding out the sound beautifully.

Dynamic Control in Vocal Mixing

Vocals are the stars of hip-hop and R&B, but if they’re bouncing all over the place volume-wise, you’ll lose that professional sheen. So let’s talk about keeping your dynamics tight with compression.

Keep Your Dynamics Tight with Compression

Gaining control over your vocal dynamics is essential. Using compression, you can even out those wild level changes so that every word hits home without overpowering the mix.

5 Tips for Mixing Hip-Hop and R&B Vocals

I’m a big fan of the Waves CLA-2A compressor plug-in, as it offers a warm and vintage tube-based compression that enhances the natural dynamics of the performance. Its smooth, transparent character and slow attack time provide subtle yet effective control, allowing rap vocals to sit seamlessly in the mix with a rich, classic tone.

Note that with compression, you don’t want to squeeze the life out of the performance. The secret sauce is using multiple compressors gently instead of asking one to do all the heavy lifting—which could end up sucking the dynamics out of your mix and creating nasty pumping artifacts.

Additional Effects 

Sometimes a “pro” sound sneaks into places you wouldn’t expect—like creative effects. Ever heard how some lead vocals have that extra ‘oomph’ making them stand front and center?

With parallel saturation, for example, you blend the saturated signal with the dry vocal track to add a tasteful enhancement of harmonics and warmth and impart richness on the vocals while maintaining clarity. Tape saturation plugins add a nice bit of natural compression too. 

Of course, there are hundreds of other effects you could use to make your rap or R&B vocals stand out. Here’s a short list of some to experiment with:


  • Experiment with short delays for subtle widening and depth.
  • Use longer delays with moderate feedback for a pronounced rhythmic effect.


  • Apply a touch of reverb to create a sense of space without overpowering the vocals.
  • Try using plate or room reverbs for a natural ambiance, or experiment with unconventional spaces for creative effects.


  • Introduce a subtle chorus or flanger for a gentle widening and modulation, adding a touch of movement to the vocals.

Pitch Shifter:

  • Employ a pitch shifter for creative pitch effects, harmonies, or subtle detuning for added depth.


  • Experiment with a harmonizer to create lush vocal harmonies or widen the vocal arrangement.

Vocal Doubler:

  • Incorporate a vocal doubler plugin for a subtle thickening effect, providing a sense of width without overpowering the main vocal.

Reverse Reverb:

  • Create a unique intro or transition by applying a reverse reverb effect to lead into vocal phrases.


  • Introduce a vocoder for futuristic vocal textures or to add a robotic quality for stylistic purposes.


What are the 6 C’s of vocal mixing?

The 6 C’s include clarity, control, color, consistency, creativity, and context. They guide you to mix vocals that sit right in your track.

How do you mix hip-hop vocals?

To mix hip-hop vocals: clean them up first, use EQ for clarity, apply compression for even dynamics, and add effects like reverb subtly.

What vocal techniques are used in hip-hop?

Hip-hop artists often spit with rhythmical complexity and lyrical dexterity. Breath control is key along with clear enunciation and dynamic delivery.

How to layer hip-hop vocals?

Duplicate tracks for thickness, pan layers for width, pitch some up or down slightly for depth. Blend well so they complement each other.


Mixing hip-hop and R&B vocals is a dynamic process that requires a keen ear and a thoughtful approach. With the five tips discussed in this article, you’re well on your way to crafting vocals that not only cut through the mix but also resonate with emotion and clarity!

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