This article will discuss how loud vocals should be in a mix.
Vocals are one of the most dynamic elements in any song. However, the balance of the vocals depends upon the kind of arrangement and genre you’re mixing for. For example, vocals must be the loudest in an acoustic/singer-songwriter arrangement. On the other hand, in a pop/hip-hop/R&B arrangement, vocals are the loudest after the kick drum and drums in general.
In EDM songs, the vocals can be below the synth, depending on the EDM sub-genre. Similarly, vocals may not be the loudest element in the mix of jazz and progressive genres with many instrument interplays. So, with that context, let’s objectively answer how loud vocals should be in a mix.
One last thing to consider is the measurement of loudness, which is LUFS: Loudness Unit Full Scale, a standard that the entire music industry follows. The second measurement is TP (True Peak), the loudest point of the audio. Now let’s dive right into the topic of main concern.
How Loud Should Vocals Be In a Mix?
It’s a common practice to keep the vocals at a loudness between -12 and -18 dB LUFS, depending on which stage of mixing you’re in. You should gain stage vocals at about -18 dB LUFS, but you can have it up to -12 dB LUFS by the end of the session, as vocals are one of the loudest elements in the mix.
However, exceed the -12 dB LUFS limit only at your own risk, or if that is the sound you’re going for, else the vocals will sound over-compressed. As vocals are quite dynamic, having them overcompressed will work against most song genres. The over-compressed vocals are desirable for grungy or electronic songs with distorted vocals.
However, otherwise, they are not. Especially in vocals-focused arrangements, the most popular music, whether it is an Adele-type simple piano ballad, a reprised version with a simple guitar arrangement, a Sia-type hard-hitting pop/rock arrangement, or an Olivia Rodrigo-type Pop/Punk/Rock record.
In all these types of songs, the vocals’ dynamics bring out the true expression. So even when you take a hip-hop song like Juice WRLD or Xxxtentacion, the dynamics of the vocals are really important. We recommend the -12 to -18 dB LUFS of loudness range for vocals.
For example, let’s look at the dB LUFS and dB TP ratings of the master bus, the kick channel, and the vocals channel. The image below shows the loudness meter on the master bus of the mix of a pop song by babyface. The master channel has a LUFS rating of -14 LUFS, peaking at 1.6 dB TP.
Now, let’s look at the loudness readings of the vocals (on the left) and the kick track (on the right). The vocals are about -17 LUFS loud, with a peak at -0.5 dB TP, displaying a high dynamic range. The kick is -10 LUFS loud, peaking at 0.1 dB TP. In comparison to the vocals, it has a low dynamic range.
For comparison’s sake, let’s look at the loudness meter for the melody bus (synths + pads + guitars). As you can read in the image below, synths are quieter, with a loudness of -24 LUFS, peaking at -9.9 dB TP.
How to balance vocals?
In the modern Pop/RnB/Hip-hop genres, you should balance the vocals first against the kick, then the instruments and bass, and then against the rest of the drums. After that, you balance the backing vocals against the lead vocals. Finally, for an acoustic/ballad song, balance the vocals against the piano or guitar.
Let’s break the above statement down even further. First, let’s discuss the modern samples-, synths-, and guitars-based arrangements. Then, start the balance by setting the kick’s level first, then listening and balancing the bass/808 against it, followed by the rest drums, the lead vocals, and the instruments.
Then you can revisit and re-balance it as per your taste and sensibilities. For example, for an acoustic song, set the levels of the guitars or pianos first and then balance the vocals against it. However, these are just rules of thumb and not rules. So I recommend creating your workflow.
How Loud Should Vocals Be In a Pop/R&B/Hip-hop Mix?
Vocals are one of the loudest elements in a pop/R&B/Hip-hop mix and can be between -18 and -15 dB LUFS loud (integrated and momentary), such that the mix peaks at -1 dB TP. Vocals are second to the kick drum and the snare/clap in a mix.
Between -15 and -18 dB LUFS is the sweet spot for the vocals, and at that loudness level, they are sufficiently audible with the rest of the arrangement and aren’t too over-compressed either.
How loud should vocals be in a Rock mix?
Vocals are generally about -20 dB LUFS loud in a rock mix and are usually second to drums. Vocals aren’t louder than the rest of the arrangement, unlike pop songs, but it’s not softer either. In rock music, vocals sit in the middle of drums, guitars, and synths/pianos.
The balance of the vocals is not intended to overtake the rest of the song. In some sub-genres like metal or punk rock, drums may be softer than the guitars and drums in some parts. However, some rock songs are pretty vocal-oriented, and in those cases, vocals can be louder, possibly up to -16 dB LUFS.
How loud should vocals be in an EDM Mix?
Vocals are generally about -16 to -12 dB loud in an EDM mix as vocals compete with heavy drums, layered synthesizers, and fat basslines in these songs. To cut through the heavy arrangement of EDM songs, the dynamic range of the vocals has to be reduced sometimes.
In EDM songs, the drums, bass, and synths may be louder than the vocals in some parts and genres and vice versa in others. For example, in drops, the synths take over the vocals; in buildups, the drums take over the vocals; in verses, the vocals usually stay on top.
We have discussed all music genres and the vocals’ exact LUFS ratings. Everything discussed in the article is just observations and general guidelines for balancing and mixing vocals, not hardcore rules. So it’s important to follow your ears, sensibilities, expression, and gut feeling, as music has no rules.
React to the music and make changes, as mixing is the perfect blend of left and right brain (or creative brain) activity. If you’re getting stuck in between, you can follow these guidelines. Alternatively, you can reference songs similar to the song you’re mixing and create a balance based on the songs you’re listening to or hold them as benchmarks.
Hope the article was of help. Thank you for reading.
Readings that you may like:
Best DAWs For Musicians Available (With FREE DAWs)
What’s The Most CPU Efficient DAW? – 5 DAWs Compared
How To Make Music Without Using A DAW?
Pro Tools Guide: How To Use AutoTune & Pitch Correction?
Ableton Review: Is It Worth The Money? (Cons & Pros)
Logic Pro X Review: Is It Worth It? (Cons & Pros)
How To Use Auto-tune & Pitch Correction In Cubase?
How To Fix Ableton Crackling, Crashing & Freezing? Step By Step
What Are Audio Plugins? Different Types of Plugins Explained
What Are The Best Tools To Develop VST Plugins & How Are They Made?
Cost of Developing Audio VST Plugin: Several Factors (With Table)
VST, VST, AU and AAX – What’s The Difference? Plugin Formats Explained
Complete Guide To Noise Gate – What It Is, What It Does & How To Use It?
How To Clip My Drums? Here Is How & Audio Teasers (Before/After)
Complete Guide To Limiter: How To Use It (+ Best Plugins & Analog Limiters)
Mixing With Reverb: How To Add Life To Your Mixes
Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ – Full Guide
Difference Between LUFS, RMS & True Peak Loudness Meters
How And When To Use Algorithmic And Convolution Reverb In Your Mix?
Difference Between Active EQ, Passive EQ and Dynamic EQ
Headphones & Studio Monitors:
Do headphones get worse with age?
Monitors vs Studio Headphones For Mixing & Mastering
Top 10 Room Calibration & Headphones/Speakers Correction Plugins
Are Noise-Canceling Headphones Good For Music Production?
Can Headphones Break in Cold Weather?
Why do headphones & cables get sticky?
Can Wearing Headphones Cause Hair Loss?
How Do I know If My Studio Monitor Is Blown?
Side Effects Of Sleeping With Your Headphones On
Do You Need Music Amplifier For Studio Monitors or Studio Headphones?
Do Headphones or Earphones Damage Your Brain?
Can Headphones or Earphones cause Deafness or Toothache?
FarField, MidField & NearField Monitors – Their Uses, Pros & Cons
MIDI & Synths:
Should I Buy A MIDI Keyboard Or Synth? (Are Synths Worth It Anymore?)
Why Is Audio Gear So Expensive? (Especially Synths)
Top 12 Synth Brands – Analog, Digital & Modular Synth Manufacturers
11 Tips How To Choose MIDI Keyboard
Should I Buy MIDI Controller Or Keyboard? Cons, Pros & Tips
Can I Put Nylon Strings on a Steel-string Guitar?
Do Electric Guitars Sound Good Unplugged?
Buying Your First Guitar: 2 Things To Know
Are Tube Amps Worth It? (Tube vs Solid-State Amps)
How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup?
Can I Play Classical Guitar On A Steel-String Guitar?
How often guitar necks need reset?
Can You Play Two Guitars Through One Amp?
Can a 6 String Bass Be Tuned Like A Guitar?
Can I leave My Guitar Tuned Down a Step? Yes, But Is It Safe?
Should I Learn 4, 5 Or 6 String Bass Guitar & Why?
How To Know If your Guitar Amp Is Broken?
How To Fix Distorted Bass Guitar Sound?
Do Fender Guitars Appreciate In Value?
Should You Put Stickers On A Bass Guitar?
How Acoustic And Electric Guitars Are Made?
Is Electric Guitar Too Loud for an Apartment?
Does a Preamp Improve Sound Quality?
If I Learn Acoustic Guitar Can I Play Electric Guitar?
How Many Hours A Day Should You Practice Bass Guitar?
Do I need an AMP/DAC To Run Bookshelf Speakers?
How to Record Electric Guitar Into Logic Pro X?
Do headphones get worse with age?
Top 12 NearField Studio Monitors On Any Budget
Top 10 Midfield Studio Monitors For Home Recording
Best Biggest Studio Monitors (FarField Monitors)
Top 10 Guitar Pickups for Low Tunings
Top 10 Analog Compressors For Mixing & Mastering (On Any Budget)
Top 12 USB Audio Interfaces Under 150$, 200$, 300$ 400$ (Any Budget)
Top 12 Hardware Equalizers (Analog EQs For Mixing & Mastering)
Top 6 Analog Hardware Limiters
Top 6 Solid State Bass Amps (On Any Budget)
Top 6 Ribbon Mics On Any Budget (For Vocals, Drums & Guitars)
Top 6 Cheap Dynamic Mics For Vocals Under 50$, 100$, 200$ & 300$
Top 6 Chorus Guitar Pedals (On Any Budget)
6 Best 61-Key MIDI Keyboards (On Any Budget)
9 Best 49-Key MIDI Keyboards Under 100$ & 200$
Top 5 Best 25 Key MIDI Keyboards (On Any Budget)
Top 12 Acoustic Drums (Best Kits/Sets On Any Budget)
Top 10 EDM Plugins (And 10 Best FREE Plugins For EDM)
Top 10 Plugins For TRAP Beats (And 5 Best FREE Trap Plugins)
20 Best Plugins For Rock Musicians (+ 6 FREE Plugins)
Top 14 Trance Plugins (Uplifting, Tech, Progressive, Vocal, Dream, Hard)
Top 10 GOA & PsyTrance Plugins (Best Psychedelic Trance Tools)
Top 7 Plugins For Dubstep (With 10 Best FREE Effects & Synths)
Top 20 Synthwave Plugins (+ 11 Best FREE Plugins)
Top 15 Plugins For Techno, House, Electro, Tech House, UK Garage
Top 6 Plugins For Latin Music (And 4 FREE Tools)
Top 12 Plugins For Hip-Hop (+ Best Kontakt Libraries)
Top 7 Plugins For Game & Film Scoring (+ 6 Best Kontakt Libraries)
Top 10 R&B And Pop Music Plugins & KONTAKT Libraries
30 Best Free Plugins For DnB, EDM, IDM & Experimental Music
Top 12 Free EQ Plugins For Precise Mixing & Mastering
Top 9 Mid/Side EQ Plugins For Mixing & Mastering (+ 2 Free Tools)
Top 7 Graphic EQ Plugins (With 3 Best Free EQs)
Top 7 EQ Plugins For Mastering In | And Best FREE Mastering EQs
Top 6 Passive EQ Plugins (Klevgrand, SPL, UAD, Waves, IK Multimedia)
Top 11 Plugins For Making Metal (Best Guitars, Drums & Effects)
Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak)
Top 6 Spectrum Analyzer Plugins – Spectral Analysis Tools
Top 6 Oscilloscope Plugins To See The Waveforms
Top 5 Key Detection Plugins & Software (+ Best FREE App)
20 Best Kontakt Libraries For All Categories (Synths, Drums, Vocals)
Top 7 Drum Libraries For KONTAKT (And 4 Freebies)
Top 7 Trap Music Kontakt Libraries (And Best Lo-Fi Kontakt Library)
Top 7 Metal & Rock Kontakt Libraries (Best Guitars & Drums)
Top 10 Guitar Libraries For Kontakt (Acoustic, Electric, Bass & Freebies)
Top 7 Trailer Scoring Plugins & Kontakt Libraries
20 Best Free KONTAKT Libraries For Various Instruments
Top 9 Piano Kontakt Sample Libraries (And 5 Best Free Pianos)
Top 10 Percussion KONTAKT Libraries (And 3 Freebies)
Top 7 Kontakt Libraries For Horror & Thriller Scoring (No VSTs)
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Top 6 Noise Reduction Plugins (And 3 Best Free Tools)
6 Best Audio Restoration Plugins & Software
Top 7 Phase Alignment Plugins To Fix Your Bass & Drums
Top 10 Room Calibration & Headphones/Speakers Correction Plugins
Top 6 Vocoder Plugins (Effects & Synths + FREE Vocoder)
11 Best Rhodes VST Plugins (AND 5 Free Rhodes Plugins)
Top 12 Randomizer Plugins Including FREE Plugins
Top 6 Kick Drum Plugins (Best Kick Designer Tools)
Top 12 Woodwind Plugins (And KONTAKT Libraries)
Top 10 Double Bass Plugins (Best Upright Basses)
Top 5 Strings VST Plugins (AND 4 Best Free Instruments)
Top 6 Sampler Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Plugins)
Top 6 Classical Guitar Plugins & Kontakt Libraries (And FREE Guitars)
Top 12 Sub Plugins (Best 808 & Bass Tools For Massive Low End)
Top 10 Plugins On PluginBoutique (And 7 Best Free Plugins)
Top 11 Plugins On Plugin Alliance
Top 7 Acoustic Guitar Plugins (And 4 Best Kontakt Libraries)
9 Best Bass Guitar Plugins (And 2 Best Freebies)
Top 6 Electric Guitar Plugins (Best PAID & FREE Picks)
Top 10 Arpeggiator VST Plugins (Best Synths, MIDI Effects & Tools)
Top 10 Modular Synth Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Plugins)
Top 6 Choir Plugins & Sample Libraries (And 3 Best Free Plugins)
11 Best Percussion & Drum VST Plugins (And FREE Plugins)
Top 8 Piano Plugins (Best Sounding Pianos & 5 FREE Piano Plugins)
Top 6 Organ Plugins Ever Made (And 3 Best Free Organs)
Top 14 VST Plugins For Beginners (And 9 FREE Plugins)
Top 9 Drum Machine Plugins (And Groovebox Plugins)
4 Best Banjo Plugins (Best Banjo Instruments)
The 5 Best Ukulele Plugins & Kontakt Libraries
Top 13 Synth Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Synths Plugins)
Top 13 Sequencer Plugins (Synth, MIDI & Step Sequencers)
The 10 Best Multi-Effect Plugins (And 3 Best Free Plugins)
Top 12 Plugin Bundles For Musicians (Synths, Mixing & Mastering)
Processing & Sound Design:
8 Best Lo-Fi Plugins (PAID & FREE)
Top 11 Plugins For Mixing Vocals (For Home Studio)
Top 12 Saturation Plugins (Best Mixing & Mastering Tools)
Top 6 Pitch Shifter Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Pitch Shifters)
Top 6 Chorus VST Plugins For Musicians (And 3 FREE Plugins)
Top 6 Limiter Plugins For Precise Mastering & Mixing
The 8 Best Filter Plugins For Precise Cuts & Boosts (+ 5 Free Filters)
6 Best Autotune Plugins To Improve & Enhance Your Vocals
Top 10 Transient Shaper Plugins (VST, AU, AAX)
Top 7 Enhancer Plugins (For Bass, Drums, Vocals & Harmonics)
Top 6 Flanger Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Flanger Emulators)
Top 7 Phaser Plugins (And 3 Best FREE Phasers)
Top 10 Plugins For Mixing Drums (And 3 Best Free Plugins)
Top 7 Bitcrusher Plugins (And 4 Best FREE Bitcrushers + 3 Bonuses)
Top 6 Plugins For Voice-Over & Dialogue Cleaning (Post Production)
Top 10 Stereo Imaging Plugins (Best Old & Modern Picks)
Top 5 Multiband Limiter Plugins
Top 7 De-Esser Plugins For Better Vocals (And 4 FREE Plugins)
Top 7 Clipper Plugins (Best Limiter Alternatives)
Top 6 Chord Generator Plugins That Inspire Melodies (+ FREE Tools)
7 Best Exciter Plugins For Mixing & Mastering
Top 7 Channel Strip Plugins (And 2 Best Free Plugins)
Top 11 Distortion Plugins (And 4 Top Free Plugins)
Top 5 Comb Filter & Resonator Plugins | Melda, Kilohearts, Tritik
The 7 Best Vibrato VST Plugins | Audec, Audiority, Melda
The 7 Best Tremolo Plugins | Eventide, Melda, SoundToys, Kuassa…
The 7 Best Harmonizer Plugins | Eventide, Melda, Aegean Music
7 Best Sidechain Plugins (VST, AU, AAX) | Xfer, Cableguys..
Top 10 Noise Gate Plugins (And 6 FREE Free Gate Tools)
The 6 Best Ring Modulator VST Plugins | KiloHearts, Melda
7 Best Autopan VST Plugins | CableGuys, Melda, Waves, Soundtoys
The 6 Best Frequency Shifter VST Plugins
Top 11 Granulizer Plugins For Future Sound Design
29 Best Sound Design VST Plugins
Top 11 Free Compressor Plugins (VCA, Vari-Mu, FET, Digital)
Top 7 Multiband Compressor Plugins (And 4 FREE Plugins)
Top 5 Diode-Bridge Compressor Plugins
Top 6 Mastering Chain Plugins: Complete VST Solutions
The 7 Best VCA Compressor Plugins (VST, AU, AAX)
Top 11 Mastering Compressor Plugins (And 2 FREE Plugins)
Top 10 Opto Compressor Plugins For Transparent Sound
The 7 Best Vari-Mu Compressor Plugins (And 2 Best FREE Tools)
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Top 12 Reverb Plugins (And 5 FREE Reverb Plugins)
The 6 Best Spring Reverb VST Plugins | AudioThing, GSi, u-he, Eventide
Top 12 Delay Plugins For Music Production In (VST, AU, AAX)
Top 10 FREE Delay Plugins (VST, AU, AAX)
The 10 Best Convolution Reverb Plugins
Amps & Preamps:
Top 10 Guitar Amp Plugins (And 5 Best FREE Simulators)
Top 10 Bass Amp Plugins (And 5 Best Free Simulators)
Top 9 Preamp Plugins (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamps
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.