Why Do My Vocals Sound Thin?

In audio mixing there are various encounters that you’ll meet and it’s always good to having a good solid foundation in audio production so you know how to go about handling certain problems.

One of the common questions I encounter is:

“Why do my vocals sound thin?”

This is a very common problem that most beginners face it is completely understandable because most practices employed by newbies are usually founded and based on trial and error.

If you’re encountering or have encountered this problem, this post is certainly for you because I’ll walk you through the reasons behind your mixes sound too thin.

EQ

EQ is a double edged sword that can either help you end up with a good mix or worst case end up with a bad mix.

The issue of vocals being too thin is usually a result of EQ being used the wrong way. Your vocals may end sounding too thin if the low end and part of the mid range frequencies are missing.

Therefore the first place I’d check when I notice that my vocal or vocals sound too thin is the EQ that has been applied.

A frequency analyzer can help you spot the frequencies that have to be added back to ensure that the vocal retains its body.

So, if your vocals sound too thin, check your EQ because you’ve likely cut away too much of the low end and possibly the mid range with your high pass filter.

Over Compressing

Compression is one of the more misunderstood concepts in audio production in as much as it is a vital part of audio engineering and production.

The fact that compression offers attack, release, threshold and ratio settings means that there are an unlimited number of combinations that one could choose to use in order to process their tracks.

Compression is primarily meant to fix dynamics in a vocal which is simply the volume of various sections, but it is also used as a way to give a vocal more power, focus and clarity.

With this in mind, it’s very common for people to utilize bad compression settings to achieve more than one thing.

Therefore you should always be cautious when you use compression because it can easily improve your vocals just as well as it can ruin and squeeze the life put of your vocals.

Especially multi-band compression.

To properly use compression understand what it does first. This way you can have better control of the outcome that you get whilst using it.

Nature of the artist

It’s not always your fault as the producer. Sometimes thin vocals are the natural tone of some performers.

In such situations it would really be up to you to do the best you can do with their vocal.

Some techniques discussed below to fix thin vocals can help out in this kind of situation.

Bad Vocal Takes

When it comes to effective audio engineering, getting a good recording is the paramount principle objective.

People are under the impression that mixing can fix anything. That’s not true, mixing is no magic and the overall principle of mixing is to make a GREAT vocal recording GREATER.

With this in mind, the recording techniques that you employ can be the cause of thin vocals.

Your singer recording too far away from the microphone can lead to thin vocals that have no body. Also singing with little confidence can lead to vocals with very little detail.

Therefore, if you suspect that your thin vocals could be a result of bad recording techniques. Then do all you possibly can to ensure that you investigate it fully and try to employ better recording techniques.

You as the engineer should be able to coach your artists and ensure that they deliver to you good vocals that won’t give you too much of a headache to mix.

Now that we have an understanding let’s get into some fixes that you can use to ensure that your vocals have enough body and well composed and cohesive.

Below are some techniques you can use to improve thin vocals:

Saturation

Saturation is a great way to add some body and harmonics to your vocals. Adding body requires delicate handling because you don’t want to end up with a vocal sounding too thick and muddy.

Saturation is a good way to retain and bring in some tonality in your vocal.  You can utilize tape some saturation in order to give your vocals some warmth and harmonics.

EQ

Using EQ the right way can help you improve your vocal.

To avoid ending up with a loose and thin vocal, avoid using over aggressive high pass filters that completely eliminate the low end.

Instead use a moderate one, taking only the unimportant low end that could either be the result of your recording room or booth.

Frequencies below a 100 Hz can be gotten rid of without losing the necessary grit in the vocals. For female vocals you can get rid of anything below 120 to around 150Hz.

Correct Compression

Compression can help you get your vocal more beefy and thicker. But it has to be used moderately for this specific application.

I’d advise you to utilize medium-slow attack and a fast release. You can moderately calibrate these settings for the specific vocals you have but keep this principle as your guide.

Low pass filter

A low pass shelve EQ can help a vocal that is too prominently high in frequency to retain a bit of grit. This has to be done in a subtle way because it can easily destroy your vocals too.

This application is best suited for extreme situations where you can’t get the low end back because the vocals might have just been sent to you.