How to Mix Vocals From Your Bedroom In Any DAW: Mixing POP Vocals Like Lil Nas X | Kia Orion | Skillshare

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How to Mix Vocals From Your Bedroom In Any DAW: Mixing POP Vocals Like Lil Nas X

teacher avatar Kia Orion, Artist & Music Producer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Course Intro

    • 2. Let's Begin

    • 3. Starting With The End In Mind

    • 4. Cleaning Up The Vocal

    • 5. Compressing The Vocal

    • 6. Audio Effects

    • 7. Automation + Final Touches

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About This Class

Want to learn how to mix your own vocals? 

Are you into that modern pop style like Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow?

You’re in the right place. 

If you’ve ever wondered how artists make their music sound so good? It’s all in the mix. Even when big musicians are touring on the road and recording in hotel rooms they sound incredible because their engineers are so good. 

I can’t promise that after this class you’ll sound like Drake. BUT I can teach you the basics so you’re one step closer to getting there.

With over 10 years of experience mixing, recording, and writing records I’ve put together my own system and this quick and dirty guide to mixing R&B and hip-hop vocals in Ableton. 

So, what’s next?

There are so many lessons I picked up over the years and through my time behind the scenes in the music industry that have helped me immensely and I’ll share them with you throughout these courses. 

One of the biggest gems I’ve learned is this: Do it yourself.

No one is going to care about your music as much as you do. If you have the DRIVE to succeed and the HUNGER to develop your craft you’ll be able to make it. This is the era of no gatekeepers. No excuses. 

So what are you waiting for?

Mixing is a skill that is incredibly marketable and distinguishes between an amateur and a professional level sound. 

I’m not saying you’ll become a rockstar overnight. But with what I teach you in this course and the persistence to apply it you’ll be that much closer.


Who is this course for?

This class is designed for artists, producers, and engineers who are starting out and want to get professional sounding records from their bedroom.

As an artist one of the best skills I ever learned was how to mix. You have COMPLETE control over how your music sounds out and it’s an incredible service if you’re looking for a full-time or part-time hustle. 


By The End Of This Course

You’ll have a better understanding of how to mix your own vocals and the steps you need to take in order to achieve the sound you want. 

I want to be clear. This isn’t about shortcuts. This isn’t about secrets. This is about learning the fundamentals, applying them to your own work, and taking your career into your own hands. These are tried and true methods I have learned through countless tutorials and recording sessions over the years that I wish someone had taught me at the beginning. 

I also want to make the statement that there is no right way or wrong way to this. This is simply my way. If you want to hone your sound take your future into your own hands and craft what sounds good to YOU.


What If I Only Have Stock Plug-ins?

Great question, you.

All the strategies and techniques I teach can be done in your native DAW with all stock plug-ins. 

I’m using 3rd party plug-ins from Waves but all the ideas and concepts are universal, your native plug-ins will work just fine. 

That said, if you only have Stock plug-ins and want to take courses specifically on those DAWs you can take my other courses here:

Mixing vocals in Logic Pro X


Mixing Vocals In Ableton Live With Only Stock Plug-ins


Do you have any free resources for beginners?

Absolutely. You can download my mixing cheat sheet here.


Where can I download your templates?

All my products can be accessed on my website.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Kia Orion

Artist & Music Producer


Ay! I'm Kia. 

I'm an artist and educator who believes life wouldn't be the same without music.

Or tacos.

I realized that I was equally as passionate about teaching music as I was making it.

In 2016 I founded Beat School, an online platform and series of educational programs to help aspiring artists and producers learn how to make beats, accelerate their growth, and stay inspired. 

I'm originally from New York but these days you'll find me traveling around the world writing songs or playing beats on a rooftop somewhere.

I appreciate you stopping by, and if you'd like to get in touch you can DM me or shoot me an email at 

Life is too short not to do what you lov... See full profile

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1. Course Intro: I'm gonna teach you how to make vocals like this. It starts, like I told you. Is. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another tutorial with your truly keel line. I'm the man who is obsessed with making that music and teaching you how to make your own. And in today's tutorial, I'm going to walk you through how to mix vocals in that style of Little Nas X and jack Harlow in their smash hit Industry baby. I've started to do more kinda YouTube remixes and remix the different songs. And when I do these, I really dial into what the artist is done, the engineering behind their vocals. That makes it that way in terms of is it doubles, is it their ad libs, their main vocal chain, volume loudness, all that sort of stuff. And I'm excited to jump into this with you all. So I'm going to be walking you through this tutorial in Ableton Live, but that doesn't mean that you need Ableton Live in order to follow along or pick up the Jim's from this class. Pretty much in this walkthrough in this tutorial, I'm going to walk you through the plug-ins that I use in order to make this chain in almost all of these plugins are going to be waves plugins, which means that these are plugins that are third party. So you can use these on any DAW or digital audio workstations to use logic FL Studio matter, which DO YOU, you, you can make this exact same vocal chain through these wave plug-ins that I'm going to walk you through. So that sounds fun. Please set aside I'd say probably 30, 45 minutes or to walk through this entire vocal chain. And yet we're going to jump into, I'm excited to show you guys what I did to make this make this happen. And if you want any more information in terms of my videos, my YouTube channel, and my music, you can find all that in the description below. Anyways, get your beverage of choice, lock in for 30, 45 minutes, and let's make some vocals. See you on the inside. 2. Let's Begin: All right, so let's jump into it. This is what it sounds like from the track if I just play it for you. So that's, as you can tell, there's some delay. So we've got a bunch of different things going on with these book will change. And so the way that I record vocals is I had, I got there instrumental here, I placed that in. I'm not doing anything really to the instrumental. Here is something that I would recommend. So we're going to actually are going to Quentin Tarantino this a little bit. We're going to start at the end, work backwards. I'm going to turn off my mastering chain for a second. I'm also going to turn off all of my vocals. When you are creating a song like this. And you have the MP3 instrumental, something like this. A really, a really important piece to this, is getting the volume out of the track. And one of the ways that you can get volume out of the track is through your mastering chain. But since this instrumentalists already mixed and mastered, It's important that we turn the volume down so that we can do our own mixing and mastering, again, our whole track to how our vocals fit with the instrumental. So you can see the instrumental over here. It just went really well. This instrument will make it easier to see. I have actually this lowered to negative nine decimals. I'm going to delete these other tracks. Was there an important told us negative nine, actually pass negative nine. So when we play just the instrumental, check this out, look and see how this negative four look at how loud or instrumentalist coming in. So it's coming in around negative four. And that's exactly where I wanted to be. When you have your instrument, your instrumental playing at the loudest point, you want it to be at around negative four because then it gives you enough headroom that you can master it. So now, what I would do, again, they come saying we're kind of working backwards. When I have my instrumental event actually master, I throw on my loose mastering chain, which I have here. And why I do this is because then when I'm mixing my vocals, I don't want any surprises. I don't want to mix my vocal and have that be perfect. And then thrown my mastering chain and everything gets thrown off. So I actually kinda throw on a loose mastering chain at least at the beginning. And so what my mastering chain is right here, and this is some prep is we'll come back to this in a second. I'll walk you through the whole thing step-by-step in terms of what each of these does and what it means. But for that first step in terms of the setup for your track, if you're gonna do a remixed, whatever it is, make sure that even if you make the B, makes sure that it's coming in around negative four, negative five, negative six. So you have some headroom for mastering. 3. Starting With The End In Mind: Alright, so like I said, kind of we're working backwards. So in terms of my mastering chain on this, I'm not actually using this. We're going to delete it. I'm just saying approach you to just have a little bit of a slight boost in the high end. I'm using a fab filter Saturn with again a one decibel boost in the high end. This is a split right here, meaning I'm not boosting any on the lobes just above. What is that? 800 frequencies. I'm using a classic compressor in when I played instrumental. You notice this is only getting about one negative one decimal in terms of gain reduction. Because we don't want this is already compressed, mastered instrumental. We don't need to do a lot to it to make it good Right now, we're just trying to get the volume out of it. So when he have our vocals and all kind of fits together. Also have on this classic clipper. So you can see what that is. About five decibels of gain. That's where we get our volume from. This is a limiter. Which alternative? The very end. I don't even have this on right now. And then this is a loudness meter. We can see how loud our track is in terms of lakhs. I'm not going to scrub it. This is Google, what lefts are. Download this meter, it's free. Really helpful. So now, excuse me, He's nobody of our mastering chain down. You kinda know where we're at when we mix our vocals, will know exactly where the final vocal is sitting. And again, this may not be the correct way to do it. This is just the way that I do with that. I've found I've been able to get my vocals to really sound in the, really, the most volume out of these vocals that they sound like what you'd hear on Spotify playlist, on the radio, et cetera. 4. Cleaning Up The Vocal: So now we're going to jump into what you're actually here for your here for the vocal mastering chain. All the tips, tricks, tactics, these are raw takes this the way that I record is I just record things straight through and then you can see I kind of like cut and take things from there. So don't worry about the others are the old takes. These are our final takes. So what I have going on here is our as if our hook and I have it panned about 30 to the left in 30 to the right. So these are two different takes, right? As you can see, these are takes from four, take for one, these from takes 51. Because if it's the same, you're gonna be able to tell it's going to sound like it's twice as loud. So you need some variation so that it actually sounds little different. And then this is my mastering chain. I'm using Auto-Tune Pro, I believe. Yep, Auto-Tune Pro. All the way tuned for the hook. And then I don't have any Auto-Tune on the Vs. Actually, I take that back. I have the AUTO-TUNE on this part of the verse I think, but not the wrapping part. So I have it. Again, if you listened to the industry baby track, it sounds like Let's actually do that right now. I was just missing data. Let's just do a real quick listen to how is on the hook. It sounds like it's spread out. So what I hear is I hear a lot of, I hear them super spread out. Also hear a lot of there's kind of this like low-end voice in there. So I'm gonna show you what exactly what we did for it. And let's bring it with the vocals on. Well, no. So I cut my breaths out. He kept he has his breaths in there. But this is what I this is the vocal chain that I made when I wanted to make this hook. I'm going to walk you through step-by-step. What's actually going on here? So this is actually a vocal chain that I'm pretty sure it's the exact same that I use. It's actually slightly different from my verses. I take it back on the verse. I've added a little bit of delay and reverb. I've automated a little bit of that. But, um, for, for the most part, all the main things for the hook in reverse, you're going to be exactly the same as what I'm saying. So let's check this out. This is a studio rack plugin, which is a free plugin from waves, but it pretty much allows you to layer different plugins. So the first things first we're going to clean up the vocals. Don't worry about all of these things. First is our EQ. What I've done here, if we just solo our vocal. And I'm going to turn off what each of these does so you can see what we do one by one. This is the dry. Again, I'm recording in my kitchen where you see me here. It's a really reflexive. There are I'm living and managing Columbia right now. So there's God there guys like selling like different foods in the street. There's construction going on in my building. So EQ is really clean up is really key to this. Listen how terrible this, this vocal sounds with no processing. Which actually have this on a little altar boy, which we'll talk about in a second. Oh no, go on the road. I go with a way info. So the first thing we're gonna do is I'm going to add some EQ. All I've done here is I've cut out. If you look at this, who go on the road, I go with a way info, you can see where those, those frequencies that was really kind of paint frequencies are. So I've done is I've come in, I've cut those out with an EQ. The next thing I've done is I've done more dequeuing. And this is with a, and each channel waves each animal. And you can tell I'm cutting out hard. It about cutting out what does that kind of a 11 decibels at around 219, going around 9.6. So these are pretty heavy cuts, right? Again, I'm not boosting anything yet, I'm just cutting things out. I'm also adding some compression. So this is what this sounds like without and with our more with more EQ. Go on the road. I go on the road. The thins out the vocal a lot. But I'm cool with that because I know we'll get that back later on, but I really wanted to take out a lot of those room frequencies that sound crappy. And I wanted to add some compression to it. So that's what we've done, that the SSL channel next, I have a ds are super simple waves. The lessor, there's this. I think I didn't even think I've changed the frequency. I'm going to be honest, but I brought this down because I don't like the S is super. I I liked it when I mimicked their track. I didn't hear that S is super fierce. Listen to a Tory lanes track and you're gonna see he has some really sharp, he has a lot of highs boosted in his mixing. So it was S isn't really sharp. Listen to a Drake track. It all feels like it kind of fits in this part right here. And jack Harlow and this gonads accessory felt the same way. Felt like they teamed there S is pretty, pretty well. So again, that's what I've done here. You can see the S's will get caught and compressed long ago on the road, I get just so just so you can hit it too hard, it sounds like you have a Lisp but t-shirt on. And the next I have this S4 multiband compressor on. And I am just doing a little bit. Again, I'm still in that cleanup phase. So I'm just compressing different parts of the vocal very differently through here. So this is without it go on the road. This is with it. Go on the road. I just so just again, just taming the vocal. That's always what I'm shooting to do at first, clean up, tamed the vocal, get out all the crap you want. And then once it can sound pretty solid on its own, then we can start adding the cool stuff and boost the volume up, which we're going to jump into next. 5. Compressing The Vocal: All right, next thing in terms of the vocal is getting the volume. So at this point in the track, I will have it soloed. My vocal soloed just 1 second. Okay. We're recording on my vocal soloed just like this because I will, uh, wanna make sure that they sound good with no B. But then it's important to then when you bring the volume back, when you get the latitude volume out of your vocals and you start cranking the volume, you have it with the beacuse. You don't want to get a perfect vocal completely soloed, bring the beaten and then it sounds whack. So this is when I start to get a lot of my volume is actually out of my, our compressor. So at this point, let's turn this off actually, this would it sounds like with the vocals and the beat sounds, okay, Sounds, sounds like the vocal is getting super drowned out by the instrumental right now. So a couple of things that we're gonna do is we're going to bring this compressor in, our compressor and watch your ears because there's going to be loud this, I'm boosting this by almost 14. I have really fast attack on this compressor in a decent amount of ratio of compression about a three-to-one ratio. So, excuse me, is this is at a negative three, then my threshold is pretty much this has been Newtown at when to kick in is I have it down here which you you bring this in and you'll adjust this depending on your own vocal, pretty fast attack and release. These are my settings and watch it years. This is what it's going to sound like with this on and off, off. Watch. It. Just was never able to evaluate. So that's a lot of our volume. We're getting out of that. But that's still not quite, as you can see. I've actually boosted the vocals about almost three decibels over here, 2.5. But I also love this. I love this preset. It gets another C4 waves, C4, but it's this popsicle preset and then I'll just come in and I'll tweak it a little bit. But for the most part, I really like the way this kinda gives my high, as you can tell. It gives my vocals kinda little bit about high-end shine and brings him, I've clicked on the front of the mics. So check this out. This is the vocals with now or compressor volume playing with instrumental. And then I'm going to put on this preset. If you are listening to headphones, you might not even be able to notice it, but that's really the key is it's a bunch of these small things that add up. And then eventually it all ends up being a good sounding vocal. But it's small thing only this, our compressor volume isn't small. That's a really big change, but a lot of the other ones are more like small tweaks. I'm going to skip effects, talk about those next. This actually throw on at this point as well. This is another DSR, it's just a different one. It's a wave's plugin called siblings. Look ahead a little bit of a detection down to about 40 and pretty intense here on the threshold. But look at this again, it's going to be taming are high frequencies just like our other d'Azur, but I just like to be the siblings, does it? And the reason I put this siblings down here is because at the end of the channel, this gesture is here. It's getting a little bit of ds in compression goal in, at the very beginning. We also have some compression in our SSL channel. And then we have more compression. And I wanted this to be at the end of the channel because after everything is passed through, I want us to finally grab those, those pain frequencies of S is again and kinda harsh frequencies. So this is what the DSR up, this ds are on. So as you can tell, it catches the F's in the S's as well. So this is a dry vocal, but we've gotten our volume out of it. We've cleaned it up, we've compressed it. It's sitting in a good place. Now sound to add some effects to it. 6. Audio Effects: All right, so before we jump into the effects, I want to again, when you have your reference track, you always want to AB your reference track up next to your tracks, you know what you're looking for. So again, right now, we've been doing a lot of these vocals in terms of the hook, I do want to switch to the verse because I think this is an important point. And then we can come back to maybe these, these hip-hop was at the end. But you can tell I have some specific cook effects, but I wanted to talk to you about what this verse sounded like to me. So let's check this out. So this is the jack Harlow verse. Listened to these vocals and tell me what you hear. Greg is some claim that as we get into flesh so as you can tell, it's really dry. Ish, There's nobody doesn't have a ton of time, doesn't have a ton of effects on it. It's very compressed, but it's very, it's very present. And so that's what I'm shooting for in mind. Again, I like to have maybe a little bit more effects than Jack does there. But for the most part, that's what we're gonna be doing here, creating small effects to create the vocal so it sounds like it's in space and not so flat. So the first thing we're gonna do is I'm going to actually solo these vocals so that way you can hear these effects prominently. But when you're putting these effects on, again, do not put these on without the beat. I cannot say that enough. Do not do what I'm about to do and show you when you're adding these vocals affects, make sure you playing the beat because otherwise you're going to solo it get a perfect book with all the effects. You're going unsold, the vocals and all your effects are going to be lost into the beat. But for tutorial purposes, I want to show you what I'm talking about. So this is this first, Isn't it a little bit of delay many times I'm telling all I'm out here gone crazy, crazy and industry baby, I stop and out so you pay me. So you hear that. So that's just a little bit of, little bit of delay. This is what it is. This is the delay. Full effect. Gone crazy, crazy and industry baby, I stop and outs. You pay me not as DRY for life. They, as you can tell, these vehicles are super compressed. They, they're really dry still. And then suddenly they're in a room. They just found this on flat, to be honest. And so that's what these are. The facts you can do is they're going to bring them, make them feel a little bit more spacious, like Jack's do. This. Delay is a fourth delay, in this case, a little bit more kind of. And as you can tell what this effect is, almost the exact same effect as this one, except it's a fourth instead of an eighth. And I have it on low-fi and the feedback is all the way down, but it's dry, wet is all the way up. So I'm running these in a parallel chain, tries parallel split. So this means I'm not adding this effect directly onto the vocal. I'm almost running a parallel vocal and then affecting that vocal that sounds weird or complex isn't just Google parallel processing on vocals. And you'll see what I'm saying. So this is what this effect is. All the way many times. Lazy and industry baby, I stop and out. So you pay me not as DRY for life ever studied after a major. But I'm, so that's where you can hear these effects right now because we don't have any B. But when put the beat back, these would change. Next is, I would like to put the, I looked to put the vocals in a room. And by that, I mean is something that sounds like it's actually a little bit more spacious. So I use this with a vocal plate reverb. So I've edited this and this is what this MOOC will reverb sounds like all the way, all the effects. Many times I'm telling you it's a really short delay, excuse me. So really short reverb. But it's, it sounds like it actually places them in a room. So it's so and it probably around here many times I'm telling all I'm out here going crazy. And industry baby, I stop, announce you pay me not as deep, right? So it's just a little bit of, little bit of some space. This is where we're getting a lot of our actual reverb. This is a true verb, preset millennium verb. I've turned the decay down. You're going to turn off the direct because again, it's a parallel processing. And this is what this reverb many times I'm telling all of them out here, gone crazy, crazy and industry baby, I stop and out. So you pay me not. There's that one. Next is this doubler, which means we're going to start spreading the vocals out a little bit. Simple waves, W2, direct turn off because it's parallel processing, total default preset, and a little bit of the duller. So this is without and with it. Many times I'm telling all I'm out here gone crazy, crazy and industry, baby, I stop, announce you pay me not as DRY for life. If you can't listen to headphones, that none of this is really going to, going to, you're going to notice any difference. But again, it's all these small things added on top of each other. They make a big difference. Widen the vocals a little bit. Another way that I do that is with a metal flanger default preset. Again, it's a lot of default presets and then just bring it in a little dry wet too. It sounds good. Many times I'm telling all going crazy, crazy and industry baby, I stop and out so you pay me not. And then last but not least, I add on a little bit of this renaissance acts. Distortion, ish, kind of plug in the preset tight vocal. Because I heard that's a Drake doesn't want to be Drake. So here this is what all of these sound like the other, off and on. So without any effects, many times I'm telling all I'm out here gone crazy, crazy and industry baby, I stop and out. So you pay me not as DRY for life of a study that for a major, but I'm bold, it's in my nature tell us. So that's where if you notice, It's not a huge change, but it's enough that it sounds like it puts a vocal actually in a room, in a space. It just gives it that character that life that are real professional vocal is going to have, even if it sounds dry like Jack Harlow's. I'll watch interviews in walk-throughs with his, with one of his engineers. In the dude has a lot of effects on there, but they're just small effects that make it sound like it's a professional book was sits in a room, sits a little bit separated out from the instrumental. So those are the effects, the main vocal effects in a nutshell, now we're gonna jump into the small, small details, small touches that really make this track stand out. Next. 7. Automation + Final Touches: Okay, So jumping into the last piece of this few small touches is the cook I added because I wanted to hook to have different effects than the verse. I added a little bit of, added a little bit more effects to this against our open up another studio back parallel split. And here I'm adding delay. Again, more delay and more reverb. This with these vocal sound like the vocals who go on the road. So as that, it has that more expansive. Ok, and then let's find at least I got told you in the Little Nas X joint, I heard that he had a sounds like a low voice. So it's either his or man, a manufacturer one. And that's why I did this little altar boy. I created a lower voice, exactly 12 semitones beneath. So when Octave beneath, not, you know, a little bit dry, wet. And this is what it sounds like. This is the effect all the way on hot. And so I have about this much in here, but listen, you can hear that voice Barely in there. No go on the road. I was not I really do not easily. You can you can feel that more than you actually hear that. And so that's the main part of that hook. And then in the second part of the verse, I got my Ikea on. I went more sing-song EBIT it. And so if you notice, look at the studio rack with these effects are again delays and some reverb. I have them automated so they aren't undoing the wrapping part. But the run is always start with sweat, it got it. I've got my stuff and so I turned the auto tune back on there as well. Automated the Auto-Tune. If you look at the automation Auto-Tune Pro device on right, I turned it off with a rap verse. Also come in here and go to the studio rack. And again, I automate these effects only for this part of the verse. So we turn on AUTO-TUNE again. We turned on, on these facts again. And it's part of it's kinda like sing-song universe. Last but not least, have some ad libs. They're in the same as this kind of vocal track in terms of the Vs, they have the same effects on and just rolled off a little bit of the high-end and again, getting the volume right pen or to the left and no doubles in there. And last but not least, is this track spacer. This is a plugin that helps, helps create room for the vocals. And you'll see what I mean. I'm going to put it on here. And when it's really strong, it pretty much, it's a, it's a compressor in a weird way, right? Ducks out the whatever instrumental you want to, whatever instrument you want. So right now I haven't triggered to the vocals, meaning whenever the vocals are playing, the instrumental will be softer. So I'm gonna show you full blast, so it's a demonstration and then I'll actually use it. So this is with it off. Crazy, crazy. Stop. This is where the on full blast, they need Psalms. I'm telling all I'm out here going crazy. And industry baby, I stop and out so you pay. So you want to use this lightly. But again, we're going to bring this in. I think it was 2006, 2007. And if I AB this back and forth, you're going to realize it just makes the vocal sound a little bit more present because the instrumental is ducking out from the vocals a little bit. So the check this out. This is off. Anytime I'm telling I'm out here, gone crazy, crazy and NBC baby, I stop and now to pay me not as diol Walker life ever studied that for a major. And I'm told it's in my matrix helps you can. So it's not a huge difference, but it's enough that it sounds I'm telling I'm out here going crazy crazy, needed to pay the ice. Ducks, just ducks the instrument on just the slightest bit. And then the very last thing that I would do is I'd go to my mastering chain in a throw on this limiter at about 1.8 decimals, just be, that would be the, our little last bit of gain to get out of this track. And all in all, that's the way that I mixed these vocals. They get that little Nozick's kinda jack Harlow vibe. I hope that that makes sense. If you have any questions, you know where to find me at key Orion everywhere online. Appreciate us tonight if you're looking for vocal templates, I have those at beat school slash resources. I have a bunch of different vocal templates that I've sold. I haven't created any for jack Harlow yet, but hopefully it's a start in if there's anything that you want to learn in terms of US production, audio engineering, please shoot me a DM at key Orion and let me know if you want to learn some more suitable for more courses. Great realm. So thanks for tuning in. If you made it this far, you will real one chicken. The next one. Patient.