The question “What’s wrong with my mix?” has been posed by any audio engineer at some time throughout a project. Although that is a very complex issue, there is a simple place to begin. We talked about Acoustic Treatments for Your Home Recording Studio in a recent DIY With DHI piece, and how simple it is to ignore the sound of your listening space. The accumulation of low end in your mix that occurs as you begin recording many tracks is another thing that is simple to overlook.
Consider that you begin your song’s recording with a lovely, full-bodied acoustic guitar. As you listen to it via your headphones, you grin at how huge and warm it sounds all by itself. You can actually feel the beginning and ending of the awesome beat you just thought up for your brand-new song. What’s incorrect with that? Nothing….yet. The vocal should now be added on top of the acoustic guitar. By itself, the vocal is clear, crisp, and full of a calm energy – great for the song’s feel! You carefully selected the proper condenser mic, perhaps an AT4033 because it seems to have a lovely bump in the high mid range frequencies. So it continues. your closest pal lays down a fantastic piano track and the ideal B3 at the beginning of each chorus. The five-string bass gets pulled out because, let’s face it, the soul is in that low B! You soon realize you’ve created a fairly good tune and start to freak out during playback.
Fast-forward to mixing down your brand-new, freshly baked song and taking a test drive. You shake your head in surprise as you hear the sound of the water in the background and as your speakers start to rumble needlessly. What was it that may have happened? High Pass Filter, The Bass Bulldozer
High pass filtering is one of my “go to” techniques in the recording studio, even when I’m tracking, to provide space for the remaining tracks. Bass guitars, low synthesizers, and kick drums may really be created by reducing the low end in instruments like acoustic guitars, piano, organ, and your voice. Contrary to popular belief, your overall mix will start to sound more open, lively, and punchy the fewer songs there are that have frequencies fighting with one another.
Not to mention the contentious signal route between “compression before EQ” and “EQ before compression”Many people believe that your response will be more accurate if there are fewer “unwanted” frequencies that your compressor is not trying to compress. You’ll eventually be able to master the track louder with that practice in place.
This is beginning to resemble rocket science…
Don’t worry if all this stuff about frequency, compression, and mastering is giving you headaches. DIY With DHI is a blog that is dedicated to providing readers with information and discussing topics that will enhance their recordings. In Franklin, Tennessee, we also offer an audio engineering curriculum that teaches you all you need to know to start a successful music producing career. Please feel free to contact us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page as we’d love to hear from you.
Enjoy your recording!
Sean Rogers is a seasoned producer and audio engineer in addition to serving as the director of student services at Dark Horse Institute. He is recognized for his work on big label projects for artists like Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, and others. He has more than 7 years of expertise in career advising.