MixCoach Podcast 060: Common Numbers in Mixing

Common Numbers in Mixing - podcast

Common Numbers, db, Mixing

This week on the Mix Coach Podcast, we talk about ‘magic’ or common numbers we’ve come across while mixing.

Below is a transcript of the Common Numbers in Mixing Podcast

Raw Transcript:

Announcer: This is the Mix Coach Podcast Episode 60. This week on the
podcast we’re going to talk about magic or common numbers when mixing.
These can be things like common frequencies that you find [background
music] or common amounts of DB that you’ll find while mixing.

John: Hey Kev.

Kevin: Hey John.

John: On this week’s episode we’re actually going to be talking about
kind of magic or common numbers that kind of come up a lot in mixing and
this is always kind of an interesting thing to me. The fact that a lot of
people, these are their like common numbers. These numbers come up from
numerous different sources that I’ve talked to, you know, they kind of come
up. So, you know, let’s just kind go through. They cover a wide variety of
topics here. So, what’s kind of the number one thing, a magic number that
you kind of always come back to?

Kevin: Well I guess, I heard you talk about this a while ago, about
that magic number, about you know something’s just below the surface.
That’s a good line, you know. 7 tenths of a DB is usually where I’ll bump
things or pull things back. If somebody says, “I need to feel more of
something”, that’s kind of an indicator to me that 7 tenths of a DB…

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …or if they say it’s just not loud enough usually it’s
multiple of that…

John: Right.

Kevin: …[inaudible] a half.

John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, like a 1.4 or something like that?

Kevin: Yeah it’s usually not 1DB, usually.

John: Right.

Kevin: Unless they specifically say that because it seems like 1DB is
kind of that…

John: Just a little bit too much.

Kevin: …it just too much sometimes…

John: Just a hair too much.

Kevin: …or not quite enough.

John: Yeah, or not quite enough that sort of thing. I know and it
also works the opposite of that where it’s like, “Oh that’s just, it just
seems like it’s just barely too loud”, if somebody says something like
that. You can always bump it down by 0.7 and that kind of helps out as
well. Where it just kind of barely puts it back a little bit. It’s almost
like somebody took like a half a step back…

Kevin: …Right. Right.

John: …into the mix. That sort of thing. So what are some other ones that
you’ve come across, other numbers, frequency numbers, DB levels, that sort
of thing?

Kevin: I would say probably 3K, 3000 hertz, 3000 cycles…

John: Yeah

Kevin: …is kind of like a go to frequency for a lot of things. I
mean 3K adds definition to a vocal and it makes whatever you put 3K on
usually sound a little bit more in your face.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: 3K is a number that adds a little bit of snap to the kick mic.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: 3K is kind of like a go to frequency for definition, I guess.

John: Yeah, absolutely, and as far as that goes, for me, on vocals a
lot of times it’s that 3 to 4K range there that’s been like,
scientifically, they’ve said that’s most closely related to lyric
intelligibility. Where like, if you can boost that or if that’s more
prominent you can understand more of what they’re saying, and a lot of that
I imagine comes down to like the sibilance [??] and sort of thing, that’s
present in there. Yeah it’s that presence for sure.

Kevin: Well right down [inaudible] is something I always mix through
my mastering processors…

John: Right.

Kevin: …I use Ozone almost exclusively.

John: Right.

Kevin: In addition to some Slate stuff now, but sometimes if
someone sent me some files to mix and it’s just a dull sounding mix,
instead of adding 3K to every track, which I inevitably…

John: Will do.

Kevin:…will do. I’ll just add 3K to the whole mix and that way it takes
away a lot of the cone filtering that you could get if you add 3K with
different kinds of EQ’s and things like that…

John: Right.

Kevin: …within a mix. Usually I’ll just do, “OK this whole thing
needs a little definition”, and I’ll add a little 3K, and sometimes I’ll do
a shelf above that, but 3K is like a great go-to frequency.

John: Right on. Are there any other, I mean there’s obviously a
couple others that we talked about before we started here.

Kevin: Well, let’s see, if we’re talking about definition of things.
3K is a little too high for electric guitars. So 1K is usually a good, is a
grit frequency. It’s kind of like if you want some more nastiness about
something. If maybe a vocalist is not really having the snarl that you
want, you know, it’s not definition, it’s more attitude?

John: Yeah.

Kevin: 1K is a great, anywhere from 800 to 1K.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: You know, that adds a lot of warmth, but punch to an electric

John: Yeah.

Kevin: You know, another thing I’ve notices too, whenever mastering
engineers don’t feel, at least the ones that I know, when they don’t feel
like the vocals cutting through the mix enough, they’ll usually add 1K to

John: Great.

Kevin: 1K on a snare drum.

John: 1K on a snare. I’ve done that before yeah.

Kevin: Take it out.

John: Yeah.

Kevin: Take 1K out of a snare drum to make it…

John: Where you just need the high end and then kind of that low end
tone, almost.

Kevin: You know, talking about epiphanies and figuring this kind of
stuff out. A few years ago I was trying to make my snare drum sound like
one of Chris Lord Alge’s snare drum when he was mixing Jo Dee Messina and
some of the country stuff. I was like, “Why is his snare so beautiful and
mine is so nasty”, that nasty thing was 1K. I took 1K out of the snare drum
and all of the sudden it came alive.

John: Nice. Nice.

Kevin: 1K’s a nice frequency to go to.

John: It really is. As far as kind of the mud goes in a mix, kind of
is there a range that you kind of go to for the mud, like for me it’s
around like 320, 315, is that kind of accurate?

Kevin: Yeah, between 3, between 250 and 500 is kind of the, where most
of the mud is in a mix.

John: Right.

Kevin: Sometimes, although I don’t do this a lot, usually I try to
figure out exactly where the mud is, because usually you won’t find, unless
someone’s recorded with a bad signal chain, and it’s the same signal

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …and they have the same mud on it every time, you won’t find
the mud in the same spot.

John: Right.

Kevin: So cleaning up muddiness in a mix usually has to do with the
low pass filter or the high pass filter…

John: Right.

Kevin: …first, and then if it still muddy usually you see the low
pass filter coming up on an EQ.

John: Yeah

Kevin: You know when you see, graphically you see it coming up.
Usually, right at the top of that there’s usually an extra little thing
that, it gets thin, if you don’t, and sometimes that’s right around between
250 and 300, a lot of times.

John: Right.

Kevin: If you’ll notch out, you know, not very narrow, but kind of a
wide, between 250 and 300.

Kevin: You said yours…

John: Right.

Kevin: …was what?

John: It’s 315 or so is kind of, what I shoot, I mean that’s the
automatic gut response is I boost up about 315 to hear if that’s where it’s
at and it tends to be, you know a little bit above or a little bit below,
but that’s kind of the general middle range that I start in and then just
kind of roll around and find it and then I cut a couple of DB’s

Kevin: That’s really the best way to do it. I mean we can give you
general directions, but you’ve got to find the front door.

John: Oh yeah.

Kevin: You know, and usually you find the front door by boosting your
frequency at a very narrow bandwidth and finding it until you can almost
sing where the mud is…

John: Yep.

Kevin: …and then you pull it out, and wind [??] as much as you need.

John: Yep you find that tone and you can kind of hum it a little bit
and it’s like, “Oh it’s right there’, and you find it. Yeah.

Kevin: Yeah.

John: As far as other magic numbers, kind of to touch on a mono to
stereo kind has a break down, like if you hit something to mono from stereo
it kind of boosts the volume a little bit.

Kevin: Well, yeah. One of the things that I do. When I mix a lot
people ask me to do split tracks, and a split track is where you basically
split the track in half and it’s two mono stems. One of the stems will be
all vocals and one of the stems will be all band. Well when you get this
big wide stereo, orchestral sort of thing and you try to cram it down to
one track it’s always too hot and my magic go to number there is three and
a half DB, and I think that’s probably a pro-tools…

John: …like a summing thing.

Kevin: Some kind of a summing algorithm…

John: Yeah.

Kevin: …they have where you know when you sum things down, but I
have noticed that when you buss things out from stereo to mono it’s usually
smart, unless you want to really hit your limiters and compressors and
whatever you’ve got and really make it sound different you need to pull it
down about three and a half DB.

John: Right on. Right on. I think that covers pretty much all the
magic numbers of mixing or common numbers that you kind of find here and
there. [background music] Kind of just those averages, things to shoot for.
I think that covers pretty much everything there.

Announcer: Thanks listening. This has been the Mix Coach Podcast. The
podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For
more tips, tutorials, and even a free course be sure and visit us at

Question: What are some common numbers you’ve found for mixing?

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