You Mean Loud Can Sound Good?! – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 in this series Mixcoachers! I’d like to start this part off with a few finishing thoughts on the frequency spectrum. We know the lower a frequency goes the more energy it produces. This can quickly lead to headroom being eat right up. Whether it be annoying low energy plosives from a vocal or sub sonic frequencies created by a kick or the fingers on a bass while being played. All I have to say to this is don’t be afraid to high pass filter and high pass filter everything! Even bass and kick! Always use your ears, but many times it can be completely safe to run a filter up to 40Hz on these instruments and can really tighten a mix up with no audible side effects. You’ll enjoy the added headroom to make your mix louder, too! For instruments that aren’t in the bass frequencies at all don’t be afraid to get a little crazy with the HPF knob. Always listen to it in the context of the mix and never solo. I’ve been in many positions where let’s say I’ve ran HPF’s all the way up to 200Hz on double tracked acoustics. In solo they will maybe sound a touch thin, but in context of the mix they sat perfect and added beneficial headroom while getting rid of any air conditioning noise, foot taps, and so forth. Many times I am also able to run a HPF up to around 120 for a male vocal and up to 140 for a female. As stated before though it will always depend on how it sounds in context of the mix. As you grow as a mixer you’ll also begin to learn that well recorded tracks can often only need some love from the high pass and sometimes a low pass filter. Do your master buss a favor and use the HPF liberally and wisely making well judged musical decisions!

My final thought on using EQ to help achieve more volume from your mix while also helping with a possible masking issue is use the fletcher-munson curve (or close to it known as a smiley face curve) as an actual EQ curve for an element in the mix. Let’s use a crunchy guitar part as an example. Let’s say it’s competing with the lead vocal a bit. The idea behind this would be to use a broad Q (start with a Q around 1 and adjust to taste) and cut a little out between 800 to 1.5K. This in essence makes the guitar sound bigger in the lows and highs without ever boosting them. You will now achieve a bigger sound with more volume to play with while notching out a bit of a hole for the vocal to sit better. This technique can be used with many different elements in your mix. This was just one example that I have used recently.

So I hope you’ve gotten something from part 2 of this series. I know the first 2 have focused quite a bit on EQ. I feel it can be an effective tool to help give us a louder, tighter, and more controlled mix with proper use. It often just get’s used as a tone shaper and never really used with this mentality in mind. I hope it has been beneficial for you! The next part of the series we will dive in to the ever so ubiquitous topic of compression! Until then keep riding those faders Mixcoachers!

 

By MattButler

Matt is a tracking and mixing engineer at Backporch Studios and Pathway Studios in Tennessee. He and his father run a music business called Butler Music Group in Nashville, TN where Backporch Studios is located. He is also a talented multi-instrumentalist who gives private lessons from home. He prides himself in being a technical geek and has a passion to help the community of MixCoach in any way he can.

3 comments

  1. Great stuff that is not covered much in Mixcoach until now! I believe that HPF:s are the shortest and quickest beginning for a clear sounding mix. However, I think that it’s not uncommon to use HPF on every track before listen to it in context with others either. You use the HPF until it bites and than you back a little bit. That way, compressors reacts “right” from the beginning it they are after the HPF. The fletcher-munson curve playing sounds very interesting, I’ve never thought about that before and look forward to test and learn in my studio later today. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Yes I’m always for hitting a compressor easier to get more transparent effects! I hope you get some use out of these ideas Jostein! Thanks for reading.

  3. hey Matt… I’ve filtered as high as 200hz before. I usually twist the hpf knob until it starts to sound thin, and then back off just a bit.

    Thanks for a great article.

    Kev

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