To amplify what everyone is telling you
about avoiding mud:
Human beings have a phenomenon called 'masking' or 'timbral
masking' where if we here something in the exact same frequency
spectrum we will actually only
really 'hear' the loudest of the two sounds. This phenomenon
most notably in two spectra: bass and lo mid (which includes
basses, bass drums, dark ambient pads, etc.)
and in the intelligibity ranges (the ranges that perceive the
consonants in human speech which includes.
Here's an effective way to teach yourself how this works on a
visceral level. Whisper something that is barely but definitely
audible to another person in a room
and then, while talking, play a pair of hi hats quietly so that
they 'mush' together to make a noise source. Make sure the hi
hats are slightly louder in volume than your listening.
The person listening to you, will probably still be able to tell
that you are speaking (because there are deeper frequencies in the
human voice than just the intelligibility frequencies
of the consonants) but they will be completely unable to hear what
you are saying. I love showing my drumming students this
make it humorous by just saying truly absurd things when they are
unable to hear because of the 'masking' frequencies of the hi hats
and then repeating to them what I just
have said while their brains were unable to hear what I was
saying. Amazingly, we don't even get what's being said
subliminally, despite the claims of many subliminal
weight loss recordings that are out there.
These "masking' problems cause distinctly different kinds of
problems in recording and mixing.
In the bass and lo midranges the sine waves of the fundamental
pitch of your sounds are so large that we don't perceive them in
stereo (are ears are just too close together
to delineate the deep waves. Consequently, 'masking' in the
bass and low bass is particularly difficult because you can't use
stereoscopic positioning to eliminate the problem.
Back in the analog days of recording we used to use a trick called
'Zipper EQ' (as taught to me by Sandy Stone who engineered
when encountering bass 'mud' in a mix, where we would put a bass
guitar or bass synth
sound through one channel (mono) of a stereo graphic equalizer and
the 'masked' bass drum into the other channel (mono).
Then we would boost the frequencies like this up to about 500 hz.
30hz 60hz 120hz 250hz
500hz BASS GUITAR/SYNTH
+3db -3db +3db -3db +3db
and set the other side of the graphic to the exact opposite:
30hz 60hz 120hz 250hz
500hz BASS DRUM
-3db +3db - 3db +3db -3db
When you looked at the EQ it looked like a zipper.
Interestingly, if you solo-ed the channels, each one would
sound weird and rather wimpy, but if you summed them in MONO
they sounded really full and you could hear each one really
distinctly. It's cool because it's entirely a psycho-acoustic
No other creature would hear it this way.
With midrange frequencies which are highly directional and,
hence, wonderful for putting into a very strong stereo effect,
You can merely pan two offending tracks widely in the stereo field
and be able to hear both simultaneously.
Now, of course this phenomenon of Masking can exist in both
Dynamics, Rhythm, Melody and Harmony
so you have to be careful that your tracks are not only not
masking each other in the sonic spectrum but in these other ways
I've found that a really good rule of thumb is to use only one, or
perhaps two, levels of complexity in a mix: Timbral complexity,
Dynamic complexity, Melodic and Harmonic complexity.
The simplicity of all the other categories will effectively
'frame' the complexity that you want people to pay attention to.
In this way, you call the listeners' attention to the parts of
your piece that you really want them to listen to.
Anyway, I hope this helps.
Kevin Cheli-Colando <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to get
more air/space in recordings happening in the computer.
I use headphone to play most times and the resultant
recordings always sound claustrophobic and way too
dense. I've tried playing with EQ for each track and
filters seem to help (though I can't spend that much
time dialing those in while playing guitar) so I figured
I'd ask if anyone had any tips or tricks to open things