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Mix Tips - This page is set to grow as time permits...

Guitars - reducing mud and increasing clarity

The upper frequency range of the bass guitar, and the lower frequencies of an acoustic guitar, overlap around the 100 to 200Hz area.  This overlap can result in ‘muddy’ mixes lacking in definition because both instruments are fighting to fill the same space in the mix.  

Filtering acoustic guitar

In general, the acoustic guitar’s defining sound is higher up the frequency band; the lower end can be substantially removed without adversely affecting the sound in the mix.  If heard in isolation, such a filtered guitar will sound thin and lacking in body. When heard in the mix though, together with the bass guitar, any such thinness will largely go unnoticed.  The overall effect will be added clarity as each instrument has its own space to ‘perform’ in.

When applying a low pass filter to the acoustic guitar, solo both the bass and acoustic (so that you hear just those two instruments in isolation) then increase the low pass filter’s roll off frequency until you achieve the desired result; ie reduced mud and increased clarity.  If you raise the filter’s roll off frequency too high, the acoustic guitar will begin to sound very unnatural.  With just the right amount of roll off, everything will fall into place and the mix will sparkle.   

Tip: when adjusting the roll off frequency, remove all visual distractions by closing your eyes; mix with your ears, not your eyes!

Widening Stereo Image - BIG sound

This technique can be applied to just about any source: guitars, vocals, mono synths...

Widening Stereo Image for a BIG sound  

Make a copy of the track you want to affect and place it on an adjacent sequencer track.  Pan one of the tracks (doesn’t matter which) hard left and the other hard right. Apply a very short delay to either track.  Increasing the delay time increases stereo width but if you go too far, mono compatibility suffers so do check your mix in mono.   

Reducing Stereo Image

Some synth patches and samples can sound very impressive when played on their own but are almost impossible to fit into a mix because they are just too BIG.  Enter BassLane:

BassLane is a free VST from OtiumFX 

BassLane is a free VST from OtiumFX that can be used to adjust the source from original stereo width right down to mono; or anywhere in between.

Vocal Thickening 

There are several ways to achieve vocal thickening, perhaps the best way is to double track the part; ie multiple takes layered together.  If that method is impractical, you could try the pitch shift method: 

Vocal Thickening 

The vocals are sent (0dB) to two busses, each has a Pitch Shifter plug-in inserted.  One is set to +12 cents and the other –12 cents, both are set to 100% mix. The buss faders are used to set the return level; mix low for best effect.

Dealing With Problem Frequencies 

It is easier to locate problem frequencies by accentuating rather than cutting:

Dealing With Problem Frequencies 

Set a parametric EQ to a narrow bandwidth (high Q) and raise the gain to maximum.  Sweep up and down the frequency range until the problem is located.  Once located, turn the gain down.

Mains Hum

Mains hum 

When attempting to remove 50Hz mains hum (60Hz America) apply a narrow bandwidth (high Q) filter at 50Hz but don’t forget the harmonics too: 100, 150 and 200Hz (120, 180 & 240Hz America)


© Tim Rainey Kymatasound 2007


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 Feedback, questions and comments welcome
Last updated:  2 January 2010
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