Cut with your EQ for a cleaner mix!

Every mixer wants a clean and clear mix. No matter what genre music you produce – the end result should be clean. Each sound needs a place to live within the frequency spectrum (20Hz-20kHz). Unfortunately, more times than not, our mixes sound muddy. In order to combat the unwanted muddiness, we need to understand what causes mud in a track. In the following tutorial we’ll teach you an easy way to get a squeaky clean mix!

Mud is usually a term we use in production to describe something that sounds dirty, muffled or simply too crowded. Most of the times mud is caused by too much low end on bass tracks and/or reverb. It can also be caused by too much low mids (think frequencies in the 250Hz and 500Hz range).

Every instrument you deal with has a fundamental frequency in the 250-500 Hz range. A fundamental frequency is “the lowest frequency produced by the oscillation of the whole of an object, as distinct from the harmonics of higher frequency.”

When you play a note there isn’t only one frequency present. There are a bunch of harmonics involved. The sound you record, whether it be guitar, piano or a soft synth, is made up of a fundamental frequency combined with harmonics at higher frequencies. The higher frequencies is what helps us distinguish one note from the next.

Now that we understand that all sounds have a fundamental frequency, we can apply that knowledge to our mix. The next time you mix a song think about all the sounds you have. Now think about all those fundamental frequencies fighting for space to live in the 250Hz – 500 Hz range. Obviously we’re going to have a huge build-up of frequencies in that range that needs some serious cleanup.

Now that you have a good understanding on what cause muddiness, take a look at this video to see how we manage our low-mid frequencies. You’ll be surprised how a simple technique can make a huge difference. All you need is a simple eq and cut any unwanted low end frequencies on sounds that don’t really need it anyway! In doing so you’ll achieve a clear mix. In turn it will also give breathing room for the bass and kick drum to live happily ever after.

  • I’m curious and maybe you can kick some additional knowledge. Is it best to EQ every track you make? Does it make sense to EQ each track and then if you stack let’s say some synths you want layered, throw on an additional EQ on the stack to bring out a certain sound with automation on the synths during a song. I’m just wondering if that is overkill or am i actually doing a smart thing. hope that makes sense

    • Good question! only EQ if you need to and only EQ if the sound doesn’t sound right. Don’t EQ just to EQ. Most of the time my Eq’ing is subtractive. Meaning I usually remove frequencies rather than adding some gain to frequencies. What I like to do is cut out any low frequencies I don’t need. This removes a lot of bass frequencies I don’t really need on non-bass tracks and make room for true bass elements. It also gets rid of a lot of muddiness as well. I guess what I’m trying to say is first EQ to remove unwanted sections and only add if you need to pin point a certain part.

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