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Thread: Avoiding frequency overlap = perfect mix?

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    Avoiding frequency overlap = perfect mix?

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    Ok, just seeking advice from those more experienced than I, and who know about thsi stuff. We probably all seen various frequency charts which show the given frequency range for each instrument (drums, bass, keys, guitars etc.)

    Well, when it comes to mixing / EQ'ing, many people have mentioned keeping the frequencies from overlapping results in a better, more defined / solid mix.

    So, should I/we try to EQ the various instruments at the mixing stage to avoid any frequency overlap whatsoever? That even possible? Would using a spectral analysier help identify the exact frequency range of an instrument and thus help with identifying which frequencies to cut / boost?

    Advice much appreciated.

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    you have to be careful with all this "frequency range of an instrument thing" because its not as simple as it seems...A guitar goes from 82Hz to 1KHz or something...these are the fundamentals of the notes not the only range the guitar will ring out frequencies at.

    If you think about the physics of it, a plucked guitar string will have lots of frequencies, the fundamental (btw 82Hz - 1KHz) and many many many higher harmonics. Its these harmonics that will suffer if you start EQing the crap out of the higher bands and its these harmonics that basically define the timbre of the note.

    Also, if anybody on here actually uses spectral analysers as a useful mixing tool, please tell me what you're doing and how - to me they've always just been completely useless at mixing stage.
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    Generaly every instrument takes up the whole spectrum. but each instrument has its own key frequency. guitar mids bass lows vcocals mids to name a few.
    when you mix you want to hear everything in an even balance. The term of cutting through a mix sound familiar? So you can use eq to manipulate the frequencies you want to hear more or less of. Where some instruments overlap you tend to get either muckieness or cant hear one of the instruments. The solution can be either panning them apart, cutting or adding eq of that particular instrument.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerflystudio View Post
    So, should I/we try to EQ the various instruments at the mixing stage to avoid any frequency overlap whatsoever? That even possible? Would using a spectral analysier help identify the exact frequency range of an instrument and thus help with identifying which frequencies to cut / boost?
    The short answers: No. No. And no.

    As the author/creator of one of the most popular frequency charts on the Internet, which is also the single most popular feature of my website (click on my signature logo), I have to tell you that those charts are completely misused and abused, and are next to useless for the purposes most folks actually want to use them for, your questions being a perfect example.

    There's one fact that sticks out like a sore thumb in those charts, the very first thing that someone should notice when looking at them, but almost nobody does: those instrument frequency ranges are *almost all* overlap. If there's only one lesson anyone should get from those charts, that should be it; because that knowledge leads to the answers to so many questions, including two of the three you asked.

    It is impossible to remove overlap in instrument frequency ranges. Except at the extremes (bass vs. piccolo), there is a potential for overlap almost everywhere.

    This is also one (of many) reasons why you can't just simply look at a spectral analyzer and carve out spaces for each instrument that way. Spectral analyzers are a good way for trained ears and eyes to help identify a limited list of specific ailments within a mix, but simply cannot and should not ever be used as a way of creating a good-sounding mix. Illnesses like sibilance, harmonic distortion, mp3 encoding artifacts, etc. can help be identified and quantitized using an RTA, but there is no way by looking at an RTA to determine if something sounds right or wrong, good or bad.

    Instead, tiger, 95% of the "roles" you select for each instrument should be taken care of in the music composition and arrangement itself, with your mixing plan set to support that arrangement.

    For the remaining 5%, when you have instruments are still competing and conflicting with each other, you have two main tools: first, you can separate them in the pan space. Second, you can run a little differential EQ between the two of them; e.g. select one to be a little more low end heavy and the other to be a little more high end heavy, perhaps, and then by just a couple of dB each, boost one where you cut the other in order to slightly shift the tonal balance a bit. They will still greatly overlap, but the emphasis will be just different enough to keep them from sounding the same.


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    Ok, so this is starting to make sense now. It's not that it's possible to avoid overlap to obtain a good mix, it's that it's possible to a) cut / boost certain elements of each instrument, or b) position (pan) them in seperate areas to create space / definition.

    I heard that the almighty Slash once used over 40 mics on his guitar cab / room to capture a huge sound. I'm guessing, then, that at mix-down, each mic filled a certain part of the frequency spectrum to make up 'his sound' as a whole. Right? Which means that, for my limited understanding of mixing, I can obtain a great / precise mix by cutting or adding EQ (but not removing it totally) to my various instruments in the mix.

    So, like, I can roll off the mids of, say, the bass guitar to make way (open up the space) for the electric guitar? or am I as lost here as Alice in Ownderland?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerflystudio View Post
    Ok, so this is starting to make sense now. It's not that it's possible to avoid overlap to obtain a good mix, it's that it's possible to a) cut / boost certain elements of each instrument, or b) position (pan) them in seperate areas to create space / definition.

    I heard that the almighty Slash once used over 40 mics on his guitar cab / room to capture a huge sound. I'm guessing, then, that at mix-down, each mic filled a certain part of the frequency spectrum to make up 'his sound' as a whole. Right? Which means that, for my limited understanding of mixing, I can obtain a great / precise mix by cutting or adding EQ (but not removing it totally) to my various instruments in the mix.

    So, like, I can roll off the mids of, say, the bass guitar to make way (open up the space) for the electric guitar? or am I as lost here as Alice in Ownderland?
    Easiest way to get a good mix is to have a good arrangement to start with. That is, the instruments shouldn't "step on each others toes". If you're already stuck with a poorly arranged recording that lacks clarity you might want to roll off some bass of non-bass instruments such as guitars. That might help.

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    I was asking all this because I was thinking of setting up some of my own EQ pre-sets for my instruments - so I could apply them to each of my latest songs.

    I've been recording an album for about a year now and every instrument on every song was recorded in the same way every time. Therefore I was thinking, to save time, I could create some general EQ pre-sets from which I can then fine tune / tweak to get the desired result.

    I was just thinking about what frequencies each instrument woudl dominate, and whether I could cut / reduce those overlapping sections for a much better final mix? The songs are arranged pretty well (at least I hope so!) and they sound good / balanced already, I guess - but anything that can speed up the process is a bonus, to my mind

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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerflystudio View Post
    I was asking all this becuase I was thinking of setting up some of my own EQ pre-sets for my instruemnts - so I could apply them to each of my latest songs.

    I've been recording an album for about a year now and every instrument on every song was recorded in the same way every time. Therefore I was thinking, to save time, I could create some general EQ pre-sets from which I can then fine tune / tweak to get the desired result.

    I was just thinking about what frequencies each instrument woudl dominate, and whether I coudl cut / reduce those overlapping for a much better final mix? The songs are arranged pretty well (at least I hope so!) and they sound good / balanced already - but anything that can speed up the process is a bonus.
    I see what you mean. My experience is that there's no such universal solution because recordings tend to differ surprisingly much. Even two songs recorded by the same people with the same setup on the same day! But typically you will want to use lo-cut filters on many instruments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tigerflystudio View Post
    I heard that the almighty Slash once used over 40 mics on his guitar cab / room to capture a huge sound.




    Quote Originally Posted by tigerflystudio View Post
    I was asking all this because I was thinking of setting up some of my own EQ pre-sets for my instruments - so I could apply them to each of my latest songs.
    NO!
    There is no such thing as an EQ preset that will work all the time.


    EQ adjustments are something you generally want to consider AFTER all your tracks are recorded and you are hearing the mix of those tracks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stefolof View Post
    Easiest way to get a good mix is to have a good arrangement to start with. That is, the instruments shouldn't "step on each others toes".
    This is the truth right here. And it all gets sorted out in recording. Come mix time, you are not contending with "fighting frequencies".

    Have a song where the bass guitar has to be deep and thundering? Maybe you tighten the lugs on your bass drum and pull the mic out to the edge a bit more. Have a song where the rhythm guitar has to be deep, loud, low, and warm? Maybe you switch to the bridge pickup on your bass guitar and play with a pick instead of your fingers and have the second guitar play open chords a bit cleaner.

    Build the arrangement so everything has it's own "territory" in the first place, then record that.

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