Believe it or not, when I started my music production journey there wasn’t youtube, tutorials, or online tutors. I know this sounds strange (especially if you are a millennial) but there was no such thing as online! The daily reality was to grab a floppy disk with 1,5 MB memory, save a bunch of samples on it, put it into the project, and hope when you are finished the floppy survives.
Back then I wasn’t concerned with anything like EQ since all I wanted to do was make music. Music that would come from my mind and my thoughts and put onto a digital medium I could play to my friends and feel like a hero. All I cared about was “FAT BASS”.
Without the online learning options of today’s world, there was no way for me to learn how to improve this issue. In fact, it stuck with me until my very first release back in 2007 called “No Faith”. I paid a professional studio engineer to master my track and the first thing he said was: “Well mate, I would like to help you but everything is so heavy on the low end we need to mix it properly.” I thought to myself “Say what?”.
So what exactly was my issue? I wasn’t using EQ as a tool to cut unwanted and undesired frequencies. Instead, I was mostly using it to boost things in my track (especially the low end).
Thankfully, the mastering engineer gave me a really good tip that day. He said anytime during my production session when I add a track that is not a kick drum, bass instrument, or anything that plays low end, to add an EQ to it and cut the low end to a desired level just so the sound didn’t lose its charm. (There is this little thing called masking).
For example: When you play a lead sound on its own in the breakdown without a low cut, it sounds warm on the low-end spectrum and lush on mid and high frequencies. But beware when the kick and bass come in, their frequencies will either phase out (losing energy) or stack up (way too much low end). The latter happens more often of course.
The solution is simple when the kick and bass are playing, make sure everything else has a low cut but just enough so it doesn’t interfere with anything else. If not done properly or at all, this can cause masking. So what actually happens when cutting low-end frequencies? Our ears aren’t perfect, and by cutting the low end on leads when the bass comes into place our brain will perceive it as if the low end is there ( Even though we cut it). The lead simply borrows it from the kick & bass and we have no issues. (Just make sure to automate it in the breakdown so your leads sound warm and cute).
Just make sure to automate it in the breakdown so your leads sound warm and nice.
Ever since that day, I always add EQ on every channel or track in my DAW and cut the low end appropriately right away. It’s sort of a habit now but doing this saves me so much time when mixing my tracks.
If you want to see it in action check out the youtube video I made on mixing baselines:
Thank you and have an amazing day in the studio!
PS: If you feel like you need to improve your mixing skills, I made a full class on mixing tracks from start to finish. You can sign up HERE!