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Clearing Up Mid-Range Frequency 'Mud' from Recordings

Campfired

Senior Member
Messages
15,602
Many of us are aware that in live gigging sessions, a certain amount of added guitar midrange is desirable for cutting through a live mix.

However, there is some discussion about EQing more appropriately for recorded mixes, such that vocals and instruments each have their own frequency region that won't crossover into each other's frequency regions as much.

Within my GarageBand app, there are at least one or two good EQ plug-ins that are graphic EQs, as well as at least one parametric EQ onboard pre-installed plug-in from Apple.

Could any of you knowledgeable folks provide a brief tutorial or a good link to a YouTube instructional that you have found helpful regards cleaning up the ubiquitous mid-range 'mud' that you might hear on less well-produced sound recordings?

Thanks in advance.
 

oldhousescott

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,878
Probably one of the most prevalent methods is the "boost and sweep" method. Insert a parametric EQ on the track, select a medium Q (say 2.0 or so), turn the gain up 6dB or more on one of the filters and sweep the frequency until the most obnoxious frequency stands out. Now turn down the gain until the problem/mud is gone. You may need to do this with 2 or 3 filters to eliminate all the problem frequencies.
 

NashSG

Member
Messages
3,715
On most things that are not 'bass' i.e. everything but bass guitar, kick, floor tom - you really can shelf cut the low end from 80hz or lower and that will take out alot of low end mud leaving that range for the actual low end instruments. You might cut it lower or higher on the low cut depending on what sounds best on the instrument.
 

electricity17

Member
Messages
867
I use a plugin called Fabfilter ProQ2 that allows you to create an EQ band and then listen to just that band by itself. For example, if you boosted at 2K, you can solo just the region that you're boosting. It also has a really great visual interface so that you can look at the signal and see what's happening. I don't know if it sounds better than other plugins, but I think it's more intuitive and easier to use so I love it.

As far as the boost and sweep method, I often do that but I'm doing a reverse version of it. I'll use a parametric EQ and boost a fairly narror band (as oldhousescott describes), but sometimes it's easier to find the problem areas. So I'll boost it and sweep it around, but I'm trying to find where it sounds worse. Once I find a place that sounds worse (muddier, etc.), then I cut a couple db at that frequency. Then I'll turn the plugin on and off and see if it sounds better with that cut.
 

Mr-T

Member
Messages
12
I've started experimenting with the Q/boost/sweep method in Logic Pro. How do you know whether you have found a 'problem frequency' rather than just a frequency which has become a problem because it is narrowly boosted? To my untrained ear, most frequencies boosted with a narrow Q sound problematic. Is it just a case of practice practice practice or are there any 'tells'? Thanks
 

NotWesYet

Member
Messages
5,303
Great thread!!! I have been trying to learn more by using an app called Quiztones.

http://quiztones.com/

I use it on the iPad with AKG 240's and take the quizzes to better understand what frequencies affect the mix. I was way off on a lot due to preconcieved notions of what to boost or cut...
 

vintagelove

Member
Messages
2,811
Many of us are aware that in live gigging sessions, a certain amount of added guitar midrange is desirable for cutting through a live mix.

However, there is some discussion about EQing more appropriately for recorded mixes, such that vocals and instruments each have their own frequency region that won't crossover into each other's frequency regions as much.

Within my GarageBand app, there are at least one or two good EQ plug-ins that are graphic EQs, as well as at least one parametric EQ onboard pre-installed plug-in from Apple.

Could any of you knowledgeable folks provide a brief tutorial or a good link to a YouTube instructional that you have found helpful regards cleaning up the ubiquitous mid-range 'mud' that you might hear on less well-produced sound recordings?

Thanks in advance.


The mids are definitely NOT where the mud is. The mids are where all the information is, our ears are evolved to be more sensitive to it then the highs or lows. Now what can happen, is through careless ARRANGEMENT, too many things can be fighting for that precious space. A well balanced mix starts with the arrangement, if everything is fighting for the same territory, everyone loses.

When tracking you have to know how to get each instrument to sit in its place, while simultaneously poking its head out by residing in its own territory, and perhaps even emphasizing a certain frequency. (Mic choice is huge here).

Mud can happen around the 200hz range (among other places), but the bigger question is "can you hear what 200hz sounds like?"

The likely answer is probably not if you haven't been listening critically for 5-10 years. For at least the first 5 years you are mostly flying blind. You are learning how to listen. What you're hearing as mud could be 10 different things. It takes years of listening to hear a mix and go, ok we need to shelve the lows on the guitar (which allows the bass to occupy its own territory), adjust the bass dynamics, boost the vocals at 3.4k, soften the midrange of other instruments to allow the voice to standout. Etc etc.

Simply pointing a mic and running it into a computer doesn't make someone a recording engineer. It's the 15 years of critical listening that does... Anyone of us who have tried to take a good picture of a guitar to sell has learned, pointing a camera and clicking a button doesn't make someone a photographer.

That being said, critical listening is an important skill that we should all invest time in. Remember, a great song or performance is always needed BEFORE hitting the record button.


Hope that helps.
 

splatt

david torn / splattercell
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
26,443
Probably one of the most prevalent methods is the "boost and sweep" method. Insert a parametric EQ on the track, select a medium Q (say 2.0 or so), turn the gain up 6dB or more on one of the filters and sweep the frequency until the most obnoxious frequency stands out. Now turn down the gain until the problem/mud is gone. You may need to do this with 2 or 3 filters to eliminate all the problem frequencies.
however, achtung!
using this method, a single errant mouse-drag can severely damage your hearing, so:
never experiment with this method without first lowering your overall listening level seriously & considerably; never.
 

twoheadedboy

Member
Messages
12,679
The mids are definitely NOT where the mud is. The mids are where all the information is, our ears are evolved to be more sensitive to it then the highs or lows. Now what can happen, is through careless ARRANGEMENT, too many things can be fighting for that precious space. A well balanced mix starts with the arrangement, if everything is fighting for the same territory, everyone loses.
The most important element of mixing, IMHO, is carving out space for each element so that you don't have to turn things up loud in the mix to be able to hear them. It takes incredible natural instincts or a lot of experience to be able to do this efficiently without destroying the character of the original source. In general, I find that a good approach to learning to EQ is to take each element of the mix and decide what frequency range is most important for that element. Then, experiment with cutting frequencies very aggressively outside that range, so that you can hear what happens when overlap between elements is minimized. You'll probably discover that you need to adjust the cutoff points between different elements (e.g., between bass guitar and electric guitar) and perhaps introduce some overlap between elements to get the mix to sound natural.
 

ronzie

Member
Messages
486
however, achtung!
using this method, a single errant mouse-drag can severely damage your hearing, so:
never experiment with this method without first lowering your overall listening level seriously & considerably; never.
And take out HF drivers.

In Ken Thompson's book he describes cutting 400hz from almost every track when he begins a mix. And as a basic rule of thumb: boost with wide Q, cut with narrow Q.
That's an unusual method. I can think of zero intrinsic value unless one's trying to un-mix and waste time.

The most important element of mixing, IMHO, is carving out space for each element so that you don't have to turn things up loud in the mix to be able to hear them....
As far as I'm concerned, the ONLY element of mixing that matters is making the song work as a presentation. I just don't get why people try to unglue/glue, unglue/glue in circle of futility. EQ is a repair tool first and a creative tool second. And ehhmm.."modern recording formats" and tools do great all by themselves in so far as separating out the elements.
 

splatt

david torn / splattercell
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
26,443
In Ken Thompson's book he describes cutting 400hz from almost every track when he begins a mix. And as a basic rule of thumb: boost with wide Q, cut with narrow Q.
huh; whoa. odd.

link to that book?
title of book for reference?
thanks!
 

twoheadedboy

Member
Messages
12,679
As far as I'm concerned, the ONLY element of mixing that matters is making the song work as a presentation.
I agree, I suppose. For me, a song is unlikely to work well if the individual elements can't speak for themselves, and so it's critical to know how to identify and solve frequency overlap and masking issues. The approach that I described above is meant to serve as a learning tool. Certainly, it isn't valid to approach each mix with the primary goal of eliminating frequency overlap wherever it exists, but it's important to be able to do that when it's required, and I find that it is usually required.
 
Last edited:

Campfired

Senior Member
Messages
15,602
Watch the master massenburg work this piano track. He cuts some harshness at 2k, and some mud at 400hz and deals with some masking.

Mr. Massenburg does indeed have well-trained ears that can hear where the transient peaks of frequencies are. My ear training is woefully inadequate at this stage of the game for me to be able to exercise a bit of faith and good judgment while determining just what frequencies pop out as one listens.

The mids are definitely NOT where the mud is. The mids are where all the information is, our ears are evolved to be more sensitive to it then the highs or lows. Now what can happen, is through careless ARRANGEMENT, too many things can be fighting for that precious space. A well balanced mix starts with the arrangement, if everything is fighting for the same territory, everyone loses.

When tracking you have to know how to get each instrument to sit in its place, while simultaneously poking its head out by residing in its own territory, and perhaps even emphasizing a certain frequency. (Mic choice is huge here).

Mud can happen around the 200hz range (among other places), but the bigger question is "can you hear what 200hz sounds like?"
That is where it might be helpful to invest in several tuning forks so as to learn how various frequencies sound that could be recognized as contributing to 'muddiness' in one's recording mix.

The likely answer is probably not if you haven't been listening critically for 5-10 years. For at least the first 5 years you are mostly flying blind. You are learning how to listen. What you're hearing as mud could be 10 different things. It takes years of listening to hear a mix and go, ok we need to shelve the lows on the guitar (which allows the bass to occupy its own territory), adjust the bass dynamics, boost the vocals at 3.4k, soften the midrange of other instruments to allow the voice to standout. Etc etc.

Simply pointing a mic and running it into a computer doesn't make someone a recording engineer. It's the 15 years of critical listening that does... Anyone of us who have tried to take a good picture of a guitar to sell has learned, pointing a camera and clicking a button doesn't make someone a photographer.

That being said, critical listening is an important skill that we should all invest time in. Remember, a great song or performance is always needed BEFORE hitting the record button.

Hope that helps.
Yes, I am relatively new to recording, but have been listening to music for many years, although not critically from a recording viewpoint. Could you provide several examples of well-produced music, vs. shabbily produced, so as to provide a basis for differentiating?

(My first thought was to listen to Heart's 'Dreamboat Annie' on vinyl and compare that to another recording that was not so well-produced...)

I've started experimenting with the Q/boost/sweep method in Logic Pro. How do you know whether you have found a 'problem frequency' rather than just a frequency which has become a problem because it is narrowly boosted? To my untrained ear, most frequencies boosted with a narrow Q sound problematic. Is it just a case of practice practice practice or are there any 'tells'? Thanks
From what others have already stated, I've reached a conclusion for myself that an untrained ear might benefit from listening to a variety of frequencies (tuning forks or tone generators) that contribute to muddiness in the mix, learn to recognize them, and be able to use a parametric or graphic EQ to mitigate these.
 

hellbender

Senior Member
Messages
23,786
A frequency spectrum monitor is helpful to determine where the energy lives. Once you can "see" the effect of eq change rather than only subjectively hear it, you can trim it much more effectively. Then see how the other tracks interact to either combine (mud) or divide to keep the relevant sounds in their safe space.
 

electricity17

Member
Messages
867
I've started experimenting with the Q/boost/sweep method in Logic Pro. How do you know whether you have found a 'problem frequency' rather than just a frequency which has become a problem because it is narrowly boosted? To my untrained ear, most frequencies boosted with a narrow Q sound problematic. Is it just a case of practice practice practice or are there any 'tells'? Thanks
I think it's practice and training your ear. But my starting point is that if it sounds bad when solo'd in a narrow band, there's a good chance that it's something you can cut. So you try cutting it, then turn the EQ on and off to see if it's an improvement or not. And you try to think of it not as the final sound by itself, but rather "would I want more of this frequency in the overall sound of the instrument?"

As far as a starting point, you should have a basic idea of where each instrument will fit in the mix in terms of the frequency range. In the beginning, just think about lows, mids and highs. For example, kick drum = low. If I suggested that you should cut all the low end in the bass so that you can hear it above the guitars, you probably already know that won't work.
 

vintagelove

Member
Messages
2,811
Mr. Massenburg does indeed have well-trained ears that can hear where the transient peaks of frequencies are. My ear training is woefully inadequate at this stage of the game for me to be able to exercise a bit of faith and good judgment while determining just what frequencies pop out as one listens.



That is where it might be helpful to invest in several tuning forks so as to learn how various frequencies sound that could be recognized as contributing to 'muddiness' in one's recording mix.



Yes, I am relatively new to recording, but have been listening to music for many years, although not critically from a recording viewpoint. Could you provide several examples of well-produced music, vs. shabbily produced, so as to provide a basis for differentiating?

(My first thought was to listen to Heart's 'Dreamboat Annie' on vinyl and compare that to another recording that was not so well-produced...)



From what others have already stated, I've reached a conclusion for myself that an untrained ear might benefit from listening to a variety of frequencies (tuning forks or tone generators) that contribute to muddiness in the mix, learn to recognize them, and be able to use a parametric or graphic EQ to mitigate these.


I am pretty fond of George Massenburgs production work, but I may be more a traditionalist than modern tastes.



Good or bad can be subjective, but you can usually spot the tell tale signs of home recordings. The best advice is just do it for years. Eq everything, learn what every control does. Dynamics processing, fx, etc. In 5 years you'll start knowing exactly what to do to get the results you want.


Hope that helps.
 

Blooby

Member
Messages
1,598
The best advice is just do it for years. Eq everything, learn what every control does. Dynamics processing, fx, etc. In 5 years you'll start knowing exactly what to do to get the results you want.
Agreed. There really are no short-cuts. I watched innumerable tutorial videos on mixing and then would have eureka moments about the very same stuff. While I think those videos helped, there is no substitute for logging the hours and using reference mixes.

Good luck...to all of us.

Blooby
 






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