Mastering The Mix

Fixing A Mix Using A Dynamic EQ

Producing a song is a super creative process. When you get into the zone and everything starts to flow it feels amazing. In this state of mind, you probably won’t be paying close attention to some of the finer details of the mix.

 

You wake up the next morning and excitedly listen to your song… Now that the dust has settled from your glorious flow, you’re starting to notice a few issues: 

 

“My mix sounds too harsh”

 

“My mix is too muddy”

 

“That lead sound is super resonant”

 

“I thought the track had more energy”

 

etc…

 

If you’ve ever said those statements in a mix session, then this post is for you. I’ll run through some examples of how you can fix sonic issues in your mix with a dynamic EQ.

 

 

How To Fix A Harsh Sounding Mix

 

The first step is to locate which channel or channels are causing the issue. In most cases, harshness is caused by just a couple of channels, so it’s not always a good idea to try and fix the problem on the master fader.

 

Try muting a few usual suspects one by one until the harshness disappears. Mute the vocal, the hi-hats, the prominent synths, string parts or any other channels that you think might be making your mix sound harsh.

 

When you’ve identified the trouble-maker, pull up a dynamic EQ and take a look at the frequency analyzer. As you can see in the example below, there is a clear build-up around 4kHz. That’s the area I want to ‘control’ rather than cut completely.

 

Fixing a harsh mix

 

I’ll keep the actual gain of the EQ band as 0dB and set the dynamic target to -10dB. I’ll then set the threshold so the dynamic EQ only kicks in when the mix is sounding too harsh. When the signal doesn’t surpass the threshold, the channel will sound unchanged.

 

Had I just used a static parametric EQ, the audio might have sounded unnatural with a substantial cut around 4kHz. The dynamic EQ lets me deal with the problematic audio ONLY when the problems arise.

 

 

How To Fix A Muddy Mix

 

Step one is to locate the channels that are beefing up your mix too much and decreasing the clarity. I like to keep 150-450Hz nice and spacious for my bass, low vocals, snare body and most important synth.

 

Things like strings, pads, guitars and other ‘supporting’ instruments can be carved out in this region if the mix is sounding muddy.

 

In the example below I’ve identified a ‘supporting’ pluck synth that adding a bit too much meat to the production. I’ve carved out a cut (blue dot) around the fundamental frequencies (lowest note seen on the spectrum) and added an extra dynamic dip to push it a little lower on the louder notes to further control the sound.

 

Controlling the mud

 

By repeating this on a few offending channels, you’ll hear clarity come to your mix and things will start to fall into place in a subtle but pleasing way.

 

If your mix is still sounding a bit muddy, then you might need a reduction of some of your more dominant channels. There is a cunning way to keep the tonal balance of your dominant channels whilst reducing the mud…

 

Let’s a take a bass synth as our example. Pull up your dynamic EQ and create a band around the muddy area (in this case 100Hz). Create a fairly wide cut until you feel more clarity has been added to your mix. Then bring your dynamic band UP so it sits on 0dB (If you cut 4dB, add a dynamic boost of 4dB).

 

Bass clarity with dynamic EQ

 

Tweak the threshold so when your bass is playing, it dynamically hits the 0dB mark in that band. But reduces down to the EQ band target when the signal is lower than the threshold. This will have an amazing decongesting effect on your bass whilst keeping the impact and tonal balance on point.

 

 

How To Transparently Fix Resonance In A Mix

 

This is one of my favorites… It’s super effective and if done strategically throughout your mix you can find yourself with a very pure and natural sound.

 

The resonance might only come into the mix at a certain point depending on the musical note, so you don’t want to statically cut the frequency. A dynamic EQ will be triggered only when the resonance kicks in, leaving the rest of the performance with its original tonal balance.

 

The trick here is to find the resonance and set the EQ band to 0dB. From that point, bring down the dynamic band with the thinnest possible Q so it’s focused on that specific frequency. Keep tweaking the dynamic gain reduction (keeping the main EQ at 0dB) until you feel like the resonance is under control.

 

How to fix resonance with dynamic EQ

 

It’s important to use your ears to set the exact amount of reduction when fixing resonances. There is a point the resonance is controlled and it’s no longer a problem, reduce it further and you’ll find that the channel will sound thin. Some resonances are very subtle and only require adjustments of a few dB for the sound to be natural.

 

 

How To Add Energy To A Flat Mix

 

Nothing is worse than listening to a song you’ve created and having an unexciting listening experience. You want the music to lift you off your seat and fill you with emotion. Dynamic EQs can inject energy into a flat mix in a frequency specific way.

 

A subtle approach would be to add a touch of upward dynamic movement across your master channel. Create a few EQ bands in key frequencies of your track. Keep the band gain a 0dB to maintain the sonic balance of your mix. Then increase the dynamic gain until you feel the mix starts to lift.

 

Add energy to a full mix

 

Tweak the frequency of each band until you feel the dynamic EQ is accentuating the best elements of the mix. Your mix should start to feel a little punchier.

 

If your mix is still sounding flat, then you might need a stronger tool. Our plugin ANIMATE is a super-precise and versatile swiss army knife of tools to get your mix jumping out of your speakers. Dynamic EQs often lack attack and release settings as well as ratio and knee. If you like having more control over your upward expansion then ANIMATE is the tool for you. You can try it free by entering your email at the bottom of this page.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Dynamic EQs are great for shaping and controlling your mix. Find the problem in your mix and think carefully about the best approach to solve the issue. Be sure to combine cuts and boosts with the dynamic target in a purposeful way to get the sonic results you’re shooting for.

 

Dynamic EQ directions

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