How to Mix Instrument Frequencies for Best Sound

Mixing is both an art and science. Why? It is an art because there are no limitations in being creative. It is a science because there are methods to be followed.

Supposing you have completed the recording and panning process. It is the proper time to start mixing the frequencies of the instruments. A song which is not mixed properly can result to poor quality sound recording.

I did myself some educational recording and mixing of my own song “At the highway”

I played and recorded all the instruments (guitar, bass and drums) in multi-track and the vocals are performed by Jeanine Maningo

There is no bass guitar involved. Listen to the sound clip below which the frequencies are still not mixed for clarity. (Although panning and recording process are done)

This mix does not include the bass guitar mixing:

Problems in the Original Mix

A quick critic to this mix is as follows:

1. Guitars dominating the mix.
2. Muddy guitar sound.
3. Kick sounds so weak looks like punching a pail.
4. Vocal lower frequency range in conflict with lower guitar frequencies and kick.

Though this is a demonstration of music production at its simplest form, it has been illustrated, that muddiness of the mix can be corrected at the early part of mixing process and should not be a part of mastering process.

Improving by properly mixing instrument frequencies

Below is the corrected mix with proper mixing settings applied:

What can you say? Clear is it? Yes I admit it is. The kick and the rest of the instruments are not fighting with each other, so guitar sound is so clear and not conflicting with either the vocals. Overall, the sound is not muddy. The secret in doing this, is very expensive in recording schools. But I will reveal below:

Rule #1. Each music instruments has it’s own center frequencies and range. Use a parametric equalizer to adjust.

Rule #2. Cut and boost conservatively depending on the resulting sound.Q setting of a parametric equalizer is important.

Some background on Q and Center Frequency in Parametric EQ

Here we introduce “Q” and parametric equalizer, what are those things?, Q is a measurement of how narrow or wide the frequency adjustment on a parametric equalizer. Parametric equalizer is a mixing tool that will enable you to manipulate frequencies of instruments and balance it in the mix, just like what a paint brush will do to a painter.

To simply understand Q:

a.) a Q of 1.0 could be considered as medium wide.
b.) a Q of less than 1.0 is considered to be wide frequency adjustment.
c.) a Q of 1.4 is average adjustment.
d.) a Q of greater than 2.0 is a narrow adjustment.

Also there is what we call as “shelving”. It can be classified as low pass filter or high pass filter. A low pass filter will preserve low frequencies and cut frequencies higher than the cut off. High pass filter will preserve higher frequencies but cut frequencies lower the cutoff frequency.