On Achieving A Balanced Mix

Hi all,

Today we are going to look at, you guessed it, mixing! I’m not sure why this topic keeps coming back to me, over and over again — having listened to a variety of genres made me think deeply on how a “balanced mix” works. In this post I share my ideas with you.

Achieving a balanced mix will also help get the most of that sought-after loudness of commercial releases. Really, you should think about loudness first. You may have see my other two posts on reference mixing with pink noise and Voxengo SPAN. Some say there is a method to this madness and I have been really trying to simplify things in my workflow so I had to go back to the basics of human hearing, sound frequency and amplitude.

I’m sure you’re painfully familiar with Fletcher-Munson Curves, you can read more about them here.

Fletcher-Munson Curves

Fletcher-Munson Curves

Basically, this is a set of equal-loudness contours throughout the frequency spectrum. Each contour shows how the human brain perceives loudness of different frequencies at the same listening volume.

In a more practical sense, we can derive the following:

1. The louder the sounds, the flatter the loudness curve — it means that almost all frequencies are on the same level of perceived loudness (with some notable exceptions which I will point out below). This is important because if you produce music which is supposed to be played LOUD then you need to take into account the upper curves of the chart.

2. EQ at high listening volumes — this results from point 1 above, especially if you produce music which is supposed to be played loud (EDM, etc). For those of you who may say “Whaaat, I thought I should mix at low volume” I can say this — mix at low volume for space and high volume for loudness.

3. Clean up mud around 200Hz — this will add clarity and a nice separation between the low-end and the mid-range.

4. Mind the dip between 2-5Khz — this is sometimes referred to as the “core region”. Human hearing is very sensitive to this region and getting this region to sit well in the mix is key to making your music sound enjoyable and less harsh.

5. Dips and bumps — it is obvious that boosts in volume of a certain frequency may need to be accompanied by cuts in the adjacent frequencies. This seems to add clarity to sound material as the human brain operates from the point of contrast which allows input to be processed faster and to be perceived as “clear”. This is a principle found in many studies in the field of neuroscience.

You can (and should) aim for that “wall of sound” where all frequencies are equally presented. Of course, remember to add a pinch of clarity at 200Hz and 2-5Khz regions by slightly attenuating these.

One last thing — something you can use immediately — you can set up a band-pass EQ on the master bus to check your mix in the core region like so:

Core Region Check

Core Region Check

Listen to your whole mix just from this perspective and see which sounds stick out too much. This will allow you to clean up resonant frequencies which may contribute to harshness in your mix.

I hope you found this useful, please let me know what you think in the comments below.



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