Cleaning Up the Middle

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So I feel like I’m in a bit of a mixing slump lately which is probably one of the reasons why the blog has been a little quiet. Slumps are a drag, plain and simple. Being in said slump also has me a little more hyper-focused on things at times and maybe not mixing quite as fast I used to. This can go both ways, of course, because the act of hyper-focusing can easily lead to over-thinking things which can suck the life out of everything so in a lot of ways it’s all about trying to get some sort of mix equilibrium back in my head. So here are a few things that were recently running through my head while trying and get back on my game.

I was working on the mix for quite a while last week, and as I was tweaking I was thinking about something Scovill and I talked about when he was in town back in August. There were a lot of little things that came out of our many conversations, but this stuck out as something I’ve always dealt with sub-consciously but had never really thought about before:

Our perception of clarity in the mid-range is based on the clarity of the low-mids.

The mid-range is obviously pretty important for us since it’s where all the speech identification cues tend to sit. It’s also home to a lot of other instrumentation like guitars, pianos, etc. But when the low-mids are a mess, our perception of clarity is often obscured.

In sound reinforcement and live sound mixing it’s very easy to end up with low-mids that are a mess especially when we start sticking directional microphones all over our stage as close as we can get them to sources. As low-mid energy builds up from a variety of sources, everything in our mix can become obscured under a blanket of mud. It’s easy to get to the point where it doesn’t matter which source(s) are causing the problem because the end result is that junk can obscure everything or at least the one thing you’re fighting to get some clarity on.

Last week I was getting a lot of low-mid build-up from multiple guitars, keyboards, vocals, and bass. So, yeah, basically everything was contributing to the issue at hand…well, maybe the drums were innocent this time around. Just when I would think the vocals were dialed in, I might pull in a keyboard pad that would suddenly cloud up the vocals. The same thing might then happen with guitars. Handling the energy down there is a give and take and back and forth situation because the other side of the low-mid’s is that’s where we get our warmth which reminds me of something else Scovill and I talked about:

Our warmth is in the 100-500 Hz range. Warmth is NOT from the subs.

I think it’s easy to make the subs a low-end crutch to lean the mix on. However, getting subs right and even throughout a room is quite difficult so I think it’s important to try and get the mix to stand as much as possible without them. Subs are important, but maybe not always in the ways we think or want them to be….but I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

David Stagl

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Cleaning Up the Middle