Making It Cut
I’ve been working on some longer articles along with some other things lately, but in the meantime here are three quick ways to help make something cut in the mix. They’re not the only three, but they’re three I use quite a bit.
1. Make It Louder
I feel a little guilty even putting this one out there, but it’s valid. If you can’t hear it, sometimes making it louder is the answer. Just remember, “louder” is a relative term so sometimes you turn it up, but sometimes you turn everything else down.
2. Give It Some Frequency Space
We have a finite range of frequencies where our ears perceive sound. If you can find the sweet spot for where a sound likes to live and get/keep everything else out of that range, your sound will probably cut better. I actually have a method for figuring this out that I teach in my mixing classes and workshops.
3. Add Harmonics
This is probably the literal dirty little secret of why many engineers prefer analog. Analog equipment is never perfectly clean and tends to add a bit of harmonic distortion to a signal. Added harmonics help make things cut in the mix by making them richer and drawing the ear to them. This is part of why I like using things like Waves NLS along with their tape emulation plug-ins.
You can take things a step further and also use a little bit of distortion. Try that on a snare drum sometime if you’ve never had the pleasure. It doesn’t take much, though, so make sure and ease it in. It’s not unusual for me to use distortion on a bass guitar as well and many players have even caught on to this by adding distortion pedals to their rigs.
Do you have a favorite method for making something cut in the mix? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.