Helpful ReplyAny Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking?

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RobWS
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2017/05/12 14:01:24 (permalink)

Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking?

One of the more difficult aspects of mixing is overcoming frequency masking.  At least that’s been my experience.  I’ve seen a couple of you tube videos but I’m looking for more.  They’ll show reducing one track by 2-3 dB in a frequency range and boosting another track in the same range by that amount.  It seems to me there is more to it than that.
 
My preference is usually a dense mix.  I constantly think of more I can throw into an arrangement and build it up.  But, I keep losing clarity in the previous tracks (to a degree).  How in the world do professional mixes sound so spacious and 3 dimensional?  I know, I know, because they’re professional.
 
What works for you?
 
#1
batsbrew
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/12 14:06:54 (permalink)
aggressive roll-offs,
aggressive high-Q cuts.....
 
understanding what frequencies that will become trouble..... BEFORE YOU TRACK!!!
 
that is key.
learn your frequencies on every instrument you are tracking.
 
make room for everybody.
if something needs to dominate at 100hz, then get rid of that frequency everywhere that it does not really count.
 
 
using visual tools will help folk who are just starting out, to recognize 'bad' frequencies, or frequencies that are building up.
 

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batsbrew
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/12 14:08:19 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby jude77 2017/06/21 02:29:03
and stop watching utoob.


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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/12 14:11:21 (permalink)

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Starise
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/12 14:12:03 (permalink)
The issues are sometimes more like Bat mentioned. Though masking is a real issue. Sometimes a small rolloff isn't enough...gotta get more aggressive. 
 
I think the visual tools to identify masking are good for everybody. I don't believe anyone can hear good enough to correctly identify all of it. At least, I see it as a time saver. I could twiddle with EQ for an hour or look at a visual and see the clash right away.

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Rimshot
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/12 17:15:41 (permalink)
I have the Melda MMultiAnalyzer when I need help with frequency clashes. 
 
Besides using your ears, it's really cool to see the issues.
 
https://www.meldaproduction.com/MMultiAnalyzer
 

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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/13 03:02:36 (permalink)
There are many different freely available online frequency charts - many are interactive, that show the frequency ranges of all kinds of instruments, and you can combine that with a spectral analyzer to figure out which of your instruments have frequency conflicts.
 
From that, you can figure out where to notch out specific frequency ranges from competing instruments, to make more room without it all sounding too thin.
 
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/13 08:41:20 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby glennstanton 2017/05/15 13:35:48
If you want to prevent masking, start at your arrangement ... the denser you want your mix, the more important the arrangement is. For example if your piano and your bass collide because the piano is in the wrong octave, no EQ will be able to fix this. You will end up EQing most of the piano away to keep the bass there ...

FWIW I never use analysers for this task. I go by bringing elements into the mix in order of their relevance and listen for coloring/masking whenever I add an instrument ... so if I add e.g. a piano and the lead vox gets pushed down or more often coloured, the piano needs EQing so that the more important vox can stay as is ... it's very interesting how much you can cut from an instrument that only supports in the background and still have it sound good ... Just don't push the Solo button on those EQed tracks in the back ...

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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/13 11:41:20 (permalink)
RobWS
I constantly think of more I can throw into an arrangement and build it up.
 



Stay in mono when you throw it in, if it clashes, then re-consider if it's needed. Or use it in one part and what it clashes with in another.

 
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/13 21:41:56 (permalink)
 
There's a brilliant tool for addressing this problem and there's a deeply comprehensive article about it that you can read here:
 
http://soundbytesmag.net/spectraldynamicsdynamiceq/
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dwardzala
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/13 21:50:17 (permalink)
Also, you don't need to keep the entire frequency range of every instrument.  Each instrument should have a purpose in the mix.  With that in mind, cut out the frequencies that don't support that purpose.

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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/13 22:16:53 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Starise 2017/05/22 13:29:07
iic Izotope has a plugin for this, Neutrino afaik.
you put it on each track and it does the eq and compression for you.
not cheap though, but it can operate in a zero latency mode as well.
 
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Jeff Evans
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/13 23:07:08 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby glennstanton 2017/05/17 18:33:35
One area where you can get caught is in the very top end. Many instruments don't need to extend anywhere near up as high. Use you LPF's to limit the top end of things. Learn to love the 48db/oct slopes on your filters too. They are there for a reason.
 
Even though a part might sound like it is only going up to say 4K or so once you put a LPF on that and set a steep slope around 4K it sounds better and cleaner.
 
With top end as well there should only be a few things that have top end. Two or three at most. The rest no. Remember if everything is bright then nothing is bright.  Think of a very dark sky with just a handful of stars in it and most of them are dim with 2 or 3 bright stars. That is how the top end of your mix should be. 

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sharke
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/17 04:04:30 (permalink)
For me it all starts with sound choice. If you can hear a basic separation between all the tracks without putting a single EQ on them, you've made the right choices. Don't know how many times I've spent hours experimenting with the most insane roller coaster EQ curves trying to "carve space" for tracks which just did not work together. What a waste of time - the best you're going to get is a bunch of weird sounding tracks that still step on each other. 
 
Have you ever had the experience of just throwing a few parts together while playing around - whether loops or samples or synth sounds or whatever - and they just sound great from the get go? Excellent clarity and definition without a single EQ curve. That's what it's like choosing the right sounds, and what you should be aiming for. From there, any EQ you do is just a matter of polishing things up a little. 
 
If two guitar parts are stepping on each other, then I will dial in a completely different tone for one of them until they contrast enough. Sometimes I'll be using a snare sample which masks a lot in the mix, and rather than spend hours trying to tweak it with EQ, I'll just look for a different sample until I find one that fits nicer in the mix. 
 
As Rob says above also, arrangement is just as important. If you're clever with the arrangement so that no more than two or three things are sounding at once, you can make a lot of tracks fit together and give the illusion of a busy mix without anything stepping on each other. For instance, on the EDM forums I hear so much talk of all these insane sidechain routings and crazy amounts of EQ to get a kick and bass part to work together. And yet if you arrange your kick and bass so that they're not playing together, they both have definition before you've inserted a single plugin. 

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dwardzala
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/17 18:10:57 (permalink)
One other point on arrangement - you can "feature" different instruments in different parts.  In other words, bring out the acoustic guitar in the chorus, feature the hammond in bridge, etc.  You don't necessarily mute the tracks you're not featuring, just pull them back in the mix and bump up the "featured" instrument.

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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/20 18:10:14 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby glennstanton 2017/05/22 15:07:56
sharke
For me it all starts with sound choice. If you can hear a basic separation between all the tracks without putting a single EQ on them, you've made the right choices. Don't know how many times I've spent hours experimenting with the most insane roller coaster EQ curves trying to "carve space" for tracks which just did not work together. What a waste of time - the best you're going to get is a bunch of weird sounding tracks that still step on each other. 
 
Have you ever had the experience of just throwing a few parts together while playing around - whether loops or samples or synth sounds or whatever - and they just sound great from the get go? Excellent clarity and definition without a single EQ curve. That's what it's like choosing the right sounds, and what you should be aiming for. From there, any EQ you do is just a matter of polishing things up a little. 
 
If two guitar parts are stepping on each other, then I will dial in a completely different tone for one of them until they contrast enough. Sometimes I'll be using a snare sample which masks a lot in the mix, and rather than spend hours trying to tweak it with EQ, I'll just look for a different sample until I find one that fits nicer in the mix. 
 
As Rob says above also, arrangement is just as important. If you're clever with the arrangement so that no more than two or three things are sounding at once, you can make a lot of tracks fit together and give the illusion of a busy mix without anything stepping on each other. For instance, on the EDM forums I hear so much talk of all these insane sidechain routings and crazy amounts of EQ to get a kick and bass part to work together. And yet if you arrange your kick and bass so that they're not playing together, they both have definition before you've inserted a single plugin. 

+1
I remember once spending hours trying to make Scarbee Rickenbacker Bass fit in my mix because I was convinced it was the highest quality sampled bass I had. I ended up dialing in a basic Fender Jazz (possibly even Cakewalk's?) and instantly everything made sense.
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/22 00:16:31 (permalink)
Hi, alot of times in a mix I'd toy with the frequency EQ, when what I was listening to, wasn't even that.. the main noticeable dynamic you'll notice before EQ is the compression, I'd do multiband compression on all tracks first before adjusting EQ, if it's your cup of tea
 
Thanks,
 
LWD
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pilutiful
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/05/27 09:42:31 (permalink)
Jeff Evans
One area where you can get caught is in the very top end. Many instruments don't need to extend anywhere near up as high. Use you LPF's to limit the top end of things. Learn to love the 48db/oct slopes on your filters too. They are there for a reason.
 
Even though a part might sound like it is only going up to say 4K or so once you put a LPF on that and set a steep slope around 4K it sounds better and cleaner.
 
With top end as well there should only be a few things that have top end. Two or three at most. The rest no. Remember if everything is bright then nothing is bright.  Think of a very dark sky with just a handful of stars in it and most of them are dim with 2 or 3 bright stars. That is how the top end of your mix should be. 


THANKS FOR THIS! This has helped me a lot. Working on a very dense mix. I love these forums.

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sharke
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/11 04:19:18 (permalink)
I think my biggest struggle is stopping upfront drums from masking instruments that are floating in the background. Never got the hang of that. It's something I always liked about Aphex Twin - he always has these great snappy in your face drums going in the foreground, while dreamy layers of ambience and quirky synth lines drift in and out of the background. And yet the ambient layers were always very legible with enough clarity to hear everything that's going on. I always end up having to carve frequencies out of the snare and the kick to the point where they lose their body and snap, and even then I don't get the clarity I would like. 

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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/11 08:03:01 (permalink)
If eq'ing alone doesn't work you can use sidechaining to do frequency dependant ducking/compression/expansion. Also panning and use if the stereo field is important. Roll off any unused frequency space and shape the prominent frequencies of sounds. Using a frequency reference chart is a good way to do this. Cutting frequencies at 200Hz means at another harmonic like 800Hz it will be perceived to be louder.

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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/11 22:41:55 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby jude77 2017/06/21 02:47:25
Personally I don't like to rely on panning to achieve instrument separation. Your mix has to have clarity in mono as well. 

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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/13 02:02:25 (permalink)
EQ automation can be better than sidechain compression when there is a time range that is clear like vocal verses.

Not only do sidechain FX go in and out, the effect is soft when the feed channel is soft. You may need the opposite.

So creating a notch frequency and an envelope to control it, you can dial it in fairly fast aging automation nodes and dragging the range.

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pilutiful
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/21 16:53:05 (permalink)
I have only worked with budget preamps and I'm wondering: does high end preamps (f.ex. 1073 which i would like to buy next time) help for better separation? I imagine the cleaner the sound, the better you can hear the individual tracks?

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dwardzala
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/21 22:47:47 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby pilutiful 2017/06/22 06:39:48
pilutiful
I have only worked with budget preamps and I'm wondering: does high end preamps (f.ex. 1073 which i would like to buy next time) help for better separation? I imagine the cleaner the sound, the better you can hear the individual tracks?


Short answer is no, your gear is not holding you back here.  This is all technique.  Check out Graham Cochrane's videos where he records and mixes a song on Focusrite Solo and a $100 LDC mic.
 
Also, you say you are working on a dense mix.  A lot of times commercial mixes that sound really dense, aren't as dense instrumentally as you think.  They get the density through EQ and effects.  As mentioned before, every instrument in your mix should have a purpose - not just be there to take up space.

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Jeff Evans
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/22 02:29:02 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby pilutiful 2017/06/22 06:39:42
In my post I was mainly talking about the highs.  I have said many times, if many of you with your dense mixes and things were to engage the services of a great producer what they would be doing is in fact removing half the stuff you actually have in your mix!  Most of it actually does not need to be there or if it does then it can wait and step in when other things are not stepping in.  Hence leading to this very accurate statement:
 
dwardzala
 
Also, you say you are working on a dense mix.  A lot of times commercial mixes that sound really dense, aren't as dense instrumentally as you think.  They get the density through EQ and effects.  As mentioned before, every instrument in your mix should have a purpose - not just be there to take up space.

 
The whole idea is to not get most parts actually even stepping on each other at all but weaving in and out of each other instead.  Many great commercial mixes are actually doing this all the time and there is far more space in there than many think.  But it sounds big though.  (less is more kind of thing)  So when stuff is not even playing at the same time as most other stuff, the good news is you can actually go back the other way and EQ for a fuller sound (and NOT have to carve out space for other things at all)  because you know it is not going to be playing that often at the same time as other things are.
 
There used go be three stages to a production. Tracking, mixing and mastering. These days there are four now. And they are tracking, editing, mixing (and more editing!) and mastering. The editing stage can be as long as any of the others too now.  Its OK to over track for sure and great to have a little too much going on.  But the trick is to let go a lot of stuff and only keep the important stuff that actually makes the statements you are really after.  Everything else is fluff!
 
This is also why some engineers like to commit early and make these kind of decisions early on.  The best live bands are also playing like this too, not stepping on each other.  They have worked it all out before hand.  British engineering is very much like this.  It is the Americans that started recording way too much and without effects and sorting it all out later.  Yes, more options for sure but more work sorting it all out.  
 
 
 

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pilutiful
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/22 09:19:29 (permalink)
I have said this before and I'll say it again: I love these forums. Learning so much. Greatly appreciated.

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sharke
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Re: Any Techniques for Overcoming Frequency Masking? 2017/06/23 00:01:44 (permalink)
That whole "weaving parts in and out of each other" is a breeze if you're doing it with MIDI programming via the piano roll. You can see all the tracks in question on the same roll, and arrange them visually. Great for programming a kick and bass that don't step on each other, for example. And you can get really creative with it. For instance, you can fashion melodic lines across two or more instruments, with each instrument taking it in turns to carry a note (a bit like the intricate weaving lines that African soukous guitarists play). 

James
Windows 10, Sonar SPlat (64-bit), Intel i7-4930K, 32GB RAM, RME Babyface, AKAI MPK Mini, Roland A-800 Pro, Focusrite VRM Box, Komplete 10 Ultimate, 2012 American Telecaster!
#27
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