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How To Fix Boxy Sounds, Thin Drums and Clashing Arrangements

Jay is an Insider who has shown considerable improvement in his productions since he first started attending Feedback Friday as an Audio Issues Insider.

However, he had follow-up up questions regarding some of my feedback from last week and I thought it would be a good opportunity to answer them in public so others may benefit.

“Wooden” Acoustic Guitar Sound

I felt like the acoustic guitar track sounded too “woody” and it was adding a lot of boxiness to the mids.

This is easily fixed by EQ’ing out the boxy frequencies around 300 – 600 Hz. Boost and sweep your EQ until the wood tone of the guitar is overbearing and you’ll have found the offending frequency.

Cut to taste and if you can’t quite get it out without cutting too much, try adding another cut at the harmonic multiple.

For instance, if you find your track very boxy around 330 Hz, also add a small cut around 660 Hz and see if that tames it even further without needing to cut too much in any one frequency.

If you find this confusing, I cover everything you need to know to master the frequency spectrum inside EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ.

Thin Drums

The drum track sounded distant, in a cool way, but it also sounded pretty thin. So if you’re dealing with thin-sounding drums, here are a few ways to beef them up.

  • Less low-end filtering – If you’re filtering or cutting too much in the low end or low-mids, you’ll eventually take all the power and punch out of the drums. Make sure you’re not taking anything out with unnecessary filtering.
  • Not enough low-end – Adding more lows and low-mids to a drum sound will make it thicker and more powerful. Start in the below 100 Hz range and if that’s not enough, maybe adding some weight and warmth between 160 Hz and 250 Hz may add some thickness. However, make sure this doesn’t make everything muddy because the low-mids will also have plenty of energy from the bass guitar and acoustic guitar.
  • Parallel compression – Dial in some sweet parallel compression to add power to your drums. This is always a good trick to lean on so make sure you add it to your workflow. Even if you think you’re working in a genre that doesn’t deserve heavy processing (like folk or jazz), a touch of parallel compression can still add the necessary thickness that you may want.

I find that drum mixing and vocal production are two of the most common problems my students face. That’s why I bundled the Drum Mix Toolkit and Expert Home Vocals courses together into a BOGO bundle here.

Automating the Arrangement

In the transitions between the verses and choruses, Jay’s string arrangement often got in the way of the vocal track.

A static mix can only go so far and a “perfect” balance isn’t enough to create a great mix. A mix should move with the arrangement and sometimes you have to automate the volume of certain parts so that they stand out.

In Jay’s case, I would automate the string volume down as the song comes out of the chorus so that they get out of the way of the vocal before it enters in the verses. Alternatively, automate the vocals so that they are loud and clear.

The strings and vocals are two ships passing and you don’t want them to crash into each other. Whichever one has the right of way needs to be louder while the rest of the arrangement fades out of the way.

Systematic Critical Listening

Regardless of the genre, having a systematic process for mixing your tracks creates a faster workflow that helps you make better mixes in less time.

That’s what Step By Step Mixing has helped so many people achieve so if you still haven’t gotten a chance to check it out, I hope this post both gave you some ideas to try out as well as an urge to learn even more.



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About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

At Audio Issues you’ll learn simple and practical audio production tips you can use right away to improve your music from your home recording studio.  Björgvin is the best-selling author of Step By Step Mixing and the founder of Audio Issues. He helps musicians and producers turn amateur demos into professionally produced records they can be proud to release.

We help home studio musicians and project studio producers make a greater musical impact in their lives by teaching them the skills needed to grow their hobbies and careers. We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use right away to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

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