How To Quickly Fix Your Muddy Mixes With 6 Powerful Mix Moves
You might have a similar problem to many other engineers: Dealing with muddy mixes.
We all want nice and clear mixes, full of thick low-end that doesn’t overpower our pristine highs right? A muddy mix is when the lower mids of your mix get cluttered up and all the bottom end seems to lack definition.
You can’t hear the differences between the bass drum and the bass guitar because they take up the same space, resulting in a cluttered mix. Even the lower end of the vocal is trying to pull some weight down there, way out of its league. So what can you do when your mixes lack clarity?
Muddy mixes are exhausting when you’ve spent hours mixing your song and no matter what you do it’s still sounding like someone threw a blanket over the entire mix.
This still happens to me.
One day, I was checking a mix on my earbuds while walking the dog. As soon as I played the mix I could hear a very clear muddiness problem.
Here are my six go-to solutions for fixing muddy mixes.
1. Start With Your Drums
Start by soloing your drums and see if you notice any abnormal boominess. The bass drum is a big contender for this so make sure it isn’t occupying too much low-end space.
Make note of every drum that’s adding a lot of extra low-end to your drum sound. This doesn’t have to be only the kick drum mic, but it could also be the overall low-end from the overheads or the bleed from the snare drum.
3. Go Through Your Other Instruments, One by One
After soloing your drums, add in other instruments and see if they add extra boominess. Bass guitars, keyboards playing lower register parts and other instruments that have their fundamental frequencies in the low-end are the usual suspects here.
Maybe two different instruments are competing for the same spot in the frequency spectrum, which results in an even muddier sound.
3. Filter Where You Need
After finding the offending instruments, filter out what you don’t need. Vocals can be filtered out quite high, depending on the range and gender of the singer.
Guitars can be filtered as high as 200Hz or more if they aren’t playing a major part in the song. Filter out the unnecessary low end in all the instruments and see if your mix sounds better.
4. If You Can’t Filter, EQ Correctly
If you’ve tried filtering and it doesn’t quite cut it (no pun intended), you have to resort to some corrective EQ. Low-end thickness is often caused by a bump in the 120Hz range and a boomy mid-range character can be caused by too much 200-250Hz.
5. An Analyzer Over the Stereo Bus
If you can’t hear where the low end is and you can’t seem to be able to pinpoint it with EQ, use a spectrum analyzer on the stereo bus to see where the frequency build-up is.
Frequency analyzers can come in handy when you want to see if you are representing each frequency range clearly. By using it to see your boomy build-up, you can take corrective steps to better your music mixing.
6. Cut the Boominess From the Master Bus
If you have gone back to every instrument and tried EQ’ing and filtering without avail there is one more solution. You can slap a stereo EQ over the master bus and clean up the boominess of the whole mix.
But be careful, those boomy frequencies are also the ones that keep the mix thick. Cutting too much can result in a thin mix, so you have to be subtle in your master bus cutting.
So there you have it. Boomy and muddy mixes is definitely a problem for many.
You want all your tracks to sound full and thick but when you end up putting them all together, what you get is a pile of unclear muddiness.
So use these tips the next time your lower mids need some tweaking. You’ll end up with pristine clarity instead of unclear boominess.
You’ll still have muddy mixes every once in awhile, but the important thing is knowing how to fix them.
Here’s the rest of the story about getting my mix to translate to earbuds.
It was sounding fine in my studio but when I checked it on earbuds the acoustic guitar sounded too overbearing and in the way. It sounded stuck on top of the mix and in the way of all the other instruments.
It was a definite frequency problem in the low-mids so I went back into the mix and investigated. I quickly found the problem in an unnecessary boost in the 180 – 200 Hz area. Once I smoothed out that frequency range in the guitar and did some slight level tweaks to compensate, the mix sounded much fuller and more professional. It was just the right amount of fullness in the low-mids instead of being overbearing and boomy.
Now that you’ve learned to get your muddiness under control, you might still need to figure out how to create separation between your instruments and balance in your mixes.
That’s where my EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ comes in. If you’d like to get better sounding mixes, the easiest thing you can do is to improve your EQ’ing. EQ Strategies will help you do just that.
In fact, I just got this email from Marcin Wysocki who bought EQ Strategies last week:
“EQ Strategies” is awesome! I bought it mostly for tips on guitar and vocals, and in no time I was able to greatly refine my recordings. Thank you!”
This is just one of the many testimonials I receive all the time from people raving about EQ Strategies. You can read more outstanding reviews from happy home studio musicians over here:
I’ll guarantee that by using the techniques and methods you find inside the Ultimate Guide to EQ, your next mix will sound cleaner and more balanced. If it doesn’t just email me back for a full refund.