Balancing Frequencies for a Clean & Loud Mixdown
Tutorial | Feb 23, 2022
In this video, I discussed why it's important to balance your frequencies before going into a limiter or clipper. I showed how to do this easily by using a tilt setting, or by using a VST plugin like Ozone 8 and using the Matching EQ feature. I also showed a method of using multiple band pass filters with a reference level tool to reach the same goal. Finally, I discussed the importance of not overdoing the brightness as it can lead to an overly sharp mix.
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Questions & Answers #
Maybe you dont watch the video, here are some important takeaways:
What is the importance of frequency balance in mastering? #
Frequency balance is essential in mastering as it ensures that all elements of your mix are heard evenly and clearly. Without proper frequency balance, your mix can sound muffled or overly bright, and the overall loudness of the mix may be compromised. When a mix is well balanced, it will sound more balanced and louder when driven through a mastering limiter or compressor.
What are the dangers of having too much energy around 1K? #
Having too much energy around 1K can lead to a mix sounding too bright. The 1K frequency range is particularly sensitive to the human ear, and having too much energy in this range can cause the mix to sound unnatural. Additionally, having too much energy in this range can mask other elements in the mix, making it difficult to distinguish certain sounds and instruments.
What is the difference between using an EQ with a slope setting and an EQ with a visual display? #
An EQ with a slope setting allows you to adjust the slope of the EQ curve, meaning that you can make the EQ curve more or less linear. This can help you create a well-balanced frequency spectrum in your mix. An EQ with
This is what im talking about in this video. The text is transcribed by AI, so it might not be perfect. If you find any mistakes, please let me know.
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[00:00.000] Hey folks, welcome back to another video. In my opinion, the frequency balance before you go into a limiter or Clipper is more important for the loudness or the cleanness of your track than crushing the dynamics too much.
[00:13.000] So I show you some solutions how you can balance or well balance your track easily with some VSTs and also some experiments I did with Bitwig only solutions.
[00:24.000] And there's also a preset of course in the description that you can download and try it for yourself.
[00:29.000] And there are also some dangers around this area because you can make your mix down to bright, which is what a lot of producers do because it sounds louder when you have a lot of energy around 1k.
[00:45.000] 1k is a pretty important frequency actually for your ears. That's why we have telephone, telephone sounding, how they sound, everything is around 1k.
[00:57.000] Car horns are around this area so it's it's value ears are basically the most sensible sensible. So yeah, frequencies around this area make your sound or you make your song sound louder.
[01:13.000] And it's pretty important to balance your frequencies right.
[01:18.000] Let's start the video, have some fun and leave me some comments if you have some questions of course. Before we start into the video after explain what well balanced means.
[01:28.000] So in all my EQs and spectrum analyzers here, I usually tend to use a tilt setting here in this one it's called tilt.
[01:41.000] I think if you use span, for instance, by a walk-single, I would not install, of course, you have to please.
[01:52.000] Yeah, it's used to close EQ here. For instance, in the classic, we can do this in the settings.
[02:00.000] That's over here. And it's called slope 4.5 slope right. And this means if you use a pink noise sound like this one, you get this more or less straight line.
[02:17.000] If you bring us here to let's say three, you get a pretty even line and pink noise is my guide for well balanced frequency spectrum in every EQ.
[02:31.000] So if you don't have an EQ that have the setting in, you probably look at a display like, I don't know, like this, where you have zero. Of course, here you have this kind of slope right. So this looks like a balanced mix down in a normal EQ without a slope setting.
[02:52.000] So I use EQs with a display that can skew the scope or the visuals. I don't scope the sound itself. It's only for the visuals, right.
[03:03.000] So you can change the slope here with the least EQ or if you use the span by a walk-single, I think there are the same settings in there.
[03:11.000] I go for three, which is pink noise. And I think pink noise is a bit too bright, right. So I go to 4.5 slope like this.
[03:25.000] So when I EQ something, I try to make it basically even in a straight line. And I know exactly I'm not too bright and it's still well balanced, right.
[03:36.000] So this setting I use in the walk-single, close EQ and also here in Bitwig with a tilt setting of 4.5 dB per octave.
[03:44.000] And this is only like I said, it's only a visual thing to basically have a guide that you can say, if something is in a straight line here, all my EQs are well balanced for my ears.
[03:57.000] And this is important to know that you have this setting active in your EQ or in your visuals to have the same effect basically.
[04:08.000] So we have here a drum loop that is not very well balanced. And it's not important that it's only just a drum loop.
[04:14.000] You can exchange this for your whole track, your whole song, maybe just a drum bus, maybe a bass bus, maybe just a single sound. It doesn't matter.
[04:24.000] All these frequency balancing tricks are applied to all kinds of sounds. So let's listen to this one here.
[04:31.000] So you can see this is not very well balanced, it sounds a bit muffled. And we have a lot of low end energy here, not too much high end.
[04:45.000] So it's not very well balanced and you can imagine if you drive this into a limiter, it does sound very well or it doesn't get better.
[04:53.000] And that's basically the case if you don't frequency balance your track and then you have mastering limiters or maximizers or compressors on the master bus and you drive this into them without balancing your frequencies right.
[05:10.000] You never get a nice clean sounding loud mix down.
[05:25.000] So the first problem is of course that the bass here hits the peak limiter early on. So this one is full range. It's not the multi band limiter. And the lower frequencies are basically hitting the ceiling of the peak limiter earlier than the higher frequencies.
[05:45.000] So this leads to multiple problems. So for instance, if you use the organ device here and just imagine this is your track, maybe use here and still a scope.
[06:00.000] Just play a low low bass sound.
[06:05.000] So let's imagine this is your track and this is your bass sound. And of course you don't have only bass in your track. You also have upper harmonics like lead sounds, high heads, snares and so on.
[06:21.000] And all these sounds is upper frequency sounds are forced to be on this carrier wave on your bass sound right. This is what your speaker cone needs to reproduce.
[06:37.000] You have a lot of different sounds and different frequencies above your bass. And all these frequencies need to be on this carrier wave which is your bass. And now imagine your bass sound, your fundamental frequency, it's earlier the limiter than all the other frequencies.
[06:57.000] Which means you get distortion on this wave here. Looks like this.
[07:09.000] So instead of a nice sine wave, you get the saw wave. And all the upper harmonics need to be on this new saw wave.
[07:24.000] So they distort even more. And this is a problem. So you need to balance this out. You need to hit your full range limiter basically with all your frequencies at the same time.
[07:38.000] Not really, but a nice balance is better than having a lot of subs going into the limiter and affecting all the other frequencies too. So this is maybe nice to know how this works.
[07:54.000] To imagine this in your head basically.
[07:58.000] So we need to balance out your drums. And of course we can just use here the EQ and you know fill in the holes. Maybe say we want to remove here this, this mountain.
[08:11.000] We want to push up here at the end.
[08:15.000] And to balance this a bit more better, or we go into our mastering limiter. This is how I did it basically in all of my earlier production years using EQ until go for the holes, go for the peaks and then try to limit everything out until you have a nice.
[08:44.000] Yeah, keen balanced mix down or maybe so it sounds right to you. Yes, or use like I do here for the 5 dB octave slow, which is kind of a pink noise curve.
[09:00.000] So everything that's straight on this EQ is well balanced kind of the rough guide, but it works most of the times. And then you hit your limiter with this balanced EQ.
[09:14.000] So it sounds a bit brighter now. It doesn't distort that fast. You hit all the frequencies, the ceiling of the peak limiter at the same time. And it sounds much louder than this.
[09:35.000] You can see we don't even limit that more any any more because we basically get this peak here out of the way from the base.
[09:46.000] And see we can hear more of the ceiling or more of the limiter because we have a lot of low end.
[09:54.000] It sounds even louder because we are pushing here one K a bit more. So it sounds cleaner, it sounds louder. And this is what what I want to say basically if you have a bright mix or if your mix down is brighter, then it sounds also louder.
[10:12.000] So you don't need to limit everything. So the frequency balance is in my opinion more important for the loudness than reducing the dynamics.
[10:25.000] So now that we have here this very nice looking EQ curve, we can also do this automatically with some plugins or with some Bitwig internals. I want to show you some tricks how you can do this without a VST plugins. First I'll show you the VST way.
[10:42.000] So instead of using this here, so I disable this and use for instance, also an 8. You get pretty cheap. You don't need the expensive thing. I'm not sure if it's available in the essential package or if you need to upgrade at least to the mid package.
[11:03.000] I don't know how it's called, but there is a matching matching EQ in this one here. So what you do is you go to the matching mode and then you can analyze your source material right to a concapture, play your track.
[11:21.000] And then you analyze basically your frequency curve. And you can do this forever or how long you want. When you're done, you press just stop. And then this EQ basically remembers this curve.
[11:36.000] And then you can switch here to a pink noise guide, right? You can see now here this red line. And if you activate here this on button, you activate now a curve and EQ curve that tries to EQ your analyzed material to match this red target curve.
[12:00.000] And you can influence this here by the amount. And most of the times I go for 10 or 15% is completely enough because I do this sometimes multiple times or multiple buses, even on the master bus.
[12:15.000] So I sometimes do this on the drums bus, then on the drum and bass bus, and then on the master bus again. And if you do this multiple times, then at every stage you not sure mix into more linear or
[12:30.000] pink noise, let's kind of frequency balance. There's obviously also settings that are too bright. So this is also important. Don't overdo this. There are a lot of old school producers on Twitter and YouTube.
[12:55.000] And they're already complaining about that most of the of two days mix downs are too bright. Because it sounds louder, right? People want to sound loud as possible or it should be the loudest mix on on the radio.
[13:13.000] So they go of course for brighter mix downs. Maybe it's also because we have a lot of smartphones and headphones, users who use or listen to music on these kind of devices. So maybe it's because of that.
[13:32.000] But I think it's mostly because of the loudness one you want to have the loudest possible mix down ever.
[13:39.000] So you have to be aware of this. There's a sweet spot of course for everything and you can overdo also here with the brightness. So don't be aware of that.
[13:51.000] It can be nice to have an you know not so bright mix down. Maybe it's not that loud, but you gain a bit of warmth and roundness to your mix down which sound better.
[14:04.000] Sometimes then just go for the super high and loudness brightness razor sharp mix down.
[14:11.000] And of course it also depends depends of course on the style on the genre you're doing.
[14:19.000] So also on 8 here is something I use heavily because it's easy to do. It doesn't draw a lot of CPU power like cool force or all the other spectral analysis tools. It's super easy on the CPU because you analyze one time and then you apply a simple EQ curve and that's it basically.
[14:40.000] And you can redo this anytime you want to and recently I don't go for pink noise anymore. I go for the 60B guide here instead of pink noise and you can see the 60B guide here is a bit more gentle on the high end.
[14:56.000] So it's so I'm not in the so I basically not in the in the danger of overdoing my brightness basically. So I go for 60B and it doesn't.
[15:12.000] The high end here not that much like on the 6 as versus the pink noise curve here.
[15:22.000] Okay, so that's a easy nice trick here with the ozone 8 another thing you can do if you don't want to use ozone 8 and you want a quick solution maybe for drums.
[15:35.000] Is I use inside the studio that is just container FX3 where you can split up your frequencies into multiple bands and I think you can also do this with killer hurts these snap snaps modules.
[15:52.000] I think there are also containers where you can split up your frequency into multiple bands and then you can put into these ranges or into these bands here some limiters.
[16:04.000] And then drive up basically until you hit the ceiling. So we have here exactly it's not about limiting it's more like off balancing the loudness or the peaks.
[16:32.000] I end something like this and then at the end here you can see we go into the limiter much much more because we pushed each of these frequency bands here.
[17:01.000] So you can see we go heavily here into the peak limiter so maybe you have to reduce it the volume bit.
[17:16.000] So now it sounds much much brighter because we balance here basically the frequency spectrum with these three three bands.
[17:26.000] But all we did is basically pushing up the volume here of each band until we hit the ceiling of the peak limiter without limiting too much it's more about balance and loudness of each band.
[17:38.000] And of course it's only three bands so it's not super precise. But if you kind of want something quick for the run bus for instance then this is something I do most of the times because it's easy to do.
[17:54.000] And yeah it doesn't involve around or it doesn't need to be doesn't need to have VSTs involved and you can also use a hard clip for drums which is nice.
[18:09.000] We can clip the drums here bit you can drive this even more and if we go here to a spectrum analyzer.
[18:27.000] We don't get these nuances or these resonances out here but you can see it's a super linear or even frequency distribution which is what we want.
[18:43.000] Like I said it's only three bands so you don't get the you know these minor peaks in an auto efe using EQ for that. But for the overall general spectral balance this is nice to do on drums sometimes.
[19:01.000] So I did this I did this trick or I push this trick sometimes even further and I show you this also in a minute. Instead of using three bands I thought maybe we can use some filters and use multiple or more of these frequency bands here.
[19:21.000] We did this here with the balance we said. Let me see band pass or use a multiple methods was more like an experiment right so use your band pass filters.
[19:36.000] Allow this up. Mix a minute. Maybe remove this clip here. So we have here basically a chain device with multiple band pass filters in parallel you can see every band every layer is basically a different frequency band.
[19:57.000] Right so up until the we have let's see 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 10 10 bands and each band has a filter of course and this reference level tool which I built at some point and this reference level we said is also part of let me see.
[20:24.000] The bitwig official packages here called audio FX space time in color. So if you have this one installed to get this reference level tool which is basically just a normalizer a live normalizer or if you want to a pretty super slow compressor.
[20:42.000] If you want to see it that way and I can show you in a minute what it does so let's disable everything here and we have this drum loop here with this loudness.
[20:58.000] If I pull the loudness down it becomes quieter of course accents right. If I do this increased volume here it gets too loud.
[21:20.000] So so pretty normal right but if you put my reference level tool on that.
[21:28.000] This one analyzes basically your input signal and pushes the loudness or the volume of your audio track to that level that you set up here.
[21:40.000] So if I let this run and make this quieter and louder you can hear that nothing changes at all.
[22:10.000] So the reference level tool basically brings the volume from an audio material up to a reference level.
[22:34.000] So the reference level tool basically brings the volume from an audio material up to a reference level and the reference level you can just set up here with this knob.
[22:44.000] So it's basically my attempt of creating some kind of normalizer live normalizer in bitwig.
[22:52.000] It's also has a threshold so every audio material that's below this threshold doesn't get analyzed. Also if you have quite parts in here they don't get pushed up so you need to be above a certain threshold.
[23:06.000] There's also a patch in there that prevents from having transients pushing through the mix down. So if you have probably changes in your audio material the volume gets pushed down immediately so you don't get these artifacts, these transient artifacts.
[23:26.000] So this is short excursion to my reference level tool. So I use this reference level tool now on every band here.
[23:36.000] So I try to bring every band to the same loudness to the same reference peak loudness or volume.
[23:48.000] And yeah this is how it sounds. Takes a while until analyzes everything and then brings in the frequency balance.
[24:04.000] See here. So you can see we have now here also a nice better evenly balanced mix down just using multiple band pass filters here and the reference volume tool on each of these bands.
[24:31.000] If you don't want to use my reference tool here you can put on of course a limiter and push every band by hand up until you reach the ceiling.
[24:41.000] Or you can use of course Clippers here on each of these bands but I would say just use some peak limiters it works also well.
[24:51.000] So maybe use here a spectrum again wide and also freeze and disable my balanced balance are here.
[25:03.000] So this is how it looks like before right and this is how it looks like afterwards.
[25:12.000] So it balances out your frequencies evenly without using any VST plugins at all.
[25:22.000] It's just you know filters and my reference tool you're from the grid or if you don't want to use that then you can use the peak limiter and you would manually also possible.
[25:37.000] Maybe that's also here let me see maybe I have here different approach to that.
[25:49.000] This is one with compressors here where I try to reproduce OTT but because you have upwards compression here.
[26:00.000] This is also split here with an EQ also with reference level so instead of using a filter bandpass filter I'm using EQ 2s here separating the bands just trying out what sounds better.
[26:17.000] And this one you see takes a while to load. That's more bands probably no.
[26:33.000] This is also with three bands here only and the reference level rocks also and then there's one here with a VST called peel.
[26:44.000] So instead of using bandpass filters I'm using this VST plugin which is a spectral pool and it looks like this here or maybe go to the upper frequencies here.
[27:01.000] But you can use here basically this small direct angle to bandpass certain frequencies but on a spectral basis.
[27:16.000] And spectral is basically that you get razor sharp bandpass filters and let me see a spectrum.
[27:26.000] You can see you can go pretty steep here with the frequency curve.
[27:40.000] It's almost like two clinical and this is also how it sounds as you can hear it. And here on these bands I'm using also reference level.
[28:09.000] I can use more gain here so we can get past this threshold level here on the upper frequencies.
[28:32.000] But if you watch this here on a spectrum it's super even right but you can hear these artifacts from the spectral FFT conversion or the splitting of the frequency with these harsh EQ curves but you get this pretty even right.
[28:58.000] Before I close down this video I want to show you how I implement this here on a track.
[29:03.000] I made this recently on stream I think and yeah we have here track there's nothing on the master right there's nothing on this group here.
[29:12.000] Then we have a drum and bass group there's nothing on there inside we have drums and the bass of course inside drum bass group there's drums and bass.
[29:21.000] On the bass is also nothing and on the drums there's only transit control you're pushing the sustain.
[29:28.000] On the drums itself there's only clip on the drums here but nothing special right so and I want to show you how this sounds here.
[29:54.000] I just recorded this here so we can listen to it after we did some changes.
[30:19.000] If you call this alt mix down here and let's add something to it right so let's say we're starting here with drums so we can see it goes straight here above the red zero line 5 dB.
[30:36.000] What we can do is we can implement here what I told you before we use my FX3 trick pushing this here to the ceiling.
[30:50.000] Here's maybe a bit too much we can even dial this back here.
[31:01.000] So nice and then we go straight here into a clipper and because we are over zero dB with 8.60 dB we probably cut you everything above the clipper.
[31:17.000] You can test how much we can drive this.
[31:21.000] You can hear the bass drum is distorting so it's not pleasant.
[31:29.000] Let's say this is still OK to dB maybe go to 1 dB.
[31:38.000] So we go to the bass here.
[31:40.000] The bass is let's see pick him up.
[31:49.000] Let's push this up here to the ceiling so we just barely scratch the surface here.
[31:59.000] We still want to have these peaks in there because I like these hits right.
[32:07.000] Don't want to push it all the way this and make some kind of worst brick wall out of it.
[32:16.000] It's nice to do with some times but you miss all these nice impacts from the bass.
[32:22.000] It's still compressed heavily here.
[32:33.000] OK now we have this we can remove here the volume by me minus 3 dB.
[32:51.000] Maybe we can cut here a bit from the low end from the kick drums.
[32:55.000] Maybe not too much because I like the bass drum.
[33:02.000] Like this is OK.
[33:04.000] So now that we have this we can go to the drum bass bus here where we mix the drums in the bass together.
[33:13.000] You can see it we still are surpassing as it were dB by 40 dB.
[33:18.000] So we can use maybe the Ozone 8 here.
[33:21.000] You can see if you can balance this out a bit more or a bit better.
[33:26.000] So to matching capture the input.
[33:36.000] OK 60 dB.
[33:43.000] We can see here we remove a lot of bass here still and push up the high end.
[33:48.000] And you can decide if you want to step into the bass here maybe go by minus 4 and then analyze it again.
[34:19.000] So we have balanced this now here and we are still going over 0 dB.
[34:29.000] We can use again a hard clip here now input gain we just want to clip everything above the roll.
[34:40.000] And again we can test this.
[34:51.000] This is way too much but I just want to show you that you can drive this even further if you want to.
[34:57.000] You can go minus 4.
[35:01.000] But now it starts to distort or at least I can hear it on the bass drum.
[35:08.000] I mean you could go in here and maybe cut low end from the bass from the kick drum even more.
[35:14.000] So we have more room.
[35:28.000] What is OK?
[35:30.000] So now that we have this here we can maybe go to the music and see what's going on here.
[35:37.000] And also use also an H here.
[35:55.000] I want to push here the bass.
[36:06.000] So this makes no sense here right?
[36:09.000] We can just remove this here but an EQ plus on there.
[36:16.000] There's nothing below one of the thirds which is nice so we really don't need to cut everything there.
[36:26.000] And put the limiter on here.
[36:31.000] This would be OK.
[36:34.000] OK, so we have this.
[36:44.000] And then we make basically the music and drum and bass together into all which is my case here.
[36:52.000] The masterboss.
[36:54.000] We can do the same here with the old Sloan 8 again and see how this sounds.
[37:24.000] We are above your 0 dB and now you can decide if you want to use the limiter for that.
[37:39.000] You now have it like this, a bit smooth.
[37:42.000] Or you go with the hard clip because most of the peak frequencies or peaks are drums.
[37:50.000] You can see this.
[37:54.000] This is not bass.
[37:56.000] This is basically just drum and bass or just the kick drums and the snares.
[38:10.000] So now that we have this we can check here the dB meter.
[38:20.000] You can see we have minus 4.3 loves just the bass, kick and some add sounds here.
[38:27.000] So this video was more a deep dive into the frequency balance topic.
[38:33.000] I already touched in my initial tutorial about mixing and mastering.
[38:39.000] And I don't claim to be having the one and only solution for that.
[38:46.000] It's just my approach to these kind of things and it's more aimed at dance floor productions.
[38:52.000] I also do of course ambient a lot on my channel.
[38:56.000] But with this type of songs or projects I like to don't do that much in terms of limiting and compressing and so on.
[39:05.000] It's just a touch of EQing some frequencies away.
[39:09.000] But most of the times I try to leave the sounds alone.
[39:13.000] Because I like to have all these small details, texture, peaks and stuff like this in there.
[39:20.000] So there's not much going on in terms of mastering and mixing.
[39:25.000] Just styling in the loudness as I like it or as I think it sounds right.
[39:29.000] And that's basically it.
[39:31.000] That's really, I really enjoy having this read up of all this stuff I showed you in this video.
[39:39.000] But for dance floor productions of course you need punchy drums, you need punchy bass lines, you need it loud and clean and bright.
[39:47.000] So these tips are basically more aimed at this kind of genre of music.
[39:54.000] So I also plan to do of course more videos in the mastering mixing section or area.
[40:02.000] Also going more into detail.
[40:04.000] It's certain topics I already touched in my initial tutorial.
[40:10.000] And yeah, they come over the next weeks I think.
[40:13.000] So thanks for watching.
[40:15.000] Please if you like the video, subscribe to the channel.
[40:18.000] Don't forget it.
[40:19.000] And thanks for watching and I'll see you in the next video.