Monday, April 21, 2008

High There?!

Do your recordings lack definition? Are the drums hard to hear with everything else playing? Is your mix a giant mess? Are you feeling depressed?

Well, I may have an answer to help all of the above (except the last one). First, let me ask you: do you use your high-end frequencies (10 k - 20 kHz)? If not - you definitely want to pay attention. If you do - you can add your comments and help the poor sods I mentioned in the previous sentence.

The average person's hearing ranges from 20 - 20000 Hz. So, when you see the faders on your EQ going up to 20 kHz - don't ignore the last ones! This is why: the frequencies above 10 kHz give definition and add a much needed 'sparkle' to certain instruments. Also, if you use the whole frequency spectrum, you can create a feeling of space or bunching. Another way of doing this is by using panning, but these two techniques should be used hand-in-hand. For further information on panning see my post: Panning for Gold.

Cymbals' frequencies are typically between 2 k and 20 kHz. Thus, if your drum track has the highs cutoff, they will lack definition and will not stand out. Other instruments which require a 'sparkle' factor are acoustic guitars, pianos and vocals. Vocals sound best when boosted in the low-frequencies (100 - 200 Hz) and high-frequencies (10 k - 20 kHz). Boosting the mid-frequencies (800 - 5000 Hz) can actually make the vocals more muddy and this is a common mistake.

To conclude: we have learned that the high-frequencies are important - don't forget them or reduce them on your EQ. It is for this very reason that condenser mics are better than dynamic ones. Condenser microphones have a better high-end response and thus have more DEFINITION.


Thorgal said...

about the voice, you may know that the frequency the human ear is most sensitive to is around 3kHz. If you boost the voice in this area (by ~ 3dB) you will actually make the voice more present in your mix. See for exemple this little web page with a graph :

rgrwkmn said...

Good to mention this Brian. I think the high end of the mix from ~10-20khz triggers our perception of space more than lower frequencies--both the near and far. Recordings that lack in those upper frequencies sound distant and flat, while recordings with those high frequencies present can be right up in your face and way back in space.

Mike the Tike said...

Nice link thorgal. In my own experience, boosting 3-4khz makes a male voice sound clearer, while female voices usually sound better if you boost a bit higher, say 4-6khz.

Brian said...

Awesome feedback guys, I'm really loving this. Here is a clickable (I don't think that's a real word) link to Thorgal's graph: