But before we start, I first want to find out what a mushy mix really means, which of course there are divided opinions about. For me, it is in all its simplicity about ambiguity. In short: A mushy mix is a mix that lacks energy where the whole feels messy and unfocused. With that said … Get ready for a really nutritious tip!
The first thing to say is that there are no specific or magic frequencies that automatically clean and open up your mix. It’s more about how you choose to arrange your song, with everything from the choice of instrument and soundscape to how you actually record. Choosing instruments that do not conflict with each other is a must for an airy and well-separated mix. Feel free to read more about this in my tip Frequency planning more. However, this is easier said than done and the problem often lies in how to know what can actually be removed and what should be retained. I also want to highlight the difference between porridge in the subbase / base (0-250 Hz) and in the lower intermediate register (250-500 Hz), where both are equal problem creators.
Well, you can start by thinking something like this: Which instrument or instruments are fundamental to the song? Then start from these and let the remaining channels adapt, both in terms of volume and frequencies. For example, if you work with a mix where the guitars are driving, these should for natural reasons also take up the most space. Other instruments are then kindly adjusted in frequency depending on how important they are for the song. Since low-frequency sounds take up the most space, it is often a good idea to cut here if it is porridge. For example, if synthesizers and guitars play at the same time, you may need to lower the synthesizers at 150-350 Hz for the guitars to appear. However, this does not mean that the synths will sound flat and cold (unless you solo-listen them), but instead that the guitars sound fat and warm and the synths back up and fill, but more in the background. Then continue the same with the “second most important” instrument and work your way down. In the long run, this means that the instruments that are least important are really screwed on with an equalizer, both at the bottom, middle and top, to fit in more easily and not take up unnecessary space. Furthermore, it is common to use high-pass filters to clean up the bottom frequencies, which does not always give the best result. I write more about this here: Beware of high and low pass filters.
Another thing that is extremely important to keep in mind in this context is that virtually all instruments have a fundamental frequency somewhere between 250-500 Hz. If you then work with many tracks, you will soon understand that problems arise in this area. I know, for example, a producer who always starts his mixes by cutting all channels -3dB at 400 Hz. Quite quirky, albeit controversial. A more practical, but time-consuming alternative, is to sweep all channels between 250 and 500 Hz and listen for where it sounds mushy / bad and simply lower -3dB here. Your mix is guaranteed to open up and sound more separated! However, keep in mind that the porridge will get cold if you cut too much on all channels.
BONUS TIPS: Listen to your mix in mono and cut off anything over 250 Hz on the master channel with a high-cut filter. In this way, you only listen to the bottom and can then more easily hear what is really happening in the bass. Maybe you suddenly notice guitars that clash with the bass or unnecessarily low frequencies in the vocal track. Good luck!
Merry Christmas, all Studio readers!
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.