Hey, this is Jason Moss from BehindTheSpeakers.com and today we’re going to talk about how to eliminate muddy mixes.
In order to fix your muddy mixes, the first thing we’re going to do is figure out where the problem is. And most of the time, this is going to be one track in your mix that has an excess buildup of frequencies around the lower midrange or something in that area. The problem with this is that trying to find out where that track is in a mix can often be pretty difficult, especially with modern sessions where you’re dealing with fifty or a hundred tracks sometimes.
What a lot of people do is they’ll start throwing different EQs randomly across different tracks, hoping that they’ll stumble upon the problem. Or they’ll throw an EQ over the mix bus and try to cut the lower midrange there. And that may quickly solve the problem, but the problem with that is that you end up cutting out a lot of good stuff from 99% of the tracks in your mix that don’t actually have any problem at all. So your mix will oftentimes end up sounding thin or bright or brittle.
The solution is something that I call The Mute Button Method, and this was a trick that I learned from my mentor, Grammy Award–winning mixer Bob Power. And what it does is allow you to quickly find the source of the problem, the source of that muddiness in your mixes, without spending a ton of time or aimlessly throwing EQs on things hoping you’ll find the answer. I’ll show you how it works.
So we’re here in Pro Tools. I have a track called Out Now by Leah Capelle pulled up. And in this last chorus there’s a lot of stuff competing for space. We have background vocals, stacked guitars and I’m just hearing some muddiness, but I’m not quite sure where it is. It sounds like there is a lack of clarity. Let me play you the track so that you can get a sense for what I’m talking about.
See…it’s just sort of unclear. I’m not sure what’s contributing to that problem, but it sounds like it may be something in the lower midrange somewhere that’s too thick, it’s kind of taking up too much space. So, to find the track that is causing the problem, I’m going to flip over to the mix screen here. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to go through the mix, and just sort of start muting tracks one by one. I’m going to listen to see if that problem disappears or if it stays. If it stays, I know that the problem isn’t that track. So I’m going to unmute it and then move on. And I’m basically going to move through the tracks in my mix one by one, muting and unmuting them, until that problem disappears. And when it does, I know I’ve found the track that is causing that problem.
Let me go ahead and start with the guitars here. So I’m just going to go from right to left here and kind of work backwards.
Ah, that’s interesting. So, right when I muted that track I felt like the whole mix opened up. It just felt like that kind of cloudiness just disappeared. We could hear things more clearly. This is telling me that it is this track that is causing the problem. Now I can add an EQ to this track and solve that problem. So, with the mix playing, I’m going to go ahead and play this back, and just dial in a cut around the lower midrange to see if I can clear up some of that muddiness.
So much better. It feels like the whole mix just totally opened up. So let me play you this again, first without my processing, and then I’m going to kick the EQ in so that you can hear the difference.
So the mix just sounds cleaner and clearer. We can hear things more clearly because this track isn’t competing and taking over that area of the mix.
So again, the trick is to go through each track one by one in your mix, mute the track, and see if the problem is solved. If the problem isn’t solved, then unmute it and move on to the next track and stop when the mix opens up. And then you know you’ve found the source of the problem. And so you can apply EQ confidently to that one track, knowing that that is the one track that you need to EQ to fix the problem.
So if you’ve found this helpful, I’ve put together a free PDF with five more of my favorite mixing tricks just like The Mute Button Method. So this is going to make a massive difference in the quality of your mixes. If you want it, click the link in the description below, or in the video, and you’ll get free instant access.
For more mixing tips and tricks like these, check out my website BehindTheSpeakers.com. Thanks so much.
Video features music by Leah Capelle.