You’ve probably experienced situations where your mixes seem like a war of competing sounds, resulting in a muddy and amateur-sounding track. One reason for this might be a phenomenon known as “frequency masking” in which a higher-amplitude frequency masks a lower-amplitude frequency. It is more evident when the sources originating from the same frequency range are in close proximity to one another. A typical example is the balance of the kick drum and bass. They share the same frequency range. It is likely that the kick drum loses clarity due to the bass’s low end. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to fix this problem.
As usual, we have prepared a short sequence in our SoundBridge: DAw containing most of the elements of the full mix. Let’s listen to it.
In the accompanying audio sample, we can hear that the snare drum seems to be less prominent than the other elements of the rhythm section. We could fix this by modifying the gain (mixing), or also by using compressors and other dynamic processors. Instead, we’ll try something different. Let’s first create two separate group channels. One for the snare drum and accompanying drum loop, and the other one for the hi-hats.
Let’s listen to the kick drum and bassline, as well as the drums mid and drums high groups.
To utilize the above-mentioned frequency masking tick, we’ll need two separate EQs. One will be placed on the DRUMS MID group channel effect rack, and the other will be placed on the DRUMS HIGH group channel effect rack. We chose the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 as an equalizer effect in this case. The FabFilter Pro-Q 3 analyzer shows us the most dominant peaks in the frequency spectrum of our DRUMS MID group, as shown in the image below.
We will now create 5 separate EQ bands and emphasize them right at the peak points.
After that, we’ll simply copy the equalizer plugin from the DRUMS MID group channel effect rack to the DRUMS HIGH group channel effect rack. Instead of having the same settings on the equalizer instance on the DRUM HIGH group channel effect rack, we will select all the bands and decrease the gain.
Let’s listen to the kick drum and bassline with the rhythm section processed with the frequency masking trick.
We can now clearly hear that there is obviously much more room for the snare drum. Finally, let’s hear how our full mix sounds now.