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.

Short Sequence

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.

This is a picture of my full mix taken before applying the frequency masking trick.
~Full Mix – Drums (Unprocessed)

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.

This is a picture of my full mix with newly made group channels for Mid and High drums.
~Kick Drum & Bassline + Rhythm Section (Unprocessed)

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.

This is a picture of the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 equalizer and its frequency response in the Mid Drum group elements.
~DRUMS MID Group (Unprocessed)

We will now create 5 separate EQ bands and emphasize them right at the peak points.

This is a picture of the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 equalizer and boosted bands of the Mid Drum group elements.
~DRUMS MID Group – EQ Boost

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.

This is a picture of the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 equalizer and attenuated bands of the High Drum group elements.
~DRUM HIGH Group – EQ cut

Let’s listen to the kick drum and bassline with the rhythm section processed with the frequency masking trick.

~Kick Drum & Bassline + Rhythm Section (Processed)

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.

~Full Mix – Drums (Processed)
If you liked this article on frequency masking, here are some more on mixing: