I’ve been working on this song lately and I reached a point where I was happy with some of the arrangement, but the sound was still a little muddy. I’m dealing with a lot of synths and I’m trying to pre-mix as much as possible by manipulating the synth VST’s, rather than using EQ plugins.
And it’s not just the arrangement that is clouded. There is a healthy dose of dubby reverb on a few instruments (no delay buss!) and I want to hear those delay tails without increasing the delay. I probably have too much already, to be honest.
What I really need is space in the song. That’s what I’ve been trying to achieve.
Normally, space equals delay or reverb.
But in this case, I’m going to lean on some creative EQ first.
We are all familiar with the idea of carving out space for instruments using EQ and I’m going to take that a step further. We can literally carve a place in the foreground or background for our tracks with EQ (even the built in parameters of the synths).
Here’s a brief explanation of the idea from Harmonic Junction:
The distance a sound source lies from the listener will affect the high frequency content that transmits to them. Longer travelling distances require sound to exert more energy, this causing loss of high frequency content as the distance increases.
- The closer a sound, the more high frequency content perceived by the listener, thus causing a ‘brighter’ sound.
- The further away a sound, the less high frequency content perceived by the listener, thus causing a ‘darker’ sound.
In this case, using a simple low pass filter(LPF) can work wonders for creating that depth – and making room for some of the brighter instruments, like drums and guitars. Drop the threshold on the LPF just a little and you’ll immediately make create some foreground room for higher frequencies. This isn’t that much different from carving out super low frequencies by decluttering your low end with a high pass filter.
Responsibly creating depth in your mixes should start with good EQ, fader, and pan techniques before you crush it with reverb and delay. This will enhance the detail work you do with time-based effects and make even more potent.