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5 Mixing Tips from Warren Huart

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So, today, we’re going to do five essential mix tips. These aren’t any particular thing. They aren’t just the EQ, they aren’t the panning, they aren’t the this, they aren’t the that. They’re basically the five things that I do on every single mix. Because I was thinking to myself, you know, what do I always do? Because a lot of these ones are things that I do maybe 75% of the time, 90% of the time, 10% of the time, whatever. These are the things that I always do.

Okay, so number one. What do I always do? Well, the most important thing in a mix is creating the right bottom end. It is what entirely sorts out the men from the boys. The girls from the women. Whatever you want to say. There’s been a lot of debate, and confusion, and mis- or disinformation about high passing. High passing is incredibly important.

When you get a lot of low end information, you don’t actually get more low end, you get this thing called masking, and it actually covers low end, and you end up with a lot of mud.

Mastering engineers en masse have been complaining to me that there’s been a recent increase in mixes that have really, really bad low end. Why is this? Well, unfortunately, there’s been a lot of confusion about it, so let’s help clear it up.

Okay, so this is really important. Properly high passing. Okay, so I’m going to go to — hmm… Let us go to our kick drums. Now, in this mix here, if I go and take all of my drums, for instance, which there’s quite a few elements going on. This is what we’ve got.


Kind of a small bottom end there. Not too huge. So what have we got going on? Well, we’ve got one live kick, and we’ve got a sample. Here is our sample.

[kick sample]

Kind of a nice, splatty kick. See what’s going on here. Zoom in here and have a look. First of all, I’ve pulled out 101Hz. Absolutely great. That’s where the bass guitar is going to be living at around about 100. So if I undo that…


Not a huge difference, but there’s just a buildup in that area. But here, look at this. I’ve high passed the kick at 39Hz. So I’ve high passed some of the super lows out of it. Talking to guys like Joe Chiccarelli, Ken Sluiter, lots of great — some of the best mixers and engineers in the world — Joe in particular — they will actually high pass, believe it or not, the kick drums.

Because the fundamental of that kick drum is around about 40 to 60Hz, absolutely destroys, and the thing is about having 30Hz and below just rumbling, it might be nice on certain sounds, but on rock and roll, it eats up so much energy in the track, and you’ll go to a show or something like that and just hear this, [imitates rumble] this low end rumble going through a PA.

So it’s focusing the low end. Now if you go to the live kick, which is underneath…

[live kick]

I’ve boosted 60Hz, I’ve let it breathe underneath. Put the two together.


Focusing the low end on your kick drum is important. I don’t need two kick drums competing in that super, super low end there. I’ve got enough in the low kick, the other one there, 40Hz. 39Hz and below has gone. I don’t need two sets of low end.

Here’s a good example why. If you’ve got these massive great big waveforms and low frequencies, if you have two or three kick drums, both in that same area, they will never, ever in a gazillion years, ever be perfectly in phase, so you get this phase cancellation of low end frequencies. It’s very hard to cancel super high frequencies, because they’re so tiny, but low end is very easy. So the naive stuff that’s going out there is talking about the low end saying, “Don’t high pass your low end, because you’re removing the balls of your mix.”

What you’re actually doing is the reverse. You’re cancelling out your low end and creating a bunch of mud. You don’t get more low end, you actually get less, and it turns into total mud. So you want to define it. So high passing, just give it another couple of instances.

Here you go. Let’s go to this guitar here. Look at my guitar sound here.


Go to the chorus.

[chorus guitar]

Take the EQ off. Not a huge amount of difference, is it? Seemingly. Now, we’re listening — you’re probably listening through headphones, or studio monitors, or whatever. But let’s prove a point here. Let’s go in and get a frequency analyzer, and just have a look. Something generic like — We’ll use the PAZ! Here’s the PAZ Frequency Analyzer.


This is with the EQ off. There’s a lot of information going on down here. You see here it’s boosting up. See how it’s reducing it down there? There’s still some low end information, but look. I’m high passing a nice, gentle 6dB slope at 100. So I’m not removing. High passing is not taking out that low end, but it’s focusing it.


If anything, it sounds warmer, because I’m boosting the fundamental of it. So here, I’ve got 250, and I’ve got a really nice, nice boost. But then, I’m high passing at 100. Nice and gently.

So, if I was to take this high pass off…

[guitar, no high pass]

Now I’ve got — Yeah, sounds great in solo, but it’s awful — going to be dreadful in the track. It’s going to kill my bass guitar. Put it back on. Take the EQ off. My point is like, when you’re boosting the right low end and high pass, the guitar doesn’t sound thinner, it sounds more controlled.


Here’s no EQ.

[guitar, no EQ]

EQ in. It suddenly got fatter and warmer when I high passed, because I boosted the fundamental of the signal.

So there’s a lot of confusion or misinformation or disinformation — don’t know which one’s right. High passing is great. If you go to a guitar like that and boost where I did at 250 with a nice, wide Q, I’m getting the low end information that I need, and I’m high passing at 100 and getting it out of the way of — yes, you guessed it, the bass! And so, high passing is your friend. You just need to know how to do it and do it in a controlled way.

Alright, next up. Automating effects. Okay. Let’s have a listen to that first, first…


Pretty dry. Getting wetter here on the vocal. Vocal for the chorus. So look. Look at all of this automation on effects. It’s dramatically different, and I’ve got a long-ish verb, 4.5 seconds, I’ve got a short one here, which is a tiled room, which is 0.65 seconds, I’ve got another verb here, believe it or not, 1.9 seconds. Then I’ve got a delay here with a quarter note, and I’ve got a delay here with an eighth note.

So — but look at the automation. Look how it changes.


So automating your effects is like, something I do all of the time, because it’s — listen to the way that the mix gets denser.


Okay, it got denser. More instrumentation came in, the guitars got more intense, everything, there was actually a second guitar part that came in, but it didn’t suddenly feel like all of those effects caused the vocal to like, swim inside this like, ocean of delays and reverbs. The additional effects, that huge boost, you can see it across here, just gets eaten up by the track.

So I always automate my effects in different sections. Always. I never just have a reverb or a delay running the whole time, unless it was like, a vocal and a guitar, or a vocal and the same instrumentation going the whole time. Even then, I might create scene changes, so I always automate my effects.

Number three, don’t listen too loud for prolonged periods of time. If you know that interview I did with Ulrich Wild last year, Ulrich mixes a lot of like, heavy rock stuff. I mean, he did Static X, Pantera, I mean, you name it. He did lots of great stuff. He did all the Brendon Small stuff, he did Metalocalypse, and Galacticon, and Deathklok, obviously. And when you’re working with like, heavy genres, of course there’s a tendency to listen loud, because that music is designed to be listened to, yes, loud.

So when you’re listening to music that should be put out of a stereo, how loud, how many watts, or whatever. Whatever it might be, you want to monitor in the way that a listener would, however, not for a long time. You can just sit there and crank it for like, twenty seconds, and then bring it down to a level where you can work on. You need to protect your hearing.

Not just because of the obvious things. You want to save your hearing so that you can listen for the rest of your life. You want to prolong your career. But number two, your ears turn themselves down. Especially in the, yes, you guessed it, where they’re most sensitive. Which is this sort of two, three, to about 5kHz area. The high mids really get turned down. From prolonged periods of listening, you’re going to end up boosting the shnizzle out of your mix in those high mids. You’ll come back to it the next day, pull up your mix, and think it’s the brightest, most aggressive thing you’ve ever heard in your life.

That’s because yes, you listened too loud. But you should and could listen loud for very short periods of time, to get the idea of like, “Wow, is this exciting? Is this pummeling my speakers? Are kids going to love this?”

Of course! There’s no problem with just slamming and listening to it, but don’t do that for several minutes at a time. Just do it to reference. It’s a great way to check and make sure you’re giving the full experience, but all of the great mixers I’ve worked with, Andy Wallace in particular, mixes so quiet, that it’s uncomfortable to be in a room with him. You feel kind of self conscious, because you feel like if you cough, he’s going to turn around.

So great mixers listen at relatively low volumes. So don’t listen too loud. Protect your ears, but also, don’t blow your ears out so you can’t mix properly.

I know sometimes, things start to sound the same, because I’ve been working too long, and I just have to take breaks.

You guessed it, number four, take a lot of breaks. Take not only listening breaks, but take environmental breaks. Lots of people talk about doing the car test. Do the car test. You can do the car test. Do the earbud test, do the headphone test, do the different room test. People do — they play the mixes and then walk out into the hallway to hear what it sounds like and feels like bleeding into another room.

If I listen to Hey Jude walking into a different room, it still sounds fricking amazing. You want to mix like that. You want a mix that sounds amazing. Like, just sitting out in the hallway, sitting in the next room. If it’s all bass and booming, either you’ve got the worst sounding room, or your mix is too bassy and boomy.

Do references. Put on stuff that you listen to. But basically, you need to listen in different environments, and take a lot of breaks.

Number five, and this is really important, use references. Use not only references of other artists, but use references of your own mixes. I worked recently with a friend, Steve, who’s one of our Academy members in Australia, and he’s — we do Skype calls together, and we go through mixes and everything, and he’s becoming — well, he already was incredibly talented. Great musician, but he’s becoming a really good mixer. And recently we did one, and I said to him, I was like, “This is a pretty good mix, but it’s not a really good mix. Your last mix we worked on was absolutely special.”

And he was like, “What do you mean?” And I was like, “Well, you got the drums absolutely slamming on that last mix. It was so exciting. And this new mix you’re doing feels like it should have a very similar drum sound. Should be approached from a similar idea. And I said to him, “How come you didn’t go back and reference that mix and recall some of those ideas that you brought into that?”

And he was like, “Oh, I didn’t think of that.” And I was like, “That’s a huge lesson.”

Learn from yourself. Reference yourself. If you’ve got a really big, slamming mix, and you’re about to mix another rock band for instance, or another EDM track which has similar sort of feel and has some of that slamming stuff, bring your own mix in as a reference.

Why am I suggesting referencing your own mix as well as others? Because it gives you inspiration and reminds you that you can do this. When I first started, it was really, really hard to get a great mix, and when I got a great mix, I had to remind myself that I could do great mixes. So when you get to that point and you do something great, bring it into the session. Don’t be afraid to reference your own work, especially if it’s pertinent to the work you’re working on. The music you’re working on.

Alright, thank you ever so much for watching. Those are my five essential mix tips on every single mix that I do. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing. Of course, as ever, you can visit, sign up for the email list, you get a whole bunch of free goodies. If you want to check out The Academy, check it out. It’s a great place, it’s grown super fast. There’s so many great people in there.

This song, Shoot You Down, was actually mixed by both me and Bob Horn, and there’s actually a course available with a full mix breakdown on it. It’s a really amazing song by Little Empire. Check it out, there’ll be links everywhere, all kinds of good stuff.

Have a marvelous time recording and mixing, and I’ll speak to you all again very soon.


Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

Free Workshop Video: Low-End Mixing Secrets

Discover how to make your kick and bass hit hard by cutting (NOT boosting) the right frequencies! Plus, more counterintuitive ways to get fuller yet controlled low-end in your mix. Download this 40-minute workshop by Matthew Weiss, now for FREE!

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