How to Reference Frequency Ranges with FabFilter Pro-Q 2
I hope you’ll go check that out. It’s over six hours of in depth start to finish tutorials. I take a song from dry, bare bones recordings, add production, clean it up, add room mics, all kinds of cool stuff, through to a finished master. All of my settings and everything are revealed, no secrets are left. It’s over six hours long, so I hope you have some popcorn and some drinks ready.
The tutorial today, I’m going to talk about referencing. This is a modern rock track, so I pulled in some different genre rock songs, but I’ve got tracks from Strung Out, Taking Back Sunday, All Time Low, Protest the Hero, all kinds of stuff in this session. Yellowcard, one of my favorite bands back in the day.
I love these tracks, I love the sonics, I’m listening and I’m studying, I’m getting in the headspace to mix a modern rock song, so I pulled these in and then I’m listening for how are they mixing the low end, the bass? I’m trying to reverse engineering – reverse engineer what’s going on to prepare myself for mixing this track, and not only that along the way, I use a technique where I pull in an EQ and I reference in the box, I’m going to show you that right now.
So if I come down here to my master fader, I’ve got an instance of the FabFilter Pro-Q2. This could be your stock EQ, it doesn’t matter what one you use, and pull that guy up, and I’ve got a high-cut, low-pass filter set to 30Hz. This would be similar to the equivalent of turning off your mains and just listening to the sub.
For this tutorial, I definitely recommend using a good pair of headphones, cans, or if you have a system, make sure you have a sub or a way to hear super sub frequencies here.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to find a high point in my song, and I’m going to throw a marker there or check my markers, and then I’m going to go to some of these other tracks, and I’m going to listen to my low end up against their low end.
You’ll see some of these tracks have been dropped a couple of dB. That’s because I disagree with how loud they were mastered. Minus five at some of these, LUFS, and so I’m pulling those back a couple of dB because I want a little bit more conservative – still pretty hot, but I went to around minus seven, minus six, something, I don’t know what the peak is.
So anyways, I’m going to hit play on mine, put myself on the spot here, this is close to my finished mix. I’m going to listen to my subs, see how much it’s shaking down in the 30-40Hz range, and then I’m going to go back and forth between some of these other tracks and see how I’m panning out.
[music, just subs]
You know, that’s where a build is. Let’s come out here where it’s actually…
[music, just subs]
Okay, let’s check this. I think this is a CLA mix. The All Time Low Runaways.
Cool. Some more of these tracks… That one has got barely anything down there. Some big subs on that one, right? So cool, so we can click through and we can hear our subs up against theirs, and then what I’ll do is I’ll just kind of slide this up, and I’ll just be listening. Is the kick pulsing that I’m hearing more from them versus me? Does it sustain the low end? If I hear a couple of those tracks have a little bit more sustained low end, so I may go listen to those and see, maybe they have sub sine wave bass going on.
I don’t have that in this particular track, nor am I going to take the time to do it for this particular song, but I may hear and be able to reverse engineer what’s going on in theirs versus mine, and then make a decision, do I want to add more subs to the kick? Do I want to add more fullness to the bass? Do I maybe need to compress against the bass a little bit more? Are their notes sustaining and holding out more than mine? So the technique is a great one to go through and what I’ll do is I’ll just kind of open that up and I’ll work my way up. I’ll listen to 50Hz and below on mine and below. 70, 80, 100Hz and below, and then once I get to 100Hz, I kind of slide this up and start focusing on the low-mids, and that’s when I’ll instantiate a high-pass filter, the low-cut, and I’ll put that at about 100. So now, I’m not focusing on the subs anymore, I just want to hear what’s going on in this low-mids.
This is really OCD. I think you can learn a lot from doing this if you’ve never done it before. Definitely give this a shot. Listen to some of your favorite tracks. I’ll even pull in mixes that are in other genres, because of the loudness and the way that we’re pushing things for iTunes Radio and whatnot.
You can get a good look at your genre versus other genres by referencing and pulling other things in. Magic A/B is I look up here and see it is a great plug-in for that. You can pull in – I’ll give a little shoutout for these guys – you pull in multiple mixes, and you can go through and click, and then do A/B between your mix and theirs.
This is another great tool. I like to have the mixes in for EQ match and other reasons, but Magic A/B is a great one too.
So, a couple of referencing tips, moving through, I’ll open that up, get to about 1kHz, if I’m really in the mood to get surgical and listen in, I’ll go up to about 1kHz with a high-pass, then listen to the air. You can take this, do as little or as much of this technique as you want, but this is an incredible technique that I use that really, really helps me and keeps me in check.
So one last thing for this particular tutorial, when I did that in my mixing process, I noticed that my bass – I had high-passed it to around 40, because I heard the Protest the Hero track didn’t have much sub bass going on, so what I did is I listened to some of the others, I heard that they had more full bass sound, I like a lot of bass.
I like a lot of sub in my mixes, so what I did was I went to a plug-in called Low Ender, and I added a little bit of sub. You can see the direct signal is barely clicked on, but I’m going to solo the bass, and I’m going to show you before and after this plug-in.
Here’s without Low Ender. Let’s go to the end there and play this.
I think you can hear that or feel that. If not, check your listening environment. Go pick up Sonar Works for your headphones and you’ll hear the sub come back into play with that bass guitar. Then a little shoutout, man, the UAD thing just sounds stupid good. I committed the processing, but that Ampeg SVT-V sounds just ridiculous.
Go check out that stuff, hopefully you dig the referencing technique. Check out mixingmodernrock.com, and I’ll catch you in many more to come.