How to Use Low-Pass Filters on Layered Synths in a Mix

Transcript:

Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here — www.weiss-sound.com, www.theproaudiofiles.com.

I’m going to show you a cool little technique here.

So, if you’ve been around forums, internet forums and YouTube tutorials and things like that, you’ve probably seen people use high-pass filters quite a bit to get rid of a lot of the low end on all elements except for kick and bass.

The idea here is that certain things, leads, voices, they don’t really need the stuff that’s under 100Hz. That really is the area where the kick and the bass shine, and you don’t need much else.

Well, there’s a lot of truth to that, although it’s not always true, it’s usually true.

A similar idea can be applied to the top end, especially when you have complex synth layers. So I’m going to play this little snippet of a chorus here. I’ve just highlighted some select elements for you to hear.

[hip-hop instrumental]

It sounds good, but it’s a little bit muddled. It’s a little bit clustered up and dense, and it’s a little fatiguing to the ear.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to pull up a low-pass filter. I like the Manny Marroquin from Waves as a low-pass filter, and I’m going to start taking the top end from one of these pads way down.

[song]

And now I’m going to A/B it real quick.

[song plays, enabling and bypassing low-pass filter on Waves Manny Marroquin EQ]

Notice how already, just by doing this one move, I’ve opened up the top end and allowed the hat, the arp lead, and the actual lead itself to shine through in a really nice way?

Now, all I did was low-pass one element that simply had too much high-end to it.

Now, if you’re not as experienced in the mixing process, your thought might be, “oh, if I want to hear the top end of some of these elements, I’m going to start turning up top-end. I’m going to turn up the top-end on the lead, I’m going to turn up the top-end on the arp,” and what you’re going to end up with is a very bright, fatiguing mix that doesn’t really sound totally polished, where as simply getting rid of something that we don’t really need just improves the energy of the mix. It smooths it out, it gives it a little bit more life, we start hearing the groove of some of the elements a little better because there’s less top-end clouding it.

So, being selective about what you don’t need is actually more important than being selective about what you do. Just to highlight that, what I’m going to do here is I’m going to play the track, and then I’m going to A/B all of my EQ settings on these elements.

[song plays, before and after Waves Manny Marroquin EQ on all tracks]

What this primarily has going on is subtractive EQ. So, the high-hat I’m taking down some 1.6 because we don’t need the very low end of the high-hat, the lead I’m taking off some of the top end using a low-pass filter, I’m taking off a little bit of the 3k because we don’t really need that, and I’m boosting just a touch, 1 dB, of 800Hz because that’s where the fundamental of the lead is.

Piano, same deal. I’m taking a lot of the top-end out of the piano, I’m taking some of the 3k out of the piano, and I’m giving it just a little 300Hz. 1 dB again, just because that’s where it really shines.

The arp lead, I’m boosting a lot of stuff. The arp lead I really liked the texture of the top end, and since I’m taking out the top-end of all these other things, I can play up the top-end of the arp lead, which will make the record drive a little bit more.

The stab here, taking out a little bit more 3k. As we already discussed, this pad, I’ve got it low-passed down to about 11k or 12k, and this chant I’ve got it low-passed all the way down to 9k and I’m taking out some 800Hz, so all in all, I’m removing a lot more than I’m adding.

One more time.

[instrumental, before and after Waves Manny Marroquin EQ on all tracks]

Alright guys, hope that you learned something. Stay tuned as always.

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.
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