Tips for Bringing Sounds Forward in a Mix

Hey guys, Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com, and mixthru.co.

This tutorial is going to be about getting things to step out of the speakers. So one of the things that I like about a really compelling mix is that the image of things almost seems to step further than what the bounds of the speakers would seem to allow. They physically seem to come out and create a sense of dimensionality that exists within the room that we’re listening in, in and of itself.

Which is a really cool sort of psychological effect, and I kind of want to show you how I try to go about getting that. And it’s not really an easy thing to get, but it involves placing things in a way where the transient and the definition of things really starts to stand out.

[overheads]

So I’ve got this drum overhead capture. I’ve got a left and a right. I’m going to turn it up a little bit.

[overheads]

And it’s sitting within the plane of the speakers. It’s coming forward a little bit on the cymbal, because we’re hearing that articulation of the transient a little, but I kind of want to bring that out forward and see if I can make it really happen, so this is going to be a combination of getting the overall level up without all of the weird stuff starting to happen, and also making sure that that particular tone where the transient is living is really emphasized.

So the first thing I’m going to do is actually try to clean the signal and then from there identify that tone that makes it come out.

[overheads, adjusting EQ]

So we’ve got that sort of washy tone. We don’t have a lot of it, but it’s that zone where kind of things tend to get a little runny, which is usually around 350-500. I find that’s a spot where on a lot of sources, a lot of room tone will get in, things that activate the room like cymbals and stuff will get a little muddy in that region, so I’m always particularly careful about shaping that particular spot.

So I’m going to pull the tone out.

[overheads, adjusting EQ]

And you’ll notice that even when I’m doing a pretty sizeable cut here, which is about 6dB, the drums themselves all stay intact. They’re not as full sounding, but they’re articulated a lot better because we’re not getting a lot of the excess tone. This is obviously too much, I’m going to back it off in a second, but it’s just to illustrate the point that you can really take a lot of this stuff out, and it’s generally constructive, even though we’re removing something.

[overheads, adjusting EQ]

Now the next thing I want to do, because I want this to come forward, that means arrangement wise, it’s going to be a little bit louder. If it’s going to be louder, we need to be wary of anything that’s going to make it fatiguing to the ear or annoying to the listener.

[overheads]

So we have this weird harmonic that’s kind of showing up off of the cymbals right around I guess about 1.6kHz. So I’m going to take that down a little bit too.

[overheads, removing harshness]

When I’ve taken out these two tones, you’ll notice that all of the primary tones of all of the individual drums start to become a lot clearer. But obviously, now we’ve receded the level and the apparent loudness and everything like that, so to balance it, I’m going to turn the output level up.

[overheads, adjusting output level]

You hear where this is going?

So now, what I want to do is I want to find that tone that really helps to articulate the groove that’s on the cymbal.

[overheads]

Pretty cool. Alright, so I’m going to copy these settings onto my other overhead track. Level match it a little bit. Here we go. Pan them apart, and then show you before and after.

[overheads, before and after EQ]

Oh, also, I’m going to add something as well. The sound of the cymbals and the overheads might seem a little bit overly bright at the moment, but keep in mind that when I bring in all of the other elements to the arrangement, the brightness of the cymbal specifically is going to appear less intrusive once there’s a bass, once there’s a guitar, once there’s a snare drum and a kick drum and all of those other kinds of things.

We’re in solo mode right now which is painting a slightly skewed picture of things, but really what I want you to listen to is the three-dimensionality, the sense that the cymbals are now coming into the room.

One more time and then we’ll wrap up.

[overheads, before and after EQ]

Cool. Alright, so that’s my little tutorial on getting things to vividly show up in the listeners environment in that nice, kinda cool, psychoacoustic kind of way.

Don’t forget to like this video, subscribe to this channel, and of course, if you have techniques for articulating sounds in the mix, feel free to drop them in the comments section below, would love to hear them. Yeah. Catch you next time.

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.
Smiley face
Recommended