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Microphone Month 3

The quickie guide to mixing, Part 12

In the previous tip, we discussed adding “air” or extreme high-frequency content to vocals and possibly other instruments. Let’s move down the frequency spectrum a bit to the high treble (or top) and lower treble range. High treble centers at 10kHz, while the lower treble centers at 8kHz. A slight boost in this area will add some detail and clarity to vocals, again, bringing them forward in a mix. The “tail” of a cymbal can be either emphasized or de-emphasized in this range. The downside of boosting in this range is added harshness and phase problems. To understand what we mean by phase, if you have a parametric equalizer, try this experiment: In the high-frequency band, boost the gain control to maximum (+15dB) and sweep through the frequency range. You’ll hear a sound very reminiscent of the phase shifter effect used on guitars. So, if you boost in that range, you’ll be adding pitched noise to your track. If you want to bring vocals or an instrument forward in a mix without adding the harshness or emphasis of a frequency that is unnatural in relation to its source, try using an exciter instead (such as the Aural Exciter by Aphex). Speaking of cymbals, an exciter used judiciously will add some sizzle to the tail of the cymbal hit without harshness. Used in conjunction with a compressor, sampled cymbals will take on more of the sound of being played live, as the decay of the cymbal will trail off “naturally” into the following measure of music without sounding choked or obnoxious. The best type of compressor to use is one that allows you to change the slope of the compression (non-linear compression), such as the Joe Meek SC2 plug-in found in the Digidesign Digi 002 Factory Bundle. Use a slope setting that causes the cymbal tail to dip in volume rather quickly while adding a fairly long decay. The effect is a sparkling decay that trails off naturally, as a cymbal being played live would, but without the overbearing “Keith Moon effect.” Attention to subtle details such as this will not draw the listener’s ear in as much as it releases it to focus on the music. Basic rule of thumb: Avoid excessive EQ boosts in this range (8-10kHz), and if you must, try to limit it to one thing in the mix.

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