Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

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Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by dlsmusic »

Hello SOS Folks!

When finalizing a mix, I never know the best way to tame the high end in a mix. Should I roll off the highs on the hi-hat, cymbals tambourine, shaker or lower them in the mix? Or maybe both? Do you roll off some highs when mastering? Perhaps I'm adding too many percussion sounds with a lot of high end content? How do you handle this? Any suggestions, ideas are welcome!
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by Martin Walker »

I suspect the remedy depends on why there's too much top end, and this is one reason why I still like to start with a pink noise mix:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... -reference

That way each of your sounds get incorporated into the mix at a suitable level in the first place. You can still do a pink noise mix, even at a late stage, so it's worth a try, if only to see whether you have a good basic balance in your mix.

I spend far more time rolling off stray bottom end from mic recordings that is simply unwanted rumble with no musical content, and I've very rarely had to roll-off highs from acoustic percussion - it only ends to be the electronic percussion that can have excessive amounts of stuff over 10kHz that many people won't hear that will benefit from being rolled off.

You could study the output of your track in real time with a spectrum analyser plug-in to see if anything 'sticks' out at a particular frequency range, but mostly it's down to adjusting fader levels to get everything into balance.

As for having too many percussion instruments, the secret is to make them fit into different parts of the groove for variety - there's no point having them all banging away at the same time and cancelling each other out ;)

Hope this helps!

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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by dlsmusic »

Great feedback and ideas Martin. I'll get on that pink noise mix strategy right away!
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by Eddy Deegan »

EQ and faders work differently. If you lower the fader of a hi-hat then the frequency content is still there, albeit at lower energy levels.

If you roll off the highs on the EQ then much (not all, depending on the slope) of the frequency content above the cutoff frequency is removed.

There isn't a 'one size fits all' solution here; it depends on the material and the mix. If you have good ears then you'll find something that works for you which should work for most other folks but, as Martin says, generally speaking paying attention to the low end is critical to a good mix.

It's also one of the hardest to get right, especially without a treated environment. Good headphones can help a lot and a lot of very talented mix engineers use them but it's important to be very familiar with the headphones you're using in order to accurately manage the low end on them such that it works when played through domestic equipment in untreated spaces.

Auditioning your mix in mono is also a worthwhile exercise - a lot of mobile devices and small bluetooth speakers are mono.

The mixing with pink noise strategy is a good one and definitely worth employing :thumbup:
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by Zukan »

An audio example would help.

if you find that at certain points in the mix the top end sounds a bit prominent try a dynamic equaliser. That way the top end stays intact when you want it to shine through and attenuated when prominent. There is, of course, automation to consider as well.
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by shufflebeat »

It's also worth considering looking at the initial transients of percussion hits rather than overall EQ. This analysis might send you back to the recording process and experimentation with mic position rather than endless auditioning of transient ontrollers.
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by The Elf »

Adding lots of eeky percussion is self-defeating. One well-placed hi-hat or shaker will push things along nicely - three or four shakers, tambourines, hats and others and you will have a mess.

As with anything in an arrangement, ask yourself why you're adding each and every part.
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by dlsmusic »

As always, lots of great feedback to chew on. I truly appreciate your insight. After a few more listens, I've come to the realization that I tend to add too many high end percussive parts to my arrangements. I'm definitely going to reduce the number
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by blinddrew »

dlsmusic wrote:As always, lots of great feedback to chew on. I truly appreciate your insight. After a few more listens, I've come to the realization that I tend to add too many high end percussive parts to my arrangements. I'm definitely going to reduce the number


Consider keeping the number (or not reducing them by many) but only using one at a time and just bringing them in and out at different points to add a bit of variety.
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by dlsmusic »

blinddrew wrote:
dlsmusic wrote:As always, lots of great feedback to chew on. I truly appreciate your insight. After a few more listens, I've come to the realization that I tend to add too many high end percussive parts to my arrangements. I'm definitely going to reduce the number


Consider keeping the number (or not reducing them by many) but only using one at a time and just bringing them in and out at different points to add a bit of variety.


Thanks blinddrew! That's exactly what I did!
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by Arpangel »

Do you not mix as you go? Also, I try and not listen to individual elements in isolation, always listen in the context of the rest of the mix.
That way you can get the big picture, and any EQ, or other issues will stand out.
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Re: Should I Reach for EQ or the Fader to Tame High End in a Mix?

Post by dlsmusic »

Arpangel wrote:Do you not mix as you go? Also, I try and not listen to individual elements in isolation, always listen in the context of the rest of the mix.
That way you can get the big picture, and any EQ, or other issues will stand out.


I do mix as I go but here's where I think I've been going wrong:
- Over use of HP filters across the mix making my mix thin
- This in turn gave the high frequencies too much prominence
- Forgetting to use proper reference tracks to check progress
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