Zoning in on the midrange!
Simply put, the midrange is the the most important part of the frequency spectrum – roughly between 250hz and 2khz… but I can hear you shout and say but “I need bass!” Or “Nah, man , it’s that treble!”, but if you said this you’d be wrong.
Try it for yourself. Play your favorite song. Now turn the volume down, until you can barely hear it, on what ever your playing it back on (headphones or speakers) now what do you hear?
If you actually did the experiment, or at least know from past experience, you’d hear – you guessed it! – the midrange.
Funny how audio works. You turn things real loud and the bass and treble seem to be the most prominent aspect of the mix (that is, if it’s loud, and your bass and treble aren’t right you’ll notice); but when you turn the volume down, the bass and treble disappear and your left with only the midrange.
I can see the noob audio engineer racking his head over this concept, but really it’s simple… just use this “phenomenon” to your favor.
When you play your mixes loud does it have the power and sheen your favorite records have? Cool. If it doesn’t maybe the mid range is the problem – or if your lucky, your midrange is right and you just need to add a bit of bass or top end.
But if you’re having problems with your mix and you can’t seem to figure it out, maybe it’s your midrange…
What do you hear when you play your song really really quite, like really quite, almost to the point of you not hearing it quite? (Or at least, to the point where you can have a conversation with someone and you don’t have to strain to talk over the music.)
Do your most important elements – vocals, guitar, keyboard/piano, drums, etc – disappear as the volume gets quieter?
Does your mix still maintain the same balance as the volume goes down?
Or does that snare seem to be louder than your vocals, when that’s not the effect you intended? Or maybe that background element disappears completely, when you intended it to sit just below your vocals…
These (and presumably more) are the questions you need to ask yourself while mixing and further, using this technique – of turning your speakers or headphones down – to focus in on your midrange.
Thats the thick of it: your midrange is super important (from 250hz-2khz), and to hear what’s going on in that midrange, turn your volumes down. Whatever is most prominent in the midrange will stick out, and then you’ll have a point of reference to make smarter mixing decisions. Dope.
While on the topic of midrange frequencies, I came across this interesting article about the history of audio engineering and recording. And in it, the author states that many popular records from the past were recorded with a “particular” Neumann mic (Im thinking he’s implying a U-47), which had a particular feature inherent to the microphone that emphasized frequencies around 1.2–2khz (centered around 1.6 kHz). After reading the article I experimented and found that either cutting or boosting in this area – on say vocals, or elements fighting for attention – does in fact have a profound effect to the character of individual instruments… I can also remember Dave Pensado in one of his “into the lairs” talking about 1.5khz being that “modern frequency” in pop vocals… so yea maybe that 1.6khz isn’t too far off.
One point of interest to note here, 1.6 kHz is one octave below 3.5 kHz which is, generally considered to be where the human ear is most sensitive… hmm, that article might be on to something after all.