Tips for Getting a Full and Powerful Metal Mix (ft. Joey Sturgis)

08 Aug 2015 08:08 66
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The second video in the ask Weiss Series with special guest Joey Sturgis. This question comes from Sammy: "When mixing hard rock or metal, how can one achieve a thick and dense sound without sounding messy? In other words, how do I get it to sound full and powerful?"

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If you have a question for Matt related to mixing, recording, producing or mastering music, simply leave a comment.

There's a lot of variables to achieving the goal, and it mostly lies in the low end, which is what I've found to be true for metal and heavier styles of music.

So, what a lot of people get wrong with the low end, is you've got guitars that are tuned low, you've got bass that is tuned low, and you have the low kick. These three things fight each other, right?So one of the ways that I do it, is I try to keep the guitars pretty much in the mid-range space, because the guitar was designed to be a mid-range instrument. I'll do that with a high-pass filter. Somewhere around maybe 80 to 150Hz.

Even on low tunings I'll do that. Now, you have to be careful. Use your ears of course. Don't just put the numbers in and expect it to be perfect. You need to make sure that you're not taking stuff away from the guitar that's intended to be there based on what's being played, or how the people want it to sound.

You know, if they want to have a – let's say they're playing in Drop A, and they want to have a beefier sound, then maybe you will keep some of those lower frequencies.

But it all starts off with filtering, right? So you're going through all of your various tracks, you're doing your filtering. Obviously cut out all of the low end on the vocals, all the low end is going to get cut out on basically every track except for your bass and your kick.

That's the first step to really achieving sort of a clear area of the frequency spectrum overall.

Now with the bass, if you're recording a real bass, which I hope that you are, because I don't think programmed bass is that great. [laughs] Now, if you're recording a real bass, do you really trust the bass players ability to be consistent enough to give you the low end that you want to hear – the consistency of the low end you want to hear in your mix?Because if the answer is no, then you need to do some dynamic modification and some dynamic automation on what's happening with those frequencies.

So, the way I like to do it is to take the bass signal, and duplicate it twice. So, you've got your – the first – you've got two versions of the same performance. The exact same performance twice. Then what you do is you take the first one and you do a low pass filter, and you take the second one and you do a high pass filter.

This effectively creates a crossover. So you've got one track that you can treat differently than the other. So on the low end track, you can go in and you can compress that differently than you're going to compress the high end track, which allows you to kind of tame that low end and make it more consistent and not have these areas where the bass just suddenly jumps up, and the bass suddenly dips down, and you lose that energy that's happening there.

A lot of times I'll distort the high end of the bass because I like the sound of a distorted bass, but if you distorted that bass without having two separate tracks, you get this really messy low end, so it's nice to keep that low end very clear. Then I'll use a limiter or a compressor to kind of tame that and to keep it more consistent.

Then the next thing I'm doing is I'm being very conscious of the EQ decisions that I'm making on the kick drum, because if I'm boosting frequencies – if I'm boosting bass frequencies on the kick drum that are living in the same area that the bass sort of performs notes in, then I'm creating a situation of fighting. You're going to get frequency fighting where the bass plays this note, and the kick drum has that same note boosted, and now you get these weird sort of resonances that poke through your mix, and it's starting to sound muddy.

You can also use a multi-band compressor and you can set the side-chain so that it would trigger the bass to get turned down when the kick drum comes in, or you could do vice versa. It depends on what you're wanting to prioritize.

So if you want the kick drum to have more priority, then maybe you set it to be the key on the side-chain of the low end of the bass, because the bass gets turned down when the kick comes in, then when the kick goes away, the kick comes up.


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