The source for a muddy mix can be a variety of things. To help you out, here are the best tips on fixing a muddy mix!
Table of Contents:
1 - Samples & sounds
The first thing you should look at is the samples and sounds you use in your track. If you use a sample that already has bad quality, you will have a super hard time fixing those problems. For example, if your kick just sounds muddy from the beginning, it might destroy your whole mix. What you want to do is try to remove the muddyness with an EQ and shape the sound with some compression, or simply remove/replace the whole sample which sometimes might be the better idea. The same counts for sound design, if you just downloaded a bad preset pack or you are just starting in sound design, you might have just used some disadvantageous presets. If your sounds are great from the start, the end result will be great as well.
2 - Levels
Before you even try using tens of EQs to fix the mud, check your level balancing. Maybe there is just an annoying pa that is too loud or too present in the low mids. Clashing frequencies usually create mud but it's also important to do some proper leveling.
3 - Low End
Let's talk about the low end. This is, besides the low mids, the main area where mud arises. The main problem people make is not knowing what to cut. For most elements, the low end is absolutely not necessary and you can cut it out most of the time. Let's take a lead for example. The most important part of a lead is usually the high frequencies and the mids. But the low end, which is under around 95Hz, doesn't really matter but there is still something going on. So make sure you cut that out. Remember, sometimes you want those frequencies on certain elements, so always take choices in direct connection to your production. Another useful tip is checking the stereo image of your low end, it's best to put elements like the sub and kick in mono. This way, your lows are present and all other elements have room to breathe in the full stereo width.
4 - Low Mids
Let's talk about the most important area: the low mids. These will be found between 250-500Hz. This is where your mix will decide between a thin and a muddy mix. Your goal is to find the perfect balance and with that your perfect mix! In general, the same EQ tips apply as to the low end. Make sure to create space for the most important elements, but don't cut too much to keep the power. We would recommend using SPAN (free) and figuring out the elements that are the most problematic. Then open your EQ and filter out the stuff you don't need or at least are less important in this area.
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