How to Fix a Muddy, Dull, Thin or Harsh-sounding Song

By in Music Creation, Pro Mixing

Whether you’re mixing your first song using Pro Tools | First, or you’ve been working with Pro Tools systems for decades, getting that pure and balanced sound across your frequency spectrum can be a challenge. You can find yourself going round in circles trying to level out the mids of a muddy mix or control the highs of a harsh mix.

Push the mids too far and you lose clarity, but cut them too much and your mix becomes thin. Similarly, if you boost the high-end more than is necessary you’ll get a harsh sound, but if the high-end is weak then the song can sound dull.

Is your audio muddy, thin, harsh, or dull?

Is your audio muddy, thin, harsh, or dull?

We at Mastering The Mix realized that this time-consuming balancing act was holding back producers from realizing their musical visions. To remedy this, we created MIXROOM, an intelligent EQ that guides the user to set the perfect balance of richness and clarity whether they’re working on a vocal, a synth or mastering their music.

 

How To Get a Well Balanced Starting Point When EQing Any Channel In Your Mix.

 

1. Load The AAX Plugin  On An Individual Channel Or Your Stereo Master

You can use MIXROOM to EQ anything in your Pro Tools session. It works great on vocals, instruments, grouped buses, or your master channel.

Get a well-balanced starting point when EQ-ing

Get a well-balanced starting point when EQ-ing

2. Choose A Preset or Create A Target

To get the most value from MIXROOM, start by selecting a preset that best suits the material you’re working on. Or, you can create your own target values to help you get closer to the sound of your favorite tracks. Do this by clicking the target icon in the bottom left corner and importing reference tracks.

Load a preset or create a target in MIXROOM

Load a preset or create a target in MIXROOM

3. Shape Your Sound

Now monitor a full-bodied section of your audio. If you’re using MIXROOM for mastering then monitor the drop or chorus. To create a loop, right-click the play button in Pro Tools and select ‘loop’, then click and drag on the transport above the waveform of your chorus. Once MIXROOM has analyzed your audio, it will show you a green Target EQ Curve on the walls of the user interface.

These intelligent suggestions are based on the audio in your session and the preset you’ve chosen (which is genre-specific). The EQ target curve gives you a solid starting point from which you can tweak the sound to suit your preference. This workflow takes out the guesswork and helps you dial in pro-sounding results in seconds.

The ‘Add Smart Bands’ button will instantly load EQ bands that match the Target EQ Curve to give you a great starting point. MIXROOM’s unique and specifically designed EQ filters give you maximum clarity & transparency when shaping your audio.

 

Shape Your Sound using MIXROOM

Shape Your Sound using MIXROOM

4. Level Match

The EQ adjustments may have changed the perceived loudness of your audio making it difficult to hear whether the changes you’ve made are improving your sound. If the loudness has changed by more than 2dB (decibels) the bypass button will turn orange.

Hover your mouse over the bypass button to open the output gain and level match pointer. Match the gain slider to the level match pointer to match the perceived loudness of your audio before it passed through MIXROOM. This allows you to subjectively hear how the changes have affected your sound.

Always level match to ensure positive progress

Always level match to ensure positive progress

Hear The Difference!

Whether your audio is muddy, dull, thin, harsh, or even almost perfect, MIXROOM helps you elevate your mix to get the perfect balance of richness and clarity.

Hear the difference when listening in your studio

Hear the difference when listening in your studio

Using Mid-Side To Take The Sound To The Next Level

Once you’re happy with the balance of the channels in your mix, you can dive a little deeper into controlling the sound of your audio using mid-side processing.

Mid-side processing means applying changes to specific parts of the stereo spread. The ‘mid’ is all the mono information which is identical in the left and right speaker. The side channel is the opposite, so it contains information that is only heard in either the left or right speaker.

Mid-side processing is highly intuitive using MIXROOM’s unique and immersive 3D interface. Each band has full mid/side capabilities allowing you to shape the balance of your stereo spread.

Often you’ll find that by fine-tuning the mid/side processing of your EQ, you’re able to get a more transparent and natural sound. Why? Let’s say a channel in your Pro Tools session has some harshness coming through in the side channel but sounds well balanced in the mid-channel. If you use a normal stereo EQ, a cut to reduce the harshness of the side channels will also reduce the same frequencies in the mid. In this circumstance, the mid-channel was sounding good before, and with the cut might now sound a bit dull. If you used mid-side processing to only cut the harsh frequencies in the side channel, you would maintain the integrity of the balance in the mid-channel.

How mid-side EQ can give you more control

How mid-side EQ can give you more control

The mid-side processing in MIXROOM is extremely flexible, allowing you either process full mid, full side, or blend the processing between a balance of the two. Hover your mouse over an EQ band’s control panel and click the M for mid, S for side, and the stereo icon for stereo. Click and drag the stereo icon left and right to set a perfect blend of mid/side.

Controlling mid-side in MIXROOM

Controlling mid-side in MIXROOM

The producers that end up dominating the music industry are the ones who never stop learning how to improve. They’re always on the lookout for ways to improve their listener’s experience. With MIXROOM, you can iron out the issues in your mix fast. Then you can sculpt your sound using mid-side precision to get a perfect tonal balance. Download the free trial here for a great new addition to your Pro Tools set-up.

Tom is a musician, audio engineer and entrepreneur based in London, UK. His credits include Tiesto, David Guetta, Steve Aoki and more. His company 'Mastering The Mix’ creates game changing plugins for forward thinking producers.