Ever wondered why your mixes are muddy sounding? A very common complaint from those new to mixing is, “my mix sounds muddy.”
I struggled with having muddy mixes for years, until I found some simple fixes that instantly cleaned up my tracks.
Here’s how you can fix a muddy bass sound in your tracks:
Your bass probably sounds muddy because you have too much going on in the 200-400 hz frequency range. These are the “mud frequencies”, and they include a lot of stray frequencies from quite a lot of different instruments. To avoid a muddy sound, make EQ cuts in the 200-400 hz range.
If you do that, you’ll be much better off, but let’s dive a little deeper.
What Is A Muddy Sound?
A muddy mix is when the lower mids of your mix dominate your track, and as a result, your bottom end lacks definition.
Muddy mixes are exhausting, and it can be extremely frustrating to hear that muddiness when you've spent hours mixing your song. It can sound like someone threw a blanket over the entire mix.
What Are The Muddy Frequencies?
As mentioned above, the “mud frequencies” are in the 200-400 hz range, although they can extend below 200 and above 400.
If your tracks are suffering from too much “boominess”, then you’re probably looking at issues below 200 around the 80-120 hz range.
If your mix is sounding too “boxy” then you probably have too many mid-range frequencies from 400 hz up.
Altogether, these are all undesirable sound characteristics that can make your track sound too dark, cluttered, and undefined.
How To Get A Cleaner Mix
There are a few simple fixes we can do to clean up a mix. Let’s start with the easiest fix.
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1. Just Filter It
What you might not realize is that just about every instrument has some low-end frequency content, even if you can’t really hear it with your ears.
You might think since you can’t really hear it, it’s not a problem, but it is, especially when you throw on compression, limiting, and other effects that can bring out these undesirable and unnecessary frequencies.
So for just about every instrument besides your kick and bass, you’re going to want to place a high-pass filter. This is where you cut the low end so only the higher frequencies can “pass” through.
You may have some pads or a piano where you might want to let some lower frequencies through, but below about 120 hz, you pretty much want that range to be exclusively for your kick and bass.
2. Keep The Low-End Mono
This means you typically want to keep your kick and bass in the center of your mix (or mono).
You don’t want to create a bass imbalance between the left and right speaks by panning, as the lopsided low end can be distracting and add to a sense of muddiness.
3. Check Your Arrangement
Do you have too many instruments in the same frequency range?
Having too many instruments stacking up in the low mid frequency range can easily contribute to the sense of muddiness.
I know as producers it can be easy to just keep hitting “new track” and add layer after layer of sound to our arrangements. But more often than not, less is more.
If you have too many instruments or sounds in the same octave stacking up frequencies in the 200-400 hz range, it’s going to be hard to get any clarity, and your song is going to suffer from muddiness.
So think about maybe moving one or more of these instruments up an octave, or eliminating them altogether.
4. Prioritize Your Low-Mids
This goes for every frequency range, but it’s a good idea to make a “sonic map”, and decide what sounds are going to go where in the frequency spectrum.
You want to give everything it’s own space.
Though I pick on the 200-400 hz range, we don’t want to completely eliminate this range, as it’s important for achieving a full sound.
Instead, you want to prioritize your low mids, and decide what sound is going to occupy this space, and eliminate everything else.
5. Cut, Cut, Cut!
Be extra careful when EQing your low mids.
You pretty much never want to boost this range. If you want to hear more of this range from a particular instrument, you’d be better off cutting some of the high frequencies instead to bring this out.
For the rest of your instruments that don’t really need this frequency range, just go ahead and give a nice cut to this range.
6. Bonus: Choose The Lowest
This is more of a tip for controlling “boominess” rather than “muddiness”, but since these are closely related, I’ll include this key tip.
Decide whether your bass or your kick will be the lowest sound in your mix, and EQ accordingly.
If your bass is going to be your lowest sound, then cut some of the lower frequencies of the kick and then cut the frequency range where the kick sits.
This way, you won’t have your kick and bass competing with each other and contributing to a boomy and muddy sound.
The Mix Down: Conclusion
If you’ve followed these steps, then you’ve eliminated unnecessary clutter by filtering, you’ve eliminated any lopsided bass, you’ve fixed your arrangement so that there are just fewer muddy frequencies to begin with, and you’ve cut and prioritized your low mids so you only have what you want to have in that frequency range.
By now, you should have a much cleaner and non-muddy mix.
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This will be especially beneficial if you find yourself getting frustrated with songs and moving on before finishing anything.
I hope you found this post on, Muddy Bass: How To Fix A Muddy Bass Sound, helpful!
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