Every pop, hip hop and dance song employee this cheap trick. You’ll know if your mix needs this if it your low end sounds muffled and your song overall sounds muddy.
The trick I am speaking about is called the High Pass Filter. And it’s a great little technique for producers and artists that want to make their mixes tighter. So how do we use the LPF to make our mixes sound better?
First let’s talk about what the high pass filter is? The high pass filter is when you use equalization, usually a parametric eq, to remove the low end frequencies from your instruments. The reason we want to do this is so that the frequencies we keep have more prominence in a mix as a result of removing unwanted frequencies from other instruments. This trick is especially handy when mixing songs where you want the bass and kick to be really well defined and clean sounding – which is pretty much 99% of all songs.
So how exactly do you use a high pass filter and how much eq do you remove? Well it depends on the sound you are using. Many modern sounds, especially on fancy smancy vst plugins, are already eq’d to remove the low end, however, it doesn’t hurt to see what’s going on with your sounds.
What I like to do when I get a mix is see where each track’s frequencies are. This allows me to figure out what the artists/producers intent was in putting that sound in the song and then figuring out how much of that sound is needed in the mix.
A good start is to to high pass filter every instrument at about 100 hz. Keep in mind, we don’t want to filter our drums and bass because this is their home, meaning this is where they should be. Also any instrument that adds to the low-mid range, you don’t want to eq too aggressively, otherwise what’s the point of having that sound in your song if it is not adding the desired effect.
Some sounds you’ll find you can cut as much as up to 250 to 300 hz without affecting the sound. You’ll also notice that when you do this your bass and kicks will sound much more fuller and well defined. This is because you have now given the low end sounds more room in the mix, meaning their frequencies are not competing with frequencies from other instruments.
One big caveat: in recent years, I’ve noticed that the high pass filter has fallen out of favour with some artists/producers that want to have an old/analogue sound. So if you don’t want to have a mix that sounds modern, don’t use the high pass filter trick or don’t use it so aggressively.