Mixing question... I need to give each element its own space in the mix and I'd like to know how you go about this. I compress the element I'm trying to sit and EQ out its competitors but still it sounds muddy... I don't dare going too far with compression and EQ, so I thought I'd ask you what's your limit? Also, does it happen that you scoop out half of the spectrum (e.g. -3dB over 2 octaves) to make space for an element?


  • Cheers everyone for the replies. I was only worried about the fact that I hear everyone being so precious about mics and preamps and things and stuff that I feel almost disrespectful to high or low pass elements. I'll get the hang of it eventually. Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 9:24

3 Answers 3


Eq is just one trick, and, if it's necessary, I will use a wide spectrum reduction. I try to find other solutions first though, because that's usually an indication that I've done something wrong.

If your mix sounds muddy, it may be that you have too much going on in it. Try removing some of the sound's competitors entirely and see what happens. Is the key sound connected to a visual cue? If so, think about how you can draw attention to that sound, and you may find another solution to your problem besides EQ.

  • 2
    @Shaun there's a lesson for me to learn here. Thanks! I now see it makes perfect sense to preserve the spectral integrity of a sound until you have exploited its dynamics as much as you can afford. It does reveal a flaw the sound design. Commented Aug 22, 2010 at 21:43
  • That's definitely something that I am learning too. Great comment.
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 9:19
  • In fact. That comment is so damn eminently quotable.
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 9:20

I tend to go as far as necessary. It really depends on what element of the sound is most important, and what is really needed to make an audience believe what they're watching.

I wont just shelve at -3db but will completely cut out the high or low. I even use notch filters if I hear frequencies building up. Or I feel a frequency is unessecery at that moment.

If the sound I've recorded or am using isn't completely clean I'll use an expander. Pushing low laying noise further down keeps it from building up with others.

But when you say 'space', I start to think in three dimensions. I use reverb to give each element it's own three dimensional spot. Granted picture limits how much and what kind you use, but you can cheat with a little subtly. Plus depending on wich reverb I use I'll shape the frequency of the reverb too. Keeping it from getting in the way of other stuff.

As for going to far. I go as far as I can untill I realize it's not working, then I pull back. Lastly mixing to me is more about showing the audience things. I mix for what I want people to pay attention to at the moment. If they're drawn to one thing, they'll drown out the rest on their own. I find thats what I do when I'm a viewer.

Most recently I found myself shifting focus based on the mix when I was watching Contact. The opening is a mash of sounds. Listen closely and you can hear them bringing levels up and down to shift your focus. They do it again when a character is watching 4 tv channels at a time.

Mixing is my favorite thing to do. Good Luck


As far as you need to go. I don't look at numbers when I mix. I move knobs and faders until it sounds like the way I want it to sound.

I must quote Steve Lillywhite:

"Don’t use equipment...ABUSE it!"

  • This definitely has it's place in sound design. Some of the greatest standards in sound have come about simply because people were using their equipment in ways it wasn't meant to be (overdrive, for instance). Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 14:23

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