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Common Terms in the High Frequencies, part 14

Posted by Fix Your Mix On July - 30 - 20092 COMMENTS

Airy:  Spaciousness, often a pleasant mostly treble-based reverb sound.  Extended frequency response that runs up through the top end of the bandwidth.


Brittle:  Peaking in high-frequencies, weak fundamentals with slightly distorted or harsh highs.


Crisp:  Good high-frequency response with good transient quality


Crispy:  Constant, but perhaps random high frequency sounds not unlike frying foods.


Delicate: Extended high frequency range without being harsh.  Emphasis on high frequencies extending to 20 KHz, but without the peaking. 


Edgy:  High frequency emphasis from about 3.5 to 6 KHz with harmonic content overly strong in comparison to fundamentals.  Can deal with high frequency distortion and rasp.


Piercing:  Hard on the ears, screechy and sharp.  Narrow peaks occurring between 3 and 10 KHz.


Raspy:  Harsh sounds in the 6 KHz range that sounds like a scratchy voice.


Sibilant:  S and Sh sounds are overly emphasized. 


Sizzly:  Similar to crisp, like the sound of the decay on a riveted cymbal.


Steely or Shiny:  Lots of top end from 3-6 KHz with peaky highs (as opposed to flat but boosted top end)


Sweet:  Flat high-frequency response without distortion and extended the full bandwidth.  

Common terms in the Upper-Mid range, part 12

Posted by Fix Your Mix On July - 16 - 2009COMMENT ON THIS POST

Bright:  Emphasis on high-frequencies, specifically upper-mids with emphasis on harmonics.


Crunchy:  Exists between 2K and 4K, typically distortion based and generally pleasant.  Can lend rhythmic distinction to distorted rhythm parts.


Detailed:  Minutiae of the music are easily audible.  Present sounding, intimate and close with lots of articulation and transient response throughout the upper mid range.


Forward:  Present, in your face.  Detail present in transients and upper harmonics which lends a feeling of proximity.


Glassy:  Brittle sounding, too much upper-mid content especially with regard to harmonics in relation to fundamentals. 


Grungy:  Lots of distortion with emphasis on odd harmonics.


Hard:  Excellent transient response combined with an overemphasis on upper-midrange frequencies.


Harsh:  Peaking in the 2-6 KHz range.


Metallic:  Emphasis on upper-mid range frequencies, specifically those that deal with odd order harmonics in this range.


Pinched:  Narrow-bandwidth, often relegated to the upper-mid range frequencies.  Try boosting lower frequencies to balance.

Common Mid-Range Terms, part 10

Posted by Fix Your Mix On July - 2 - 2009COMMENT ON THIS POST

Honky:  When you cup your hands and sing into it, that is pretty much what honkiness is.  This is a frequency buildup around 500-700 Hz, so cut in that area or boost the lows.


Nasal:  Like when you pinch your nose and speak.  This is very similar to honky except that it is a bit higher around 800-1000 Hz.


Radio-Filter:  The most overused pop cliché out there.  I wish everyone would stop doing this, but to do it properly you should know:  Old radios had small speakers which meant poor bass response and sometimes weak highs as well.  They also had poor construction which means limited dynamic range.  So use high and low pass filters centered around 1 KHz.  Most of the effect will be accomplished by the high-pass filter.  The low pass filter can be adjusted to taste.  Compress heavily to limit dynamic range.


Tinny:  Sounds like it’s coming through a tin can.  To me this also indicates peaky mids which would be a significant bump at around 1 KHz.  Perhaps some high-end reverberations of a metallic variety.  Can be remedied by boosting lows.

The audio world can be a frustrating one for many reasons.  From buzzing headphones to crackling pres, our world is rife with little nuisances.  However, the most frustrating thing for me by far is how inexact our nomenclature is.  As a profession, we have really done a disservice to ourselves by not having a standardized and precise language for our trade. 


Oh, how easy it would be if someone would walk into one of my mixes and say “Yah, it sounds good, but there is a little too much 2.7 kHz, can you back that down a little?”  Instead, we are left with inexact jargon like “It’s a little harsh, can you do something about that?”  Of course most of us aren’t skilled enough to know exact frequencies without the necessary equipment, present company included.  So it would be ridiculous to say that we should all speak more precisely from now on. 


Instead, I will compile a list on this site, over time of course, that enumerates the various inexact terms I encounter in my career and what I would do to remedy them.


The first list here is for bass register terms.  Some of this comes with the help of Bruce Bartlett’s Practical Recording Techniques.  Feel free to respond back with more if you can think of them and I’ll try to include them.


Ballsy:  Emphasis on frequencies below 300 Hz, but only on mixes with distinct sounds between the bass instruments so as not to be muddy.


Bloated:  Emphasis on frequencies below 300 Hz, but with indistinct sounds.  Muddy with low frequency resonances.


Boomy:  Too much bass at 125 Hz.  This is often caused by sudden sounds that cause large excursions in the woofer reproducing the sound.


Boxy:  Low frequency resonances like being in a box.  Mainly resonances in the upper portion of the bass register from 200-300 Hz since boxes are too thin to adequately hold in low-lows.


Chesty:  This obviously refers to recordings of vocalists.  The chest is where the low frequencies reside, especially the native resonances.  It is relatively easy to address because humans are roughly the same size on average, so a simple eq trimming the frequencies somewhere between 120 and 250 Hz should do the trick.


Dark:  This usually is a term used in comparison to the upper frequencies.  As such, either decreasing the lower frequencies including the fundamentals or increasing the upper frequencies with an emphasis on harmonics can remedy the problem by evening out the response across the board.


Dull:  Along with dark, this usually means too much low register content in comparison to upper frequencies.  The upper frequencies are where you get words like “lively” and “bright” so again, the problem can be remedied by de-emphasizing fundamentals and low frequencies in comparison to the upper harmonics.


Ground Noise:  Constant hum between 50 and and 70 Hz, but can be extremely broad spectrum.  If possible filter it out, but it is often best addressed in tracking by using a ground lift or isolation transformer.


Muddy:  Too much competing low frequency content in the bass register.  Try etching out portions of the spectrum on each instrument and cutting unnecessary frequencies in other instruments in the bass range.


Rumble:  Relatively constant sound between 25 and 40 Hz.  Often caused by AC or other environmental sounds.  Easily addressed with a high-pass filter.


Thumpy:  Similar to Boomy–sudden excursions more of an emphasis between 20 and 50 Hz.


Tubby:  Low frequency resonances, like boxy, but with more bass collection (since bathtubs are more reverberant than boxes and contain low frequencies better due to density and thickness).  Try equing out low frequencies or using a high pass filter.


Warm:  As it pertains to bass, having good bass response without overpowering higher frequencies and without being overpowered by them.  On a scale: dull/dark, warm, bright.


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