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Systematic Mixing Series #1: Poking Holes in High-Gain Guitars - Ultimate Metal Forum

You may notice that our 'common problem zones' effectively covered the entire frequency spectrum. This is why distorted guitars are our natural enemy. To repeat: they are essentially shaped, broadband noise which we are trying to get working in concert with other vital, midrange-centric elements in our mixes. It is notoriously difficult to create a mix that breathes, and has a guitar tone which is perceptibly 'strong' as well. The one counteracts the other, and the two goals lie at odds all the way throughout the mix. If you master the art of powerful guitar sounds that don't intrude upon your mix in significant ways, then you've got a huge leg up on the vast majority of the engineering population out there.

Frequency spectrum summary:
  • 22 to 70hz: Can generally be filtered without issue.
  • 70hz to 90hz: Can have some useful cab 'thump', but otherwise to be treated as dangerous.
  • 90hz to 180hz: Cab and room resonance area. Clamp down heavily here in order to aid the low-end clarity of your mix. Clamping down too much will leave the guitars sounding weak. Consider multiband compression.
  • 180hz to 300hz: Can contain smaller room resonances, and mud from the cab. Go easy controlling this, and only take out as much as is necessary, as it's very easy to lose power here. Consider extending the multiband compression to this region if necessary.
  • Low-mids: This entire region can contribute to mud, depending on the playing style, guitar, amp, cab and room. Treat appropriately
  • 500 to 800hz: The 'cardboard zone'. Decrease this to improve the dimensionality and depth in your guitars and mixes.
  • 2kHz to 4kHz: Vocal presence region. Tread carefully here as it determines both the intelligibility of vocals and guitars. Finding the right balance here is a masterful technique which can take years to develop.
  • 4kHz+: Generally isolated fizz spikes. Treat them with tight EQ cuts in general. As always, be careful, as sucking out too much will kill the edge and intelligibility of the guitars.
  • 10kHz+: Can generally be filtered out for most guitar sounds. If you want some more air, you can extend the LPF to 12kHz.

    Bear in mind that those are general guidelines, and by no means biblical. They detail what will most likely be the case, but as always there are no hard and fast rules. Do whatever you feel you need to in order to get your mix to where it needs to go.
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