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I was told to 'kill the mids, boost highs'
Old 12th June 2019
  #1
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I was told to 'kill the mids, boost highs'

I went to a studio session for the artist I produce for and I was instantly inspired to learn how to mix.. when I asked the engineer what the general characteristics/trends are for a trap/rap song is, he said kill (his exact word) the mids so the artists vocals sit well, boost the highs (on the beat + vox) and have nothing going on in the low end besides the kick and bass/808. It wasn't my session so I didn't want to bombard him with questions. Is this pretty accurate advice for mixing trap songs? I know there's never an exact formula, but are these tips generally accurate?

I'm just looking for some GENERAL guideline for mixing trap music.. I know there's no set rules and every song will be different. But just like 80s music, there has to be some characteristics of this genre that someone can give their insight on from an engineers point of view.. As engineers, what do you notice about todays mixes?
Old 12th June 2019
  #2
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Kill the mids? I guess it's a new era.

Nothing going on in the low end?

So basically don't use your ears is what he said.
Old 12th June 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trevon View Post
Kill the mids? I guess it's a new era.

Nothing going on in the low end?

So basically don't use your ears is what he said.
Obviously I'm ultimately gonna do what sounds best, so yes I would use my ears. It'ts not like I'm gonna mute everything and start to blindly EQ, He said if too much is going on in the mid range the vocals will sound like they're on top of the beat and not actually apart of the beat,. As for low end, again he said to not have much going on down there because it's easier for the kick and 808 to live.
Old 12th June 2019
  #4
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Sounds about right.
Old 12th June 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trevon View Post
Kill the mids.
I liked their first album but found their second one a tad overproduced.
Old 12th June 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbynes View Post
Obviously I'm ultimately gonna do what sounds best, so yes I would use my ears. It'ts not like I'm gonna mute everything and start to blindly EQ, He said if too much is going on in the mid range the vocals will sound like they're on top of the beat and not actually apart of the beat,. As for low end, again he said to not have much going on down there because it's easier for the kick and 808 to live.
Kill the mids as u Said he said is different then Eqing some mids to get the vocals to cut threw. Kill the mids means none.
Old 12th June 2019
  #7
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For trap, I'd say that kinda yeah. But be careful. I would say it's not so much about killing the mids from an EQ standpoint and more about lowering the mids from a FADER standpoint.

Last edited by chris carter; 18th June 2019 at 04:23 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 12th June 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trevon View Post
Kill the mids as u Said he said is different then Eqing some mids to get the vocals to cut threw. Kill the mids means none.
I don't know much about mixing, but I've been making beats for 3 years so I know enough to not take the word kill literally. I probably should've mentioned that in the post.
Old 12th June 2019
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
For trap, I'd say that kinda yeah. But be careful. I would say it's not so much about killing the mids from an EQ standpoint and more about the lower mids from a FADER standpoint.
Do you mean turn the fader down on tracks that have a lot going on in the lower-mids or do you mean put an eq on the master fader? Sorry man for such basic questions I'm just a beat maker. I work with 3 rappers who all utilize commercial studios and their engineers so I've never really had to worry about mixing but its about time I learn.
Old 13th June 2019
  #10
Just use your ears and do what sounds right for that specific song you are working on.

I'm very very skeptical of any engineer that has one set way to do things. like 'kill the mids' What if that song was recorded in such a way that it needed it mids boosted? All songs are not recorded the same! so this engineer doesn't listen to the tracks to decide what to do. He just does the same thing for everything? LOL, That is not mixing.

This is the first and last lesson in audio mixing:
You use your ears and do what ever it takes to get the song to sound the way you want it to.
Old 13th June 2019
  #11
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I mix hip hop every day for living. Not just hip hop but i would say 60 percent of my clientele is in that genre. I believe what your dude is referring to is .. carve out space for the vocal to sit in the mids. This is where the voice lives so you don't want it to be masked by the beat. It's very common in todays productions to cut the lows and boost the highs on the vocals to get them sounding "crisp". Another common element is a over the top hi hat and snare. This is usually achieved by boosting the highs. (this comes from working with a stereo file instead of the wavs. Other wise you would fix those issues with stems on individual tracks. Not all vocals or beats will need this.
Old 13th June 2019
  #12
DAH
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Kill mids basically means you should mix the mix in such a way that the clap is not TSHHH, but TCHHHH, make everything be mid-brighter than the tracking. The vocals then in this bright mix can be just high boosted for air\presence and left otherwise untouched.
Basically, get the idea of relatively linear noise with different slope (as in 3db or 4.5 db per octave) in your hearing and head with a chance of some 150 Hz and under lowshelf boosted.
Old 13th June 2019
  #13
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Yo, I mix a lot of hip-hop with trap beats. Some general advice based on what you posted:

1. You can't just mindlessly follow generalized advice that people provide to your regarding how to mix stuff, because it might not apply to the track you're mixing right now. For example, "kill the mids" might make sense if the melodies on the track you're mixing are very dense in the mid-range with no room for a vocal... but if the melodies on your track have already been EQ'd and processed so that there's room, you will only destroy the melodies and make it really thin by removing more mid, which I'm sure the person who made the beat will not appreciate.

As stated by people prior, there's no getting around using your own ears, listening to the track, and mixing based on what the track is asking of you. This is not a formulaic process - this is an art.

2. Mixing for modern hip-hop requires you to make your mix sound powerful, controlled, and of course balanced.

"Power" comes from minimizing the compression applied to the beat so as to maintain a "big" size. Too much compression makes things come off "small", which you never want people to experience in modern hip-hop.

"Controlled" comes from adding enough compression so that all the sounds are not washing over each other. It also allows you to create more subtle contrast in relative size. For example, you can probably get away with compressing your melodies more than your drums because in hip-hop, having big drums is often the priority - as such, the melodies can take a "step back" in the mix so that the drums can appear more "huge".

The above two points will appear to contradict each other, as bringing in more control through compression will make your track feel small and therefore less powerful, and vice versa. The key to bridging the gap, especially in modern hip-hop, is taking full advantage of the dry/wet knob in your DAW when applying compression. This will allow you to bring in control by applying a solid amount of compression to a sound, and then hedging that compression through the dry/wet knob, which allows you to bring back a certain percentage of the original signal. This is essentially a shortcut to parallel processing, which is a MUST if you're mixing for today's sound. Another benefit of this approach is that using the dry/wet knob on your compressors will give your mix more "depth", as you are now integrating two layers of sound - the original input, and the processed output - as opposed to just the processed output. Realizing this was honestly one of the biggest game changers I came across while figuring out how to make my mixes sound pro.

Lastly, balanced comes from proper gain staging and mindful EQ, prioritized in that order. For EQ - Listen for where sounds are clashing, and subtract the frequencies away from the sound that doesn't need to own that space. Try to avoid using low cuts and high cuts when you can use a shelf.

3. Be smart with your busses, and apply processing at the bus level to glue tracks together. I usually (but not always) have the following main stem busses:

sub/808
drums
music/melodies
vocals

4. If your track feels over-processed, it's pretty much game over. Be super wary of this throughout the mix process. Again, a way to hedge this is to use the dry/wet knob

5. Not specific to mixing hip-hop, but just with regards to learning the game in general - make sure to listen to the tracks that people have mixed before taking their advice. For example, you should listen to the stuff in my sig before considering the above, cause I might be full of it. There's a ton of misleading information out there, and people shooting from the hip without any actual tracks to back it up.

Hope this helps!
Old 13th June 2019
  #14
Wait I thought this was the Hip-Hop forum? Were mixing metal records now?
Old 17th June 2019
  #15
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Yo chris can elaborate a little?
Old 18th June 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stu2 View Post
Yo chris can elaborate a little?
I corrected a typo in my post. It should make more sense now.
Old 19th June 2019
  #17
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In a super generalized sense, I'd agree that his advice is fairly accurate. modern trap tracks need MASSIVE low end (kick and 808 subs), and then a really crisp top end. For the vocals to really be present, there does need to be some space in the lower mids for them to sit.

One thing I've found that people tend to not really appreciate in terms of bass/mids/treble levels is that—for any frequency range to appear "larger" (or louder), there has to be an equal compromise in another frequency range which has to be made "smaller" (or quieter). It sounds simplistic and stupid, but it's really the truth—i.e., if you want a HUGE bass/kick, then other frequency ranges have to be inversely lowered in amplitude for that perception to take place (if that makes sense!).
Old 19th June 2019
  #18
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You can't take any advice just like that.
In trap, the instruments in mids usually don't get as much level/attention as in, say, rock. That's what he probably meant.

In trap, I always mix beats first, then instruments, then vox, and always end up taking the instruments down OR make cuts around the main vox range in them to make room for the vocal.
Old 11th August 2019
  #19
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When you say kill the mids do you mean eq out the midrange by like 24db?
Old 11th August 2019
  #20
DAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fanu View Post
You can't take any advice just like that.
In trap, the instruments in mids usually don't get as much level/attention as in, say, rock. That's what he probably meant.

In trap, I always mix beats first, then instruments, then vox, and always end up taking the instruments down OR make cuts around the main vox range in them to make room for the vocal.
Why not then the beat first, then the vocals, then the instruments?
Old 11th August 2019
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH View Post
Why not then the beat first, then the vocals, then the instruments?
I always make the instrumental work first and feel that the vocal has to be placed inside the music (you make space for the vocal).
I work like this every time; works very well.
Old 15th August 2019
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jasonxolly View Post
When you say kill the mids do you mean eq out the midrange by like 24db?
-24 db is kind of insane. Where did you get that arbitrary figure? There's also no precise math that goes into such decisions; everything is totally subjective depending upon the specific track.
Old 15th August 2019
  #23
Gear Head
Sometimes engineers can be good at their jobs but not explain what they are doing to others looking to learn. As someone else said, I think he/she is saying that you need to make room in the beat for the vocals to cut through while preserving a crisp 808 and high hat range, which is the basis for that style of production. But "killing" anything is not the right way to put it, of course you'd still have mid range, whether it's a piano, guitar, synth part.

There is also more to mixing then equing. Panning, phasing, reverbing, otherwise effecting can also create space for a vocal to cut through.

Also, make sure you're doing well thought out equing and compressing on the vocal and recording the vocal as cleanly as possibly, because getting vocals to cut is a two way street.

Hope that helps.

Last edited by Fired Wire; 15th August 2019 at 02:58 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 15th August 2019
  #24
Gear Head
Also, seeing a lot of guys saying they "mix the beat first, then the vocal", this is not a true mix down. It's more of a way of doing rough mixes.

To get the most out of a track you really need to mix the entire thing down at once because you may make a decision on a cow bell or a high hat or guitar chord that gets in the way of the vocal that you will now not be able to change after the fact.

I know this method is common these days in rap production and that it "works" for a lot of people, but I would heavily suggest trying to wait to mix down everything separated at the end, you'll get even better results more often then not.

Last edited by Fired Wire; 15th August 2019 at 03:02 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 16th August 2019
  #25
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If the production is done well, you won't have to do stuff like that. Space for the vocal will be there by design. That's pretty much what makes a Trap beat stylistically sound like a Trap beat to begin with.
Old 16th August 2019
  #26
Gear Head
You MAY get lucky that a production falls that way. There are certain producers that are better at that then others naturally along with certain styles of production.

But my point is you will ALWAYS get a better result with separated tracks and vocals, doing a full professional mix.

Take no short cuts.
Old 23rd August 2019
  #27
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One of the ways to make space for vocals I use is to run mid heavy tracks through an M/S processor and lower the M, depending on the track and situation you can do it statically or dynamically by using a M/S compressor.
If you use the M/S compressor you can also use the vocals as a sidechain or, if the compressor give you the option or if you want to make an aux bus mix for it, use a mix of the vocals and the instrument track as a sidechain.
Use relaxed attack and release (100ms attack and 150-250 release) for the sidechain compressor and ideally use RMS detection.
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