Adventures In Audio
Which frequencies should you boost or cut when mixing rock music?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Sunday December 25, 2005
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One of the principal defining characteristics of rock music is that it is loud. R&B doesn't have to be loud, country doesn't have to be loud, dance music benefits from being loud, but it doesn't have to tear your ears off. But rock music? There's no such thing as quiet rock music.

There was a telling TV interview back in the 1960's with Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. The interviewer asked Waters why the music had to be so loud. Waters replied, "It doesn't have to be loud, we just like it that way." And why would you have it any other way than the way you like it?

So what can you do in the mix to maximize the loudness of your freshly recorded rock track? You could use a mastering processor, but there's something you need to do before that. And in fact even a mastering processor won't put things right if you get it wrong here.

Let's transfer to the playback situation - your track is being played from CD in a club where they like their rock music extra loud. The DJ turns up the level, and up, and up...

What's going to stop him going on forever? Yes, the speakers are going to complain. At some point you will hear the distinctive sound of the woofer cones 'bottoming out'. That means the cone is traveling in and out as far as it can and it has no 'excursion' left. This causes intense distortion, even if the speaker is robust enough not to blow.

And what causes this bottoming out? High levels of low frequency, more than anything else.

So if you like plenty of bass, and who doesn't, that is what is going to set a limit on how loud your track can be played. OK, the DJ can ease off on the bass and push the overall level higher, but will he by savvy enough to realize that? He's probably distracted by some girl in the crowd anyway.

So this is something for you to weigh up. Mid frequencies give more impression of loudness than any other part of the frequency band. So this is where your rock mix should center. Ease off the bass so that you can raise the monitor level without the woofers bottoming.

Find the right balance between the bass and the mids and, with a little practice, you will be able to create the ultimate loud rock mix.

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