Cut Off And Resonance

I have a disarmingly simple question that I’m sure is loaded.

I have an untrained ear that (like most people) feels more is better when it comes to treble… I guess I like the old disco smile on the EQ.

Whenever I’m shaping a sound in a synth, I’m always looking at the cutoff and thinking “maybe I can open it up just a little more”. I don’t think it’s a problem since it’s subjective to the listener, but I’m wondering how most people decide just how cutting they want their lead sounds to be?

Is there an actual school of thought or method to this, or is it really just “whatever works”? I like loud, clear, attention grabbing sounds, and I never seem to taper off the top end very much from lead sounds. I’m just curious if other people find this is true as well? I’m sure there are all kinds of rules I’m breaking about sitting sounds in the mix and so forth… maybe this question will teach me something!

I can’t write you a comprehensive reply, but I will say this: the more you play with different types of filters the more you get a sense of what works in what context. It goes without saying that you need accurate monitors, preferably a higher sample rate, and if you have access to any analog filters by all means use them.

Let’s look at Filter3 in Renoise.

For a lot of lead sounds or pad sounds a 24dB 4pole LP (low pass) will be the ticket. This already has a shaped peak sound at the cut so you get emphasis without even needing to add resonance. This sounds especially nice if you’re automating the cut position to get some really nice expression or transitions. Each different input sound will prefer different cut ranges, so play around for a sweet spot.

The 24dB Moog LP is better (imo) for fixed filter positions where you’re just using the filter to tidy up some unwanted sonic nasties. A classic one I use a lot is to get rid of noise above 13khz, and if I’m using any resonance, it’s below 10%. Adding more res with the Moog LP can bring out a lot of nasty intensity around the cut point, so use this one gently if you’re aiming for clarity.

The two Butterworth are very very steep and used if you want a drastic cut sound. This can be good for some speaker emulated sound or dramatic cut sweeps. Be cautious with these because the steep cut causes a lot of sharp emphasis of the sonics at the cut point. The general rule is the steeper the cut the more emphasis. But try it out, some sounds just love a really steep cut.

The High Pass (HP) filters are a whole new set of things to consider, but the same shaping applies as above. I find the Moog and the 4n butterworth to be really useful in knocking out lows completely for dramatic effect or really tight emphasis on a mid/high sound. Sweeps are fun too.

I do suggest that if you feel your relying on filters just to clean up your mix all the time that you challenge that habit and use shelfing EQs. These have a much more natural sound, can tidy most things up brilliantly and cause less unneeded emphasis at points in the mids. If you use them right, you pull off excellent mixes just using EQ5 and EQ10 in the right way. This leaves the filters for more colourful extreme sonic expressions, which most synths heavily rely upon.

Keep playing with stuff. I’m happy to post more replies about more specific questions.

Sometimes I feel like even more filter types could be useful. Some of the present types are kind of radical for some purposes.

Filter2 can still be used which has some very usable shapes in it. There’s a script somewhere on this board that allows you to call it up, but you can also use it in Renoise’s chorus - just set the chorus so it is 100% wet and have 0 modulation and delay and you can use Filter2 on the right side of the effect interface. Filter2 is also still used in the Instrument Envelopes.

And if all that still isn’t enough start shopping around for a 3rd party filter plugin.

What other modes/types would you like to see? Personally, I would enjoy a comb filter and a formant/vowel filter. I haven’t really explored a lot of others, so I’m curious to know what else might be creative and useful.

I’d say a big hell yeah to those dblue.

The only filter I’d really like to see added to Renoise is a 2-pole Oberheim-style filter.

I don’t know if your room is acoustically treated or not, but that is what I’m currently tackling. Composition wise, I’m not as concerned wether the room is treated or not but I do plan on doing some heavy synth programming, sonic experimentations, tone shaping, etc. and the mixing room and monitor placement plays a big role outside the box. I’m still collecting info, so its categorically disorganized but I hope this’ll help more than confuse.

main site:

via google search words: diy acoustic treatment…stic-treatment/

00.1… you need to put a touch of reverb on your speaking - its sounding a little dry :w00t:

Aside from accoustic treatment… heres my tips -
Regular reference to other finished material of a similar nature is essential - also monitoring too loudly won’t help things - take a break occasionally with a nice cuppa and a tune you like.

I compose through my speakers and mix through in-ear headphones - regularly refering to tunes i like.
Of course most people say dont mix on headphones but i get better results due to my terrible room - im not advocating mixing on headphones but you should certainly check your mix on other speakers.
I use a crossfeed plugin to compensate for using headphones.

I run reason and reaper together - so i have a track with the reference material muted - which i solo when im unsure of something.

In renoise you could drop in a four bar loop sample from some commercial material of a similar nature to what you are mixing, and trigger on its own it when you want to reference.
Ideally you should playback the reference material at the same volume to your mix. (bear in mind that your reference material is compressed - don’t run a master bus compressor whilst mixing until the final stages.)

Regular referncing really helps me with the spectral balance of the whole mix and individual elements.

Good one :)

Thanks for all the replies everyone. Part of my problem (but definitely not all of it) is the speakers I use when composing. I have logitech THX 4.1 speakers, which are nice, bassy and sound pretty great, but are not at all an honest reproduction of the sound. I think I’m going to get some Mackie MR8’s which will let me hear a bit better what is going on. Anyone have experience with the MR8’s?

Mastering is so painfully, obviously my weakpoint when writing music. I think I’m attention deficit with music. By the time I’ve worked an idea out I’m already bored with it… let alone fanagle with the sound to get the perfect mix. Bad habits… I’ll have to break those!

Am I correct that the concept is every sound should have it’s own spot where it is emphasized in the mix? I read that a long time ago but I don’t know if it’s true.

I also remember reading from someone that they never use filters to add to frequencies, only to subtract frequencies as it provided a more realistic sound and cut the mud out of the mix. Anyways… when I get a chance I’ll run through some more how-to’s, etc. Perhaps at some point when I’m “done” a song, I’ll see if anyone wants to take a crack at improving the mix so I can see what they had done compared to what I had done. Like anything, I suppose it’s a processs… and practice makes perfect. =)

This site covers a range of topics that might interest you, including filters and speaker placement…

also, an interactive frequency chart……ain_display.htm

If you get a chance, check out how choppers are built. I think its a good metaphor on “every sound should have its own spot”, “every screw has its own hole”, or “every nail its own hand”, etc. Aside from the similarity between extreme customization (vast plugins vast chopper parts and pieces, hell, Renoise has custom “paintjobs”), there are the stages in how music and choppers are built.

Composition has its own stages, lyrics has its own stages, mixing and mastering both has its own, but tbh, I cannot speak in complete fashion on mixing and mastering. From what I gather, the mixing satges are:
• Balance
• Static Signal Processing
• Cuts
• Rides
• Tweaks & Special Effects

A working knowledge on stages helps a lot imho because then you really have jurisdiction over your tunes and it gauges your strengths and weaknesses.

Back to choppers, there used to be a show called Biker Build-Off in which each builder had 10 days to build a working custom motorcycle and there were great insights on how each builder built their own unique chopper.

Some of the fundamentals (to me) that i missed in my earlier days before the freedom of information granted by the internet…

I think mentioning the use of high pass filters (and low cut filters) is particularly important (in electrionic dance music - which is what most of us here do)

Low end bass frequencies take lots of energy to reproduce. Your high hats certainly dont need any bass - so slap in a high pass filter at 500hz - or even higher… do the same with other tracks according to what they need/don’t need.
You can do the same with a low pass filter on many instruments. a sub bass sample needs no high frequencies…
If its sounding to unnatural??? - perhaps a low cut or a high cut may be more appropriate than filtering.
However - i once mixed a few tracks for a friend. His grunge band sounded rather awlfull without any of the ‘grunge’. It was apparent how out of the tune they were and a muddy mix was much better on this occasion.
The right amount of dirts important to a lot of electronic music.

The old rule about ‘its better to cut than boost’ is from history although still relevant but perhaps not so much with DAWs. Analogue Eq’s added more noise or colouration to the sound (more apparent when boosting) - but many people still argue this is desirable and spend lots of money on vintage eq units.
Elvis probably didn’t like a subtle phase shift across his vocals.
‘Removing/lowering any unnecessary frequencies before doing any boosting’ is perhaps a better rule of thumb than ‘its better to cut than boost’.

Boosting rather than cutting still leaves all the ‘mud’ in the mix - but theres certainly nothing wrong with a bit of boost. Panning competing sounds away from each other maybe a better choice - but won’t help with mono compatibility.

Historically, When recording a traditional instrument with a microphone - the eq was to correct the microphone and room response - to make the recorded instrument sound 'natural - this applies to electronic instruments but is less important - after all - electronic noises aren’t natural and just need to fit together.

Its worth remembering that your perceptions of the bass, mid and treble frequencies vary greatly with listening levels - so try to monitor at a consistent level and not too loudly or your ears will tire.
The louder you listen, your perception of bass and treble increase. You’ll mix bass and treble light with far to much mids.

Nowadays - most of us are mixing whilst we are composing.
When you do your final mix - do it on a day when you haven’t been composing - so your ears aren’t tired.

The way i do it is…

  1. Each track in isolation - remove unwanted frequencies, further shape eq to sound natural.
  2. Set approximate mix levels - a rough mix - any panning, fx etc…
  3. listen for any tracks masking each other or creating harsh frequencies - and re-eq - in the context of the mix it becomes apparent you can further remove unwanted frequencies… panning helps with competing instruments… but remember your stereo image ought to have some sort of rythymical balance.
    (or people will be dancing at one side of the club and not the other)
  4. Listen to reference material…
  5. go back to step 2… until it sounds right.

Dont put a compressor on the master buss untill your going to master/mix down

On a DAW if an individual track is just past the red/clipping - don’t worry… Don’t adjust your whole mix just because one track is peaking.
(except in extreme cases you could run out of headroom if all your tracks are clipping)

If the master volume is clipping - you need to pull back on the master fader.
Vis a Vis - if the master level is too quite, turn it up. (- rather than all the tracks is what i’m saying)
A volume knob on your monitor section helps monitor at a consistent volume - dont use your master fader for this.

Music sounds better when played loudly - so do your mixing a bit quieter. You should be able to converse with someone whilst mixing - of course crank it up some times to check at higher levels.

Sorry for any repetitions - i also recomend printing out the frequency chart.