The frequency spectrum chart is something that puzzles all budding musicians. With all of its layers, there’s a lot to remember. However, the knowledge of what the different frequency bands are and how they sound will push you up to the top of the stairway of making professional sounding mixdowns.
The frequency spectrum is home to ten layers of frequency goodness. The bottom is our sub-level frequencies while at the top we have “air” frequencies.
We’ll get to these, of course. But before we do, we can’t exaggerate enough how useful the frequency spectrum is to us as music producers. If your vocals are being just don’t have enough power, which frequency band do you push? If your bass is muddy and no plugins are going to fix it, what bass bands do you play with?
It’s time to find out.
Sub Bass Frequencies 20Hz-40Hz
At the very bottom of the spectrum are our sub frequencies. The sub frequency range stretches from 20Hz to 40Hz, and these are the lowest point of human hearing. Most monitor, Hi-fi and PA systems struggle to accurately reproduce these frequencies. Even if they do, we feel them more than we hear them.
It’s a good idea to have high pass filters that cut these frequencies out on each channel of individual elements as they’re probably not bringing any value to your music. Chances are, they’re only muddying your mix up.
By all means, leave sub-bass frequencies on a dedicated sub-bass channel, of course. But leaving excess frequencies on elements that don’t operate in this region will muddy up your low end and stress you out.
Low Bass Frequencies 40Hz-80Hz
The low bass range covers from about 40Hz-80Hz.
For your mix, this is a very important area as this is where foundational sounds like your kick and bass sit. You need a clear idea of what should be operating in this small field and what should not be.
Just boosting the bass on every element in your mix isn’t going to help you and will be more detrimental than beneficial. What will help is leaving enough space in your mix for your main bass instrument(s) to dominate the lower bass frequency range.
Cramming too much into this low bass frequency range will remove any punch from it. Your kick and main bass sound should take your priority slots for what to include here, but even then you need to decide which one is going to sink lower than the other. If you don’t they’ll just end up fighting one another and it won’t be a pretty sound.
Upper Bass Frequencies 80Hz- 300Hz
On top of the lower bass frequency range sits the two upper-frequency ranges. These ranges are from 80Hz to about 300Hz. But there are two ranges here. First is the mid-bass range, which sits on top of the lower bass range, and stretches from 80Hz to 160Hz. Above the mid-bass range is the upper bass range, and that stretches from 160Hz to 300Hz.
Any bass instruments that aren’t designated for your lower bass range should be bringing the power in these two ranges. As well your bass instruments, you’ll find that a lot of lower harmonics from many percussion instruments sit here, and these include the like of rack tom drums.
As with the two lower frequencies, it’s important to have a strong idea of what you’re placing in the upper bass frequency ranges. What are you going to place and how will the different elements work together?
A basic way of understanding what frequency ranges all of your sounds are touching is to simply insert a parametric EQ onto the channel(s) in question and just watch its spectrograph.
Use a high pass filter to remove frequencies from channels that are touching these ranges that aren’t bringing any value to your music!
Low Mid-Frequency Range 300Hz – 600 Hz
And now we’re into the mid-range! From 300Hz to 600Hz, our chords and main melodic elements are the alpha here.
From electric guitars and pianos to synth leads, upfront instruments are our main focus in this region.
With that said, vocals can also operate in the lower midrange if they’re upfront in your mix. But it’s possible to have so much happening in the low mid-frequency range that it’s pretty much impossible to put our fingers on which instruments should sit here.
Your kick and bass channels are taking charge with your bass regions, so you can use a low pass filter on those channels and keep them clear of your midrange.
Mid-Frequency Range 600Hz – 1.2kHz
The main midrange frequency range is the critical frequency range. Between 600Hz to about 1.5kHz is ultra important for the clarity of different instruments. We want to avoid things such as masking and other separation issues.
If there’s too much going on here, it can make your whole song sound bloated. In contrast, not enough going on in this range will make your song sound hollow. Catch 22.
With this information in mind, play around and listen to hear if your sounds gain or lose value with subtle EQ edits in this region. You may find a subtle boost on the whole range or individual channels works well and give you a stronger midrange, or maybe they need a subtle cut?
The keyword here? Subtle. Subtle. Subtle.
Upper Mid-Frequencies 1.2-5kHz
For the final segment of the mid-range bands, we have both the upper-midrange and, on top of that, we have the “pressure range“.
The upper midrange houses frequencies from 1.2kHz to about 2.4kHz, and the “pressure range” occupies from 2.4kHz to 5kHz. Excess energy in these ranges can cause serious issues like harsh-sounding mixdowns.
It’s possible to boost frequencies in these ranges, but it’s not always the best idea. Doing so can drown out any clarity that your mix benefitted from beforehand, so make sure you do a before and after comparison.
As well as a comparison, it’s equally as important to rest your ears to avoid silly mistakes. Many producers undervalue frequent breaks. Don’t be one of them. Tired ears can make us overhype our upper mids specifically. Ear fatigue tends to create a bias where we think these ranges don’t have enough punch. Before you boost and “solve the problem”, take a break. You may find there was no problem in the first place.
Something to watch for too is your monitor level. If your monitors are playing at a loud volume, not only are you risking ear damage but you’re also perceiving your upper-mids as more up-front than they actually are.
High End Frequency Range 5kHz – 10kHz
Starting from 5kHz and stretching to 10kHz, your high-end frequency range is usually associated by musicians and listeners alike to be where the shine comes through.
To be more specific, this region is where effects and sounds that give your mix a sense of three-dimensional depth should sit. Effects like reverb and delay, room microphones and elements like synth pads, etc. You could even experiment with vocal adlibs here too.
It’s all about the details in the higher frequencies. You can use an EQ to boost this region and accentuate its shine if it doesn’t make your mix sound harsh!
“Air” Frequencies 10kHz – 20 kHz
And we’ve and it. We’ve climbed the frequency spectrum to make it to the top and get some fresh air.
I hope you liked that one. Anyway, engineers call this very top region of 10kHz to 20kHz “air” because these frequencies are felt more than they’re heard, as with the sub-region.
Too many effects and sounds in the air frequencies will only make your mix sounds harsh with significant sound pressure levels. Whatever you add here, it should only be for atmospheric purposes and shouldn’t dominate your mix.
Armed with the knowledge of the frequency spectrum, you’re well on the way to making great music. But to make great music, you also need great sounds as your starting point.
We at Mixxed work with a growing number of sample labels and contributors to provide you with an affordable sample subscription service that’s more accessible than any before.
You’ll have access to our growing catalogue of thousands of loops, one-shots and sound effects that you can browse, download and keep forever for less than $3 a month.
Sign up today to find your sound!