EQ Trick To Clean Up Muddy Vocals in 60 seconds!

Jan 03, 2024

Learn a simple vocal trick to clean up muddy, boxy live vocals in 60 seconds! 🎙️

In this quick mixing tutorial, I breakdown a technique using EQ filtering and shelving to remove unwanted low end buildup. Perfect for handheld mics on stage.

0:00 Intro

0:42 The Problem with Live Vocals

1:28 Typical Fixes and Their Drawbacks

2:15 A Better Way: My Vocal Mixing Trick

3:03 Before and After Examples

4:15 How to Set Up the EQ Filters

5:20 Tips for Audience Mics

6:12 Outro/Call to Action


Here is the transcription formatted in paragraphs without the numbered lines:

Hey guys, Kevin here from Mix Coach. Hey, do you mind if I show you a little vocal trick that I've learned just in the last two months of mixing live broadcast audio? I'll show you what that is. And this trick not only works for vocals, but it also works for your audience mics too.

So before we get to the tutorial, I want to ask you if you're interested in more tricks like this and you'd like a little playbook of sorts. Check out the link in the description below. There's some free resources there for you and I would love to hook you up with some more tips and tricks like this.

Okay, so here's a deal about live vocals. When you're in a studio, usually you're a good distance away from the mic. A far enough distance that a dynamic microphone or a cardioid-shaped microphone does not add too much low into it. What happens is the closer you get to a microphone, a cardioid pattern microphone, the more bassy it gets. Sometimes that is usable. Sometimes it gives a person with a thin voice a little bit more girth to their voice. But sometimes it makes a voice muddy and that's what it does most of the time.

And the difference between live and in the studio is in the studio you've got a distance away from it. So you don't have that proximity, which is what is causing all that low end to build up. You don't have that proximity effect because you're controlling how far you are from the microphone and the room environment, the bleed. It doesn't make as much difference because it's an open, empty room.

But here's what happens with microphones that you hold on stage. They are cordier microphones and you usually hold them really close like this. And usually the closer you get to it, the more bassy it gets. Sometimes that causes problems. It causes problems most of the time. Unless you have a microphone specifically designed to make that not be a problem, it's usually a problem. And I'm going to show you what I figured out, how you can fix it.

So I've got a live concert that I recorded, actually a friend of mine recorded it, several years ago. And I've got two different sections here that I want to show you. And I want to show you that it works in two sections. Now this is my friend Belinda Smith. We did a live record at the Walnut House here in Murfreesboro a few years ago. And this is the part where she is talking and introducing me. But I wanted to show you what most people do.

Let's see, let me share this screen here with you. So what this part is, what I do, here's tip number two. When you've got the power to do this and the logic or the time to do this, take your talking vocal away from your singing vocal because you probably want to treat them a little bit differently. And that's what we did here.

So here's what you typically do on a record. And this is John, the person who mixed it, this is what he did. And this is what I used to do a lot. You use the filter and you filter out anything that's offending in the low frequencies and you filter it out. Sometimes that works, but a lot of times there's a lot of residual leftover stuff. So let me turn this off here. Let's play a little bit of it. And behind me, when it came time to do this record, I was like, you know. Okay, so that doesn't sound bad at all. But let's just reset this thing real quick. Let's go back to factory reset here.

And this is the process that I would usually go through. I would use a filter here and we'll see what I would normally do here. I have no technical ability whatsoever. I can barely turn on a computer. And I called up a friend, I'm like, he's a real decorated producer. And I was like, hey, if you were going to do a live record, he wouldn't be. He's like, Kevin Ward, no doubt. And so I called up Kevin and I have no need.

Okay, so we've got a lot of the low end, like some of the rumble out of the room. Not that you can hear a lot of it. It's not a poorly recorded vocal at all. It's just a typical live vocal. But there is still some junk down here. So what I used to do is just go down here and I would filter out the junk as well. And sometimes you would notch these things out. I found that there's a more efficient way of doing this. Let me reset this.

And I don't know what to call this yet. It's not a new trick. It's just something that's kind of new to me and I think it will help you. Is to use a shelf on the bottom as well. So right here you see the shelf coming in to play and you can just adjust the frequency and you can actually shape what's going on here.

So let's reset that for a second and then I want to show you. It's a subtle difference but it does make a difference. I'm going to roll back here just a little bit. We've got the filter on already. And behind me when it came time to do this record I was like, you know, I have no technical ability whatsoever. I can barely turn on the computer. So that's quite a difference right there.

And what we've done with that shelf in addition to the filter is we've kind of gotten all of the offending low frequency build up out of it. Now this is kind of a heavy handed way to do it. You probably-- when you do it this way you probably don't have to filter quite as much. You can probably concentrate the filter on just getting rumble out, air conditioner, 60 hertz hum, anything like that. You probably want to just set it to there.

But then when it comes to rolling low end off your vocal, instead of filtering it and being really heavy handed in that, use a shelf EQ in addition to the filter. So you can see that that made a little bit of difference. I'm going to go here and I'm going to bypass all of this stuff that we did except for this one. And this has got-- all this EQ is on the top end. So we'll be able to do this. Now this is her singing acapella with its solos. I'll not leave it in there too long. But we'll go ahead and turn the filter on.

Let's set that slope a little steeper. And then we'll grab this and then we'll set this to the shelf and then we'll pull the shelf down. And the shelf was somewhere in this range here. So really quick, we're going to listen. Riding hard across the land through the blue wide open. Here's the four. A little build up, a little boxiness in her vocal. And that just cleans it up a good bit, I think.

So, just a little trick. I do a live mix pretty much every week for radio and for like a video broadcast. And this is something that I have defaulted all of my EQs to, especially when it comes to vocals. And that is a filter and not quite as aggressive on the filter and then a low shelf. And I let the low shelf do the fine tuning. It's like the filter does the heavy lifting and then the fine tuning is done by the shelf. That's a way to really clean up a vocal. You can also do this on audience mics.

Now I don't have the audience mics pulled up, but typically what happens with an audience mic is there's a lot of low end sort of in it in the audience mics because you're miking a room. Depending on what you're miking it with, you can get a little bit of that build up. Well, instead of aggressively filtering everything out and then calling it a day, what I've been doing is filtering it not quite as aggressively and then finishing it off with a low shelf.

So, I use this all the time and hopefully this will help you get better vocals, especially live for you guys who are mixing church broadcasts and live concerts and things like that. This is a great way to clean up your vocal.

Hey, go and check out the link below if you want some more free resources that I've got for you over at mixcoach.com. But until then, thank you for watching today and hopefully this helps. Drop in the comments if you have any other suggestions like this to clean up vocals in live handheld situations. Okay? All right. Talk to you soon.



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