Declutter the midrange
If something’s going to make your mix sound a bit wrong, a bit on the amateurish side, it’s most likely going to be an overall EQ footprint situation.
Typically we can stand to brighten the top end a little bit. Don’t go nuts, don’t make it shrieky or strident or too aggressive — but make sure it’s appropriately forward and sparkly.
A/Bing your work with major commercial releases in your genre can help with this a lot. You’ll notice there’s a wide variance in what’s commercially accepted — so just make sure your stuff is living in the same universe as theirs and you’ll be fine.
Same with the low end. Too much? Not enough? Some quick A/B comparisons can guide you here also.
Which leaves the midrange! The midrange can be trickier to hear. Indeed, I feel like we don’t talk enough about the midrange. Because it’s kind of hard to talk about! It’s “everything in the middle” — but it can be hard to pinpoint.
And, also, it can make the rest of the EQ balances really hard to work out! Because EQ is relative, right? If you’re boosting your highs, and boosting your lows, and the midrange isn’t right, the highs and lows still won’t sound right. Everything has to work together. But the midrange issues can be harder to hear and harder to pinpoint.
Here’s a handy guide to decluttering your midrange:
300 Hz: muddy
400-500 Hz: boxy
600-800 Hz: resonant
800-1200 Hz: honky
Find the adjective that describes the issue you’re hearing, and cut there — try a Q of 2.5 and a gain of -1 to -2 dB. Even just half a dB can totally do the trick sometimes!
And if you’re not sure what the above adjectives sound like in a practical musical sense, you can teach yourself: do a boost of +6 dB with a Q of 2.5 at each of the frequencies listed above and you’ll hear what I mean.
Keeping it clean — jamie