Mixing Secret: Two Stage High Pass Filtering

If you mix for long enough, you tend to develop a few “trade secrets” that help nail a mix. Today I’m going to share with you one of the simple, but incredibly powerful tools I use when crafting a live mix.
Most PA systems that I’ve mixed on tend to have some extra energy in the low mids. This isn’t quite the subwoofer frequencies, but typically between 100 and 300 Hz.
These frequencies are both powerful and dangerous for your mix. They are powerful because this is often the part of the music that feels like it “surrounds you”. It is what gives music it’s fullness and presence.
But they can be dangerous because this is also where the “mud” resides in most mixes. When your mix lacks clarity and punch, when the vocals are disappearing, often it’s because you have too much happening in the low mids.
The solution to this is to use a two stage high pass filter. It looks something like this:
Two Stage High Pass Filter - Mixcademy
If you’re not already, you should be using the traditional high pass filter on almost every channel (with the exception of the kick, bass guitar, and synth….and sometimes I even use it a little on those….but that’s a conversation for another blog). This gets rid of a ton of the low end energy that can ruin a mix.
But what about those instruments where there’s still a little too much low end, but you don’t want to completely eliminate it? What if you want those frequencies, but not all of them?
Well, that’s where a two stage high pass filter comes in. Using your parametric EQ, you roll out anywhere between 3-10 db out somewhere between 100-300 Hz. This effectively gives you a two-stage high-pass filter. The first stage is a complete roll off of the low frequencies we don’t need. The second stage is a partial roll off of the frequencies we want to reduce.
Truth is, I often use this to some extent on almost every channel (Don’t judge me!!!). It takes the mud out of vocals, allows electric guitars to sing, on keys it removes conflict between the bass and the keys, and cleans up acoustic guitars nicely.
Sure, you don’t want to use it too much, but next time you’re fighting with an instrument that just won’t have clarity or articulation, try using the two stage high pass filter. It has helped me save many mixes.