Use Spectrum Analyzer To Make Your Mixes Sound Better

Use Spectrum Analyzer To Make Your Mixes Sound Better

Getting your mix sound right – especially in the low frequency area – can be challenging. If you don’t have a proper listening environment and a decent monitoring system you easily end up with an unbalanced mix that doesn’t translate very well to other audio systems (club PA’s, car stereo’s, etc).

In a situation like this, spectrum analyzer comes in very helpful. It will show you visually what’s going on in your mix in frequency-wise and this will help you to tweak your sounds in a way that they won’t clash with each other too much.

In addition to the built-in analyzers that comes with your DAW, there’s a bunch of really good free third party spectrum analyzer plugins available such as Voxengo SPAN and Blue Cat Audio’s FreqAnalyst. My personal favourite is the Seven Phases Spectrum Analyzer (if the original link is down, check out here or here). I like it because it can show the frequency peaks as bars and personally, I find it easier to read bars than curves.

But how do you use a spectrum analyzer in practice?

Firstly, it’s a good idea to drop it into a Master channel. This way you can see the frequency spectrum of each sound in your mix individually (by soloing the tracks/channels) as well as the whole mix.

How do you read the spectrum analyzer? What to look for?

For instance: check where in the frequency range your sounds are peaking in solo… do they clash badly with each other? Are there any unwanted frequencies in your sounds/samples that needs to be EQ’ed (ie. low frequencies in hihat samples)? Then make changes to your mix according to that.

I find spectrum analysis extremely useful especially when working with kick drums and bass sounds. Due to the limitations of my budget monitors, I can’t tell for sure how low the kick drum or bassline will go so I quickly check it in the spectrum analyzer. For example, if I have sub bass peaking in the 30-50Hz area and I see that the kick drum’s ‘tail’ is also peaking heavily in the same frequency area there will be problems: they clash, make the low end sound messy, may cause phasing issues and they will unnecessarily use most of the mix headroom. So I need to make a choice: I can try to make the bass sound less prominent in that area either by EQing it, using a different bass sound, re-arranging the bass sequence (so that the bass doesn’t hit at same time with the kick) or using sidechain compression. Or I can just roll off the low end from the kick. Anyway, without the spectrum analyzer these kind of problems wouldn’t be so obvious.

Another thing you can do with spectrum analyzer is to check the frequency range of a reference mix – a well produced commercial song in the same musical genre as yours – and do a comparison: try to identify in what frequency areas your song is lacking the power or on the contrary, if there’s something that is unnecessarily prominent. Then make changes if necessary.

Check the video below for a spectrum analyzer in action. In the video, I have an example mix with sub-heavy kick and sub bass and you will see how the analyzer reveals a problem in the low frequency range which wouldn’t have been so easy to detect with my monitor speakers. I’m using the Seven Phases Spectrum Analyzer in the video:

That’s about it. As a summary I would say that a spectrum analyzer is an indispensable tool in bedroom studio. 8-)

About Petri Suhonen

Petri Suhonen is an electronic music hobbyist. He has been producing music with computers over a decade on such styles as trance, downtempo, ambient & experimental electronic using FL Studio.

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Comments

  1. I enjoy using Spectrum Analyzer. Especially helps if you don’t have a good quality headphones.

    I’m using Voxengo Anspec, which I enjoy a lot.

    I tried downloading Seven Phases Spectrum Analyzer, but it seems to have an error in the download page.

  2. where i can get it

  3. Sinan says:

    Hey, this is a pretty helpful tutorial, although I’ve already learned this through another tutorial of you.
    This method is always good, if you want a clean mix. I personally low-cut every single sound that I’m using (especially Percussion, Drums, Synths) to assure that there is no possibility of frequencies interfering.

  4. iOur says:

    I don’t fully understand. What can you do with this that you can’t do with EQUO?

    • Well, EQUO’s frequency analyzing functions aren’t very adjustable. Seven Phases Spectrum Analyzer has more options to tweak how the frequency peaks are represented making it easier to monitor the frequencies. ie. EQUO doesn’t have peak hold -function, adjustable dB range, or resizable window. Seven Phases Analyzer has all these.

      Does this answer to your question?

      • iOur says:

        yep. Sounds good. I put up another reply when I see how it works for hard hitting dnb basses, subs and kicks. Sometimes I get phase issues between them and I’d love for them to have completely different freq ranges. And also my kicks sometimes go under 10hz and they sound weak when I filter 10hz and under out of the mix. I’d love to avoid doing that too

  5. iOur says:

    I love It! Works great, with lots of different settings to suit anyones needs!

  6. Great little unit and takes up hardly any cpu unlike others I have used.

  7. Adriane says:

    Hi there, thanks for this tutorial! I have a question, can you explain to me what it means when saying that a certain instrument needs more ‘energy’ in a certain frequency range(s)? I’ve come across that phrase quite a bit and I don’t quite understand what it means…. Hope you can help!

  8. Sumarn says:

    Well im weak in mixing thing do u have any bigginers tuto abt mixing / compressing…
    I dont knw some staff like which vst to use in mixer in lead sound and then wht to add in masters.

  9. Hey man, just dropping by to say this web has inspired me a lot in making music. thanks for all your tips ;D

  10. Paul says:

    Clueless what’s going on. I now have Spectrum Analyzer but I actually don’t know what to look for. Could you, if you don’t mind, make a tutorial about mixing? You know, the basic ones. Hehehehe!

  11. Thank you for the wonderful effort

  12. And I hope to continue to progress and giving thanks.
    I hope that you are working for the Voice Mix singer in order to benefit from the experience and thank you very much.

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