What's the Frequency Kenneth?

If you're old enough to remember, that was the name of a song from the band R.E.M. in the mid 1990s. 

What's the frequency is also a question that scares a lot of music people.

When I first started mixing, ( a long, long time ago ) one thing that scared me the most was feedback.   

I'm sure many of you can relate...you are struggling to get the vocal over the insanely loud stage volume and dodging feedback bullets left and right.  While you search frantically with the EQ to figure out which frequency it is, the audience and band is glaring at you. Not a pleasant situation to be in.

For me, at the time the problem was I couldn't identify frequencies. That also made it very difficult for me to get things to sound the way I wanted them to.

I didn't know how to make muddy sounding vocals really shine and pop in the mix.  I didn't know how to mix so you could hear all of the instruments without them interfering with each other.  I knew EQ was the answer but I just had no idea where to start and always seemed to be spending too much time trynig to get the results I wanted.


I learned that the trick to using EQ to create great sounds and mixes was being able to hear and recognize frequencies.

But, I struggled to learn them and had a difficult time committing frequencies to memory. 

Until I figured out that I was doing it the hard way.  

Once I figured out a few simple tricks, suddenly it became easy to identify frequencies and that made it easy to: 

  •  use EQ effortlessly.
  •  eliminate feedback in live performances.
  •  get great sounds.
  •  create professional quality mixes.
  •  improve the stage sound.


There are a variety of frequency trainer apps that you can use with your smart phone to learn frequencies, but not everyone has success with this. 

One problem is that most people try to memorize frequencies instead of actually learning them.

Trying to memorize the tones from these apps can be difficult when you have nothing tangible to relate them to. 

A 400Hz pure tone sounds very different from 400Hz in an acoustic guitar or a drum.  It might be easy to pick out 800Hz in the app but can you tell if the mix is too heavy in 800Hz?

The key... (see what I did there?) to learning frequencies is  training your ears in Critical Listening.  

Learning how to listen critically opened up the world of mixing to me. I not only knew what a kick drum was suppsoed to soundlike, I knew how to make it sound that way.  I knew how to re-create what I was hearing on a record into a live mix.  I could communicate better with the musicians so we could really dial in their sounds and build mixes where there was space for everything.  

Critical listening can be done anywhere.  The more you do it the easier it becomes, and once you get the hang of it your mixes will really start to improve.

Spend some time listening today.



For more info on learning critical listening and frequencies, check out LISTEN!


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