Got an interesting question on the podcast this week.

Since the range of human hearing is 20 Hz-20 kHz, this guy was asking what frequencies I tended to roll off during mastering.

In other words, he was saying that since we can’t hear outside of that range, we should use a high-pass filter somewhere around 20 Hz and a low-pass filter up around 20 kHz.

When I get questions like this, I usually have the same answer:

You are over-thinking it.

Yes, there’s science involved in recording music, but there’s also ART. You need both, but if you go too far in one direction, it can hurt you.

In this example, I would MUCH rather focus on what’s happening between 20 Hz and 20 kHz than obsessing over what might be happening outside the range of human hearing. It seems like fancy procrastination. Rather than putting in the hard work of making our music sound good, we want to latch on to some unimportant technical “issue” for a while.

That’s no good, amigo.

That would be like having your doctor remove your appendix because you don’t seem to need it. Sure, it may not serve a real purpose, but it’s also not hurting anything. Why would you waste your time and money to risk a major surgery to voluntarily remove something that’s not causing any problems?

That’s what happens when you create imaginary problems in your studio. It’s unnecessary. It can keep you from doing real, meaningful work.

A few examples:

“I can’t record the guitars on my album yet because my microphone doesn’t have a flat frequency response.”

“This mix isn’t finished, because it doesn’t look correct on the spectrum analyzer.”

“I can’t finish mastering this song, because it doesn’t sound right when I add the compressor. It sounds better without the compressor, but I know i’m supposed to use a compressor, so I’ll keep working on it until I make it work.”

What’s your studio’s appendix?

What are you so focused on that it keeps you from making and releasing music?

Stop it.

Focus on the good stuff.

Life’s too short to obsess over things that ultimately don’t matter.

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner

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  • Michael

    Good advice Joe. The variables are different with every recording. What works this time may not work the next time.

    On past albums I used an RMS analyzer to ensure all the songs were “in the ballpark” with regard to a specific dB setting. Well, on my newest album I didn’t use an analyzer at all, just my ears. Or course I made sure nothing went over -2.0 (peak) since the finished mixes were sent out for mastering.

    I liked that I got out of the practice of over analyzing the final mixes because they didn’t necessarily meet a specific RMS value. And the album turned out great – eveness across all the songs – and the mastering guy was happy with my final mixes.

    Over the past couple of years I’ve been getting back to simplicity, ridding my setup of many plugins and using some that come stock with REAPER. Recording is much more enjoyable now. Not that is wasn’t before, but there’s less stress with less analyzing.