Long-time Dueling Mixes customer Louis wrote to me and Graham:

“Hey guys hope you’re doing well. I need some vocab. I read on DM guys talking about harsh. There are a few words that I’m looking for. Want to know what “harsh, cymbal wash, punch” mean from your prospective. Have a good day love the content you guys are putting out there. Thanks, Louis”

Man, what a great question. I’m sure there are other DM members who don’t know what some of those words mean. Kudos to Louis for asking. So cool.

Here we go, let’s try to define some of these. (Keep in mind, this is all subjective. My definition is just my definition. But hopefully this helps ya a bit.)

HARSH – To me, the word “harsh” is almost synonymous with “painful.” When I say something is harsh, I’m usually referring to the upper-mids (2-6kHz), and maybe the highs, too (above 8kHz). The opposite of harsh is muddy (too much low-mids). If you struggle with muddy mixes, sometimes you can overcompensate, and you end up with harsh mixes. Things that tend to be harsh: vocals (nasal frequencies, especially), cymbals, any guitars (especially over-driven electrics).

CYMBAL WASH – I’ll be honest, I don’t know what this one means. So…I texted Graham to see what he thinks. His response? “Hmmm. Not sure.” Haha. If I had to throw a guess out there, I’d say if someone says the cymbals are too “washy” or “washed out,” they’re saying it doesn’t sound as crisp and clean as they would expect. Lack of clarity perhaps?

PUNCH – Punch has more to do with dynamics than frequencies. When I say something is punchy, I’m typically referring to something percussive, like drums and bass. If a bass part is punchy, then it literally feels like it’s jumping out of the speakers and punching me in the chest. Usually I have to use a fair amount of compression with a slow attack time (50 ms or so) to generate more punch out of a bass track. When the bass sounds more like “wump, wump,” it’s not very punchy. If it sounds like “thump, thump,” THAT’s punchy.

Okay, that’s all for today.

Wanna know why Louis is asking about these words? Because the best DM members are the ones who take time to comment on the mixes and explain what they like and dislike about them. It’s a way of developing your ear, learning how to listen and how to translate what you like into your own mix.

Ready to jump on in?


Joe Gilder
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