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How understanding ‘fundamental character’ makes our beats and melodies better

audio engineering mixing sith Jun 23, 2023

 

The hardest thing to mix is the melody.

And the frustration is magnified by the simple fact that no two melodies can be mixed the same.

In a way, this is true for every instrument, from 808s to cowbells.

Still, there are standard conventions for percussive instruments that work as a good starting baseline more often than not.

It took me a long time to learn that there is at least one universal mixing technique that we can use in each melody we mix.

Here it is 👇

Fundamental character.

I define this as the frequency range that gives the melody is ‘characteristic body.’

Here’s the definition Sweetwater wrote on their site in 1999:

“In audio the fundamental is the frequency of the root, or core pitch making up a pitched sound. Except for a few special cases the fundamental is always the lowest frequency making up any pitched sound and is generally the strongest pitch we hear (in a strict Physics sense the fundamental is, by definition, the lowest pitch of a sound). Most sounds are comprised of a combination of a fundamental pitch and various multiples of it known as overtones. When overtones are added to the fundamental, which occurs in almost all naturally occurring sounds, the character of the sound is changed. The relationship between the fundamental and the overtones are what gives each sound its basic timbre.”

I like mine better (I’m biased), but Sweetwater gives a good scientific explanation if you’re into that sort of thing (I am).

Also, my definition is more helpful for trap and R&B production (even though they both basically say the same things).

So, how do we use this?

Well, let me explain and then show you some pictures.

When I’m equalizing a melody, I begin from the lowest frequencies with a moderately steep slope and move up until the ‘body’ of the melody seems to vanish.

This is when the melody sounds more hollow and less full.

Once I reach this point, I move the band back toward the lower frequencies only until the fundamental character returns.

Let’s demonstrate with a simple two-chord piano melody.

So, here’s how i’ll start:

Then here’s when I’ve passed the fundamental character:

And here’s where I’ve move back to allow the fundamental without letting in any unnecessary frequencies on the low-end:


This is important in trap production for 2 reasons:

  1. You want to EQ out as much unneeded low-end as possible from your melody so that it doesn’t clash with your 808s and kicks.
  2. You don’t want to EQ out too much of the low end (the fundamental) because the melody provides a lot of ‘body’ in the lower frequencies above where the fundamental of the 808 is.

Something to keep in mind is that there is a time and a place to break these rules.

And let’s be clear; rules are meant to be understood and then broken.

For example, Wondagurl routinely EQs past her fundamental character.

This is her own production style and it also allows her kicks and 808s to 1) be more powerful in general, and 2) play a more melodic role (specifically for the 808s).

It’ll look something like this (rough example based on the same piano melody from above):

Remember though, we are looking for a technique that we can use in every single melody.

EQ’ing to the fundamental character is that technique.

And once you understand this, then you break the rule because you know why you’re breaking it and where to return to if things don’t work out.

If you didn’t know this or if you’ve been struggling with mixing melodies, this is going to up your production game for sure!

And if you want to keep improving your sound, check out the Centerfold Drum Kit.

Besides the fact that it comes with every preset pack I’ve ever made, you also get the hardest, cleanest drum samples I’ve ever heard.

That’s one of the main reason my beats sound so different; I start with a high quality sample which makes mixing significantly less of a nightmare 🥲.

You can go here to learn more about Centerfold.

Btw, it has 🆓 lifetime updates and grants you supercuts of every workshop I host on my channel (unlimited replay access).

Blessings,

Chu

PS. I’m gonna be adding some dope master chain presets to Centerfold soon 🔥, so I might increase the price - don’t miss out on the deal if you want it now 👁️.

PSS. I'll hit you on Friday to see it you have any questions about this topic.

PSSS. This is part 2 of the 3 lesson module on EQ!

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