Learn How To Mix Lead Synth Sounds

mixing synth

Today I have a quick tutorial about mixing synthesizer sounds. Lately I’ve been spending some time helping out people on forums. I see a lot of people struggling to mix synth sounds. A lot of people jump for tools such as eq, compressor etc to mix a synth which might not work because it’s a wrong approach.

When I saw someone asking for a Synth EQ chart that’s when I knew I have to blog about this issue. When you use a synth, you must build a good quality sound from ground up. Meaning you have to create the type of sound you want from the source.

This is where reading the manual really comes in handy. The key here is to know your synthesizer in-and-out. You have to know how to create a good sounding synth by tuning the synth’s envelopes, LFOs, resonance, oscillators, cutoff and filters without any third party processing tools.

This will take more than just tweaking a few knobs and then hope for the best. It is about creating a sound that you want rather than searching for it. You need to spend time learning how to use your favorite synthesizer.

Synth EQ Guide

I would advise you to avoid using third party plugins to process a synth sound. Always strive to get it right from the source by using internal sound design and processing tools.

Yet we have to realize that not all synths are built with good processing tools. In that case you will need to use a third party equalizer. Below is a synth eq guide I created myself by listening to different types of synth sounds and hope it helps you.

Warmth/Bottom 100Hz – 250Hz
Muddiness 250Hz – 800Hz
Presence 1kHz – 6kHz
Clarity 5kHz -7kHz
Sharpness 7kHz
Top end 10kHz

If your sound is sounding too digital or fake then make a boost at 15kHz to make the sampled synthesizer sound more real.

Compression Settings

A 3rd party compressor will kill the life out of your synth sounds more especially for analog synthesizers. Use the envelope or built-in compressor to deal with loud peaks instead of relying on 3rd party compressors.

My teacher, back in music production school, used to tell us that using EQ and Compression for a synthesizer is a lazy man’s job. Even the sound you’ll achieve won’t be as satisfying as compared to using envelopes and filters.

So What Do I Do?

Spend some time reading the manual of only 1 synth that you use a lot, learn it and master it. Once you’ve mastered one then the other synthesizers will be a walk in the park.

You can use third party processing tools, no one is stopping you but just know you could get better results with proper attention to sound design. Third party effects I would recommend you to use are reverb, delay, distortion or any tape saturation tool.

Everyone who’ll tell you otherwise, either has little knowledge about sound design or they haven’t tried this approach. Or even worse, they tried it for 3 minutes and gave up. I’ll be brutally honest with you, depending on your experience, it can take a while to design a good sounding synth from scratch or building it from a preset.

So spend time on the sound design part and forget about fixing stuff in the mixing stage. 

Hope you understand what I’m telling you here guys because this is very important and this also applies to synth bass, VST sounds such as tom drums, kicks, piano, percussion etc. But at the end of the day, it’s all about taste or preference so do what works best for you.

Talk again soon.

3 thoughts on “Learn How To Mix Lead Synth Sounds”

  1. respectfully, I’d have to disagree with your teacher! If you look on youtube for legit tutorials on growls, pads, leads, you’ll almost always find EQ and Compression. It’s even become an effect integral to the sound itself, at times.

    That being said, I agree with your recommendation to master the software. Maybe more importantly, learn how to use EQ and Compression well, which is done best while trying to recreate sounds straight from a recording.

    • I agree with pwrpwr, it’s like with a guitar sound, I know synths are different, but sometime you are going to get something really interesting with third party FX which you wouldn’t have get with a synth only. With a envelope and LFO yes you can do a big part on your sound, I agree, but sometime the EQ and compressor will let you color the sound in a way that the synth won’t and sometime, this “unreal” synth sound is going to be what you want and need.
      P.s. Good article tho.

  2. This is in general good advice.
    But depending on style of music and type of synth and play, it sometimes makes sense to take away the highest and lowest frequencies (that you don’t hear anyway ), and also to use some compression if you are not playing keys much but tweaking a lot. That way you can get a more even level of volume, gain or whatever.
    Saying that, if you don’t know your instrument added effects will only make you more confused.

    (This box I am writing in is strange, not possible to copy and paste here)

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