Are muddy sounds ever good?
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Old 17-03-2013, 07:18 PM   #1
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Are muddy sounds ever good?

I don't hear this very often in dance music, but in some other genres I will occasionally hear muddy, overlapping sounds, in a way that I think sounds good. The best way I can describe it, is that multiple sounds coalesce and blend, effectively creating a new instrument or effect. The sounds are coordinated, often structured like cords, but the net result is one sound that is difficult to separate into its sources. The Angels of Light is the best group I can think if, off the top of my head, that employs this kind of textured blending.

I constantly see muddy sounds, or sounds with too much reverb, described as bad, and so I'm wondering if that is a universal rule (and I should reassess my tastes), or if its more of a trap new producers fall into, but that can sound good if employed correctly.

I lean towards the latter, but want some peer input on this.

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Old 17-03-2013, 07:23 PM   #2
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

If it sounds good, it sounds good. Super clinical mixes are the in thing for most popular dance music. And tunes with all those midrange grind/vowel leads have to be super clinical because so many things need to occupy the mids and low mids.

Personally I don't mind a little purposeful mud. I typically allow some overlap when EQing, as you say it tends to help blend a mix together.

I'll take a listen to that group your recommended and come back and comment on them.

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Old 17-03-2013, 09:04 PM   #3
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

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Originally Posted by relic View Post
If it sounds good, it sounds good.
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Old 17-03-2013, 09:26 PM   #4
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

I would have to agree with you guys as dance music, especially all the top 40 stuff is super clean when mixed. There is some great electro music that sounds great dirty. For instance try checking out some Tycho. He has a track called Hours which has this very lo-fi feel to it.
I would love to remix one of those Angels of Light tracks...

Last edited by doo.; 17-03-2013 at 11:10 PM..
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Old 17-03-2013, 10:29 PM   #5
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

Sometimes muddyness, or really hazy, blended sounds are exactly what you want. Hell, look at trip-hop back in the 90s, that stuff sounds great (in my opinion), but generally speaking, a lot of it was pretty muddy, especially in the low-end. More recently, a lot of post-psychedelic, chillwave inspired stuff that seems to be cropping up everywhere is pretty blended and diffuse, and yet a lot of it still sounds fine. Time and place for everything I suppose.

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Old 17-03-2013, 11:07 PM   #6
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

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Originally Posted by Artifiseer View Post
More recently, a lot of post-psychedelic, chillwave inspired stuff that seems to be cropping up everywhere is pretty blended and diffuse, and yet a lot of it still sounds fine.
Could you please name some examples?

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Old 17-03-2013, 11:24 PM   #7
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

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Originally Posted by professurreal View Post
Could you please name some examples?
Well, there's Giraffage, Grimes, How to Dress Well, Data Romance, Chrome Sparks, Beat Culture, Balam Acab and Autre Ne Veut, to name a few. I listen to way too much spacey, stoner-ish stuff.

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Old 17-03-2013, 11:29 PM   #8
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

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Originally Posted by Artifiseer View Post
Well, there's Giraffage, Grimes, How to Dress Well, Data Romance, Chrome Sparks, Beat Culture, Balam Acab and Autre Ne Veut, to name a few. I listen to way too much spacey, stoner-ish stuff.
Grimes is the shit. I'll have to check these others out.

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Old 18-03-2013, 12:54 AM   #9
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

Thanks for the feedback so far!
What I'm getting out of this is that "mud" is not inherently bad, but is undesirable in certain genres that rely on clear, full sounds. It's fairly validating, I don't want to be shut out of certain sounds just for the sake of accessibility. I particularly like syncopation and wave cancellation creating lulls and weird pauses within part of the track, it can contribute to the rhythm as a kind of "anti-beat".

I've not heard any of what you posted Artifiseer, so I'm going to check all that out.
Edit: I definitely like Giraffage and Beat Culture, really pleasant.

Last edited by tungsten; 18-03-2013 at 01:10 AM..
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Old 18-03-2013, 11:10 AM   #10
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Artifiseer View Post
Well, there's Giraffage, Grimes, How to Dress Well, Data Romance, Chrome Sparks, Beat Culture, Balam Acab and Autre Ne Veut, to name a few. I listen to way too much spacey, stoner-ish stuff.
Thank you very much! More new music to check out... Haven't heard of any of those before...

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Old 18-03-2013, 12:18 PM   #11
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

I love mud. I love indistinct sounds that carry rhythm and feel and blend with others. And I try and mix like so all the time. While clean has its appeal it doesn't do it for me personally as more gritty sound does.

most reggae 68-79ish has a very muddy sound. 80ths reggae went more clean and I do not like it at all.

the in pop thing and even electro and house is to be as clean as possible and I think it works great for those genres. however I could see it work more gritty as well, electro specifically

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Old 22-03-2013, 05:14 AM   #12
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

I was going to say I thought mud was bad, then I realized I only like the genres people say are supposed to be clean. Makes sense!
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Old 16-07-2013, 05:00 AM   #13
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

There is always that line that is very blury. It may sound like crap but if it was done on purpose is it artistic?

Example I heard from a music teacher once was, a song that sounded like a guitar fell over once. Is this music? is this aristic? Did he leave a microphone on and his guitar fell over when he left he room? at which point is something artistic or bad.
Truth is there is no answer. All is whatever you the listener gets from the music or sound.

Bad/muddy mixes in say pop music might sound like shit but could have been intentional by the artist/producer to bring back some nostalga from when he was a bad mixing engineer haha
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Old 16-07-2013, 08:33 PM   #14
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

dont limit yourself I think you had the right idea OP, be careful and trust your ears
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Old 16-07-2013, 09:29 PM   #15
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

well it's not a bad thing, it just a different style. One thing that definitely happens is you can't mix things to sound as loud. The reason is that if two sounds that contain the same frequencies play at the same time, the amplitude of the frequencies they share will be added together and you will lose headroom.

Take jazz for instance, (especially old stuff), it tends to be mixed quieter because there needs to be lots of headroom for when different instruments that occupy overlapping frequency ranges play at the same time. If you tried to limit the master channel to make it really loud, it would sound ok most of the time, but when overlapping instruments play at the same time it would push the limiter too hard and sound like shit.

Another thing: Saying something is muddy is not quite specific enough. Is it "muddy" because it is poorly written and the notes themselves are clashing in a certain way? Is it muddy because there are several midrange instruments playing at the same time that lack high frequency content to give them their signature overtones? Or is it muddy because the reverb isn't set up properly.

If it sounds muddy but it's not because of a mix issue then just let it stay I reckon.
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Old 16-07-2013, 10:02 PM   #16
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

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I was going to say I thought mud was bad, then I realized I only like the genres people say are supposed to be clean. Makes sense!
Word.

I love some super clean shit and I love some really raunchy muddy shit and I love stuff that is in between or switches between the two. It's all about taste vs. expectation vs. mood vs. context. things like 'good' and 'right' shift when those variables change.

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Old 16-07-2013, 10:38 PM   #17
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

300-ish Hz is needed when 300-ish Hz is lacking.

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Old 16-07-2013, 11:33 PM   #18
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

Early dub music (King Tubby, Lee Scratch Perry) tends to be on the muddy side. A nice modern example would probably be Sun Araw, although they could be described as lofi indie rock or smth.
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Old 17-07-2013, 12:16 AM   #19
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

If you've ever listened to electronic drone (which is basically just a fancy term for lo-fi ambient music), it's full of everything you described. Typically, all sorts of synth & guitar sounds with heavy psychedelic effects cloud the mix and render the layers pretty inseparable. To make matters 'worse', a lot of these guys release their music strictly on cassette to really make it warped. PM me if you need some recommendations, I have literally thousands.
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Old 17-07-2013, 08:44 PM   #20
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Re: Are muddy sounds ever good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tungsten View Post
I don't hear this very often in dance music, but in some other genres I will occasionally hear muddy, overlapping sounds, in a way that I think sounds good. The best way I can describe it, is that multiple sounds coalesce and blend, effectively creating a new instrument or effect.
There you have it: it's not muddy, it's layered. A horn section where you can distinguish the individual instruments sounds muddy. A horn section where the instruments blend gives a full, layered sound (far too few people know how to mix a decent horn section). Actually, if you try to EQ your way out, you'll fuck up big time. On the other hand, if it's meant to be a solo instrument with a harmonic structure underneath given by the rest of the horns, you'll have to create some space to make the solo instrument come out. Otherwise it'll sound muddy, as in: there's a poor lead trying to stick its head out of the mud but it's too much covered in the shit to be noticeable.

Which illustrates perfectly well why there is no "best" way, it depends on the context. Likewise in electronics : If it's a soundscape that lies under the leads, mud away and then make room in the mud for the lead to shine. Or forget about the lead, and just led the mud shine

Quote:
I constantly see muddy sounds, or sounds with too much reverb, described as bad, and so I'm wondering if that is a universal rule (and I should reassess my tastes), or if its more of a trap new producers fall into, but that can sound good if employed correctly.
I guess when it sounds like a whole, it sounds good. When it sounds like bits and pieces taped on top of each other, it sounds less convincing. The less convincing is what people describe as "bad", and people with a certain taste are less forgiving than people with other tastes.

my 2 cents.

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