Mixing Percussion, Piano and Horns in Your Home Recordings - dummies

Mixing Percussion, Piano and Horns in Your Home Recordings

By Jeff Strong

When recording your music at home, there are certain ways to make the most of any kind of sound—from vocals, to percussion, and even horns. Using these sounds to your advantage will help you get that unique sound you want to hear.


High-pitched percussion instruments, such as shakers, sound good when the higher frequencies are boosted a little bit — over 10 kHz, for instance. This adds brightness and softness to their sound. You can also roll off many of the lower frequencies, below 500 Hz, to eliminate any boxiness that may be present from miking too closely.

Lower-pitched percussion instruments, such as maracas, can also have the lower frequencies cut a little — use 250 Hz and lower. Try boosting frequencies between 2.5 and 5 kHz to add more of the instrument’s attack. To brighten them up, add a little bit in the 8 to 10 kHz range.


For pianos, you often want to make sure that the instrument has a nice attack, as well as a warm-bodied tone. You can add attack in the 2.5 to 5 kHz range, and warmth can be added in the 80 to 150 Hz range. If your piano sounds boomy or muddy, try cutting a little between 200 and 400 Hz.


You find a variety of horns, from tubas to soprano saxophones, so to offer blanket recommendations for all of them would be ridiculous. So, with this thought in mind, you can often start the EQ process for these instruments by looking at the 100 to 200 Hz range to add warmth to thin-sounding instruments.

Next, you might want to approach the 400 to 800 Hz range to get rid of any muddiness that occurs unless it’s a really low horn like a tuba. In this case, you can look for the muddiness a little lower — say, in the 200 to 400 Hz range.

To add some more attack to a horn, you can tweak the 2.5 to 5 kHz range a bit, and to add some of the breath of the instrument, look toward the 7 to 9 kHz range.