Eq guide pdfOn 27.10.2020 by Vulkis
Mixing with EQ is the most intimidating part of polishing off your songs. You've recorded the best performance possible. Now you're sitting there staring at your hardware or software equalizer knowing that it's time to face the inevitable But all of these knobs and settings are staring back and grinning, daring you to even try to understand what they do. Have no fear. With these 23 EQ tips, you'll have a broad overview of what the knobs do and what must be done for your music to rival the professional mixes.
It's nowhere near as scary as it seems on the surface. Equalization lies somewhere between the realms of art and engineering. You first need to know the main methods and approaches, which we offer you here in quick tip fashion.
EQ Cheat Sheet: How to Use An Instrument Frequency Chart [Infographic]
Beyond that, you need to trust your ears. Insecurity and second guessing will cause you to destroy what's probably a more-than-acceptable mix. Finding a similar sounding song with an orchestration resembling yours will give you a baseline mix to try to emulate. The only battle is knowing how to move the dials to inch closer and closer. Let's get to it. Below are the 23 main tactics to mixing with EQ to massage your song until it sounds just like a release from your favorite artist!
All an equalizer does is let you change the volume on a specific range of frequencies. Like any volume knob, you have two choices: up or down.
In the EQ realm we call these boosting and cutting, respectively. Cutting dropping the volume is generally a better option than boosting increasing the amplitude. For one, you've carefully crafted your gain staging in the recording process to cram the most detail into your digital bits. If you boost too much, you'll end up needing to turn the track down.
You have enough headroom for boosting and I'm not at all saying don't boost, but the disadvantage is that you introduce artifacts, distortions, and reduce your resolution by pushing it through the roof instead of freeing up headroom. It's like listening to music on your computer. You have the software volume and you have your speaker volume.
If you push your software's volume way up to the point that the audio is clipping, you can have severe distortion even though your speaker volume is set to a whisper.
If you find yourself boosting more than dB, you should be considering cutting instead. Here's why, based on this mixing axiom:. Typically the issue with any track is a narrow band of frequencies that you want to reduce. When you boost a wide range it may mask that troubling range but you've reduced all other frequencies in volume in the end when you compensate by reducing the volume for that track later.
Instead if you laser focus and train your ears to find the bad frequencies and work only on them, you'll end up with a much more natural and pleasing mix in the end. To find these troubling frequencies, set your Q to be very narrow.
The Q is the width of your EQ curve.Most of us have seen these EQ cheat sheets floating around. They make the waves because they look pretty and have the deceiving appearance of being useful. No professional uses such a tool, and today we tell you why because of the ways they hurt your mixes They're designed well and make nice posters for a school classroom.
They get a lot of re-pins on Pinterest. Halfway interested amateurs pass them around because they seem profound and packed full of useful information. Your first clue that these abominations suck are the instrument frequency charts that purport to show the fundamental frequency ranges as well as the harmonics of every common instrument you might mix.
They then go on to tell you that the 'honk' of a saxophone occurs 'somewhere' between Hz and Hz. First off, what is the sound of a 'honk' and why does it exist in such a broad range of frequencies? So you consult a different chart that doesn't mention 'honk' at all, but you do learn that the 'woof' of a saxophone exists in the range of Hz to Hz, which has a little crossover with the 'boom' and a lot of crossover with 'mud. It's starting to make sense It turns out that these are just marketing images made by people who likely haven't mixed a song in their life.
In the cases where the information is accurate, it's usually unusable or should be avoided. Below, we'll show you a few examples of these kinds of audio frequency charts and explain the problems with them. Lots of newcomers to the world of equalization and mixing encounter these charts, and we need to set the record straight.
The Complete Guide to Mixing with EQ
The main issue with these types of charts are the effect they have on the amateur mixer who honestly is attempting to learn and increase his or her skill level. EQ cheat sheets teach the worst possible technique to a mixing engineer - they teach you to mix with your eyes instead of your ears.
This carries over from the cheat sheets on to the user interfaces on parametric equalizer plugins, the volumes bouncing on fader meters, the graphs of gain reduction on compressors, and more. Here's an analogy of how bad this is before we get into the specifics. Imagine being taught to type on a computer keyboard.
Of course you have to look at an image of a keyboard first to begin learning where each letter is situated. But the images only say "the letter you're looking for is somewhere in this area on one of these keys and here's a nickname for the letter instead of the actual name for the letter.In the hierarchy of mixing tools, I place level at the top, panning second and EQ third — making it, in my mind, one of the most important aspects of mixing to master.
Lower frequency signals stay pushing current in the same direction for a longer period of time. With lower frequencies, the capacitor has time to react by charging up and allows the signal to pass.
The faster the signal, the less time the capacitor has to charge, and the more the capacitor naturally stops signal from coming through. The relationship between the resistor and the capacitor determines the inflection point where the frequency of the signal is equal to the exact time the capacitor needs to charge. A high-pass filter is essentially the same thing. If the capacitor is allowing lower frequencies to move through and telling high frequencies to go elsewhere, then the type of circuit really just depends on where those split signals are going.
If we take the high-frequency signals to ground, we have a low-pass filter. If we take the low frequency to ground, we have a high-pass filter.
In a very basic design, we can take the passband of a filter and feed back through an amplifier to create a shelf. Of course, there are some changes that occur to the signal along the way. This is called phase shift.
Fast changes in phase can actually create anomalous oscillations, as can drastic degrees of positive feedback. This is called ringing. In addition, a signal with phase shift when recombined with a signal without phase shift will cause a non-linear frequency response in both the passband and stopband.
This unintended change in frequency response is called ripple. I just wanted to establish a basic concept of what is really happening when we EQ something. This will come into play later when we discuss how we are using the EQ and what type of EQ we are using.
Ultimately when it comes to EQ, there are really only three reasons to reach for one. We can reach for an EQ to balance the tonality of what we want from that instrument.
Too much room tone? Cut a little lower mid. The mic is a bit dark, add a high-shelf. Little too much proximity buildup? Shelf off a bit of lows. We can also use an EQ to make the source bigger than what it naturally sounds like. Same thing with kicks. Similarly, our vocals sound perfectly tracked on their own, but in the mix, it turns out we end up losing the Hz weight up against the piano and bassoon.You run into the same problems every time - and you're not the only one. You can't fit all the instruments together because you don't know where they sit in the frequency range.
You don't know how to separate the guitars from each other so they just sound like a muddy mess. And most importantly, you can't get that big present vocal sound you hear from your favorite artists. You're fed up with mixing vocals because they never sound professional enough.
You don't know how much you should boost or cut frequencies to get the sound you hear in your head. You've tried all sorts of different techniques you've read in blogs or watched on Youtube, but the more you jump from one trick to another, the more contradictory the advice feels. Some people tell you that you should only use subtractive EQ, even though you feel like boosting makes everything sound better.
The problem is, you're scared of damaging your mix because you're never sure whether you're doing the right things to make your mixes clean and present.
I understand your frustrations completely. I've been there. I'm an author, musician and audio educator and I have taught thousands of home studio musicians and engineers how to produce commercial quality music from their home studios.
My mixing techniques have helped countless real-life musicians gain the confidence and skills to make professional mixes they can be proud of. They've used their mixing skills to successfully release their own records as well as learned to use their new-found mixing skills to get paying jobs from their home studios.
When I first started out, I had no idea how to use an EQ to make clearer mixes. EQ was like a foreign programming language that only cool engineers understood. But me? My kick drum kept clashing with my bass guitar. My guitars masked the vocals and my entire drum sound always sounded like a harsh, exhausting mess.
If I managed to tame the harshness in my mix, it usually ended up muddy instead. Way back inI randomly found myself hired as sound engineer at this small venue called The Old Library. It was a cool spot, but it had a terrible reputation for its sound. It was the venue bands were forced to play if there was absolutely nowhere else to go.
Little did they know that they weren't exactly hiring someone who knew what he was doing. I was extremely intimidated by everything surrounding live sound. All these cables all over the place that you were supposed to know how to connect. All these speakers everywhere, both the monitors on the stage and the P.
A for the audience that I was supposed to control.This article is the second part of the series. Ok, all set? The first step to knowing how to EQ is understanding where all your instruments fit on the frequency spectrum.
Seeing where each instrument fits on the frequency spectrum will help you identify which instruments and frequencies might be fighting each other in your mix, and will help you get the best possible mix before that final mastering step. So you have to choose your instruments wisely and always aim for the best possible recording.
EQ is something you apply to your mix, not add to it. Study it. Know it. Love it. Download it to your desktop for easy reference, or print it out and hang it on your studio wall.
This instrument chart is just a starting point. The sounds in your mix will always have their own context and characteristics. So use this chart as a jumping off point, but always use your mix as the ultimate reference for applying EQ. Using this instrument frequency chart is simple. Just think about the fundamentals of each instrument before you record anything. If you choose your instruments based on the frequency fundamentals before you even start, the mixing and EQing phase will be much easier.
Synthesizers and other electronic instruments can be tricky when it comes to finding the fundamental. Try to picture where each instrument will sit in the mix before you even start recording.
But try and be as prepared as possible before recording anything. Of course you CAN use as many instruments as you want that fall into a certain frequency band. But the more instruments you stack, the easier it is to mask important information. So your EQing will have to be more complex to get everything sitting right.
Most parametric EQs come with high pass and low pass filters built right in. Instruments that have a higher fundamental, will also contain information in the lower frequencies as well.
In most cases, the lower frequencies for an instrument with a higher fundamental—and vice versa—can be rolled off. Instead of performing specific cuts or boosts, the high and low pass filters will remove unneeded frequencies on a broader scale. A common use of the high-pass filter is to remove lower frequencies on your sounds with a higher fundamental like a hi-hat or rim shot. The lower frequencies that these sounds contain may be muddying up your lows.
Performing a simple high pass will give your bassier sounds more room to punch while giving your synths and higher percussion more clarity at the top of your mix. The opposite applies for your low pass filter as well.
Removing unnecessary higher frequencies from your lows will give everything more room to work up top. Keep in mind that all instruments contain important information in the high and low frequency bands.
So only roll off what you absolutely need to. Always use your ear to determine the right amount. EQ sweeping is your best friend when it comes to finding the problem areas in your mix.
So how do you do it? For example:.
Sometimes certain problems can be fixed during the high and low pass filtering phase that I talked about above. But performing an EQ sweep will help you to isolate really specific areas that might need a cut or boost. Boosting the gain in any area will make parts sound less than ideal.Image via Shutterstock. You asked, and you shall receive, Sonicbids blog readers. Per multiple requests, here's my guide to, "When the hell do I start turning these knobs, and where do they go?
I'm not going to tell you "always notch this 9 dB here and add 3 dB here with a wide boost and, voila, perfect sound! So before you message me, "Aaron, I notched out so much Hz out of my snare, I snapped the knob off the console, and it still sounds muddy! Sometimes a guitar cab gets mic'd up differently night to night, plus every voice is unique, and every snare drum "speaks" differently just ask a drummer.
All of these minute changes and differences can and will affect the EQ decisions you'll have to make. This is why I'm such a strong believer in ear training and learning how certain parts of the frequency spectrum present themselves outside of their source-specific applications. That being said, these tips can be helpful as a place to start your search, but are not gospel by any means.
So without further adieu, let's begin. Not everyone's ethos on EQ is the same, and most people may never see eye to eye on EQ approach. That being said, I come from the camp that subtractive over additive tends to be better for your mix in most cases.
Now, I'm not saying to live in a strictly subtractive world; I do make boosts from time to time when needed or appropriate, but it's probably a or ratio of cuts to boosts. Also, a quick note on the topic of high pass filters: use them. They can be your best friend, but be careful as they're a double-edged sword. HP filters can quickly clean mud from your mix and open things up, but too much can lead to a thin, weak-sounding mix equally as quick.
When applying them, I like to come from the top down, as I find that easier to dial in properly. By that, I mean instead of rolling up an HP filter and listening until I think it's removed what I'm looking for, I start way above with "too much" HP filtering and roll it down until I feel that I have all the information on the bottom I need. I find it easier to hear the effect this way, which therefore allows me to more accurately and effectively control my low end.
While the snare may arguably be the most vocal drum in the kit, the kick has an amazing array of possibilities for tonal shaping.Kicks: 60Hz with a Q of 1. Reverb: Tight room reverb 0. General: Apply a little cut at Hz and some boost between 40Hz and 80Hz. Treat Muddiness: Apply cut somewhere in the Hz to Hz range. Snares: Hz — Hz with a Q of 1. This range is unlikely to contain anything useful, so you may as well reduce the noise the track contributes to the mix.
Treat Harsh Vocals: To soften vocals apply cut in a narrow bandwidth somewhere in the 2. Use the Sweep control to sweep the frequencies to get it right.
Telephone Effect: Apply lots of compression pre EQ, and a little analogue distortion by turning up the input gain. Apply some cut at the High Frequencies, lots of boost about 1.
EQ Cheat Sheet? Frequency Charts for Mixing Hurt More Than Help!
Hats: 10Khz with a Q of 1. Adjust the bandwidth to get the sound right. General: Try applying some mid-range cut to the rhythm section to make vocals and other instruments more clearly heard. Other: Voice: presence 5 kHzsibilance 7. Cut: Below this frequency on all vocal tracks. Cut: For vocals.
General: Be wary of boosting the bass of too many tracks. Low frequency sounds are particularly vulnerable to phase cancellation between sounds of similar frequency.HOW TO EQ VOCALS - Simple 3 Step Formula For Eqing Vocals
Cut: To bring more clarity to vocals or to thin cymbals and higher frequency percussion. Boost or Cut: To control bass clarity, or to thicken or thin guitar sounds. General: In can be worthwhile applying cut to some of the instruments in the mix to bring more clarity to the bass within the overall mix. At 1 KHz apply boost to add a knock to a bass drum.
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