EQ is Your Power Tool for Mixing
This segment I want to talk about e q as as the power tool for mixing is my absolute favorite plug in, you know? So when I talked to people are get questions by email or are on social media a grand what? You know what plug into you recommend tio do x y z of everyone's, but the question behind the questions were always I I want a plug in that I can insert on my tracks and it will make them sound really good, you know? I mean, we just wish that we could take something we could go by it, and we could insert it on our mixed buster, our master fader run all our audio through it, and it would all of a sudden sound amazing. And I don't know if it's because that's kind of what we've been led to believe from really good marketing that there is a plug and out there that does it or it's what in our hearts we wish were true that it was that simple. I could just buy my way to a great mix with that one or two plug ins on the on the next bus, but I think if that's what we wish we had, the answer isn'...
t a specific type of plug in the answer is in my mind e q I feel like if you can get e q right and that's, what you're hoping for is really in going to found in e q it's the most important thing I said in the first segment, if I if I were on a desert island and I could only have one plug in, I guess I would also have to have a computer and some recording software and speakers. And but let's, say this weird hypothetical desert island situation. I had everything I needed to mix, but I could on lee have one plug in, it would be like you, it would be something like this a multi band e q the only blood and I could have one hundred percent ten times out of ten, that which you sneak you, because this can shape the sound of my mix in a million different ways for better or a lot of times for worse, and we don't know we're doing, but this is what's going to make my mix better. I think more than anything, if I could have to, I would definitely want compression. I mean it's a close one, but if I could only pick one, it would be e q and that's that's we're going talk about in this segment is how powerful nick you is and why it's powerful, and what is it we're doing with the q and why? Is it that big of a deal? I know everyone thinks it's part of the mixing process, but to me it is the mixing process. I think when you spend time doing this and get it right than the rest of it is just details. But this is to me the shaping of your mix. Okay, so a lot of the problems that I get questions about our answer any q. Um so here's, what? I like to think about any cube. If yesterday we talked about compression like it's, an automatic volume controller, the little man in the box controlling the volume fate of force think oven e q as a volume knob, but on ly smarter. Okay, all of the queue is a volume knob or volume fader but it's more intelligent than volume painter. Ah, volume fader can say grand this vocal is too loud. Turn it down, you know, but unique. You can say this specific frequency on the vocal is too loud let's, turn it down. So all all equalizers air doing are boosting and cutting their just turning up or down signal just like a volume fader ok, that's all they're doing, but they're they're key to a specific frequency and so you may think that the track is that a good volume but there may be a frequency in that track that's being to present and it needs to be removed or the opposite I need just a certain frequency to be turned up not the whole thing and so sometimes like a guitar you could have a guitar that's not cutting through the mix and you think I'm going to turn the guitar up but then it's too much so you turn it back down maybe it's just a certain frequency in the guitar that needs to be turned up and then you notice the guitar more we did that we looked at the organ notice the oregon just has one frequency that's boosted maybe there's something about that frequency that if I could just turn that up it sounds right so I think of you as just volume control but it's smarter than volume control it's tied to a specific frequency and that will help us as we think about what are we trying to do all were controlling his volume but of specific frequencies so I don't know how familiar you all are with frequency spectrum but if I grab a blankie cue here and just this is the quick graham run down because again I'm not that technical if you look at this cq in particular going from left to right you've got frequencies so on the left of the graph will be low frequencies things that like you feel like a kick drum bass guitar you see a twenty here that's twenty hertz we've measured it hurts so it's it's cycles of sound per second and then it goes higher higher higher twenty fifty, one hundred, five hundred then you get into like one thousand hertz, which is one case, one kilohertz and then up to twenty thousand hertz twenty k and in the last segment we're talking about that question that came in about cutting around twenty k that that's that's supposedly this is supposedly the range of human hearing we can hear down to twenty hertz up to twenty thousand hertz now in reality, we're all going to vary and what we can hear some of you watching this might have better hearing to me and be able to hear major changes or subtle changes all the way across that spectrum. I probably can't hear much below twenty five or thirty and much above fifteen I don't know I haven't really measured I should go get it measured, but I know in reality it's hard for me to really hear those extremes, but when you see nick you it's going to give you that range and all were using any cue to do is say I need to turn up or turn down something in this range on these frequency graph on this track as opposed to just turning the whole track blindly upper blindly down we're getting more specific in volume is the first sort of placement. Like. Okay, here's. The vocal turned down the kick drum e q takes it a step further turned this part of the kick drum up this part of the vocal down it's diving in another layer. Okay, it's like that movie inception. We're going like another dream down and getting more detailed. But at its core that's all any q does. Ok, that makes sense. It's a volume knob, but it's smarter so way touched on this. And we were talking on this in the break here is this is the problem with mixing is what I what I call masking. Ok, you can have all these great tracks and maybe they sound great by themselves. Maybe we recorded a great sounding bass guitar in a great sounding drum kit. And maybe the vocal sound great. The problem is, though, is when you put them all together and you play them all at the same time. All of these instruments have a lot of overlap. A lot of frequencies that they share. Okay, um and the reason why your mix may not sound great or the reason why you might find yourself asking questions. Like, how come the guitar sound great when I played them all together? It's hard to distinguish one guitar from the other it sounds kind of mushy and and whereas I listen to my favorite record and I can I can pinpoint every single instrument in that mix what is it that separates that mix for my mix in its beak you because they had the same problem as well there's no way unless you had perfect mic placement and we're very strategic that you couldn't theory pull up if aiders and have no masking or overlap happen he's going to be some element of the vocal is covering up the kick trump ok but we don't think about that way like a vocal we think about being more mid rangy stuff but there is there's stuff that's in the low frequencies in the twenty thirty forty fifty hertz range on a vocal that is covering up your kick drum so this is the problem we're trying to solve is a masking things cut like a mask on your face covering up other frequencies and so when I think about you I think about I don't want to just change the sound of tracks I don't want to just change the tone of an instrument what I want to use the cube for is to make sure that I can hear every instrument clearly and so a lot of that is can we get rid of frequencies or change things so that they're not covering each other up so if I have like a bunch of tracks and they're all on top of each other I want to, like carve things out in such a way that that every track has a space and if there were visual you could see everything peeking out whereas some instruments might be covering you each other up and that's what we're doing to the cute when we talk about any clarity in my knicks I wanted to be bright but clear and focused it's it's, it's really simple it's just let's let's remove this stuff that's covering things up let's give every instrument its place in the frequency spectrum does that make sense? Conceptually that's where I want to go with us is that's why this tool is so powerful because a great sounding vocal I'm embracing the guitar like remember the first segment we took this electric guitar and let's get it in the course, which sounds like this by itself really, really cool sound we turn into this that was before that's a huge change what what sounded good by itself that guitar once they brought in all the other guitars and the base and the vocals, that guitar started to disappear and that I'm using e q to make sure that in the mix I can hear that guitar so it's kind of conceptually where we're going a track might sound great by itself. But that's not enough does it sound great with the other tracks at the same time? Does it play nice with others? Ok, this isn't an individualistic thing. This isn't a world of I just need a great guitar tone that's kind of recording world get the gets hard to sound the way you want this now, but in mixing land when we're putting it all together, we literally are mixing we're trying to take great stuff that sounds awesome by itself and make sure that then now they play nice together so that what we hear out of our speakers or what we get to share their friends or post or bands page when they hear altogether they can hear all the instruments clearly that's what we want to think about the u s is a way to make sure everything sticks out clearly not a way can I just change that snare or change that vocal? I really want to use it as a tool to reveal the best part of the track that makes sense any questions on conceptually kind of where we're going with this? Okay, so the best way to think about e queuing is assume assuming have good sounding tracks and that's that's a big assumption, I know, but I trust that a lot of you all are are learning and figuring out how to get a better recording way had a question about, you know, should you think of e q is something you cut or something you boost conceptually? Think of the queue as assume your track sounds good. I don't need to add something that's already not already there. I want to remove the things that don't belong. So in essence, I want to reveal the best part of the track. So even amongst itself, you could have a, um, let's say the drums by themselves. I should you have got drummey q on the drum bus. This is a all my drums or going through here and let's bypass teach you I'm gonna use e q on the drum group to reveal the best part of the drums. So the drums, I think, already sound good, but you know their stuff on the in the drums that don't need to be there that are covering up the good stuff. So instead of like boosting the low in to make the kick drum sound better, there might be something in the mid range that I need to get rid of that's just covering up some of the drums themselves. And if I get rid of some of that low mid stuff in this case, it was two hundred fifty hurts I cut out to fifty three. If I can cut some of that out, it might reveal the better parts of the drums, which I think are the low end and then the top mid range. And so take a listen to I'll get rid of this top. You could take a listen to what I cut out here. It sounds kind of boxy that sounds like what my room at the time sounded like, like it's picking up some of the drums in the room. You know, it was the bedroom of the house and sound that great, and I could tell that there was something down there that doesn't add to the sound of the drums and it's on ly taking up volume because, again, all aneke was a volume control. So why don't I clean up some of that volume by taking some of that out? Take out three d b a. That, and what that will do is clean up my drums and reveal the best part of my drums. So here's before really subtle but it's removing some nastiness toe. Let us hear more of. Nice top end of the drums, the low end and then the same could be true. And we did a boost here. She did a little bit of a shelf. I think the symbols, the christmas of the symbols of the nice part of the drums. So I want to feature that a little bit more. So I did a little boost their to brighten up the top here before thief. So all of you, zeke, you on this track to do is make sure that I hear more of like the snare and snares pop in a little bit more. The symbols are a little clearer. They were already there. I'm just trying to use the cue to reveal the best part of the drums. And so the back of your mind you gotta realize doesn't matter how good your track is, there's something there that probably doesn't belong. And you can get rid of some of that to reveal more of the good stuff in your track. And it takes experience that kind of figured that out a little bit more be took to realize this base sounds good. How can I reveal the best parts of this base? The best part of the base might not be four hundred hurt, so maybe that could be cut out. Best part might be down low, and it might be a pie. Were like the finger plucking is. And so you want to think about it is a revealing tool. How can I reveal?