EQ Mistakes Part I
What I want to get into is I want to jump into the four the four a few mistakes I want I want to take plenty of time in this segment to talk about these four mistakes because they might be things you identify with there might be things you are doing or have done and then I want to be able to allow time for questions on these mistakes because I think they're very common and we can all share them. So the first mistake that I see being made in home studio is trusting presets ok, so if you have any que grab one this one it's got a preset section every q does look this we've got a process for vocals and they're called things like add air ad presents ad thickness female vocal the telephone vocal we're talking about that some of the crew earlier smooth vocal um this is so miss misleading like what? You read these and you think I like smooth vocals or I happen to have a female vocal I will use that setting and so you you grab it and it gives you some q curve okay, so it's a female local curve ...
or what else? Smooth vocal that's what I want whoa ok, that must be what a smooth vocal sounds like we've got him for everything we gotta for tom's I mean, this is a whole these are all process just for a tom drum blunt tom booming tom's and booming tom's too cut the boeing cut the mud smaller tom's adds snap ad residents strings snare drum every instrument electric guitar kuester guitar bass guitar even deejay presets um drum overheads this is a very, very interesting thing because presets on a plug in in general are not a bad idea presets on the cue or a horrible idea and I'm so confused as to why manufacturers continue to to make presets for e cues because here's the thing how does whoever made this plug in have any idea what my vocal sounds like? I'm talking about vocal presets how did they know what my singer's voice sounds like? What microphone I used what preempt I used how I use that microphone where the angle was, what that vocalists had for breakfast that morning what the vocalist was drinking that day um how did they know what that vocal sounds like compared to the rest of the tracks in my mix? How do they know what other instruments I recorded or what those instruments sound like? What the tone is, they have no idea. So what good is this preset? If the whole point of the queue is to reveal the best part of the track, they don't even know what tracks I'm using s o of a preset on cue is so I hate to use the word pointless it's the pointless thing because it really even though it might be based off of typical scenarios and typically queue moves that engineers like to make and I've got, you know, if you take like the ssl channel strip some of my favorite mixers, they brought him in to give give you no waves, some of their favorite q moves, and they turn them into presets and I get that it's cool that they worked with, you know? So and so to have your preset but that process not going to help you in the real world it's not gonna help any of you because they have no idea what your audio sounds like and this and this is too big of a deal. Your music is too big of a deal to trust a precept line. Elliot presets are ok in other areas, but with the q you have to decide one hundred percent of the time you have to decide with the curve is I'm going to show you how you figure that out, but as much as I love presets and I'm not afraid of them for other types of plug ins is a starting point because you learn stuff with the q, I would say, don't don't he's a preset freak you it's the worst thing you can do for two reasons one it it's most often they're not going to boost stuff and that's not really a great way to work when you talk about that in a minute two it makes you really lesean dependent on what you think it should be when that doesn't exist you need to learn how to hear something and go what I want to do to this track and not be afraid of not no not knowing what to do because you don't know at first that's ok but it makes you trust somebody else has no idea what your music sounds like instead of trusting yourself to say you know what that sounds little boo me maybe I'll cut that experimenting that's how you get really really good so I've used a q presets in the past I'm not trying to come down on people I'm just saying this is a really bad idea it doesn't help me it won't help you stop using presets number one mistake I see I don't know if you guys experienced presets if you jumped on him with the accused I've had a couple of tracks where I did it on compressors and I was actually decently happy with it maybe on eighty percent of stuff little tweaks here and there compressors a whole different ball game um e q man just because it says this won't give you a smooth vocal it that means nothing your vocal might be really, really harsh and that's that q curve right there's not going to do anything I mean they've cut out some low frequency they got this massive shelf across the entire mid range and they scooped out something at seven k I don't know what that is but that's not going to always give me a smooth vocal or even a ballpark smooth vocal so please guys just don't use presets with the q pretend they're not there I know they're gonna ship with every single e q you have just pretend they're not there and if they're any questions on any of these mistakes fireman way as we go all right no, please trust me on that that's the number one u q mistake I see number two and this one's huge is the mistake is boosting more than you cut. Um, this is more a philosophical thing, but let me let me let me throw this out there, paint this picture and make the case for what I call subtracted v q choosing to cut more often than not, then you boost because the mistake is that what we do is we say, you know what? Let's, get rid of this this e q on my guitar let's say, I'm listening to my mix and I've got this guitar give it a both of these he's my over driven guitars got all meeting here so let's say we know that that those guitars exist, but we're in the mix and we're listening to the course and we're having a hard time hearing them nothing, and I can't really hear that guitar very well, someone grabbing ae q um, and I'm going to try to find something I can boost to make it pop out in the mix more and now I can hear the guitar a little bit better. That seems like the natural way we think can't hear something in the mix because something's covering it up, we talked about how things are masking it. So what do I dio grabbing? Ae q boost something so it pops out there it is there's two problems with this one is if you remember all of the queue is is a really smart volume knob. What have we done? All we've done is added more volume. All we've done is added more gain sixty, bees worth around one point six is really matter what the numbers are, we've added sixty b of game, which is a lot if you do this to a bunch of tracks, you do this to two more guitars, kick drum, bass vocal by the time you get to your mix bus down here where our mix was come conservative level down here, this mix is just gonna get louder and louder. All we're doing is turning up the track it's no different than me saying I can't hear the guitar someone grabbed the fate and turn it up some more and I keep turning up I just keep raising the volume higher and higher and higher and then I'm getting close to not only clipping on the individual tracks but now my mix is getting closer to the zero meant my meter and the moment gets up there the computers they're not musical at all when you get close to zero and you clip it's digital it's it's just chops off the sound it sounds a nasty and we've lost headroom headroom is that space between where your mixes and the ceiling of how far it can go and you want that space so that you can have nice peaks and it's not getting close to clipping the more you boost the less headroom you have and you run into problems so boosting is the typical way we think we think can hear it turn it up and I understand that way of thinking about what I want you to do is think of each you is more of subtracted thing think of what can I cut on may be something else to make me here this guitar does that make sense so an example of that would be these two guitars in particular let's get rid of the cq now I know it's going to sound hypocritical because I have a little boost here. Um, but look at what's happening on china, but both of these accused on the same screen these are on the left. This is the over driven guitar in the last speaker, and this is the over driven guitar in the right speaker. Um, let's, not a screen real estate let's, just so these guitars for now so we can hear the effect of bringing these accuse again. Here are the two guitars by themselves here the two guitars with the q what have we done here? If you look at these e q occurs, you sort of see visually what visually what I've done so this one so this guitar here I have cut around one k about two and a half tb, but this guitar over here, I've boosted at one k around around two point nine tb these two guitars are playing a similar part. They were miked up with different amps, but they're similar over driven tones and in the mix they sound too similar that they're not distinct enough. They're covering each other up, so what I've tried to do is is used cue to if this guitar I think, sounded really nice at one k and so on, the other guitar opposing, and I took out some one k on that guitar. I did a little bit of a boost as well to emphasize it a little bit, but instead of just taking this controller saying, it sounds great, a one k only boosted by sixty b, so it'll stick out against this other guitarra. I'm doing the opposite and go to the other guitar and let's remove someone k from that guitar and then the same is true. This guitar that it took someone k out of it sounded good around two and a half k. So on this other guitar, I took out two and a half. Okay that's, the blue. So is a backwards way of thinking and it takes a little bit more patients to think this through. But if something sounds like you want to turn up let's, say you want to turn up the top end of the track and the bottom and like any more based on this drums, like more loan on the drums and war topping on the drums, the same could happen if you just took out some low end and topping on other tracks, and then you'd hear the drums. More so, it's kind of thinking about what the other tracks doing that air covering up this track instead of just greeting for nick you to boost. It's easier to grab something and boosted logical it seems like the right thing to do but what I'd rather you do is think what on the other tracks can I cut out that air covering up this great track this happens a lot with bass guitar bass guitar canned sound awesome by itself when you start adding all these other electric guitars why have I scooped out so much of this low in down here on these guitars it's because I want to hear more bass on the bass guitar so instead of boosting the base I just go find these other guitars and cut out some low in so that now I can hear the base a little bit more it's kind of like seeing how all these tracks play together as opposed to just individualizing here's the base that's the way it sounds you'd think guitar that's the way it sounds they all have this synergistic of thing they're all happening together that makes sense wait questions that are coming in with lots of votes here and he talked a little bit about low buildup but john draper productions and twenty four other people voted on this one low mid buildup is a common problem and I'm curious how to really get rid of the low to mid buildup without making the track sound weak because sometimes the final mix will end up sounding too thin because of the low mid adjustments made to individual tracks I think you'll find a sweet spot. I think you'll find it like how much you can take out, so I'm a huge fan of starting with three d b increments, so if you're going to cut something, cut it by three d b if you need to boost something boosted by three d b and see if that doesn't do what you need to do. If it's not enough, it might, it might be a bigger problem than you think there might be another problem. I'm ok with going up to six and maybe my ceiling booster cut, but I try to get most of it done in three d b increments, which ariel settled and that's what you see in these curves and these are all three to four d b booster cuts. I think if you're cutting out the low midriff buildup in those increments, it does add up to a nice big result. But it's, not too much they ever really thin mix, but you're gonna have to find that sweet spot an experiment um, and then compare to other mixes that you like. All right, we have thirteen votes on this question hey, grandma, I'm wondering where you start queuing do you have a specific order of instruments that you like to take you first, for example? If you want the kick and the snare to stand out would you seek you them and then work around them while queuing the other instruments is a great question so there's some great advice and I got a long time ago um is a great guy named mike sr will give him a plug he wrote a book called mixing the home's mixing in a small studio are mixing secrets with small studio but he's writes for sound on sound magazine and he's he's engineer but he has a great way thinking of just identify a lot of people do is identify what you think is the most important instrument in this mix sonically so I would say nine times out of ten the most important instrument in a song modern song is the vocal no matter what the genre country rock pop hip hop because that's what we're listening to that's what carries the words so it's not really always vocals but sonically what's the most important instrument it could be drums so it could be that it's a rock record in the just the drum sell it it could be a keyboard riff or a patch it could be a guitar if it's if it's ray guitar driven that's what you think of and that that tone or that riff sells the song whatever you think in this specific song is most important instrument what I like to do is when I'm ready to seek you? I'm you everything but that first instrument so it could be a guitar riff on this song. It might have been the drums like I'll listen all the drums with the drum group and I'll start there and I want to just sort of listen to that instrument by itself because the way I like to work is when we talked about a little bit yesterday but I don't work in solo very much so whatever the first instrument is, I choose that technically will be in so lochs I've needed everything else that's probably the on ly instrumental ever really spend some time mixing by itself, so I'll listen to it by itself. If it's like a piano ballad there's lots of other instruments that piano carries this song, I'll probably started piano need everything else out and make sure the piano sounds awesome and then I start to bring in the next most important instrument sonically could be a vocal could be strings underneath that piano, and what you're listening for is if the piano sounded great, that was my first instrument, maybe we need to take you maybe you didn't, but if it sounds where you want it and then you bring in another instrument and all the sudden piano doesn't sound quite as good that's a huge indicator that whatever you brought into the mix is the culprit if the piano sounded fine by itself that you don't need to go change the piano because that's the instinct right piano sound good I bring in the strings you have a piano sounds a little muffled so you go back to the piano and you start fiddling with that's the opposite of what you want to do you knew the piano sounded good it's the most important instrument so it gets priority leave it alone it's it's the fact that you brought in some strings or some vocals and they're doing something to your piano there's some frequency and there that's covering up your awesome piano track and so that's the culprit whatever you brought in something you need to eat you that and find what is it about that track that seems to be covering up my piano tryto experiment find it maybe cut it out to the point where the piano still sounds the way you had it alongside that track and you kind of see how this is going. You rinse and repeat and you bring in the next instrument and if it if it's maybe drums now and now the drums if they're covering up your strings and your piano it's the drums, the litter problem it's not the piano, the strings and you really got in the way you wanted I like to work that way all the way down to the instruments that are really easy to bring in like a tampering track like I don't even have any cuban I brought the tampering in and if it covered up something I would e q it but otherwise I just kind of get it where needs to be in a leave it but I like to work systematically like that so I continue to add more instrument to the mix and I'm not really going back to solo ever answer the question yeah, I think that covered it we have a few more coming in this one's from christopher yates and chris wants to know when trying to make room for elements in the mix how do you decide whether to start shaping with q or shift the panning oven instrument oh great question okay in the last segment today I'm going to share like the biggest hack you could do tio e q properly but here's a little preview panning as important as it is in the end is is a a false indicator of clarity and separation earlier on the knicks it's very easy for me to say I can't hear these guitars a pan one left one right now I can hear them both um true not helpful not helpful to you because in the real world most people are going to be sitting nicely in between two speakers they might have headphones on so in essence there in between speakers but a lot of times we've got our stereo in the kitchen in the living room or were shopping and it's blasting through a speaker, and we hear the song but were never hearing it perfectly in stereo, we think alike the separation between the guitars by the time it hits our ears, it's all one sound and if it's not a cute properly, if you will have separation with the q than your panic doesn't help you in that scenario. So panning is helpful, but e q is more helpful than painting, so, um, I don't mind setting up panning early on in the mix like, if I'm doing a mix, I'll do it with volume haters first, and then I'll kind of set some initial panic. I'm just kind of thinking like a live mixer, like I'll set a timer like ten, twenty minutes and I just grabbed failures and I pan, I just sort of got knicks, I just know that feels good there, and that might be a starting point, but then when it comes time the q, I ignore panning completely and I try to get the cue to giving that separation I need and then I'll panning is only a bonus, only an added bonus later on is a great question that we'll talk about that more in the last segment today. All right, we have some questions coming in here obviously in session one we're talking all about compression and we're talking about you in session number two so we have some questions about the differences here and we have pang in the chat room eleven people voting on this one wants to know should I turn down the volume on the monitors to make e q decisions the same way that you did for a compression? Yes, please. Absolutely. One of the best things you could do everybody is is mix at low volumes and just grab your interfaces output volume knob and turn it down so your speakers are at a low volume because just like with compression um e que especially the more you turn it up things sound like they have more base and I think they sound like they have more top in than they really do and that's a really common problem ice do this for so long I mixed it loud volumes and I would mix to the point where I felt like things had plenty of top in the base on that big and then what happens? You go listen to your mix in the car and where did the top and go where is the base? Well it was never there it's sze your ears do when they hear things allowed volumes they enhance the apparent low end enhance the apparent top it's it was just in your ears. It was never really in your mix. So you you kind of set yourself up for failure when you mix it allowed volume there's a lot of other reasons to your ears get tired when your ears get tired because there's there's still incredible these things they naturally compressed to protect themselves. And and so then you don't hear clearly so you can't even make good decisions because, you know, you actually have, like barriers that are protecting your ears. You actually hear things so turn your volume down, mix it really low volumes and it's so weird at first it's really hard to get used to this because it's not exciting and you're going to have to resist that urge to say, man, the drums are killing that I want to turn it up. The drums are killing it because they don't sound good. You need to make them kill it at a low volume and then I promise you they will sound good allowed volumes. You need their vocal to sound bright and cut through enough at a low volume. It'll sound good at a lot of things. You need the bass guitar to be audible at low volumes. And loud volumes as well so I do ninety, ninety five percent of my mixing and a low I would call it a low volume in my rule of thumb is you turn it down to a volume that if found my friend was sitting here next to me he and I could have a conversation and I could talk at this this volume not have to raise my voice over the speakers, so I turned it down so we could just talk while we hear it and that's you know I don't I don't use the sound meter decibel meter I don't measure sound and you can't do that but it's just a simple rule of thumb and once you find that on your interface, you put a little piece of tape or a marker just kind of leave your knob alone and kind of mixed of that value because remember we looked at limiters yesterday we can make your mix louder later and you know, we turn it up to hear what it sounds like loud but go back and do put most of your mixing well volumes. Great question we have another compressor few question loper domus wants to know similar to a compressors makeup gain function how do you approach the output of an e q once you've already cut and boosted the frequency great question, great question so absolutely just like we were talking about in the compression day when I'm using compression I'm not just trying to make something louder I can make something router sure, but I'm just trying to change the tone or the the you know, fattened up something or bring more energy or contain the game so I can bring up stuff but I still want the overall output to be the same that's why I always kind of level matched I'm doing the exact same thing with the q because nine times out of ten when I make ewing, I've got a combination of cuts mostly and a little bit of boosting so usually might accuse make my tracks quieter um and I'm ok with that, but if you want to you could always bring out put back up or if you're doing too many boosts, you're making it too loud so you want to turn the output down and you can see the cq has an input and output knob so it's fine example of one where I've five necessary I'll put usually I don't maybe well we'll just do one cloud it really messed with it but yeah for example here is let's throw in on on the base here that's right that's that uh smooth vocal pretty said so pointless let's grab the base once at some more e q so here's the thing random e concur from just drawing stuff and let's say that's what sounded good on the base look at the top here in the sikh you haven't input meter just like the compressor and even album eater all we've done is made this track louder so fortunately we haven't output knob and most dick you should have this because you can control the sort of signal flow I'm just going to turn this down a little bit the match, those things out and that's what I would do and you can even buy pass and see what it's doing kind of level match it that way. So if he's, the great thing about any of these plug ins is they haven't output so it's there so that you can make sure you level match it if you did any adjustments that are boosting their cutting it too much for the most part if you seek you the way I tend to think you you're already doing so much cutting that any boosting you do you're you're not ever adding too much volume that it's never getting too loud. I rarely have to dial the output down like this because I do so much cutting and if anything it just makes my mix a little bit quieter, which I'm fine with that because I can always that gain later with a limiter, so if anything it gives me more head room cuts out stuff it doesn't need to be there and give me more volume to play with the absolutely great question just keep coming pouring in years this is great I want to get to another one when e queuing an electric guitar I've heard that panning it toe one speaker in solo mode so it sounds more like an actual amp then spread across the stereo field of two speakers. Is there any truth to that you ask that again? Sure thing when e queuing and electric guitar I've heard that panning it toe one speaker in solo mode so that it sounds more like an actual amp then spread across the stereo field of two speakers is a better way to go. Is there any truth to that method? So in this question, I'm assuming you've miked up two speakers seems like they're two speakers there, so this is a little little bonus I mean, I think I'm a huge fan of mono tracks, so I don't record many things in stereo like from recording dettori up, I'm going to use one microphone or from using a couple microphones to blend that the tone together I'll fold them down toe one track I don't try toe recorded like with stereo on that or even accused a guitar I don't like to put two mikes on acoustic guitar to get a nice stereo thing because I prefer the sound of here's the electric guitar of pandit here here's the vocals pan here here's, a new acoustic guitar pan here here's organ panned here because mondo tracks panned all over make us mixed sound big and huge. A bunch of stereotype racks make a mix sound small. It sounds backwards, but too many stereotype racks you can't distinguish where they are in the stereo feel because there are everywhere, and so, if you really want big massive, why it's any tracks either use mondo tracks? If he had a stereo guitar, ian folded down tomato and pick a place for to live, it could be hard left. You could be wherever, just pick a place and make it live there in mono, and you'll have more wide nous in your tracks. Great! All right, let's, see, we have a few more that came in here. Now. This one has gotten ten votes from one of our viewers, and chatty says, I've heard that you could use one e q to cut, then use a compressor than another e two to boost so that your compressor won't squash the frequency that you want a boost what's your take on that method. You have definitely heard that, you know, I'm just too lazy to do that in mixing again, it goes back to simplicity, and I just will use one e q and then I'll compress if any compression and then I'll move on but in theory if I'm using e q to cut something and then I'm compressing to balance that out if I need to boost something you would think he would boost after that we've already got a nice signal but a I do hardly any boosting and if I do do any boosting its very subtle and b I think of it in terms of two simple steps I think of it as here's a track I want to shape the tone of it e q and then I want to contain that fixed tonal track with compression so if q fixes a track or makes it sit where needs to sit total wise and then the compressor keeps its dynamic range and check so I don't I don't mind that I boosted if somewhere in a queue and then I'm compressing that because I just pretend like that was the sound that was recorded. The only fix is what was recorded that I'm compressing that so I'm very much a e q than compression I don't usually sometimes do have beacuse after the fact but it's pretty rare I can see on the on the dog that you have e q before the compression but when you're actually working you mean you also you do the first a compression or but it depends because sometimes sometimes when I get the vocals but like a lot of times, I will save lead vocals till the end of mixing and with everything else in the mix, I've got e q and compression happening, the mix is sounding really great, but by the time I get to my vocal, that vocal sounds pretty quiet, so sometimes I can't even hear it very well, but I knew the volume was at a pretty good place, so I'll compress the vocal first to get and also use that vocal stacking technique that we talked about yesterday session to get the vocal nice and up front and then I will take you, but I will still insert the queue before the compressor in the chain, but I may have compressed first chronologically in time. Does it make sense? But most often than not, I am literally doing it like you see it visually, I'm literally each ewing the snare drum and once the stair john, if there's like a ring in the snare drum gonna get rid of that, I'll do that, and then I think about compression cause that's logically, just how I work fixed the tone and then does it need compression? And if not, I'll leave it alone, but again, there's, no right or wrong she's kind of how I like to work.