Sculpting Sounds: EQ Basics
So we're gonna talk about EQ. We alluded it to it in the post-production workflows course, but here we're gonna dive in a little bit more and talk about the basics of equalization. So I mean, the short origin of EQ is you had this noisy media, like 78 recordings or wire recordings or early tape. And what EQ allowed us to do was to boost the signal well enough to overcome the deficiencies in the medium. So boost certain frequencies because we know a record is gonna react like this to the material that's printed on it. So if we understand that EQ gives us control over the frequency spectrum in a few different ways. If the track sounds really dull, we might -- the kind of language that I'm using is like, oh yeah, that's a little dull or it needs to be brightened up. Those things, that kind of language being analogous or if it's competing with another frequency. If you've got music, not my muse, then you can, you can use some EQ to kind of take it out of the range where it's fighting with ...
dialogue. You can treble and bass cuts are a very basic EQ. We're gonna look at a few that are more interesting that that. But just think of it generally as a volume knob for different frequencies where you can boost or cut, and that's a good way to think about it. So you got your really basic ones are filters. These just, everything below or everything above a certain frequency, we're going to start to gradually slope it out and cut it out of the picture. You can also adjust how gradual that process is. You can really cut things off pretty concretely over another frequency. A notch filter, you've got some kind of tone. Maybe if like 15 years ago, that tone could be like that high pitch the old TV would produce in a room or something like that. And I could hone in on that and just use a notch filter just to isolate that frequency and take it out. Shelving that boosts or cuts everything above a certain frequency, so it's a little bit like what the filter is doing, but you're choosing how much, and you have the option to boost. And parametric is the one that I use the most, and most of the time I am using a little bit of EQ. Studio voice is maybe less likely because they're in pretty good shape, but they can be super useful. If you're going back and looking at the lesson here, you can go back and look at these terms as a refresher, but I think it's more interesting to put them into practice. So we'll discuss those in relationship to actually hearing and looking at EQ. But just, if you wanna know where things reside for the voice, vocals, we talk about like the fundamental frequency of a voice. So that's like the note I'm singing. If I'm singing a middle C, like it would be that specific pitch. Or if I'm singing like the A that an orchestra tunes to. 440 Hertz is what that's at. That's a little bit higher than most of my singing range. If you're getting into this zone, you're really talking about rumble, you're talking about the stuff where you have intense closeness to a mic. It's kind of enhanced bass effect that's called proximity effect. It can be a powerful tool, like if you're trying to tell this really inviting story with a warm voice, or maybe even like a creepy -- (laughing) voice, I'm thinking of like Tom Waits' What's He Building in There, if you're familiar with that. He kind of cheats in real close. If your material is feeling kind of a little boxy, this can be a good candidate for an area to cut around 500 hertz. I'll just kind of start there and work around. If it's feeling too nasal, I had a voice a couple weeks ago where that was the case. I mean it can be something where your mic positioning ahead of time can help fix that. But if you've got a recording, it's a little ... Kind of harsh, then that's a good place to look at. S's, sibilance, you have a lot of consonants that are up in here. So if something is dull, you can bring that up. If something is too harsh, you can reduce it there. And then this area, trying to think of air, and that MP3 recording that we looked at earlier in Isotope kind of had no air to it. The MP3 process kind of sucked it out of it, so this chart can kind of help you read that stuff a little better. Let's go to a Pro Tools demo, and we are gonna do a little EQ. Now I always -- EQing is not something that I ever do offline, for the most part, unless it's to resolve a big problem. This is something where I'm working in the insert zone. And you can see from my template, I have these repeated things. L recorded some tracks, and then he recorded some pickup tracks for it. I'm trying to match them, get them in the same place. I need all the same tools at hand for those. One of them was a little more sibilant than the other, so I tried to help that out with another plug-in here. It's not just that I have these repeatable tools, but they're in the same position every time, so I always know, I'm gonna grab an EQ on this second bank, or second spot in my bank of plug-ins. And if you are doing that for the first time, you're putting that effect in, you just go here to plug-ins, Pro Tools nicely sorts them out, the EQ 7 -- I don't know what I will ever do with all of these EQs. But the Pro Tools 7 Band, or 1 Band if you just need to notch things up. Bands meaning these different knobs to control volume at these different frequencies. So you just insert that. I've made it so I don't have to keep going to this spot to keep throwing in this plug-in. I just -- make it active or I don't, if I'm gonna use it. So, one thing that's -- I'm almost always rounding off is this low-frequency zone, where we ... Have rumble and just kind of a lot of unpredictable energy in the mix. So if I ... Let's do this with Al's track, actually. (mouse clicking)
Has the high ground in this levy war. Should they build higher levies on Nancy's side of the river, or are the levies on Dan's side --
There's that boxy --
Of the river causing problems because they're too high already?
I could make a case, especially on these speakers, here is your --
So, who has the high ground in this levy war? Should they build higher levies on Nancy's side of the river --
Air and S's. Sibilance.
Or, are the levies on Dan's side of the river causing problems because they're too high already?
That's your nasal honky stuff. And then, so each of these in the middle, here is a little parametric EQ. We center on a specific frequency, then we boost or cut. You can also determine how wide you wanna go with that. I usually do pretty -- wider boosts and more narrow-focused cuts, because a cut is usually to kind of subtract a problem out of the mix. Here's a filter, a high pass filter, low cut, same thing.
So, who has the high ground in this levy war? Should they build higher levies on Nancy's --
If I wanted to make Al sound like he was on the telephone.
So, who has the high ground in this levy war? Should they build higher levies on Nancy's side of the river, or are the levies on Dan's side of the river --
So, just bypassing and doing this AB listen. So, powerful tool. You can do a hell of a lot with EQ to shape how something sounds. But, the converse of that is if it's really well recorded, you probably don't need EQ so much.