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Old 11th May 2009 , 05:43 PM
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Default Using EQ to get just the right sound.

I'm sure this has been spoken about before but lately I feel i'm about to explore my journey into EQ part 2. I've got some KRK RP6s and everything I listen to that i've done over the last year just sounds rubbish. I've been loading a load of commercial tunes into Cubase so I can A/B against what I'm doing myself, and I have to admit things are going in the right direction but I know there are some things I can improve on still. There are certain tracks I listen to and I just scratch my chin and say 'how'? These tracks include :-

Deadmau5 - I remember, Faxing Berlin etc
Paul Van Dyk - The In Between Album
Anything by Trevor Horn

etc etc

I'm not talking about ducking the bass with the kick or limiting, or any of the volume/pumping tricks but specifically the EQ, that perfect spread of frequency and the magic word 'air'.

I usually low cut everything by ear except the kick and sometimes a bass if it's a layered sub. I've just started high cutting stuff as well but that makes little real difference....that I can tell at least. I think my issue lays is the mids and what I should be doing with them. I think so at least. I rarely fiddle with the mids using EQ unless I'm trying to get a vocal to push through a bit. I'm starting to think it might be worth cutting a bit of mid out of as many tracks as possible in order to get a bit more headroom and clarity, in the same way i've learned to by cutting the lows.

Any ideas are welcome
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Old 11th May 2009 , 05:51 PM
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i think Terminal 3 will be pointing you in THIS direction, be sure to watch the video's.

i sometimes use the abbey road brilliance pack which does imo add some air and.. you guessed it, brilliance.lol

i dont know about cubase but i know logic has a match eq, may be place one over the master and run the commercial track through it to capture the setting then run your track through it?

also bare in mind these tracks you mentioned are mastered

other than that my friend im in the same boat as you
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Old 11th May 2009 , 05:58 PM
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That's an interesting link there, i've not seen that one before.

I'm not sure if i'm being too hard on myself but i'd rather not go to a plugin to fix a mix. I used the Ozone 4 demo for a while and I can see what it does but It's really just like having a software loudness button. Plus, whatever I ran through it still didn't sound good enough to me. As far as I knew mastering shoudln't really colour the sound THAT much sound I need to be getting more out of simple EQ I think, or at least I'm pretty sure there's a lot more I could do using EQ before turning on a magic button on the master channel

I saw that EQ match feature on the Funkagenda interview the other week oddly. It does look good and Cubase doesn't have anything similar (that i've found at least) but even if it did I'd still rather know my trade before I turn to stuff like that.

Anyway, I might be in the same boat as you but i'm still below sea level
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Old 11th May 2009 , 07:29 PM
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You arent going to like this: there is no magic wand. It all starts with great musicians who play well together in a great room. Capture them with the right properly placed great mics, process them using great equipment and mix for the output you want to achieve. Get it 1% better at every stage and you'll find your mix takes a huge leap forward.

Bear in mind though, when it comes to that last 1% it's going to cost a lot in terms of gear and take a lot of experience to reach it.
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Old 11th May 2009 , 07:34 PM
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Tehlord may be should of mentioned but i believe he composes with pre recorded samples and other than may be vocals doesn't do much recording of instruments, i could be wrong though so translating Trev's advice to terms applicable to the likes of me and you and referring to a convo i had with Trev and Frank prior, choosing your sounds will be the equivalent and make sure they all have their space in the mix amongst each other, i suppose then eq would be used to clean up the edges so to speak of some of the clashing frequencies
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Old 11th May 2009 , 08:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sureno View Post
Tehlord may be should of mentioned but i believe he composes with pre recorded samples and other than may be vocals doesn't do much recording of instruments, i could be wrong though so translating Trev's advice to terms applicable to the likes of me and you and referring to a convo i had with Trev and Frank prior, choosing your sounds will be the equivalent and make sure they all have their space in the mix amongst each other, i suppose then eq would be used to clean up the edges so to speak of some of the clashing frequencies
Absolutely right. So in my terms a great tracking engineer will be capturing the right sounds for the direction the mix might go in right from the off. For example if the rhythm guitars are pretty chunky and in your face you might aim for some higher pitched work with more space between the mic and cabs to add dimension and texture to the final product (listen to what we did on "Losing Everything" to hear what I'm talking about - the first example starts at about 13 seconds).

The problem in your terms may be that very often samples are pretty 'in yer face'. It's hard to effectively put space back into a track where that space wasn't recorded in the first place. Yeah there are some tricks you can employ to improve on that a little (delays/reverbs/EQ/chorus etc) but you'll never get all the way with that. That means choosing your samples/instruments very carefully indeed to provide the dimension/texture and air you are looking for.

Hope this helps!
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Old 11th May 2009 , 08:36 PM
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There are two massive problems when using match EQ routines. They are pretty much heads & tails of the same coin.

1) If you have a program that analyses a whole song file. Then the frequency response it shows is an average of time and amplitude caused by a complex pattern of frequencies. Therefore, you only 'see' a rough interaction of the signal and the EQ it passes through.

2) If you analyse a short sample, then you will get the same problem for a different reason. You could end up missing key parts of the signal and their resulting impact on the reading.

Unless you find some 'air' on the file, and know how to do some tests with white noise etc...its pretty pointless. Even if you do find air the results can be virtually worthless anyway due to excessive dynamic processing. If the eq is placed before the final comp/limiter setup, these will significantly impact the signal. So you could find that you nick what the software thinks is the EQ profile, only to find you got more then you wanted and it sounds horrid.

I've found match/visual eq's useful in recording and seeing my own work, but for learning from others...not so hot.
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Old 11th May 2009 , 08:45 PM
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My advice is fix it in the mix, don't be trying to spectral match tracks yet. DSM is a cool tool but unnecessary for matching if you have the opportunity to do things better in the mix stage.

You don't need any extra, new, fancy software. Your DAW will come with a perfectly serviceable EQ, so use it.

Find clashing frequencies. Cut, cut, cut. HPF stuff.

If you want to put emphasis on a certain frequency, it can be better to cut surround frequencies rather than boost the freq. in question.

Play around, read up on the art of EQ (googling 'EQ tips' comes up with a whole bunch of very useful reads right away). Practice will make perfect.
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Old 11th May 2009 , 11:54 PM
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For deadmau5 then he (or whoever actually mixes) does do alot of EQ treatment to some key sounds, particularly the analog bass sounds and in his case kicks.

Buts its more then that too - the choice of starting kick sound matters alot - it needs to be something that actually has the right envelope and energy present in a broad enough spectrum to make some use of. Same with the bass.

I think he tends to being up the upper sub bass quite alot on the kick with a broad boost, 50-70, then also apply quite a significant narrrow cut just above around 90Hz - maybe at a 100Hz, then more shaping in the 300-500hz region.

For the piano in that track - also sounds like some subtle (in the mix) but quite significant in real terms EQ shaping. lo cut at 90, broad boost from about 130 upwards, a mid dip centered around just below 1k I would guess.

This is in the mix - not in post mix. So as others have said if you want to fix these issues then you need to fix it in your mix and make sure the original sounds you are using do have the required energy at the required frequencies, then use EQ you give each sound its own unique space in the frequency range if needed.

Sometimes you dont actually need alot - also to subjectively bring something up - you can dip something else that clashes with it too instead of just cranking up frequency bands and levels etc - this is the principle of subtle kick pumping (rather than the more blatent pump-for-effect type pumping) - if use the compressor to make space in time around certain key elements so you dont have to crank thier levels up and drown other elements.

BTW - if you a DJ, or even if not, but have some DJ software, or ableton ligve - try actually loading reference tracks into the DJ softwrae and mixing between you track and a reference track taking careful not of how the overall frequency balance of the key elements (not everything) changes during the mix and more ot the point - taking note of what you might have changed in the DJ EQ section to correct that.

I dont agree with usual these auto analyser + EQ combo plugins - they teach you absolutely nothing and take no account of whether the actual track suits having a given EQ curve imposed upon it, nor are they going to help you fix individual element problems and mix balance problems.
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Old 12th May 2009 , 09:03 AM
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Kewl, some great advice and a sticky.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Khazul View Post

I think he tends to being up the upper sub bass quite alot on the kick with a broad boost, 50-70, then also apply quite a significant narrrow cut just above around 90Hz - maybe at a 100Hz, then more shaping in the 300-500hz region.

For the piano in that track - also sounds like some subtle (in the mix) but quite significant in real terms EQ shaping. lo cut at 90, broad boost from about 130 upwards, a mid dip centered around just below 1k I would guess.
.
This is the voice of experience and i'm guessing the very kind of thing I need to learn. I tend to do everything by ear, which is an untrained ear. Maybe I should get one of those EQ charts to start me off in the right direction.


To clarify my situation, almost every track in anything I do will be a synth. The only samples I use will be a kick and the percussion - which is a mixture of sequenced hits through Battery and maybe a loop or two thrown in. The loops usually get heavily compressed or go through Camelspace etc.

One of my issues might be that my synth lines tend to be complex, evolving and often have heavily automated filters on them. Perhaps i'm chasing a moving target trying to EQ those.

The examples I gave (Deadmau5 for instance) were just for the clarity and punch of the sound. I'm not trying to emulate the music itself, that's the easy part with his stuff.

I'm also not interested in those EQ match applications or any shortcuts really. I'm trying to get it right in the mix as has been suggested, and I think that's what I'm struggling with.

Take a look at this track, which i've already posted elsewhere :-

http://soundclick.com/share?songid=7501532

That one in particular is all over the place and I'm not entirely sure where to start with fixing the EQ.

Then there's this one :-

http://soundclick.com/share?songid=7581754

That one is only VERY early work in progress and is more of a sketch for now but I can already hear it getting muddy in the last 8 bars.

Perhaps EQ is one of the toughest things to get right. I'd like to think that over the next decade or so I'll get there.


Thanks for all the advice
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Old 12th May 2009 , 11:13 AM
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I had a quick listen to the first track on my PC speakers (which sound horrible at the best of times - ugh!))

My first suggestion is to cut the low end of all your lead synth sounds at 130-160Hz whenever the bassline is sounding too. Some could perhaps be cut even higher up. basically stick a low cut in there att 120Hz, then slowly crank it up until the low end of the mix starts to clean up, but you dont yet feel you are loosing anything important from the low end of the synths.

Next consider a narrow dip (3-6dB) to the kick at about 100Hz and a broad boost at about 2K or so. For the bassline, a narrow dip (just a few dB) around 80-90Hz and a broad dip of maybe just 1dB from 300Hz to 1K.

You may want to stick a sidechained compressor over the bassline and key it from the kick, but if you do, just gentle compression. set the threshold about 6dB below the kick peaks and use a ratio of about 1:2, quite a fast attack and quite a fast release (depending on type of compressor). That should be just enough to separate them in time without killing the bassline. Bring the bassline up by a dB or so to compensate for the average level reduction. Both the kick and the bassline should end up clearer now and you may find you can drop the kick level a tiny bit which will make the overall mix easier to manage.

You may need to re-level some parts after. You may find you can actually drop the levels of the leads parts by dB or so and still keep their clarity - at the moment they sound loud, but that could easily be these speakers.

You have alot of fx on it as well - apply a low cut at about 200Hz to the reverb and delay returns if you can (unless they are buried in synths in which case cut to synth has allready done this job for you).

Also reverbs, delays etc all get significantly boosted in perceived relative level through post mix levelling tools (compression/limiters etc), so drop their levels quite a bit to compensate for the amount of dynamic range reduction in post mix - 6dB or more.
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Old 12th May 2009 , 12:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khazul View Post
I had a quick listen to the first track on my PC speakers (which sound horrible at the best of times - ugh!))

My first suggestion is to cut the low end of all your lead synth sounds at 130-160Hz whenever the bassline is sounding too. Some could perhaps be cut even higher up. basically stick a low cut in there att 120Hz, then slowly crank it up until the low end of the mix starts to clean up, but you dont yet feel you are loosing anything important from the low end of the synths.

Next consider a narrow dip (3-6dB) to the kick at about 100Hz and a broad boost at about 2K or so. For the bassline, a narrow dip (just a few dB) around 80-90Hz and a broad dip of maybe just 1dB from 300Hz to 1K.

You may want to stick a sidechained compressor over the bassline and key it from the kick, but if you do, just gentle compression. set the threshold about 6dB below the kick peaks and use a ratio of about 1:2, quite a fast attack and quite a fast release (depending on type of compressor). That should be just enough to separate them in time without killing the bassline. Bring the bassline up by a dB or so to compensate for the average level reduction. Both the kick and the bassline should end up clearer now and you may find you can drop the kick level a tiny bit which will make the overall mix easier to manage.

You may need to re-level some parts after. You may find you can actually drop the levels of the leads parts by dB or so and still keep their clarity - at the moment they sound loud, but that could easily be these speakers.

You have alot of fx on it as well - apply a low cut at about 200Hz to the reverb and delay returns if you can (unless they are buried in synths in which case cut to synth has allready done this job for you).

Also reverbs, delays etc all get significantly boosted in perceived relative level through post mix levelling tools (compression/limiters etc), so drop their levels quite a bit to compensate for the amount of dynamic range reduction in post mix - 6dB or more.
Dude I really appreciate this. I'll have a long hard look at how I EQd this track when I get home and apply some of your suggestions to see what sort of difference they make. The little cuts and boosts you suggest are probably the small details that i'm missing from my mixes and will only come with experience I'm sure.

Do I need to be keeping levels as high as possible while mixing or is that something to sort out on the master channel later on during mastering?
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Old 12th May 2009 , 02:01 PM
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I allways work with loads of headroom on the mix channels and master bus. I typically aim for my highest peaks to hit about -6dBfs on the master bus (if you trust you peak meter, else aim lower, -10 for eg) and average levels to hit about -20dBfs (K-System metering, or Peak vs VU levels if you dont use a K-system type meter).

Typically because the way I use compressors all over the place, the kick is not usually the highest peaking element, even if it still tends to sound quite hard hittting just because of the space given to its attack. Ill often have the kick peaking at only around -12dBfs.
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Old 12th May 2009 , 02:06 PM
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I allways work with loads of headroom on the mix channels and master bus. I typically aim for my peaks to hit about -6dBfs on the master bus and average levels to hit about -20dBfs (K-System metering, or Peak vs VU levels if you dont use a K-system type meter).

Typically because the way I use compressors all over the place, the kick is not usually the highest peaking element, even if it still tends to sound quite hard hittting just because of the space given to its attack. Ill often have the kick peaking at only around -12dBfs.
Veeeeeeeeery interesteing. To my knowledge kicks are always the highest peaking channel by far on my mix and I level everything else against that. You've given me an awful lot to think about and go study up on. I'm thinking a new minimal track is required to test out a few of the suggestions you've given me before I start making what I've already done even worse.

Many thanks for the time
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Old 12th May 2009 , 03:35 PM
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Veeeeeeeeery interesteing. To my knowledge kicks are always the highest peaking channel by far on my mix and I level everything else against that.
If you are starting with say a raw 909/808 or MachineDrum kick, then that will be the case as they all have very high initial transients. Many synthesized kicks are a complete pain as the initial transient depends on where in the cycle the osc was when the envelope started, so the transients are all over the place.


Just as an example, this was a quick dump of something in progress that I dumped out to illustrate something to someone I work with - it just happens to it also has a rather low level kick in it compared to other peak levels.

Warning - the first 2 mins are un-mastered, unlevelled, the second two minutes are roughly processed through a multiband comp and limiter so very loud by comparison
The bit that may be of interest to you is around 1 min (or 3 mins for the processed version).

http://soundcloud.com/adam-g/production-example-1
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