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5 Quick EQ Mixing Tricks

Transcript
Warren: Hello lovely people! Hope you’re doing marvelously well. As ever, please subscribe, hit the notification bell, and guess what? You’ll be notified when we have a new video.

So, today I want to talk about five — one, two, three, four, five; uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco… Is that right, Eric?

Eric: Something like that.

Warren: Something like that. Five — oh, eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf. Five different techniques of using EQ.

So let’s start with the bass. Here’s the final sound.

[bass guitar]

We’ve got some saturation on it. It’s got a good low end. Now, what are the main components that are creating that?

Well, firstly, and this is a trick I love to do, which I got from mister Tim Palmer, who you may know from U2 and Tears for Fears, and a bunch of other great records that he made and mixed, and all kinds of fun stuff.

Listen to the bass DI on its own.

[bass DI]

So it’s nice controlled low end. So it’s — I’m using a stock plugin here, and this stock plugin is set to 170, about 172Hz, and everything above that is low passed away. So it’s only letting the low end — actually, after that is another EQ which is at about 60, 58, and it’s sloping… So it’s controlling that low end.

If I take it off, here’s the DI.

[DI, no EQ]

Just a floppy kind of… Put it back on. So it’s all low end. So I’ve got the DI all low end. If I go over to the amp over here, let’s have a listen to the amp without any — without any plugins on it at all.

[bass amp, no plugins]

So it’s totally flat. I’ve got the same EQ crossover point, and guess what? I’m high passing it! Say it ain’t so! Yes, it is so. I’m high passing it.

[bass amp with high pass]

So why am I doing this? Well firstly, a DI, generally speaking, with a few exceptions, generally is much cleaner sounding than a bass amp. Bass amps, especially the bass amps I like, tend to be tube, valve as we say in England, and they distort, and they kind of give you some crunch, and the speaker is maybe on the edge of breaking up.

Great things, loads of personality, but unfortunately, don’t usually give us the cleanest low end. So I take the bass amp and use it for definition.

So with that EQ on, wiping off the low end, and then with the DI, with the low end reintroduced, you get this. You get a nice, controlled low end. This is a great example, where taking multiple sources and EQing them differently, then bussing them together works really well. Works great on kick drums, it works great on bass amps.

There are people that will tell you otherwise, however, this is how everybody I know does it. Everybody I respect. You know, all the great mixers like Neil Avron, Mark Endert, all of those guys, fantastic mixers, this is how they work.

Okay — and of course Tim Palmer, where I stole this trick from. So this last one here is just for shnits and shniggles, and I’m wiping off the low end, and it’s a SansAmp.

[bass, SansAmp]

And it’s just totally destroyed. Put the three together. You’ve still got all of the bass DI providing all of the low end. Take it away… Nothing. Put it back in. So it’s great. So the reason why we do this is to get proper phase. Proper polarity.

Now, there’s a lot of myths with high passing. A lot of misinformation out there. The reason why we high pass is when you only have one source creating the low end of certain frequencies, it is much cleaner, and much more likely to fill a void. So when you take, like, two or three elements of a bass guitar, or two or three elements of a kick drum, if you separate the elements into different EQ areas, you’ll get better low end, because if I take like, two or three kick drums and have them all going flat against each other, there’ll be some cancellation in the low end.

You won’t get bigger low end, you won’t get more balls, as I’ve heard, you’ll actually get phase cancellation, and it will sound like mud.

However, you can see here…

[bass]

Really good low end. Clean low end. I take everything off…

[bass, flat]

Horrible. So that’s now flat. Put it back on. Much better. Cleaner low end. Real punchy.

So you can see why high passing works. So it’s a combination of high passing and low passing. I’ll go through it one more time, because I really want you — everyone to get this. So on my bass DI, I have low passed at about 172. On my bass amp, I’ve high passed at about 172. So now they’re out of the way of each other, and also on the DI duplicated, I’ve put a SansAmp on, and also high passed at 172.

So basically, these two elements, the DI with the SansAmp and the bass amp give me the personality that I want, and the low end comes from one source from the DI.

Moving on, here we have an electric guitar.

[guitar]

Which is — I’ve actually EQ’d quite aggressively here on the high end.

[guitar with EQ]

Take it off. A little nosey, a little muddy. So it’s quite — it’s just a boost here, you can see that I’ve done here, and I’ve got like, nearly five dB at five and a half kHz. However, there’s times when it feels a little painful.

[guitar]

I like what it’s generally doing, but occasionally, it gets a little too aggressive. So we’re boosting it the way we want, we’ve also, yes, high passed here. I’ll take it off again.

[electric guitar]

See, the high pass — when I enact the high pass, it gives me a little bit more detail for the bass.

So now I hear more definition from the bass, because I don’t have that low end on the guitar fighting with the low end on the bass. There’s a little bit of space in there. But I don’t miss it, because particularly in this particular part, because the bass player is playing super busy.

So what am I going to do? Okay, I like the guitar, it just gets a little too bright in places, but not all of the time. Generally, I like the boost.

So let’s get out, you guessed it, a de-esser. So we’ve boosted it, but now I’m going to go and grab just a good old fashioned de-esser, and control that.

[guitar, adjusting de-esser]

So it’s mainly okay, but if I just bring it here…

[electric guitar]

It’s just turning it in a bit. So what is the lesson with this EQing? Well, I want this — I do this all the time, I do vocals, I do guitars, I do it with anything where I want it to be brighter, but I want to control it. Talking to Gavin Lurssen, the mastering engineer, this is the kind of thing he does as well on masters.

They use — they brighten it, and then use a little bit of de-essing, because it’s effectively a high frequency multiband compressor, and then just control it. So I’ve boosted it, and then I’m controlling it here.

[guitar]

So every now and then when it just gets, [imitates guitar], just gets a little too bright, sticks its nose out, the de-esser is doing it.

So the trick is high passing, get it out of the way of the bass. Nice gentle slope here. I’m actually going quite high. It’s 115, but it’s a gentle slope. So at 115.

Then I’m boosting it at 5.5kHz, and low passing, but that boost is quite excessive, so to control it, I’m putting a de-esser after.

[mix]

So boosting EQ, and then controlling excessive boosts that’s more even with the de-esser.

Number three, we’re going to go to the kick drum. Now, this has no samples on it this song. This is a song that I’ve got up that I actually did a full course on. It’s totally live.

[filtered drum]

See what I did? This is insane.

Insane! In solo, that is the worst sounding shnizzle I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Absolutely horrific. What I found was, listening to this D112 that was recorded, it had this sort of double click. The whole album was done in one day. In one day. Ten songs recorded live. It’s a great album, it’s done really well, god bless it, but when I came to mix this in the box for this course, I found that I could not get the kick drum to sound the way I wanted it to in the box until I got really crazy.

So I have gone absolutely nuts on this. You can leave me a thousand comments below, but in solo, this is how it sounds.

[filtered drums]

Yup. Now the other elements here…

[drums]

Together. And the thing is soloed, it’s not that pleasant, but I put the whole thing in the drums…

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[drums]

It makes sense. We don’t listen to music in solo. So what did I do? Well, a couple of crazy things. So on this one, absolutely insane stuff. I boosted — just boosted the high end like crazy, and then, I actually ran…

[filtered drums]

A compressor, just to control that, and more high boost. There’s absolutely no — it’s all completely high passed. Absolutely no low end in this at all.

Now, so what am I doing? I’m taking two independent elements, and treating them — EQing them differently, then bussing them together. Yes, I know. There are people that say you shouldn’t do that. Well, unfortunately, most of us do. [laughs] So… Then I went crazy on this kick drum. Really excessive EQ.

[kick]

Low end boost. Then mid-range cut. A load of mid-range cut. Then more high end boost here. That’s basically the two elements. The two elements are put together.

So don’t be afraid. Do not be afraid to get crazy, especially on the low end, because what will happen is when you’ve got like, bass guitars, or kick drums, or anything that has multiple sources for low end, two or three mics, or a DI and a mic, when you get two or three low end things together, you’ll get quite bad cancellation. See, if you look here, let’s zoom in quite — let’s zoom in quite heavily here.

Okay, if you look here, here is — so here’s the front of this. Doesn’t line up. It’s a little bit out. But it’s not terrible. Then see as it progresses… Does that make sense? See how far out it starts to get. And I don’t care what you do, you’ll never get that phase correlation to be exact. You just never will.

So when you have multiple sources of low end, they’re already at different points away from the kick drum. One’s inside, one’s outside, sometimes there’s even a third mic even further out, and with that, they all hear the low end in different ways, so if you don’t sculpt the low end out before you combine it to one source, you’ll get tons and tons of low end cancellation.

That’s why high passing is your friend, and using multiple sources to fulfill different things. Bob Marlette is a genius at this. He’ll take a kick drum and just take it into little pieces, put it together, and it’s the biggest kick drum you’ve ever heard.

Now honestly, this is not a pretty kick drum.

[kick]

It’s not pretty, but in context of the mix…

[mix]

I could’ve put a sample against that. It’s very tempting to put a kick sample against that and just kind of like, beef it up just a little bit, but the whole idea of this mixing in the box, this classic — the classic rock one, was to avoid doing that, and just use those elements, and use stock plugins as much as possible.

Okay, that was numero trois. The kick drum.

Alright, fourth. Now, this is — it’s just something to be really aware of when mixing. Especially drums or rock and roll in general. When you’re working with EDM or virtual instruments, they’re recorded exceptionally well, and not only are they recorded exceptionally well, they’re recorded in an environment where, you know, it’s a piano recorded one note at a time for a, you know, virtual instrument playback, or whatever. Exceptionally controlled, but with live players, especially drummers, there can be huge dynamics, and a lot of build up.

What we’ve got in this room — here have a listen.

[drum room]

It’s just kind of like, “Eh,” darkness. So I’ve compressed it.

[drum room, compressed]

I’ve added a little bit of Lo-fi to distort. You know what I like to do, just to distort some of the high end so it doesn’t get too washy, but this is a big one. I’ve also put this room on it. Even more verb.

[drums, with reverb]

But look what I did with the EQ here. So on the EQ, I have high passed it quite heavily, because if you’ve got room mics pulled back a long way away from the rest of your drums, if you don’t go in there and high pass those room mics, you’re going to get double hits on the kicks in particular. It’s not going to sound bigger, it’s just going to go, [imitates drums], and once again, having multiple sources of low end coming from different areas will cause you all kinds of mud and phase issues.

So I’ve gone in there at 350, and I’ve pulled it out. All of that low mid build up, and I’ve also as you can see, high passed at 179. So let’s have a listen.

[drum room]

Sounds exciting. Put the other room mics in. They should have a similar effect done to it. All of these room mics have got the low end taken out of them. So you can hear the thump of the kick, but I put the live kick in…

That’s with the live kick.

[drum rooms and live kick]

So what you get is you get the “ohm.” You get the low end of the kick, and then you get the ambience around it. The, “Ahhh,” comes from the room mics. Which is what they’re there for. That’s what the room mics are there for.

[drum room]

So it’s just a quick illustration of why we high pass, why professionals high pass is if we take off the EQ…

[drum room, no EQ]

It sounds all floppy in that low end. Put it back on…

[drum room with EQ]

Much more controlled. So there is a reality why people high pass, is like, it doesn’t get like, it doesn’t give you more low end, it just gives you muddy, out of phase, no definition. And one of the biggest discussions we’ve been having is with mastering engineers, is that they’re finding they’re getting stuff where there’s no definition. They don’t know how to pull out 60 — 40-60Hz of a kick, because they pull that out, and all the guitars come up, and all of these random mics and stuff like that.

That’s why you need to get into high passing and knowing when to do it and how to do it.

So low mid cut is a wonder, because you get tons of low mid. Low mids are in pretty much everything. I mean, even a mandolin has a little bit of low mid in it, believe it or not. There’s a buildup of low mid. So when you get multiple amounts of instruments — room mics in this instance, bass guitars, electric guitars, be very conscious of that sort of 250 to 300, 400 area gets really, really crowded, and you’ll find a lot of guys on their mix buss will pull out, like, a 300 or so. Or they’ll boost some 60 and boost some mid-range and above, effectively doing the same thing.

So low mids, try to cut them as much as you can. Not necessarily drastically on everything, but be very aware that they will build up very quickly.

Okay, EQing your reverb. This is a good one. So I’ve got a kick reverb going, so let’s take our two kick elements and listen to them.

[kick drums]

And you hear there’s some verb. So what am I doing? I’m actually — see what I’m doing? I’m high passing going into the kick drum. I could also actually, frankly, low pass it around about here.

Now, this is an old Abbey Road trick. They use an EQ curve a little bit like this high and low passing filters going into their reverbs, their room verbs, their actual real ones, and the reason for that is the same thing. If I get a kick drum and it’s pushing out a lot of 40 to 60Hz, and I pump it out, there’s going to be a huge buildup in the low end reverberating, so EQ going into reverb is really, really…

[kick drums]

Take it off…

[kicks with no reverb EQ]

See, that’s terrible! Listen, the kick drum is going blah, blah, blah. Another reason for good high passing. Horrible build up. Still got the ambience, but you don’t have that low end bumping.

One more time.

[kicks]

Take off the EQ. Just a horrible low rumble. I throw a bass guitar in there, and it’s just going to be like, an undefined munch of low end rumble, so you need to high pass. There I’m quite drastic. There I’ve gone up to 230Hz high passing on the reverb.

[kicks, with and without EQ]

High pass. No high pass. Absolute mess.

So be very careful. High passing is really, really important. Use it properly, know when to use it. And low passing as well, because I don’t need that super, super high on the kick drums. That’s just going to get in the way of the cymbals, the high end of the vocal, snare drum, all this kind of stuff.

We can do a similar thing, let’s try it quickly while we’re here on our reverb.

[snare]

So you know what, I’m going to do something similar. I’m going to — I’m just going to go to about 100, maybe a little bit higher to get it out of the way of the…

[snare]

Out of the bass guitar. Let’s go a little further into the song.

[snare]

Take it off. That’s not as big of a deal. It’s more precautionary. That’s why sometimes high passing can be precautionary, because there’s stuff that’s like small amount of rumble that are going to get in your way, and it’s not even in the fundamental signal of the snare drum, but there might be a little bit of a buildup of it.

So you put that over, you know, 40 tracks, then you’re going to get a bit of a mess in there. So high passing is also very useful, even when it isn’t perceptible on an individual instrument. Remember, on about 40 instruments, if you’ve got a lot of low end build up, it really can get in the way.

Great, so that was 5 very quick tips. I think one of the main things to learn is like, high and low passing can work in all kinds of situations. They work for bass guitars, kick drums, reverbs, de-essing, combined with high EQ boost is fantastic, not just on vocals which is obvious, but also on guitars. So it’s a really, really useful technique. You’re going to brighten everything, but then go into control when it gets too excessive.

So I hope you enjoy that. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing. Please, as ever, subscribe, hit the notifications bell to be notified, leave a bunch of comments and questions below. Let me know how you EQ stuff. What are the basic things that you do that really will help your mix?

Have a marvelous time recording and mixing!

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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