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The Basics of Mixing with EQ: Correct or Augment

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The Basics of Mixing with EQ: Correct or Augment
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Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com.

It’s the 416th day of Quarantannukah, and I’m going to be talking about EQ. I kind of want to go back to some basic stuff. I do a lot of things on this channel that show really interesting tips and tricks and unique situations, and cool effects, and things that are very minuscule and nuance-y. I thought it might be cool to go back to the fundamentals here.

I wrote an article called, “The Complete Guide to EQ,” and I wanted to talk about the very, very first thing which is just simply using an EQ for its intended purpose.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to play this record that I did the tracking for, and I’m going to talk about why we would use an EQ to help this along.

[song]

So if we listen to those sources, we can say that they all sound like their respective instruments. They’re not far off, but is it great? No, it could use a little bit of touching up.

So I’m going to jump over here to a slightly earlier part of the song. I think we can hear the guitar a little bit better in this break, and because it’s being played with a little bit less energy in the strum.

[music]

All of the parts are there, but I just feels a little bit dull. So I’m going to grab an EQ, and I’m going to boost some top end, because it’s missing that top end from the initial recording. It needs to be corrected. This is something that is lacking that can be fixed.

So all I’m doing here is grabbing a shelf from 4.8, and I’m boosting 5dB of top end, and that’s going to really replenish the sound, and make it sound more like an acoustic guitar should actually sound.

[guitar]

Now, that to me sounds a lot more like an acoustic guitar sounds in my mind.

Okay, but why specifically choose this EQ, right? Why not choose another EQ. Well, we — this is a question that I get asked a lot by the way, which is why choose one specific device over another? And there’s a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons is the sound of the device.

This particular EQ has a really glowy, shimmery sound, and it has a very present sound that’s kind of hard to replicate. Now, I went through the efforts of replicating it, but first, I just want to show you the difference between doing a 5dB bump using this particular EQ, the Millennia EQ…

[acoustic guitar]

Right? One might describe it as sparkly. Now I’m going to grab the FabFilter Pro-Q 3, which is a great EQ, but I’m going to replicate the basic settings here. I’m going to go to 4.8, and I have the Q of the curve pretty matched here. Put it in natural phase, and now I’m going to play it. Let’s do 5dB.

[acoustic guitar]

It sounds really natural, it sounds really smooth, but it lacks that sparkly quality that specifically the Millennia has. I’ll just between the two real quick. Millennia.

[acoustic guitar, Millennia EQ]

FabFilter.

[acoustic guitar, FabFilter EQ]

Maybe a little bit more obvious. I’m going to turn this up to plus 10dB, and I’m going to go over here, I’m going to turn this up to plus 10dB, and we’re going to compare and contrast. Here’s the FabFilter.

[acoustic guitar, FabFilter EQ]

Here’s the Millennia.

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[acoustic guitar, Millennia EQ]

Now, I think that difference should be pretty obvious. Now, there’s a couple of things that are going on, the first is that there is a very subtle touch of tonal harmonic distortion that comes from the Millennia EQ. That however, I want to stress is not the big thing that changes the sound here. It is a little tiny piece of it, but that harmonic distortion is pretty low.

The big thing that makes the difference is the shape of the curve. So I took some effort and some time to replicate the shape of the curve for a 5dB bump, and I needed three curves off of the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 to get the same thing. I needed a high shelf, I needed a second high shelf, and I needed a bell boost to get the same sort of curve sound.

If I go between the two, you’ll hear what I’m talking about.

[acoustic guitar, Pro-Q 3]

So that was the FabFilter, here is the Millennia.

[acoustic guitar, Millennia EQ]

And they’re still not even exactly the same. I’m going to see if I can exaggerate this. I’m going to turn this up to plus 10dB, and then I’m going to go over here and I have this little percent control, this gain scale. I’m going to turn this up 200 percent. Let’s see if this still checks out.

[acoustic guitar, Millennia EQ]

That was the Millennia. Here’s the Q 3.

[acoustic guitar, Pro-Q 3]

Not quite the same still. So the reason why I’m using the Millennia is because it has this sound that it’s readily giving me that I don’t need to work for, and that even if I was working toward it, I might not totally nail. It’s the tone and texture of the individual EQ, and I particularly like this one for acoustic guitar, because it has that sparkly quality to it that’s really just hard to get using your basic parametric. Basic parametrics on the other hand, super useful when you’re trying to do a very specific utilitarian thing. For that, the Pro-Q 3 is really hard to beat.

So the other reason why we frequently use an EQ is to exaggerate something, give something a little bit more than what it would actually have.

[mix]

Now, the vocalist here sounds pretty natural. She doesn’t necessarily need any EQ to really sound any better, but I can use a little bit of EQ to give her a little bit of extra something going on in the presence range to give her voice some shine, and to give her voice a little bit extra body. Something a little bit larger than what was naturally coming in through the mic.

So here, I’ve got a boost at about 250Hz doing — I guess almost 4dB bump, and I’ve got a little smaller boost here at about 3kHz doing 1.5dB, and it sounds like this.

Before.

[mix]

After.

[mix]

So it just creates a slightly larger than life kind of an image by putting a little bit of something there that wasn’t necessarily there to begin with, and these are the reasons why we use EQ — to correct and to augment, and so in the process of doing all of this crazy stuff, really, if we mostly focus on just fixing and augmenting the things that we want using EQs that flatter those purposes, we’re going to get 95% of our mixing really done, and that’s going to be true for other signal processors too, things like compressors or whatever.

Mostly, their fundamental purposes are what get us where we want to go, and it’s really just about making smart musical decisions.

Alright guys, if you dig what I’m doing on this channel, hit that like button, hit that subscribe button with the bell clicked so that you get notifications, and if you want to check out some full length tutorials, maybe something that gets really in depth with the concept of EQ, check out the description below. There’s going to be some links to some for sale tutorials that are just packed full of information. Hope you learned something here and stay safe out there, until next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com

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