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Thread: Understanding EQ / Everthing in its own space

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    Lightbulb Understanding EQ / Everthing in its own space

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    Let me first start this off by saying, "I don't always understand my title of this forum" But I thought this would be cool to explore and examine.

    I assume that we all know that the range of what most humans can hear runs from 20 hz to 20khz, so from 20 to 20,000 frequencies per second is all the human ear can deal with.

    Those lower frequencies around 20 to hmmm about 100 maybe 200 are felt, just as much as they are heard. Ever wonder why that is so? Why does your shirt and chest rattle in the night club when the bass and kick are pounding away? Those low frequecies are full of energy, and that energy can actually attempt to move what it is trying to go through.

    Sound is energy, plain and simple, just like a vehicle driving down the road at 60 mph, put an object in front of it, and both sound and the vehicle are going to attempt to plow through it. The lighter the vehicle and the higher the frequency, the less energy either have when impacting the wall, therefore the less ability they will have to move what they are hitting. Some are so lightweight they just bounce right back the other direction until they hit something the in the other direction.

    So, this means the low frequencies are full of energy and the higher ones are just a bunch of lightwieghts bouncing all over the place. Now take this one step further.

    Let's say you made a track with a thunderous bass, man it just vibrates the crap out of your shirt and is cool as hell, but then you have the amp from hell to drive that track. Next thing you do is burn the CD and run out to your car, but it sounds like crap. My god how can this be? You just created the next million seller and your car stereo is ruining it.

    Well in your studio at 100 watts there is plenty of energy for all of your little freq buddies to play and be happy, but pop it into the car stereo with maybe 20 watts and there just isnt enough juice to go around. Somebody is not going to be heard. So the big energy robbing heavy hitters get their way and the little bounce off the wall wimps get left in the dust. It is only going to sound like one big bass/mudd line.

    Ok so now we know that the lower freq's need to be restrained just a little, so we put some roll off below 50. (Side note, personal choice on where to roll it off) Now that lets the weaklings play along side the heavy hitters down at the bottom, but wait, it still sounds like mud. Damn it, what is going wrong here.

    Now we have to think about other things and this is where it can get even more complicated. Let's say for arguments sake that you have 10 instruments playing in your track. Every instrument is going to have, what I like to think of as, its dominant frequecncy range. And some of this I am going "off the cuff" because I can never remember the ranges of all of these instruments, so I always go back and check my notes.

    Bass and kick are going to be in that low high energy group from 20 to about 200, but then they are going to have harmonics that reach out beyond that, maybe even up into the 4000 freqs or more.

    Keyboards are going to be in that 400 up to 3000 with harmonics beyond that.

    Snares ride in the 400-1000 depending on tuning with harmonics

    Vocals same thing and on and on.

    Now you can see that things start to build up in the middle, somewhere between 400 to 8000 and all the stuff beyond are generally the harmonics all of these intruments produce.

    It is in that 400 to 8000 range that you have to carve out little nitches for all of those instruments that sit there. If they all try to occupy the same place at the same time, then someone is going to lose and it all sounds like a muddy mess.

    If you didn't capture the perfect sound that sits just right, EQ becomes your trusty fix. This is your swiss knife to carve up that precious little space of frequency spectrum and hand it out to each instrument. With EQ you are giving each instrument, the boundaries where it is allowed to play and be heard. No more, no less.

    So exlcuding the kick and bass which you held back at below 50 hz you have, not including the snare, toms and cymbals, about 5 instruments that you really need to deal with. Those 5 have to be carved up into frequency nitches to allow them to be heard.

    This doesnt mean that you take instrument 1 and roll it off at 300 and 600 and instrument 2 at 600 and 1000 etc. If you did that it would sound like a bad AM radio. It means you use cuts and boosts to give each one its prominent space. What one gets the other doesn't and vice versa and in the end you have 10 instruments all happily being heard.

    I hope others jump in and offer some opinions. And I hope the newcomers understand that using EQ is not something you use, "just because", but a tool to carve out niches for all of your instruments to sit inside the limited frequency spectrum of 20 hz to 20 khz. Of course panning, volume and reverb can even play into this, but for now we are only thinking about frequencies.


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    Instrument Frequency ranges

    To understand EQ and its intricacies you need hands-on experience, but to help you get started, here's a table of general uses and the different ranges that EQ can affect. As every sound is different, though, these are necessarily very general guidelines...

    Kick Drum

    Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Try a small boost around 5-7kHz to add some high end.

    50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom to the sound
    100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
    250-800Hz ~ Muddiness Area
    5-8kHz ~ Adds high end prescence
    8-12kHz ~ Adds Hiss

    Snare

    Try a small boost around 60-120Hz if the sound is a little too wimpy. Try boosting around 6kHz for that 'snappy' sound.

    100-250Hz ~ Fills out the sound
    6-8kHz ~ Adds prescence

    Hi hats or cymbals

    Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. To add some brightness try a small boost around 3kHz.

    250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
    1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
    6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
    8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

    Bass

    Try boosting around 60Hz to add more body. Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz.If more presence is needed, boost around 6kHz.

    50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom end
    100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
    250-800Hz ~ Muddiness Area
    800-1kHz ~ Adds beef to small speakers
    1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
    6-8kHz ~ Adds high-end presence
    8-12kHz ~ Adds hiss

    Vocals

    This is a difficult one, as it depends on the mic used to record the vocal. However...Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the mic and song.Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

    100-250Hz ~ Adds 'up-frontness'
    250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
    1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
    6-8kHz ~ Adds sibilance and clarity
    8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

    Piano

    Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

    50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom
    100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
    250-1kHz ~ Muddiness area
    1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
    6-8Khz ~ Adds clarity
    8-12kHz ~ Adds hiss

    Electric guitars

    Again this depends on the mix and the recording. Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the song and sound. Try boosting around 3kHz to add some edge to the sound, or cut to add some transparency. Try boosting around 6kHz to add presence. Try boosting around 10kHz to add brightness.

    100-250Hz ~ Adds body
    250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
    1-6Khz ~ Cuts through the mix
    6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
    8=12kHz ~ Adds hiss

    Acoustic guitar

    Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off between 100-300Hz. Apply small amounts of cut around 1-3kHz to push the image higher. Apply small amounts of boost around 5kHz to add some presence.

    100-250Hz ~ Adds body
    6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
    8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

    Strings

    These depend entirely on the mix and the sound used.

    50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom end
    100-250Hz ~ Adds body
    250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
    1-6hHz ~ Sounds crunchy
    6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
    8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

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    EQ Tables

    __________

    50Hz

    1. Increase to add more fullness to lowest frequency instruments like foot, toms, and the bass.
    2. Reduce to decrease the "boom" of the bass and will increase overtones and the recognition of bass line in the mix. This is most often used on bass lines in Rap and R&B.
    __________

    100Hz

    Increase to add a harder bass sound to lowest frequency instruments.
    Increase to add fullness to guitars, snare.
    Increase to add warmth to piano and horns.
    Reduce to remove boom on guitars & increase clarity.
    __________

    200Hz

    1. Increase to add fullness to vocals.
    2. Increase to add fullness to snare and guitar (harder sound).
    3. Reduce to decrease muddiness of vocals or mid-range instruments.
    4. Reduce to decrease gong sound of cymbals.
    __________

    400Hz

    1. Increase to add clarity to bass lines especially when speakers are at low volume.
    2. Reduce to decrease "cardboard" sound of lower drums (foot and toms).
    3. Reduce to decrease ambiance on cymbals.
    __________

    800Hz

    1. Increase for clarity and "punch" of bass.
    2. Reduce to remove "cheap" sound of guitars
    __________

    1.5KHz

    1. Increase for "clarity" and "pluck" of bass.
    2. Reduce to remove dullness of guitars.
    __________

    3KHz

    1. Increase for more "pluck" of bass.
    2. Increase for more attack of electric / acoustic guitar.
    3. Increase for more attack on low piano parts.
    4. Increase for more clarity / hardness on voice.
    5. Reduce to increase breathy, soft sound on background vocals.
    6. Reduce to disguise out-of-tune vocals / guitars
    __________

    5KHz

    1. Increase for vocal presence.
    2. Increase low frequency drum attack (foot/toms).
    3. Increase for more "finger sound" on bass.
    4. Increase attack of piano, acoustic guitar and brightness on guitars.
    5. Reduce to make background parts more distant.
    6. Reduce to soften "thin" guitar.
    __________

    7KHz

    1. Increase to add attack on low frequency drums (more metallic sound).
    2. Increase to add attack to percussion instruments.
    3. Increase on dull singer.
    4. Increase for more "finger sound" on acoustic bass.
    5. Reduce to decrease "s" sound on singers.
    6. Increase to add sharpness to synthesizers, rock guitars, acoustic guitar and piano.
    __________

    10KHz

    1. Increase to brighten vocals.
    2. Increase for "light brightness" in acoustic guitar and piano.
    3. Increase for hardness on cymbals.
    4. Reduce to decrease "s" sound on singers.
    __________

    15KHz

    1. Increase to brighten vocals (breath sound).
    2. Increase to brighten cymbals, string instruments and flutes.
    3. Increase to make sampled synthesizer sound more real.

    __________


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    Frequency asked questions...

    Low Bass: anything less than 50Hz

    This range is often known as the sub bass and is most commonly taken up by the lowest part of the kick drum and bass guitar, although at these frequencies it's almost impossible to determine any pitch. Sub bass is one of the reasons why 12" vinyl became available: low frequencies require wider grooves than high frequencies - without rolling off everything below 50Hz you couldn't fit a full track onto a 7" vinyl record. However we do NOT recommend applying any form of boost around this area without the use of very high quality studio monitors (not home monitors - there is a vast difference between home nearfield and studio farfield monitors costing anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000). Boosting blindly in this area without a valid reference point can and will permanently damage most speakers, even PA systems. You have been warned!

    Bass: 50-250Hz

    This is the range you're adjusting when applying the bass boost on most home stereos, although most bass signals in modern music tracks lie around the 90-200Hz area with a small boost in the upper ranges to add some presence or clarity.

    Muddiness/irritational area: 200-800Hz

    The main culprit area for muddy sounding mixes, hence the term 'irritational area'. Most frequencies around here can cause psycho-acoustic problems: if too many sounds in a mix are dominating this area, a track can quickly become annoying, resulting in a rush to finish mixing it as you get bored or irritated by the sound of it.

    Mid-range: 800-6kHz

    Human hearing is extremely sensitive at these frequencies, and even a minute boost around here will result in a huge change in the sound - almost the same as if you boosted around 10db at any other range. This is because our voices are centred in this area, so it's the frequency range we hear more than any other. Most telephones work at 3kHz, because at this frequency speech is most intelligible. This frequency also covers TV stations, radio, and electric power tools. If you have to apply any boosting in this area, be very cautious, especially on vocals. We're particularly sensitive to how the human voice sounds and its frequency coverage.

    High Range: 6-8kHz

    This is the range you adjust when applying the treble boost on your home stereo. This area is slightly boosted to make sounds artificially brighter (although this artificial boost is what we now call 'lifelike') when mastering a track before burning it to CD.

    Hi-High Range: 8-20kHz

    This area is taken up by the higher frequencies of cymbals and hi-hats, but boosting around this range, particularly around 12kHz can make a recording sound more high quality than it actually is, and it's a technique commonly used by the recording industry to fool people into thinking that certain CDs are more hi-fidelity than they'd otherwise sound. However, boosting in this area also requires a lot of care - it can easily pronounce any background hiss, and using too much will result in a mix becoming irritating.


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    Great summary; very useful, as well as your compressor settings summary.
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    These are extracts of articles i found on the net over some time. I made them for myself, to keep them handy when i need them. When i saw the thread title i thought i could share them with you.


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    re: Understanding EQ / Everthing in its own space

    Originally posted by Tim20

    This doesnt mean that you take instrument 1 and roll it off at 300 and 600 and instrument 2 at 600 and 1000 etc. If you did that it would sound like a bad AM radio. It means you use cuts and boosts to give each one its prominent space. What one gets the other doesn't and vice versa and in the end you have 10 instruments all happily being heard.

    I hope others jump in and offer some opinions. And I hope the newcomers understand that using EQ is not something you use, "just because", but a tool to carve out niches for all of your instruments to sit inside the limited frequency spectrum of 20 hz to 20 khz. Of course panning, volume and reverb can even play into this, but for now we are only thinking about frequencies.

    The first place to start, in relation to everything having its proper place is not with EQ. This should actually start with the composition of the song. If you compose a song using instrumentation in frequency ranges that don't compete with each other, your EQ job should be considerably lighter. Secondly, before you go reaching for that EQ knob, you need to get your volume and pans as tight as possible. Panning can open up a lot of space for competing frequencies. Get these straight first, before you go reaching for EQ. You may find that you don't even need to eq, or need very little eq. Once you boost or cut any freq, keep in mind that this will affect your volume mix, and you will probably have to revisit your fader positions for some tweaking.
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    Ike,

    I am not sure I totally agree with starting in the composition. It might be a consideration at times, but not if it is going to limit what is trying to be done.

    Rock music might easily have 5 guitars playing at the same time. A lot of my stuff can have 3-4 acoustic parts and 1-2 electrics.

    If you listen to the Eagles, Hotel California original studio song, there are about 8 guitars playing at the same time. Trying to mix this without EQ would be a muddy mess.

    I think the path to this is first attempt to capture a great track then, use panning, volume, reverb, after that EQ becomes that swiss army knife I was talking about.

    Of course the problem in trying to capture that great track is that it might sound like crap alone, but in the mix it blends. Bass guitar parts are notorious for this.

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