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Comparative EQ. What do you listen for ?
Old 3rd August 2011
  #1
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Comparative EQ. What do you listen for ?

Certain instruments compete for EQ space, this we know. But when it comes to the finer specifics, do the more experienced engineers have any " go to" checklists for these comparisons.

Eg: You boost 5 k on the guitar and you lose some definition in the vocal.

Are there some standard references people refer to in this area that one can use as a sort of cleanup checklist to save time?
Old 3rd August 2011
  #2
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lakeshorephatty's Avatar
 

I think this is a difficult thing. If you take any instrument, lets say voice or bass for example, the particular voice or guitar "speaks" in a certain spot in the treble range, which is different from another voice or another guitar.

Now the only thing you may hit on is people who have certain room problems. I'm fairly convinced that my room has some problem areas in the 2-5k range because no matter what mics i use, or setup or preamps or anything, i always tend to have peaky things to remove in this region. So people may get into certain eq patterns to counteract their rooms. This isn't going to help the rest of us unfortunately.

Its also likely that the midrange is always showing funny peaks in instruments and getting it right is one of the secrets to a smooth and full sound. I just haven't personally worked in enough good rooms to be sure that the midrange can't be perfected with good acoustics, gear, and minimal eq in the process.

In any case in conclusion, every source has its own areas that speak out the best so you just have to work with a keen ear and be open to creating frequency holes between instruments wherever they are most appropriate.

Russell
Old 3rd August 2011
  #3
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by targa2 View Post
Certain instruments compete for EQ space, this we know. But when it comes to the finer specifics, do the more experienced engineers have any " go to" checklists for these comparisons.

Eg: You boost 5 k on the guitar and you lose some definition in the vocal.

Are there some standard references people refer to in this area that one can use as a sort of cleanup checklist to save time?
no checklist, no standards

every guitar is different, every vocal is different, every song is different, every mix is different

To me anyway, this is what makes mixing enjoyable and creative. If there was a checklist, it would just be a chore. I have a checklist for packing for a gig, for example.

Things do speed up after a while as you learn to associate what you are hearing with whatever numbers on the EQ dial are relevant.
Old 3rd August 2011
  #4
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Most people think of this as a mixing problem when they start out. Years later, most people figure out it is actually a tracking and song writing problem.

Yes, there are things you can do in a mix to move one instrument out of another instrument's way...a small number of things...with varying degrees of success.

There is a world of things you can do to move one instrument out of another instrument's way as you are playing the instrument. It's like having a conversation in a crowded party. You say your bit at a volume that reaches your listener without drawing tons of attention to yourself from everybody else, and then when it's your "turn" to address the whole room you sense the lul and speak louder.

Think of it less as EQ and more as what is important. Even as you're recording, you should know what tracks will be "top dog" in the finished mix (you're in trouble if you have more than 3 of 'em... and two of 'em are most likely vocals and one of the drums). Know that your piano will be destined to be "in the back" of the song. Even that aggressive monster electric guitar will probably be in the back if it isn't wanking out a melody. Make each track and performance tailored to it's "place", and then you won't have to put it there in mixing.
Old 3rd August 2011
  #5
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Drumsound's Avatar
I can't say I have a checklist, but if I have to things conflicting, I will sometimes find a nice spot to boost EQ on one source (or maybe I already have) and then cut that same frequency on the conflicting source. Kind of like opening a path in a crowded room.
Old 3rd August 2011
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Most people think of this as a mixing problem when they start out. Years later, most people figure out it is actually a tracking and song writing problem.
Granted....good songs are written full of holes so as to allow space for everything that goes on....but....what about those we get that aren't. Lots of writers cram too much into an arrangement, myself often included.
Old 3rd August 2011
  #7
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by targa2 View Post
Lots of writers cram too much into an arrangement, myself often included.
I have been guilty of that.....obviously not so much nowadays.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Most people think of this as a mixing problem when they start out. Years later, most people figure out it is actually a tracking and song writing problem.
....and an arrangement issue as well.

As an incorrigible rule breaker I always solo my instruments and see what they need in the way of gentle EQ to really speak in their own voice. Once I have established that for each player I can see how they fit comparably in the mix.

I think that finding the right place in the mix for an instrument that has been played and recorded well and then EQ'd for it's own personality is a pretty good place to start.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
this is what makes mixing enjoyable and creative.
Old 4th August 2011
  #8
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Sk106's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by targa2 View Post
Certain instruments compete for EQ space, this we know. But when it comes to the finer specifics, do the more experienced engineers have any " go to" checklists for these comparisons.
Eg: You boost 5 k on the guitar and you lose some definition in the vocal.
Are there some standard references people refer to in this area that one can use as a sort of cleanup checklist to save time?
No standards. Just a rough mental image, based on practice, that changes with time.

I'm sure there are a few nutcases who have made attempts at some form of categorization, but anyone who has ever done some work in this knows better.

I once played in a youth symphony orchestra, and the engineer went bananas, because the cellos and french horns played some in unison and these sections are sitting on almost opposite sides. How did we expect him to be able to ‘separate’ that, he snarled. And that was before he discovered that the violins were all sitting together, close to each other (leakage) but divided into TWO parts?! where the 2nd violin occupied a different register than the 1st violins, but only sometimes, because sometimes it played in unison with the 1st violin part. His conclusion was that Beethoven was the worst arranger ever heh

The fact is, that when the cellos plays, that’s one timbre. When the trombones play, that’s another timbre. When the cellos and trombones plays together, that's not two things competing for space: it is just another timbre, a third timbre. This is just small example of how music is. The engineer above didn’t understand that, didn’t know music at all.

Flute, oboe, clarinet and violin, that’s four timbres, with lots of potential combinations in there, each one being a unique timbre and register. They will play sometimes in unison with each other, sometimes in drastically different registers all at once, they will play 1½ bar in unison with another instrument group, then change to play in unison with another one etc. Each instrument can also play using different techniques, like using mutes which gives them a muffled tone. If the engineer raises the hi shelf filter to counteract that, then you know you need to get another engineer. It doesn’t really matter what genre you get; you will encounter this, it’s only a matter of how much, and there are no systematic shortcuts through it.

Claiming that music should adapt itself after the technical process of recording/amplifying/reproducing it, that’s like blaming the water for not adapting to what boats we can build, or that diseases should only be what we have an ability to cure. Be careful with the idea of churning out space for each different frequency area. The notion that only specific timbres or tracks should be allowed in each frequency area is a drastic idea, most often advocated by engineers like the one mentioned above. It isn’t music that poses the limitation, but our way of handling reproduction of it. Otherwise we might as well order composers to only use perfectly even and un-modulated waveforms. It’s like saying a painting artist should only use RGB colors (red, blue, green), and can’t blend them over each other to form desired tints.

Try to understand what you got on tape, before you start putting it together. It’s almost like a put-it-together-yourself IKEA bookshelf. You need to understand what all the tracks are a part of; otherwise you’ll end up building a bathtub out of parts for a bookshelf, and afterwards claiming that this was a real ****ty bathtub design.

Some tracks are single sounds or instruments. Other instruments or sounds can be spread out over several tracks. Some tracks are intended to be stacked and layered on top of each other; some tracks are embellishments to be used upon other the base of other tracks etc etc. Try and puzzle together what it is, and if you feel a need to cut away something substantive from a piece of the puzzle to make it fit in … you know why that is … so be careful and mindful about it.
Old 4th August 2011
  #9
Gear Guru
 

another important point I would like to make is to remember that masking is like fire

it can be your foe, but it also can be your friend

Especially in rock. Mixes where instruments don't overlap at all sound tame and overly polite to me.

People who have no clue are advised to become aware of using complementary EQ to solve a common problem of instruments competing for space.

People who have gotten that clue now have to be careful not to create new problems by overdoing it.
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