Archives For eq

Qu16-EQ-section-2

We’ve already done a 3-part series on EQ, and we covered the critical listening skills required to use it, instrument by instrument, in our series “Taking It Apart”. These posts are great learning material, and I highly recommend looking back at them.

Our locations are getting new digital sound consoles. This is exciting for a number of reasons, one of which is EQ. Our old consoles were analog and had semi-parametric EQ, which means they had some of the functionality of a parametric EQ, but were missing a few features. In our case, the high and low frequency bands were fixed shelf filters. The high mid and low-mid bands were sweepable filters, but there were no width or Q adjustments.

Okay stop — if that last sentence confused the heck out of you, you really need to go back and read at least the overview post from the original EQ series.

Continue Reading…

EQ Part 3: Going Fishing

Jared Taylor —  March 18, 2013 — 2 Comments
Part 3 of 3 in the series EQ

Grandpa-Taylor-fish-1

Grandpa Taylor was a handy guy to have around. He was as strong as an ox, loyal to the bone and knew the value of good tools. Although he never got into mixing audio, he possessed at least one related skill …

In our first post in this series we established that EQ is a volume control for a specific frequency. Last time I recommended an approach based on cutting frequencies before boosting. But how do you choose which frequency to adjust? How do you identify what you’re hearing in order to make a change?

Training your ears for mixing is a lifelong process. Our series on critical listening is a great overview of what to listen for on most common instruments. If you’re not sure where to start with a particular instrument, go back and read it! If you identify what you’re hearing but can’t quite find it on the console, you can learn to dial in the exact frequency with a process called fishing.

Fishing is like a “try-before-you-buy” for parametric EQ settings. Whether you’re looking to squash a particular sound (cut) or highlight it (boost), you can follow the same simple process:

Step 1 – choose your pond. In most cases, you’ll be fishing in the high-mid or low-mid bands. Remember, you can only fish where you can sweep (sounds a bit like ice fishing doesn’t it?) so high and low shelf filters are not an option on most analog desks.

Step 2 – bait with boost. I know – if you read my last post this will sound like heresy. Don’t worry, it’s only a temporary measure. When fishing for frequencies, the proper bait is a sizeable boost of 9 dB or more (feedback permitting).

Step 3 – sweep it around. Adjust the frequency control until the sound you’re looking for pops out. The big boost makes it easier to hear when you’ve found it. (An analogous fishing term for this would be doodlesocking. I think I’ve said enough)

Step 4 – reel it in. With the target sound dialed in, adjust the gain until the frequency is cut or boosted to your satisfaction.

Remember that fishing sounds pretty strange coming through the speakers. This isn’t a concern during soundcheck, but if you make adjustments during a performance you should go about it in a more subtle way. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to identify frequencies and make tweaks without having to go fishing every time.

Part 2 of 3 in the series EQ

Saw

If I could only give one tip for working EQ it would be to cut first, boost if you have to. There are a few good reasons I say this, but first I want to make sure we all know what I’m talking about.

Cut first, boost if you have to

Last week we said that EQ is a volume control for a specific frequency. It lets you add or subtract gain at a specific frequency to [hopefully] balance the sound of a source. Boosting turns up a particular frequency, while cutting turns it down. So, if the goal is to make everything heard clearly, why shouldn’t we just turn up the frequencies we want to hear? I’ll give you two reasons: one technical and one artistic.

The technical reason is that, when it comes to EQ, boosts aren’t as clean as cuts. Boosting frequencies soon results in Continue Reading…

Part 1 of 3 in the series EQ

On Christmas morning, 1990, I received my first personal cassette player. It was a Sanyo BassXpander with AM/FM radio, auto-reverse and three glorious bands of EQ. I immediately set my nine year-old fingers to work mastering the use of this advanced tool with DC Talk’s “Nu Thang” as my source material. I discovered, naturally, that it sounded best with all three bands of equalization turned all the way up! I’m not sure when it clicked for me, but I eventually realized that I could achieve the same result by simply turning up the volume a bit. This new awareness opened the door to more subtle, artistic tailoring of the equalizer. I memorized different settings for at home vs. in the family van; for Christian Hip-Hop vs. Christian Hair Metal; for listening at low volumes vs. high volumes. This early introduction to equalization served me well when I started into live audio several years later.

EQ is essentially a volume control for a specific frequency. It allows you to tailor the sound of a source to make it fit well in the mix. These adjustments are a big part of the role of a sound engineer, as every source is unique. We make EQ adjustments to compensate for the way sources sound, for microphone placement, for the sound of microphones themselves and, most importantly, to help sources complement each other musically. EQ is one of the most artistic aspects of audio mixing and, like everything we do, it begins with listening. Continue Reading…

Taking it Apart: the Voice

Jared Taylor —  January 22, 2013 — 4 Comments
Part 8 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Nathan_Scott

If our job is to lead people in singing, then the voice is the most important source in the mix. We’ll suffer through mediocre floor tom tuning or a few missed beats in a clarinet solo, but if the vocals don’t sound right it’s game over.

Our ears and our brains are engineered for understanding spoken words, particularly consonants which are spoken at half the volume of vowels. In the consonant range we’re able to detect sounds 100 times quieter than other sounds and our sensitivity to pitch is 10 times more precise. This is why we have a strong negative reaction to a flat vocal but can barely tell if a bass guitar has been tuned in the last year.

We also know how voices should sound because we listen to them for 12 hours a day! Most of your friends can’t tell if the acoustic guitar was a little too bright but they absolutely know if they can’t understand the words. And they’re right! In this instance, as a sound person, you really are mixing in a room full of experts! And, because you need to be a chief expert among experts, I’m going to share with you some of what I’ve learned about the voice. Continue Reading…

Taking it Apart: Piano

Jared Taylor —  January 14, 2013 — 2 Comments
Part 7 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Piano-Kid

The piano is a big instrument! In terms of frequency range, its 88 keys start lower than a 5-string bass and top out nearly two octaves higher than the highest note on an electric guitar! It truly is an instrument built to fill a room!

A pianist often plays more than one part and is responsible for balancing them so, in some ways, a pianist has to mix their own instrument. This approach works splendidly when the piano is unaccompanied, but doesn’t always hit the mark in a rock band. There, the piano’s wide range can get in the way of other instruments. A pianist skilled at playing in a group navigates this by playing in specific frequency ranges, finding the right spot for the piano to shine amidst the other instruments. Continue Reading…

Part 6 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Acoustic-closeup

Sonically speaking, acoustic guitars have a bit of a split personality – a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s the way it sounds, and then there’s the way it sounds plugged in.

The rich, full bodied tone emanating from a quality guitar often bears no resemblance to the thin, choked sound that flows out of its electronic connection. It’s impractical to mic an acoustic guitar with a drummer ten feet away, so we plug it in! With mixed results. And sometimes, working with an acoustic guitar ends up being more of a salvage operation than a musical experience! Continue Reading…

Part 5 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Les Paul blur

Since the middle of the 20th century, the guitar has been one of the most popular instruments in the world, and it’s not hard to see why! It’s relatively easy to learn, it’s not too expensive, and it can find a home in just about any musical genre. One important reason behind the guitar’s popularity is that it excels not only at playing chords but also at single-note expression.

What’s so special about that? Continue Reading…

Part 3 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

snare on Meeting House Oakville stage

The first time a snare drum really stood out to me was “Under the Table and Dreaming“, the album that put Dave Matthews Band on the map. It’s a 1990s classic full of rich instrumentation, funky acoustic guitar parts … and drums! Drummers were drooling over everything Carter Beauford hit, and even a total beginner guitarist like me got caught up in that ominous “crack” on two and four that defined the intro to “Ants Marching”.

When it comes to drums I believe many sound techs fall for the kick first, but grow to love the snare the most. Continue Reading…

Part 2 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Kick this one

We’re kicking off our “Taking It Apart” series with the kick drum! Poetic, I know. And since it’s often channel #1 on the board, it’s makes for an easy starting point.

Three parts to the sound of a kick drum, as I hear it, are the “thud”, the “ring”, and the “attack”. In fact, these three sounds are found in the sonic palette of every drum! Let’s take a look at them one-by-one.

Continue Reading…