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Approach to Eq

Discussion in 'Recording' started by ChrisH, May 17, 2013.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Hey everyone,

    Was looking to hear from some seasoned engineers on their approach, tricks, tips on the all important Eq'ing.
    Things like their opinions on eq do's and donts..

    Here are some of the things I've learned, my approach..
    Criticism greatly appreciated!

    1. Dont try to fix something with EQ, example: make a vintage, open, round, kick drum try to sound like a modern kick tight, attack heavy drum.
    2. Cut frequencies that you want less of instead of boosting ones you want more of.
    3. No huge cuts or boosts unless its absolutely necessary.
    3. Try to keep cuts/boosts within a 6db range.
    4. Always cut first before boost.
    5. Minimalist
    6. Eq while listening to the combining tracks.
  2. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I'm new to deep-EQ work, but I'd like to share a few things.

    1. Like Sir George Martin said, "Cut everything below 200Hz on any instrument that doesn't have the word 'bass' in it's name." (Certain exceptions apply*.)

    2. Jimmy Page made Led Zeppelin a fortune by just using subtractive EQ to clean things up. Hardly ever a boost in those Zep recordings.

    3. Sometimes a strong boost in a very narrow frequency band can be all that is needed to make an instrument jump out of the mix. But always trying cutting before using this boost, and always try to record the instrument with it's own natural boost before anything else.

    So, I'm an intermediate EQ person. But those 3 things right there have really helped me a lot in my mixing!


    * Exceptions include things like: solo piano, piano in a band with no bass guitar, etc. Also, a "Bass Singer" is called "Vocalist". The word "Vocalist" does not have the word 'bass' in it's name.

    All things must be used with moderation and sound judgement. If it sounds good and doesn't blow up the gear, then use it!
  3. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I do whatever is necessary to get the result I want.
  4. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Less=More....Cut is really Boost somewhere....Phase isn't a portion of growing up....HPF is everyone's friend....Never build a curve to go around something important, leave a hole for it....NEVER EQ exclusively in Solo....
  5. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Can you speak more to the phase issues? For example, I am all in-the-box computer DAW stuff. My EQs are all VST plug ins. What worries do I have about EQ and phase?

  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    EQ alters the phase of the signal its equalizing due to latency. When you cut or boost a signal in an analog circuit you are, in effect, slowing this particular frequency down so it arrives at the output at a different time than the unaffected signal parts. Therefore, phase anomolies...Digital emulations are based on getting the least amount of latency in their operations, but it is also dependent on the cpu load and the ability of the thru-put of your computer to determine just how much latency will be present at the introduction of ANY plug-in. Some EQ's are real cpu hogs. If you're in a native system you are sharing resources with everything else going on and this is partially responsible for the "fizz" that some folks describe as hearing in their various programs as well as a good point of reference for the "muddy" part of the sound you hear. The perfect example of this was touched on in another thread some time back when several posters indicated that their mixes simply sounded BETTER when they removed all the plug-ins from their mixes. There are starting to be devices offered that "fix" the phase problems created by this as well as other types of plug-ins that are "linear" in their operation. Seek out "linear EQ plugins" as a source of some more info. Or maybe VST vs, Linear EQ.

    The little labs plugs work quite well as well as using your phase checking plugs. Most major software platforms have them and once you know what they are telling you, adjustment becomes something that makes a difference. Imagine the sound becoming LARGER and CLEARER....with this INTIMACY becomes easily attainable and with comes quality.

    I have a crapload of plugins to choose from. I dont use very many at all. Mostly for effect. EQ's are used to cut areas that have a lot of instruments in the same regions. You'd be surprised how crappy a correctly EQ'd guitar sounds solo'd up when it sounds perfect in a mix. Jimmy Page is a genius at this. Listen closely to his guitar sounds. By themselves....not so much....as a piece of the whole, BRILLIANT!!!
    The trick is to record in phase and give yourself every opportunity at the beginning to get the sound as close as possible to what you want to hear. Then when you begin to mix and build the appropriate sounds around your tracks, you also make sure these things are in phase and the sound gets large!
  7. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member


    What free plugins are there that can tell me (in simple terms) what phase problems there are? Will it tell me "your bass guitar and kick drum are 30 degrees out of phase" or will it say "there is a 45 degree phase discrepancy on your slide guitar track" ?

    I've got a plugin called "Phase Bug" that lets me change the phase, but I don't know how to set it for perfect phase.
  8. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I think people drastically overestimate the audibility of phase from eq. Phase is what makes eq work and you're supposed to hear it. Unless you're doing parallel eq the phase is not a big deal.

    I agree, don't get overly focused on things in isolation. What matters is the whole sound. Eq things in the mix as much as possible.
  9. godchuanz

    godchuanz Active Member

    I agree that you shouldn't worry too much about phase. Some people think that a linear-phase EQ is "better", but because of inherent latency, it actually causes more serious problems. Using it on the master bus would probably be ok, but I think you should almost never use it in individual tracks.

    For EQ on bass frequencies, the "try to keep cuts/boosts within 6db" approach really doesn't apply. I find that you almost need to make very narrow-band deep cuts on problematic frequencies, e.g. excessive bass resonance. In fact, a HPF is a very deep cut that goes deeper and deeper as the frequency gets lower. And most people will agree that a HPF is almost non-negotiable on most tracks except the kick and bass.
  10. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    to the op- close your eyes, turn the knob till it sounds good. the 'rules' (ie, general guidelines that have been developed over the past 60 yrs.)will get you in trouble if your too conscious of them. innocence is ok. also, cutting is good, but, must be done tastefully just like boosting. if you cut too much you end up taking the life out of the recording.

    +1 more on not spending much time in solo.

    the mono button is priceless, and is quite helpful in balances and eq, if the frequencies aren't masking in mono you should be quite alright in stereo.

    i think people get way too carried away w/ hpf's. I think shelving is a much more uh, 'natural, or authentic' way to go in general. vocals, sure, hpf, hi hat, ride, go for it. there are no overtones of use on those. but automatically on guitars? violins? toms? keys!? no way. it's better to attenuate out what you don't want than too remove the low harmonics completely. that stuff gradually adds up, an contributes to a sense of fullness. shelving allows you to prevent an over abundance of that stuff, but w/ more control than just an hpf. in a good arrangement those lows will help add a sense of cohesion to the mix.

    i just thinks it's too common for people going for hpf's cuz it's not a bass instrument. and now we have all these high fidelity systems w/ subs, and mixes are as thin and sterile as ever.

    remember George martin (is obviously a master) comes from the time where that had to do that because they were cutting vinyl. and too much bass took up too much space literally (the grooves were bigger) and therefore time, on the side, and too much bass would break a 10K cutting needle, and likely get someone fired. and also frequencies under 200 (i'm pretty sure) were summed to mono, you didn't want anything there that wasn't necessary.

    may i suggest to the OP familiarize yourself w/ the 'boost and sweep' method. it's in books. example-guitar 'whistle'. take a mid eq band, make the 'q' pretty high, like 10 or more, boost it like 10 db, and move the frequency setting around. you'll hear what sounds like a whistling sound, pinpoint the most obnoxious 1 or 2 frequencies, then use those frequencies, and cut them/adjust q, to taste. the will help ya 'clean up' your tracks if you need to.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's pretty much my sentiment. While by and large I use subtractive EQ as a matter of SOP, I can't say I've never carved out a tonal canyon... or built a mountain for that matter, either.

    I would agree that if you find yourself trying to turn one instrument into another, that your best bet will always be to use the instrument you desire.

    Years ago, while cutting my teeth, I was doing a session where the guitar player was using a Peavey Liberty 12 string, and I was desperately trying to get it to sound like a Rick 12 - without success.

    I called my instructor ( I was still in school at the time), explained what I was trying to do, and in his "cut to the chase" answer, he told me that the quickest and easiest way to get the sound of a Rick 12 was to
    "use a Rick 12". LOL

    Now... one thing I do and have always done - pretty much by second nature - is to implement HP Filtering. I have a template set up within Sonar, which I start all projects from... tracks already named and inserted with the appropriate filtering and processing on each as needed. HPF's are inserted on everything but Kick, Bass, and a few other "special" tracks for occasional use of bass synths or a piano where the register will be low enough.

  12. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I'll tell you one time I boost: to get the electric rhythm guitars to cut through the mix. It all depends on the song of course.

    I'll boost a max of 3db on my stereo (one left and one right) rhythm guitars on the part of the upper-mid that is their "transient" or "guitar pick" sound. That lets me turn them down a little at the fader to make room for all else, yet still be able to hear them.

    But if I have to boost more than that then I'll go back to the track itself and work with Amplitube's amplifier settings. I use Amplitube almost exclusively, so tweaking guitar sounds is a bit easier than having to retrack them.

    When it comes to acoustic guitars in the rhythm, be very careful about having too much treble. Acoustic guitars sound great with lots of treble, but as a rhythm instrument they can become too assertive in the mix if they have a lot of treble. I like my rhythm acoustics rounded off a little on top.
  13. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    So what do you guys think about the fact that I pretty much only use Api 560 eq's and nothing else?
    Am I Creating sub frequency headroom problems because they only control down to 30 hz?
    As far is it not controlling above 16K, I tend to believe that with a good signal that its best to leave anything above that alone,
    unless of course you're trying to dull something down..

    One thing about using a 10 band Eq is it really trains your ears to hear/know each 10 of those frequencies..
    I can immediately hear when there's too much of any of those 10 frequencies, and that is something that takes allot of time
    but much less time than it would take to do so with a sweepable type eq where you can get very precise.
    However if there was a build up around 250 hz (which there always is) but its not quite 250 and more 300 hz, then I believe
    using a different eq to scope in on it would be smart, right?
  14. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    You're not creating LF problems with a 10 band eq but you may not be able to address them precisely. Be aware that a filter centered at 30Hz will affect things well above and below the center. That eq is certainly useful for general tonal correction and creative adjustment, but for many things a parametric is the only way to get it done. A sweepable HPF is also extremely handy.
  15. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    I'm stressed out by the "phase" problems with eq, it explains allot why I also feel that my raw tracks at unity sound bigger, warmer, fuller and natural..
    So what do I do when I need to make an eq adjustment itb? Eq it then render the solo'd track, then import that back-in in replace of the non eq'd track?
    Or should I just buy a linear phase eq and ditch all my old non-linear parametric eq's?

    Also, do outboard analog eq's not have this phase problem?
  16. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    outboard eq's adjust phase relationships the same way digital parametric eqs do. eq;ing is playing around w. phase relationships. You might find that w/ analog eq it doesn't exhibit that thinish, cold, sound, but it's a huge difference between binary code algortyhms, and moving metal parts w/ elctricity going thru them. which is why i generally eq on the way in w/ an analog eq for sound, or polish, then use the digital for what it's good generally at, cutting stuff. i mean it's not like you can't boost w/ digital eqs, you just have to use your ears and not get it into that harsh range. analog eq's can be over the top too, but in a different way. It seems from your profile that you have the ssl bundle which is killer for drum tracks. and you have some waves plugins, although i'm not sure which ones. the rennasinse eq is nice, i have the q10 one which is your basic parametric similar to what comes stock w/ everything, just maybe a hint smoother, and w/ no decernable character.

    ditching all you parametric eq's for a linear phase is kinda extreme, no? it sounds to me like you just might be over eq'ing a little, or using the wrong frequencies or bandwidths. the waves neve eq, has a noticeably different character than the ssl, or the lin eq. Linear eq's have no character. There is a place for both. I have a DAW (one a of a couple) where if i just instansiate their stock eq, it changes the sound, towards the brittle thin direction. i don't use that one.

    if your raw tracks sound bigger warmer and fuller and more natural, (hence better?) and any eq you use sounds worse, than it sounds to me like you did a really good job recording, and don't need any eq. maybe just a touch on a drum bus, or backup vocals bus, or whatever. They've had alot longer to tweak analog eq's than they have the modern computer based stuff. it's not like you can't create issuses and mess things up w/ outboard either, it just does different things better and worse.

    you should post something up, i'd like to hear what in particular is driving you crazy.
  17. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Yes, I have the SSL bundle and use their channel strip when gating and or expanding is needed along with the old waves platinum bundle with Q1-Q10.
    I do spend ALLOT of time at the mic and source to get it as close to perfect as possible coming in. However until about a year ago, I didn't spend hardly any time at the mic or source and relied on surgical Eq, so now that I've switched things around my natural tendency is to eq the hell out of everything. So now when I throw up my faders and everything already sounds good and works, besides some extra low end rumble from the kick drum, and some unbalanced highs from the room mic, I'm kinda at a loss, scratching my head, thinking this is too easy, so then I'm constantly fighting the urge to over eq. That being said, anything more than a couple eq cuts IS too much eq now, you helped me answer my own question, thank you.
    I'll post some clips later this weekend.
  18. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    What you have to understand is that it is the phase that causes the eq, not the other way around. All analog eq filters will result in phase changes. THAT'S WHAT THEY DO and it's okay. That whole business about eqing and rendering a track is a dead end based on a misunderstanding of what is really happening and what matters. Linear phase eq has its place but isn't going to be some kind of magic bullet. You are way too wrapped up in believing phase is causing some problem with your sound when it's probably something completely different. If you think your recordings sound better before you eq them then don't eq them.
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    "Doctor, it hurts when I do this....."

    "Well, dont do that."

    You've answered your own question. Spending the extra time on placement and capture will ALWAYS trump anything surgical needed on the other side.

    My point about the phase sift from using EQ's (yeah yeah, its what happens....its how eq works) is using a lot of the same EQ on a project will phase shift things in a different way than an individual track will or even a mult'd sub-group. Wisely chose HPF going in solves so many things at mix.

    In the "OLD DAYS" EQ wasnt something used much on tracks going in. There simply wasnt much EQ to be found on any consoles. Maybe a little high/low sweetening ..maybe a couple of notches at particular frequencies. EQ's were primarily used in cutting vinyl.

    I dont think ditching your EQ's is the way to go, but since you've now seen both sides of the coin, you will be able to make important decisions regarding its use. Also be sure your Waves is up-to-date. V9 will bring a lot of revelations about clarity to things. Yeah it costs a bit to do but its so worth it.
  20. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    there's a common misconception that various gear will "improve" a signal is some way. i had a client who referred to my LA2a as the "goodulator". "Everything you put through it, sounds better" ... sorry. a signal at it's first inception is the best it will ever be. anytime you process it with anything, it will be degraded. so any eq no matter which kind or pedigree will not improve the sound, it only modifies it. purest approach is a mic preamp / console with no eq and getting the right sound through mic choice and placement. this is how classical recordings are made and is also the way they made records in the 50'. if you look at those old studios in the pictures available you would find at most one or two outboard EQs in the racks to be patched into the console when absolutely need.

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