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Frequencies and music...?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Computer Part Metaphor, Dec 7, 2002.

  1. Hello guys,

    I want to open this by saying that I've gotten so much wonderful information from this site, and I thank all of you for acting on your intentions to help everyone understand this stuff, especially us (sometimes frustratingly ignorant =]) new guys.

    My problem: I feel, for the most part, blindfolded when it comes to dealing with the frequencies in my tracks. I have Cubase SX and the Waves package, which are both fantastic, but I am new, so I have a limited understanding of how to make the plugins work for me.

    question: what should I do first? I have used the frequency analyzer that comes with Waves and then a multiband eq or compressor, then lining the windows up and lowering "offending" frequencies to balance the sound out, which helps, but I'm still in the dark about how to get my good sound... Do I just blindly start rising and lowering frequencies until the track sounds especially good or what? I can't imagine the pros do this, and I can't imagine that it is all trial and error (eg. "Well, I spent about two years on piano eq'ing and found that a lot of them need 650hz-834 lowered when it comes to Bosendorfers and some of the Yamaha uprights, etc.)... I am almost totally mystified here as to the science, the methodology, of finding the perfect sound for such a mind boggling range of combinations (different mics, different vocalists, different compressors, different eq's, etc. etc.).

    To find the magic sounds probably takes a specific honing of a certain assortment of tools, is that right...?

    Not to make this post overbearing, but I'm breaking a dam here, so please excuse me...

    I also would like to know how many of you use "automation" in your mixing (eg. multiband compression being adjusted from a certain range to move over and limit a travelling peak at a certain point in the song). In theory, this would seem to be the most powerful and best way to create an amazing mix, but its seemingly time-consuming nature truly frightens me. I'm a musician first, not a sound engineer.

    Alright you guys, hope this wasn't too much!

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Oakland, my home town!!! Do I know you? I'm the guy who owned KFRS in Fremont...
    EQ..... This is a very subjective thing. What sounds good to one sounds like sh*t to another. IMO the first thing to do is to sweep the mids to find offending resonant frequencies. Every sound has a certain frequency that is offending to the listener. To find it, turn down your monitors so you won't fry them and the boost your mid freq eq 6 to 8 dB with a narrow bandwidth "Q". Then move the frequency selector up and down the band until you find that one frequency that really sounds bad. Apply cut at that frequency. You can do this in the low/ mid bass, mid and low/ high regions but be careful not to over do it. Cutting 3 frequencies is about the most you can get away with without doing serious damage to the sound. To answer the second part of your question, once you get rid of the offending peaks with corrective eq, you may find the need to compress certain regions of the track unnecessary. ..................................Fats
    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to ……
  3. Flats,

    I didn't expect such a quick reply! =] I need to update my profile; I moved from Oakland; now I live in Redding, about 3 hours away. Better place for my brand new family. =] I don't think I ever met you. I mostly knew some struggling artists in their mid-20's over there.

    Well, I'm very excited about applying what you just told me. About 3? You mean 3 hz, right?

    After I get rid of these horrible frequencies, it's pretty much an aesthetic issue after that, isn't it, as far as shaping the sound with eq and compression and such, or should I compress before I do my frequency cleanup? This is also something I'm pretty ignorant about; the use of compression.

    ..which makes me want to ask another question -
    What is the real difference between compressing and expanding my sound? I can hear an obvious difference, but I still can't understand how it's really treating the sound. I use The Grand (Cubase VST plugin, pretty realistic piano sample) with vocals, and the kind of style it is needs intimate warmth, and I can't decide whether to compress or expand which. I know that compression is usually used on vocals, right, but I like the intimacy of the vocals when I expand. I am a blind fool at the threshold meter, btw. =]

    Great thanks as always

  4. Flats,

    I just applied what you were telling me to do, and the results are fantastic! I'm doing it to the vocals, and it's evened the track out immensely. I have one problem... on the vocals, I hold several different notes strongly enough to cause big peaks. Each note causes a different peak. Should I use a graphic eq and just knock out the 10 or so peaks that occur throughout the mix? I just want to make sure I'm not doing something needlessly meticulous and that I'm within the realm of efficiency. =]

    Thanks always

  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I am happy it is working well for you. As to your new questions....
    Q: What is the real difference between compressing and expanding my sound?
    Compression limits the dynamic range. That is the difference between the softest and loudest sound. A good example would be if you have a vocal that sounds ok most of the time but occasionally there is a peak that sticks out or a passage where it becomes lost, a little compression can help bring it out or keep it from being overbearing. For the best results, keep the ratio below 4:1 and gain redaction below 6dB with a medium fast attack and a quick release. Expanders are pretty much the opposite but instead of being used for gain management their main application is for noise reduction / soft gating applications.

    Q: About 3? You mean 3 hz, right?
    No I meant 3 different points at which you apply eq. For instance, 225 Hz 1.5K Hz. 4 K Hz. These frequencies are just for example and I am not saying to use them. Sweep and look for them. Often times cutting at one frequency point will do the job. Use as little eq as is possible. Less is more.

    Q: I hold several different notes strongly enough to cause big peaks. Each note causes a different peak. Should I use a graphic eq and just knock out the 10 or so peaks that occur throughout the mix?
    No!!! Sweep the eq for the "nasties", and then apply some judicious compression as I described previously. ......................... Fats
    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to ……
  6. Flats: No!!! Sweep the eq for the "nasties", and then apply some judicious compression as I described previously.

    Hahahah.. I did 18 eq drops/cuts (as low as -18db, but generally trying to keep it at around -5 to -10) on these vocals.. =] I just kept going back to the analyzer and tried to even out every moment where there was an exceptional peak. Interesting and strange results.. I finally ended up with a vocal track that, just for a moment, would get very warm and deep, and I realized that going this way I'd be dropping/cutting for hours until every moment sounded the same dynamics-wise. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, albiet my lacking explanation...

    Okay, so when you say 3 you mean try to cut only three points out of the track? That seems very little, as the vocals cover several ranges (close to the mic and sustaining notes at times, backing off and belting out in high range, etc.). I know you mean 3 cuts as a general idea, not as a concrete rule, but it still seems low for vocals that jump around a lot. And do you mean cut, or lower, or both? With the eq I'm using I can drop to as low as -18db.

    Alright, so I use compression to suppress unwanted lifts in the dynamics, try to even it out. So, I should try dropping/cutting about 3 really bad frequencies or so on these vocals, then go about compressing it, using the specs you gave me as a guide... I have a threshold feature on the compressor I've been using, no noise reduction factor. Is threshold the same thing?

    Thanks always

  7. Ah, two more questions I forgot to ask:

    Should I only eq the track when it is first recorded without adding compression, eq'ing it in its most raw form? I'm assuming this is best, I just wanted to make sure. And would I then re-eq it after the compression or is this always/usually unnecessary?

    Thanks as always

  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Your right, 3 cuts and then compress. Threshold is the point where compression kicks in. It is user definable. Fats
    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to ……
  9. Dear Cedar Flat Fats,

    I did what you recommended, and things are sounding good, but the vocals are still a problem. It's doing the typical maxing out at certain points without enough presence (too much bassiness). There must still be frequencies holding the compressor back from rising to certain occasions, is this right? Sometimes the vocals are great, but I cannot find the right gain level on my compressor to fit the whole track. Sometimes, its presence is a little piercing without really any warmth behind it. I'm hoping this isn't what I'm going to have to struggle with for not having a 2,000+ mic... I have a Shure Beta87a going to an M-Audio DMP2 mic preamp, out to my M-Audio Delta 44. Any recommendations? The vocals I recorded were intended for a scratch thing, just to get the idea down, so could this be my problem, just not singing consistently enough on the track? If anything, I would be happy to mp3 this and send it to you if that would make it easier for you to tell me what I'm doing wrong.

    Alright, thanks man, this is helping me immensely.. I'm seeing little lights in the tunnels. =]

  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    You should be able to get a good vx track with the equipment you mentioned. Try backing off the mic a bit..... You can get a proximity effect / bass boost when you "eat" the mic. This will be reduced with a little distance ..... 4 or 5 inches, ...use no eq going in. Then do what I said before....That will probably fix the problems. Fats
    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to....
  11. Thanks Cedar, will do.


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