Do you ever sculpt EQ frequencies relative to the key sig of a song?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by DonnyThompson, Oct 30, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    This is a spin off thread of the "do you use a sub when mixing" poll I posted this morning.

    I thought it appropriate to mention and to discuss.

    This method of mixing was something my instructor used to talk about years ago; in that the key signature of a song could often determine resonant / fundamental frequencies in the mix - mostly in terms of them being "too much" - although I suppose it's entirely possible that they could be too shy at times as well.

    For example, let's say you're mixing a song in the key of A. It's more than just "probable" that the bass guitar will be hitting the fundamental frequency of 55 Hz throughout the song ( this is the frequency of an open A string on a 4 string bass, or the 5th fret of the G string). The octaves of that are 110 ( A on the G string) along with 220, 440, etc.
    But, the resonant center frequencies of those octaves can also come into play as well: for example, the related center frequency between 55Hz and its octave, 110, would be 82.5Hz. ( let's just call it "82".)

    So, knowing this, when mixing, do you ever pay attention to those resonant center frequencies on their respective instruments as well?

    It's food for thought, especially when you might have other instrumentation playing related frequencies and resonant center frequencies with (and possibly against) each other.

    In the key of A, the octaves would be 27.5, 55, 110, 220, 440, 880, etc.
    The possible resonant center frequencies of the above would be around 82, 124, 186, 280, etc. (I'm rounding off here again).

    And, we haven't yet taken into account the intervals of those notes - for example, the 5th to an A would be an E, so you could possibly have some harmonic overtones happening within the E's various resonant frequencies as well...

    Honestly, I don't mix too much with this in mind - it's pretty scientific, mostly I usually just use my ears and rely on what 'sounds good" to me, but... I do believe that it helps to know those notes and their related frequencies, if for nothing other than as being a good place to at least start at, when sculpting the EQ on a track, or when trying to tame certain frequencies that might be too resonant in a mix.

    Now, there are other variables too - I haven't included the possible harmonics that can be attributed to using certain input gain staging; like tubes, transformers; or tape saturation (or emulation), or even certain EQ's designed to emulate older classic analog pieces ( such as Pultec, SSL, Neve, etc.).

    No doubt it's a deep subject, deeper than I could ever really get into, but the basics of frequencies and related fundamentals is a valid point to consider, IMO.

    More info here:

    and here:

    Anyway... just thought I'd bring it up as a talking point.

  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    I haven't explore that path.. But I do often use a Spectrum analyser when mixing and make sure I don't have obvious bumps or holes at some frequencies. I usually listen to find instruments that could benifit the change to help the song occupy the whole Spectrum. In the end it leaves very minor EQ adjustments to do for the mastering phase..
  3. Ted Gerber

    Ted Gerber Active Member

    Feb 7, 2016
    Near Toronto
    Hi - I'm a newcomer here, and a semi pro mixer ( I get paid for my work, but it's not my principle earning). The one place I know this to be an important consideration is the snare drum, assuming a tune with a prominent snare (pop/rock/r'n'b/country). I had a drummer in once who told me he had tuned his drums in C. One of the songs he played on was in Ebm. It made a big (positive) difference to notch out the resonant C frequencies. Crash and ride cymbals can be an issue too...
    audiokid likes this.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    Absolutely. This is a huge part of how I dial in a mix. The moment I load in the tracks, my ear is on the tuning and phase. (y)
    Welcome to our forum as well.

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