mastering EQ techniques

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by gelbardn, Jul 13, 2004.

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  1. gelbardn

    gelbardn Guest

    I recently learned about the 'sweep' technique using a parametric EQ where I set the Q bandwidth as small as it gets (20), the gain up +6dB, and sweep the frequency until I hear 'singers' (frequencies that seem to ring no matter what the instruments are doing) and pull them down -2.4dB.

    While it seems more desireable to do this on an individual instrument basis, I've had to do it to a couple 2-track recordings, both which had some similar problems that maybe ya'll can help me with.

    1) live venue recording
    2-mic recording in nice sounding room, great soundguy, great soundsystem. (the Tonic Lounge, Portland OR).

    The CD I got from him was already at an excellent gain level (between -12 and -4dB). But it's super bass heavy and lacks a lot on the high end.

    I did some sweeps and found that from 3k-20k, there are singers all the way up. I applied perhaps 20 very narrow freq adjustments to the high end and really didn't kill them all. After removing a bunch, I could hear the other singers much more distinctly. So I removed those 20 and applied one with a larger bandwidth (Q) to the whole affected rea. This removed the ringing, but I ended up squashing the whole high end.

    How do I deal with a wide range of these singers without sqashing the whole high end?

    2) movie soundtrack
    My buddy did a soundtrack for 'RatStar' - a indy scifi film. He said
    the recording was piercing and wanted me to smooth it out.

    The guitar/bass/drums was done in a basement studio, and
    the vocals were added on later (in a high quality studio with an excellent pre-amp - you can totally tell the difference in quality between the instruments and vocals).

    The CD he gave me had 2 tracks, one of the original mix, and one that was SUPER compressed (to the point that it was distorting EVERYTHING. Craptacular.

    I took the originial track, who's overall gain (visible in Sonar) was +4dB almost all the time (way to hot, I aim for -12 to -4dB).
    Instead of applying compression, I did about 30 EQ sweeps and pulled down all the various singers that stood out.

    Similar to the live track, this one had singers from 3k-20k.
    Most of the EQ pulldowns were right next to each other marching up the 3k -> 20k range. We tried applying a high-cut with varying Q, but it always killed the high end.

    What totally stunned us after we were done listening and pulling down frequencies was that the resultant recording was within the -12 to -4dB range, contained no peaks (> 0dB), and kept the qualities of the basement studio AND post-vocals intact. We applied no overall gain adjustments or compression.


    Was this the proper way to treat these high frequency artifacts?

    How do I treat large areas of these high frequency artifacts?

    What's the proper terminology for these frequencies?

    At the end of the night, I could 'hear' the various high frequency sweeps I was doing in my HEAD (after the gear was shut off).
    Is that normal? Or is this process of jacking up high frequency areas in order to hear and remove them causing damage? Or is this normal fatigue? I woke up with the song in my head, but not the sweeps.

  2. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Jul 13, 2004
    Home Page:
    Without hearing it, my guess is that you're overdoing the "sweeping technique". By a lot. Find the ones that are the worst and deal with them, either by using EQ or very narrow frequency-dependent compression.
  3. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    Well, eq's in and of themselfs can ring. Also your speakers and amplifier can ring too. so you may be chasing your own tail. Anytime you apply a sharp curve to a freq, you are creating lots of distortion and this is probably what you are hearing either in the eq or in the speakers. You should only apply these sharp curves if you have the gear to do it with (eq and speakers and amp). If all of these elements aren't top notch, you are most likely chasing your tail. Sharp curves are the most challenging to every part of your chain, also the most un natural to the overall spectrum of a mix. I would stay away from this technique.

    If you hear this ringing at the end of the day, you are doing damage to your ears. And if your ears are experiencing this, you speakers are being abused and will not last much longer. Please turn the volume down, if not for your ears sake, then do it for your speakers.
  4. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    Aug 12, 2003
    ...Speaking of volumen!
    How loud do you monitor at?
    I monitor at 60-83db, if i go higher i can hear that my ears affect the sound.

    Best Regards
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