A trick device
Equalization is probably the first ever stumbling block due to which beginners suffer a crushing defeat. This fundamental kind of processing is often wrongly interpreted although sound building of any audio track starts with it. The infinity of its versions can make those who are new at it feel at a loss. Yet in the hands of an experienced rap vocal mixing engineer this kind can clean up the sound of an instrument from diffusion and simply “inflame” it by extroverting its advantages. In the absence of other versions, the beginners at are literally tied to the graphic component of equalization. In diagrams, they try to find a magic combination that gives fruity sounding. This approach is good only as
a starting point in studying mixing with equalizer but not as a long-term practice since a beginner can lose focus on the sound, in other words, the object of his work while getting absorbed by a visual component of equalization! The setting combination, which made an instrument sparkle with a probability of 99.9%, can be unacceptable for another tool. So it doesn’t do any good to those who are just beginning to comprehend the art of equalization in music mixing as it’s only a big boost in training their hearing! Hearing and only hearing must decide what your next step will be like! Focus on sounding, practice your hearing in frequency identification, study track structures and interaction of their elements. This is exactly the secret of fruity sounding which pro engineers achieve! As to me, in this article, I’m trying to consider basic starting moments in study of equalization so you will be able to easily use it in online mixing mastering of any music genre.
There are altogether four principles on which online mixing audio services of any music genre based on: loudness, panning, equalization and compression. Only with these four tools, it’s already possible to turn a raw project into a harmoniously sounding song. Future engineers are recommended to initially focus their attention exactly on them and only when they have gained some experience and comprehension of their work, they can safely include other kinds of processing into work: saturation, reverberation, limiting… By the way, professional EDM mixing services engineers build up a future track exactly in this sequence – I’m sure it’s an excellent reason for taking over their experience! While getting down to music mixing and mastering, first, build up the song structure with loudness and panning which on their own are quite easy to come to grip with even for a beginner at mixing – it will insure you from extra working with an equalizer and make really necessary steps evident. Would you like to put the sound onto the background? Start with making it just … quieter. Later the equalizer will
simply help you to emphasize this effect. This is the essence of equalization. It emphasizes and enhances the effect put into the song by engineer through building up a balance and reasonable sound disposition in the stereo field. You shouldn’t underestimate the effect of loudness and panning. Apart from a primary objective, they help a beginner to develop his spatial intelligence – the main skill necessary for best mastering engineers. And when you understand the song structure and its space, the equalizer will help you to put away all what is considered excessive and breaks dynamics. The essence of equalization on professional mixing mastering services is exactly in cutting what you find excessive and only then emphasizing benefits.
The essence of equalization
Let’s make a proviso at once in order not to pull the wool over mixing and mastering services beginners’ eyes – equalization isn’t able to change a sound drastically, moreover, it’s not its task either. It’s not also worth hoping for it as the way to rectify production errors while working in a studio. We have already said about it quite much. Let’s look into what to expect from it in mixing and mastering online. To begin with, you should realize that every sound, for instance, bass or hat consists of wide frequency spectrum, and there will be practically similar frequencies present in these both extreme cases. But in different proportions! And what is good for one instrument can contain no music information for another one. While mixing with an equalizer, it’s possible to remove this “garbage” and to show genuine sounding of an instrument. So, we’re coming back to the concept “remove excessive stuff” again. The work on a song really often starts exactly with it – the professional online audio mixing mastering services engineer cuts off Sub element of all instruments except bass with a high-pass filter. In fact, only it has fat low harmonics – for the other sounds, they are noise that masks genuine sounding. Let’s move higher along the spectrum – absolutely all instruments have low and mid overtones in their spectrum. Yet only the engineer’s experience allows us to specify whether we want to leave them by emphasizing the base or we will mercilessly get rid of them. It will be helpful to study the information on spectral structure of main instruments – tables of this kind are highly recommended for beginners and are easy to find in the Internet. Apart from bare figures, you will find out which frequencies are responsible for Warmth, Crunch and Edge in one or another instrument – trust me, all online mastering services with eq started with such tables.
Kinds of equalization
Equalization has found the widest use in online mixing and mastering audio services practice. It allows us to change a sound in the widest range. To realize their innovative take, there are the following specific algorithms of the work of this device available for mixing and mastering engineers:
This mode is very often used not only in online audio mixing services but also at a much earlier stage – during instrument recording. This processing is aimed at cutting off a low frequency element of the signal below the point set by the engineer, for example, frequencies below 80–100 Hz which are considered to be parasitic for vocals. They carry nothing except unintelligibility and are mercilessly cut off – many professional microphones are fitted with a high-pass filter installed by a producer.
The essence of their work is just the opposite – to cut off frequencies above the point set by the engineer to place an instrument in a future song more correctly.
When using the equalization of this kind, it’s possible to enhance or, on the contrary, to reduce the whole section of frequencies below or above the indicated point. Shelf EQ is often used along with high/low-pass filters in music mixing mastering with equalization. Apart from frequency, this kind allows us to adjust the gain and Q parameter (bandwidth). By combining these three parameters, the audio mixing engineer is capable of changing instrument sounding in a very flexible way.
Bell curve EQ
This kind was called thanks to its exterior shape presented on the interface of a graphic equalizer. When this kind is used, the frequency chosen by the engineer (center frequency for this band) and the area of the adjacent frequencies within the set up Q parameter are processed.
So, when we have just gotten to know the basics, we’d rather move to much more practical zone. Professional online mixing and mastering specialists pinpoint four ways of equalization use. While following these recommendations, you will improve your music sounding significantly – pro engineers indeed think so and process a sound precisely in this way!
So, while working with an equalizer, you can:
– attenuate/remove everything you find unnecessary – annoying side tones and excessive low ends;
– only after that the next stage of mixing comes – you may emphasize and boost important instrument elements. It’s very significant to follow this sequence. Engineers repeatedly noted that the best way of equalization is more to cut off than add. Whenever you add brightness and character, for instance, to vocals, it’s 100% guaranteed that the mumbling, indistinct low ends if they haven’t been eliminated will contribute their share to unintelligibility of the track;
– change the character of instrument sounding drastically. The equalizer in audio mixing mastering is not only an instrument used for solving strictly technical tasks but also a powerful tool for creative audio processing;
– create space for the other elements. When working on a precise instrument, the engineer always takes into account its interaction with the other tools and, if necessary, cleans the space for “neighbors”.
These are four principles on which equalization in sound mixing mastering services is based. They all were indeed extracted from the knowledge of work of human hearing which has limited range of audible frequencies and is vulnerable to sound masking. And regardless of the genre of the song delivered to the online mixing studio, the work on it starts exactly in this order.
Before we sort out these strategies in detail, I’d like to give some recommendations on the use of equalization in professional online mixing and mastering audio services. While following them, you will avoid unnecessary mistakes (of course, you won’t manage to avoid all the errors as art is the way of quests and experiments) and save hundreds of hours you could have spent in the studio in search of perfect sounding.
I’m sure, each of these recommendations is intelligible and absolutely feasible for everybody, and nevertheless, sounding created by a professional mixing and mastering engineers differs drastically from the beginners’ works. The secret is in the fact that an ultimate sound is the result of a great many small steps at every separate stage of song mixing. Although each of them separately doesn’t impress you by a cardinal change of the sound, but as a whole they have a fantastic effect. An experienced engineer knows when to follow these rules and when not. Let’s take the guitar in which we have cut off frequencies below 200 Hz. If in any section (for instance, intro or break) it has been deprived of bass support and sounds too dull on its own, the engineer just applies automation of high-pass filter and gives it the cutoff low-end back, and the track sounds weighty again! If we take the song to pieces, separately,
the tracks sound defectively as if they lack brightness or, on the contrary, the base. Dead right! An experienced engineer cuts off skillfully everything what disturbs a comfort coexistence of sounds in the song. Another trick – our ear can’t distinguish between many grounds in space that is why music mixing mastering services engineers often resort to a trick. They combine several instruments in a single stem and process everything at once as a layered sound. And only after that, if necessary, they correct separate layers. Of basic elements, the man makes out vocals clearly as well as beat, instruments of the middle ground (guitars, different keys and synths) and bass. They are focused on extensively in professional audio mixing services. As for the other sounds, they can be taken into account as addition to these groups. As a rule, the engineer takes them up only when the basic elements have been processed.