Monday, June 30, 2008

Sound Mixing Tips: EQ vs Volume

Here's a tip for live mixing and mastering, but can probably be used in any area of audio recording: If you can't hear an instrument, it's probably because of its EQ - not its volume. Before you push up that volume fader, try boosting the instrument's defining frequencies.

Here's an example. I was mixing for our church, and the band was playing one of those numbers that relies heavily on the keyboard strings. The mix was fine otherwise, but you couldn't hear the strings. The desk I was using had two mid-frequency pots, so I boosted the 250hz (low frequency) one until I could hear the strings. This brought out the full presence of the strings.

Increasing the volume wouldn't have had the same effect. Each instrument has a frequency that defines it - especially in a mix. For strings on a keyboard, I've found that frequency at the low end. Not surprisingly, it's the high end on acoustic guitars (usually 7-10khz and up).

Vocals are trickier, a whole subject on their own. I find that each person has their own 'peak' area that clears up their mix. Males are around 3-5khz and females at around 4-7khz.

To find the defining frequency, create a new peak and boost it until you can hear exactly what that frequency you're dealing with. I usually go full ball here. Then sweep it up and down the frequency spectrum until you hear the instrument come out. Then take the peak down to a reasonable level.

Other posts you might find interesting:
Speaker Placement
High There?!
Panning for Gold
Live Sound, Monitors and Pepper Spray
Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 1: Plan your Project

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