Can we talk frequencies for a minute?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by straticus, Dec 16, 2005.


  1. straticus

    straticus Member

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    I do what I would call decent mixes. I get good feedback in general. But I know better. There always seems to be frequencies in my mixes that irritate me. Here's something that happened on a mix recently that got me thinking that I need to study this "frequency" thing a lot more. I'll keep it as short as I can.

    I was having trouble doing a mix on one of my bands songs. A band member said I should use Led Zeps Rock And Roll as a reference while mixing. So I did. I got it sounding as close as I could and it worked but it wasn't quite there. Then I got a news letter from Izotope. I use there mastering program called Ozone 3. One of the things they talked about is a feature in Ozone called EQ matching. I checked it out. I tried it. This is a pretty amazing feature! Here's what it does. After mixing our song while using Rock and Roll as a reference I bounce it to a 2 track stereo mix. I then opened the EQ in Ozone and take a snap shot of Rock and Roll. Then I open our song and take a snap shot of it. Now, set the EQ to "matching". There's a slider that goes from 0% to 100% that sets the amount of matching. I set it to a 50% match and BAM! there it is! The mix is rocking big time! Everything is clear and there's no harsh frequencies! It doesn't just lay an EQ curve on a track. That wouldn't work because the results depend on what the starting point is. What it does is adjust (cutting here, boosting there) the EQ curve of your song to match the curve of the song you want to match. Ah, modern technology. Pretty amazing stuff.:AOK But this isn't about Ozone. It's about that fact that this showed me that I need learn more about proper EQ'ing.

    So, here are the things I want to learn more about.

    1. In general, where are the cut off points for bass, mid and treble frequencies? For example, are base frequencies considered to be between "whatever the starting point would be" up to 600 Hz, mids between 600 Hz and whatever, etc.?

    2. Are there frequencies that are considered to be irritating? For instance, are there frequencies that are standard to cut from cymbals? Are there frequencies that you want to cut slightly in a mix?

    3. What frequencies do you cut to get rid of mud?

    The music I'm mixing is kind of alternative rock with elements of punk and a strong down home vibe. I know that this all depends an many factors, mics, guitars, amps, all that stuff. But I'll bet we all have things that we do regarding EQ ............... right?? Any thoughts you want to share? I'm listening.

    BC :)
     
  2. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    1. I'd say bass frequencies are below 200 Hz, mid is 200 Hz to 5 kHz, and highs are above 5 kHz. It gets easier if you split it 5 ways:

    Lows: 20 Hz to 150 Hz.
    Low-mids: 150 Hz to 700 Hz.
    Mids: 700 Hz to 2.5 kHz.
    Hi-mids: 2.5 kHz to 6 kHz.
    Highs: 6 kHz to 20 kHz.

    This is NOT universal, just my personal view.

    2. I tend to boost cymbals with a high shelf, centered at about 16 kHz, where they shimmer the most. If there's a harsher cymbal frequency, it's probably in the 4 to 7 kHz range. "Harsh" frequencies are usually in that hi-mid range.

    3. "Muddy" frequencies are usually in the low-mids... I tend to cut a lot of stuff across the board at about 400-500 Hz. I just did a project where I cut 440 Hz on half the tracks... Now that's mud!
     
  3. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    Cuts between 300 and 600 hz reduces the mud in my experience. I usually won't cut the low mids below 300 hz on a stereo mix because this often weakens the fundamental frequencies for the snare, which are often around 250 hz or so. Unless you want to hollow out the snare tone, which I generally don't like to do. This is my experience on consumer grade gear (Roland VS 1880 and the like).
     
  4. straticus

    straticus Member

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    Thanks guys!

    This is exactly the type of info I was hoping to get.

    What about annoying frequencies? Or any other bits of wisdom from the EQ trenches?

    And this doesn't necessarily have to be about EQ'ing stereo mixes. I'm particularly interested in track EQ'ing. But all replies are welcome!

    BC :)
     
  5. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    Another one. Gainy rhythm guitar tracks can often clash with gainy lead guitar tracks. While lowering volume will often move the rhythm guitars back in the mix to allow the lead to poke thru, try cutting eq at between 1.4 khz and 2.5 khz instead. This is another way to push the rhythm tracks back into the mix and often opens up the lead guitar. On bass guitar tracks, boost the eq at 2 to 3.5 khz for more clarity and cut. Sometimes another boost at 700 to 900 hz adds some interesting complexity to bass tracks. But sometimes this sounds like arse, gotta trust your ears.
     
  6. elambo

    elambo Member

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    I mean no offense, but why does it matter how frequencies are classified? It's one thing to refer to a specific section of the audio spectrum with an adjective like "bass" or "sub-bass" or "upper mids," etc. just so other people know generally what you're talking about, but you should NEVER think of these terms, much less USE them, when mixing. It's a bit like telling the chef that you want something "green" and expecting to get what you really have in mind. (Or dancing about architecture... Sorry, had to do it.)

    I'd really love to be able to sum up a nice "how-to" about mixing a rock tune, but there's just no way to do that. What I wouldn't want to do is throw a bunch of adjectives your way and tell you that you understanding them will improve your mixing chops.

    Even though I don't like "bass" and "treble", one adjective that's specific enough to refer to a pretty tight frequency is "mud." When I have a track that's too muddy (usually bass or kik) I almost always start with a cut at 250Hz, then move the freq around until it's right. Rarely do I go very far from 250. If I go beyond that it wasn't "mud" to begin with.

    The Izotope thing sounds cool. I'd wished for that product 20 years ago, and if I knew enough about writing software code (as I did 20 years ago :mad: ) I'd have tried to write that myself. That software seems brilliant, and the concept certainly should be within the realm of human possibility. In a very simple form, it could take the sonic signature of the reference tune (the average amount of each frequency throughout the tune), then compare it to the sonic signature of your tune, then add or subtract eq as necessary to make your tune match the reference. I'm sure Ozone is more advanced, but that's a great idea.

    What I'd rather see is a SUGGESTION from Ozone, not the actual eq'ing, that tells me that I have too much or too little happening and at which frequencies, then let me eq myself. I think that would result in an even better final product because I could lean towards the reference, but with control.
     
  7. straticus

    straticus Member

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    This is all great stuff, keep it coming!:)

    Elambo,

    No offence taken.

    I wanted to know what frequencies are considered base, mids, treble, and everything in between purely for the sake of knowing.

    I just dug up a book I have by David Gibson called The Art Of Mixing and he does a good job of explaining where the frequencies are divided up, in general. I understand there are no hard and fast rules regarding EQing music but I'm on a mission to learn about EQing right now. The info given so far is very interesting and much appreciated. It gives me things to try. See if they work for me. They might work on one song and not another but at least I'll have a broader knowledge base to draw from instead of just using the things I've learned on my own.

    Regarding the Ozone EQ matching, there are three EQ curves that are displayed while using this feature. The target EQ ( in this case Rock & Roll by Led Zep ), the source EQ (my song) and what EQ changes where made in order to match the source to the target. After your happy with whatever amount of matching you want you can make final adjustments to the later curve. Very nifty really.

    But the purpose of this thread is to learn enough about EQing so that I don't want to use the EQ matching. Although, using it is a learning tool in its self. Also, it would be interesting to read the replies and see if there's a consensus on "this is where mud resides" or " these frequencies tend to irritate" or anything else that might be a constant. It's just fun to read about how other people are dealing with the art of EQing music.
     
  8. leofenderbender

    leofenderbender Supporting Member

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    *Boosting the bass too much at 16, 31, or at 60Hz will make it sound muddy. Boosting the bass too little at 60Hz makes it sound thin.
    *Boosting too much at 125Hz makes it boomy. Boosting it too little at 125Hz makes it sound thin. When set just right, it will sound full without boominess.
    *Boosting it too much at 250Hz makes it sound like a telephone and adds listening fatigue. Too little and you lose fullness of sound.
    *Boosting it too much at 500Hz makes it sound honky.
    *Boosting 1 to 2KHz sounds tinny.
    *Boost too much of the high mids over 2kHz and you lose speech recognition, add a lisp, and listening fatigue takes over.
    *Boost too much at 6kHz and the vocals hiss.
    *Boost too much at 8kHz and you add sibilance.
    *Boosting the 8kHz to 22kHz range just enough adds air and spaciousness, boost too much and you get sibilance on vocals.
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I didn't know quite how to say that in as positive a way as you did.
     
  10. straticus

    straticus Member

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    I value your opinion and in the end, I agree with you 100%.

    But just as there are tons of books written on the subject, classes to be taken, and apprenticeships to serve, I'm sure you'd agree that there could be a lot of good advise to be gleaned from a discussion like this. I've already picked up enough to make a mix I'm working on sound better. I understand that there is no "one way" of doing things. I'm taking the advise and experience given here and doing what my ears tell me to do with it. It's sort of an apprenticeship on The Gear Page. I mean, isn't that what this place is all about, learning from and sharing your experience with others?

    It's all good.:)
     
  11. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    Straticus, I hear you loud and clear. I started here a couple of years back with no experience to fall back on. I began to build knowledge in part on the discussions here on this board. Start with that and begin to build your own inventory of experiences, take notes and reflect, then start over again. Its an iterative process. FWIW, after getting your feet wet, always remember to get your tracks right at the tracking stage. It's easy to forget this and fall in love with gear like eqs and compressors, but get it right on the front end and you will have more meaningful and effective options at mixdown and mastering stages.
     
  12. straticus

    straticus Member

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    In any thread that I start politeness is expected and all opinions are respected. And I'd say that, so far, we're doing fine.:AOK

    Splatt, sorry if you took something the wrong way. The last thing I want to do is offend you or anyone else here. I value your opinion as well as anyone else that takes the time to respond to a question I post. The tone of a reply is imposable to be sure of in forum format so I tend to assume that everyone is being polite unless there's something said that's obviously rude.

    I think I know what your saying and I agree. I don't discount what you're saying in any way. All aspects in the mix effect one another .......... and man, that can be so dang frustrating! Change something here and now something over there doesn't sound right and on and on ...... My problems right now seem to be EQ based. Or at least partially EQ based. Mainly mud and irritable frequencies. Not that those are my only problems but that's what I'm focusing on. But I'm open to any and all opinions. How do you deal with this ... muddiness, etc.

    peace .......... BC :)
     
  13. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Absolutely! All I meant to say was that I agreed with dt's thoughts about expecting a piece of software to work "magic" vs. using one's ears, and about factors beyond EQ that the software can't detect.

    Anyway...

    The only way I was able to get started with EQ at all was to read what other people had done and ask questions. I'm still asking questions, all the time! There are guys out there whose records have a sold a LOT more than mine, and any insight they care to offer is welcome.

    EQ is a bitch! Miking and compression are (IMO) much easier to tackle.
     
  14. straticus

    straticus Member

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    I gotcha 100%.

    And same as you, I feel like I have a much better handle on compression ........... not that I'm done learning by any means. Heck, I don't ever plan on being done learning. That's one reason I like this stuff! I've been doing this for quite a few years. Just on my own. For myself, my band, my friends and a few demo's for local bands here and there. I'm not a pro but I do get good feedback, I love it, and people seem to be happy with what I give them for what I charge.

    I never considered the EQ matching feature to be a cure all though. What it did was show me that I need to beef up my EQing skills and this thread is helping. It also caused me to bust out a book by David Gibson called The Art Of Mixing that I've had laying around here for a few years. There's a great section in there about EQ as well as mixing in general. I think I need to read it again. I'll probably get more out of it this time.

    I get the impression that you do this stuff for a living and I appreciate you chiming in.

    BC :)
     
  15. epluribus

    epluribus Member

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    Hi Straticus.

    Early on you asked for some ballpark EQ frequency info. I had a really handy guide around here for live mixing, and it took a while to find it on the hard drive, but find it I have and here it is...

    (One caveat: IMHO freq points are like recipes--good starting points. No substitute for good taste. These may just get you close. Sorry for the caps on the font.)

    **********

    FREQUENCY PRESENCE EQ POINTS FOR INSTRUMENTS

    DRUMS:
    KICK BOTTOM 60-80HZ SLAP 2.5K
    SNARE FAT 240HZ CRISP 5K
    HI HAT CLANK 200 SIZZLE 7.5-12K
    MOUNTED TOMS FULL 240 HZ ATTACK 5K
    FLOOR TOM FULL 80-120HZ ATTACK 5K

    GUITARS:
    BASS:
    BOTTOM 60-80HZ PLUCK 700HZ-1K POP 2.5K
    ELECTRIC:
    FULL 240HZ BITE 2.5K
    ACCOUSTIC:
    BOTTOM 80 120HZ BODY 240HZ PRESENCE 2.5-5K

    ORGAN:
    BOTTOM 80-120HZ FULL 240HZ BITE 2.5K

    PIANO:
    BOTTOM 80-120HZ ATTACK 2.5-5K CRISP 10K

    VOCALS:
    FULL 120HZ BOOMY 200-240HZ PRES. 5K SIBILANCE 7.5-10K

    ********

    In addition to the above, the writer recommends sweeping the mids on the house curve to about 2500HZ and backing 'em off a notch or two for listening comfort. I've had good luck with that tip in live mixing, but I'd say Use Sparingly for recording.

    Also, if it isn't a bass or a kick drum, or occassionally keyboards, using the hi-pass (centered at about 100HZ most of the time) will keep out the mud.

    Hope this is sorta what you had in mind.

    The original document can be found on the Yahoo! RigTips discussion group, under Files / PA Docs / "Gain Structure Basics and Beyond," by Humphrey Audio.

    Happy Holidays!
     
  16. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Very useful post, epluribus.
     
  17. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    The writer - and you - are correct.

    The 3K range is a "punchy" area for a lot of mid-range instruments and very necessary, but it sometimes too much of it builds up in a live room. When a mix sounds irritating but you can't put your finger on why, it's a good place to start a little notch.

    A trick with notching that works well but causes anyone else in the room to hate you:

    Start with as narrow a bandwidth (Q) as your EQ will allow and boost it maybe 6dB or more. Sweep till you find the spot where the offending frequency is strongest, coming at you like a freight train (careful not to hurt your ears or damage your speakers!!). Then pull it down. Adjust the gain reduction and Q till it sounds right. Keep in mind that your first impulse after it has assaulted your senses is to pull it out completely, but that might not be best. If you can, A/B that band only, off and on.

    There are other tricks you can do with 3K, such as selectively boosting it on an otherwise lifeless vocal track in emphatic spots to add character and "oomph." But it's very tricky. Too much or too often and the singer sounds nasal and annoying, like an unpleasant neighbor in Forest Hills. If and when I have the time I'll try to remember to post specifics.
     
  18. epluribus

    epluribus Member

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    I can see where that notching technique will be quite handy, thanks for posting it Michael. Every once in a while you get a room or a mix with a nasty edge to it that you can't put your finger on.

    --Ray
     
  19. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Depending on what you're hearing, it might be a good place to start, anyway.

    Some rooms are just ugly no matter what you do.
     
  20. straticus

    straticus Member

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    This thread is yielding just the type of info I was hoping for. Thanks for sharing your experience guys!

    I played a new mix of one of our songs for my band last night. I'd made changes to it using some of the info posted in this thread. Comments like "That sounds huge!", "Damn, that rocks!", "Is that us?" were floating around the room. All I did was get rid of the mud and the hole thing just opened up.

    Thanks again for the help. This place is great!

    Happy Holidays! BC :)
     

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