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A short guide on Equilization (incomplete)

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(Note: this guide is dealing with Equilization for the MIXING phase of audio ONLY, this does NOT cover using it as an effect, or during a live performance)


Uhh...hi, I'm Luminous. I've been composing for about 8-10 months now, is very interested in music for video games (I've remade some songs for games already, which are avaliable for preview on my facebook), been active in the audio industry for a year, and I'm a graduate of the Institute of Audio Research, I'm also getting into the post-production field, and uhhh...I had way too much soda today.


Anyways, on to the guide!




Equilization is an extremely important part of mixing your music, in my opinion, it's the second most important thing, aside from compression.


First, if you arent sure on what an Equilizer (or EQ) is for short, you NEED to know.


an EQ is basically a level control for a range of frequencies, for example, if I want to turn a down the level of 2kHz to 6kHz, I can do that with an EQ.


There are numerous types of EQ's, and each of them serve a purpose. For this guide, I'm going to use a Parametric EQ. It's a very good idea, however, to know what each EQ does if you are very serious with your work.


(Note: I'm assuming you know the basics of audio engineering and production by reading this guide, if not, then learn it!!! It will help you make sense of most things that are being said here))


The parts of a Parametric EQ


Q: A simple letter, meaning "bandwidth", this adjusts how broad you want your range to be, the greater the Q, the less frequencies it affects, but the more precise it will be.


Frequency: Pretty self-explanitory, this affects where you want the main peak to be. Most EQ's /should/ have a range between 20 Hz and 20kHz.


Gain: This affects the level of the set frequency and Q. Pretty much, how loud or quiet you want whatever range you set to be.




In the mixing phase of a song, whether it be a rough mix for your client, or the final mix of post recorded tracks, EQing will ALWAYS be used, if you're sitting here thinking (Oh I can just put a vocal EQ on my sister's track and it'll be alright), then you probably aren't going to get far as a mixing engineer.


As with most gear (or plug-in's, for the digital people =P), EQ's can be used a variety of different ways, usually, it is FIRST used to get rid of problems within a certain range of frequencies, these problems can be (but certainly isnt limited to):


phasing, harmonic distortion, level distortion, effect distortion, noise


Compression first or EQ first?


oi, I've seen so many arguements over this. And I've had teachers try to drill it in my head (Compress first or you DIE!)...


Most say to use compression before EQing, since Compression helps you get your level down packed first and foremost, and it's arguably more important than the individual frequencies. Not only that, but you'll lose some of whatever you're boosting or cutting when you EQ first, lessening the effectiveness of the applied EQ.


Others say EQ first because you can get rid of the obvious problems (60 cycle hum, scratch at the high end, etc) out of the way so you can have a clear cut piece to work with, making compression "easier", and less of a hassle.


Honestly, try using each first, see what sounds better for THE TRACK, not for YOU (Just because you like it, dosen't mean it works with the mood of the individual track, and the entire song/sound as a whole).


How can I use an EQ to find problems?


Search and Destroy: Put simply. What I like to do is bring the dB level, and Q to it's highest possible, and "sweep"(going through, back and forth) the frequencies until I find a problem, when that problem is found, turn the level of that precise frequency down until that problem isn't there anymore, DO NOT just turn it all the way, as you may cut more than you need to.



Phase Problems: This one's a lot more tricky (I still have problems with this), first off, you have to figure out if the phasing is because of 2 or more tracks sharing harmonic frequencies? Or is it because of something else? If EQing would solve the problem, then you'd have to make a "gap", or "hole" for one of the tracks to "breathe", in other words, you have to lower the level of one of those tracks (or maybe even raise it, in some cases) so the other track can have it's own room to work with. I usually give the more prominent track the breathing room, since that's going to be heard the most, but, as with most things when mixing, it depends on the audio, and the situation.


Bleedthrough: You can use an EQ to get rid of bleedthrough that's coming from 1 track, and playing on the targeted track, doing this can eliminate possible phase issues that you may or may not have encountered. Do keep in mind that this method isnt always applicable, 1 reason being that whatever's bleeding through your targeted track may have the same harmonics, thus taking away from the main track's content, should you apply it. Use it with caution.



There are many, many other ways to use Equilization, these are the raw basics of it.




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