Understanding EQ and filters
Video: Understanding EQ and filtersIn this video, we will take a closer look at EQs and filters, learn about their basic parameters, and discuss when and how to use EQ-type devices. So EQs are devices that change the tone, or frequency response, of the signal. And it's likely that you're probably familiar with the type of EQ called the graphic EQ, where there are several sliders, each one assigned to a particular portion of the frequency band and you can raise that to increase that particular frequency range or lower it to decrease it. But graphic EQs are not found in a DAW like Ableton Live.
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Ableton Live 8 Essential Training with Rick Schmunk offers a comprehensive overview of Ableton's live audio and MIDI sequencing software and the techniques required to compose, record, and edit music, in real time, on stage, or in the studio. The course includes tutorials on compiling live sets from audio and MIDI clips, loops, or samples, applying MIDI effects, warping audio, and recording and producing songs in any number of contemporary styles. Exercise files are included with the course.
- Putting together a DAW system
- Setting up Ableton preferences
- Importing and exporting content
- Recording MIDI
- Editing and quantizing MIDI data
- Recording audio
- Recording in Arrangement view
- Using sends and returns in the Live Mixer
- Grouping tracks
- Signal processing
- Creating and editing automation envelopes
- Using fades to mask audio pops and clicks
- Looping and warping audio clips
- Mapping device controls to a MIDI keyboard
- Working with virtual instruments
- Integrating Live with Pro Tools and Logic
Understanding EQ and filters
In this video, we will take a closer look at EQs and filters, learn about their basic parameters, and discuss when and how to use EQ-type devices. So EQs are devices that change the tone, or frequency response, of the signal. And it's likely that you're probably familiar with the type of EQ called the graphic EQ, where there are several sliders, each one assigned to a particular portion of the frequency band and you can raise that to increase that particular frequency range or lower it to decrease it. But graphic EQs are not found in a DAW like Ableton Live.
It's much more likely that you are going to find something that's called a parametric EQ. And in Live, we have one that is referred to as the EQ Eight. So I am going to grab that here from the Live Device browser, and I am going to drag and drop that on the EQ track. And let me minimize this virtual instrument by double-clicking on it. Now I can see the EQ, and we can talk about the parameters here. So on the left-hand side, I have got buttons that allow me to activate or deactivate a particular band.
Right now, I've got four that are active, and then I have these little switches to choose that band, so I can adjust its parameters. The key to this process is these switches that are down here on the bottom. These are called the filter shapes. And if we look at the line that goes across the middle of the EQ, this represents what's happening to the signal as it passes through the device. On the left-hand side we have low frequencies, and on the right-hand side we have high frequencies. And if the line is flat, nothing is happening to the signal as it passes through the device.
Now if I click on one of these filter shapes, we will start to see what will happen. So this first one is called a high pass, or low cut, filter, and you notice that that's exactly what it's doing. It's reducing the frequencies that pass through here on this portion of the frequency range. So we have several of them available. We have high pass, or low cut, and then the next one here would be referred to as a shelving filter, which is going to allow me to boost or cut frequencies above or below a certain frequency. In this case, I can boost everything below 130 Hz.
I have also got a band pass filter which allows me to boost or cut frequencies around a center frequency; a notch filter that allows me to make a deep cut at some particular frequency; and then on the high end, we also have shelving filters; and also in this case, a low-pass, or high-cut, filter. So, how might we go about using this? Well, first of all, it's a good idea to listen to a track and make some general observations about things that you want to change, or that you don't like.
For examples there may be too much bass on something or too much midrange or not enough high, and just make some general observations. And then when you start working with the track, you can then focus on those things that you want to fix. And each instrument is likely to have a number of different frequency areas that you're going to need to work with. For instance, on a kick drum, the fundamental is often around 70-80 Hz, midrange around 200 to 300 Hz, and the snap up words of maybe 2K.
So if I wanted to adjust some of that midrange honk that's frequently found with a kick drum, I might start around 220 Hz. And I will leave band one alone here because I might want to do something with the low range later on. Let me use this second band. So I will dial that frequency down into the 200-225 Hz area. And then to help me find the problem, I am going to take the Gain knob, and I am going to boost that area. And I might boost it considerably, so it helps me dial in on what the problem is.
And then as I play the track back, I'm going to take that frequency, and I'm going to sweep it back and forth and try and find a little bit closer what's happening with that problem area. (Drums playing.) Let me solo that track, so I can just hear the kick. (Kick drum playing.) Okay, around about 390-400 Hz, I was hearing that midrange frequencies accentuated that I really don't want.
So at that point, I will take the Gain knob and actually pull it down and cut at that frequency. Now right now, I'm cutting a pretty wide band around that center frequency at 390. And I can adjust that by taking the Q, or Contour knob, and narrowing or widening that. So again, I will give it a listen as I make that adjustment. (Kick drum playing.) And with a little bit narrower Q, I'm starting to get the clarity that I want on that kick drum.
If you don't know about those basic frequencies associated with each instrument, that's something that you'll need to learn over time. Now to help you with that, there is a nice plug in here in Live called the Spectrum plug-in. And I can take that and drag that and drop that on the track, and I am going to put that before the EQ. And this plug- in will do a spectrum analysis, or a frequency analysis, of the signal that's passing through the track and show me where the peaks and values are in the signal. (Kick drum playing.) So in this case I can see the fundamental is actually down there around about 42 Hz, and then there's another bump up here a little bit higher.
(Kick drum playing.) That's at about twice the fundamental frequency, which makes a lot of sense because the other frequencies that are part of that kick drum sound are going to be mathematical multiples of that fundamental. So I will see something around 85 or 90, and then three times that at 120, and four times that, so on and so forth. If you don't know about those magic frequencies that are associated with each instrument, you can use the Spectrum plug-in, and there is also a lot of great articles and books out there.
For example, you might take a look at Bobby Owsinski's book on mixing. The other plug-in that we have here for EQ that you should know about is the EQ Three and let me drag and drop that on to the snare track, for example. Now we can see that this is a much simpler device. So that if you don't need to dial in on eight separate bands and you don't need that fine adjustment using the Q knob, this might be the device for you. So this one has three bands as the name suggests: we've got a low, mid and high band. And you can activate that by clicking on these switches here.
And you can either boost or cut that band by moving the associated knob. And as well, you can set the limit of the low frequency range by dialing this knob here, and that will set how large the range is here with the low frequency area and this low frequency boost cut, and the same thing over here with the high frequency range. So remember that using EQ is not always about making a track sound great; it's about helping it to fit in a mix.
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