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Creating focus

From: Foundations of Audio: EQ and Filters

Video: Creating focus

When applying EQ in a mix there are a number of common mistakes made by novice engineers. Here I want to talk about three of the big ones: trying to make every instrument's stand out in the mix, trying to make too many instruments fit into a mix, and EQing tracks in solo. Not every track can be the star in a mix. All instruments can't have the spotlight at the same time. Instead, you can use EQ to help direct the listener to what the focal point of the song is at any given moment.

Creating focus

When applying EQ in a mix there are a number of common mistakes made by novice engineers. Here I want to talk about three of the big ones: trying to make every instrument's stand out in the mix, trying to make too many instruments fit into a mix, and EQing tracks in solo. Not every track can be the star in a mix. All instruments can't have the spotlight at the same time. Instead, you can use EQ to help direct the listener to what the focal point of the song is at any given moment.

In fact, you can use EQ to make one or more instruments purposefully sound more dull in order for another instrument to stand out. Photographers use depth-of-field extensively to achieve this same effect. They place the subject of the photo in focus while background elements may be made intentionally out of focus to help draw the viewer's eye towards the subject, and make for a more interesting composition or organization. We can do this in music or post-production too using EQ.

For example, the lead vocal track is usually the main focal point of a pop mix; however, vocals and electric guitars share many common frequencies and can compete in a mix. If the guitar is too in focus, the vocal can be lost and not be the focus of the mix. Instead, you can use EQ to shape the guitar sound around the vocal track. For example, you can reduce the high- mids between one and 4k maybe to allow the vocal to shine through the mix and effectively blurring the guitar sound in that EQ range.

You can apply this principle to all aspects of the mix giving, each element its own space. This yields a well-balanced mix, much like a photograph with great composition. Let's return to our photography example. Photographers don't light all elements of a photograph with the same bright light. Just like not every instrument in a mix can be the star of the song, not every element in a photograph should shine. Instead, certain elements get separate lighting or are cleverly positioned in the background, allowing them to look good, but in context with the rest of the elements.

In music and post-production, we often use EQ to create this balanced composition. Another aspect that also relates to the composition of a photograph, as well as to creating a balanced mix of a song, is arrangement. Simply having too many elements in a photograph or in a mix can cause either to be cluttered. Specifically in a mix, if you find that no matter how hard you try to fit elements together things still sound muddle, try muting certain elements or even more drastically, adjusting the song or arrangement to create a less-is-more situation.

Never be afraid to question whether elements in a mix actually belong in the song. Finally, don't EQ tracks in a vacuum. That is, don't make your final decisions for an instrument's EQ setting based on listening to it in solo. Now I'm not saying you can never solo an element to get a better handle on what's going on with the track; however, just like you don't separate one element from its surroundings in a photograph, you should make your EQ decisions by listening to each instrument in the context of a mix.

So context matters in all EQ decisions, as does retaining focus on the most important elements in a mix. In my opinion, the greatest mixes are artful examples of sonic context, like a photographic with perfect composition, pushing and pulling the listener's attention to better strengthen the emotional feel and delivery of the piece.

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Foundations of Audio: EQ and Filters

36 video lessons · 13564 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 3m 28s
    1. Welcome
      1m 36s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      35s
    3. Using the exercise files
      58s
    4. Using the "Get In the Mix" Pro Tools and Logic Pro session files
      19s
  2. 15m 46s
    1. What are frequency and amplitude?
      2m 27s
    2. Measuring frequency
      1m 48s
    3. Measuring amplitude
      1m 58s
    4. The perception of frequency and amplitude
      4m 18s
    5. Frequency and pitch
      5m 15s
  3. 36m 10s
    1. What is an equalizer?
      4m 14s
    2. Hardware and software EQ
      1m 58s
    3. Understanding frequency and gain EQ controls
      3m 41s
    4. Using the bandwidth, or Q, EQ control
      5m 35s
    5. Parametric equalizers
      2m 36s
    6. Shelving filters
      5m 11s
    7. High- and low-pass filters
      5m 42s
    8. Putting it all together with multiband EQ
      3m 43s
    9. Using graphic EQ
      3m 30s
  4. 46m 13s
    1. Creating focus
      3m 47s
    2. Get in the Mix: Using EQ to fix problems and place elements in the mix
      8m 30s
    3. Get in the Mix: Creating complementary EQ curves
      9m 7s
    4. Get in the Mix: Creative EQ with the telephone effect
      5m 30s
    5. Get in the Mix: Frequency bracketing with filters
      5m 44s
    6. Get in the Mix: Automating EQ
      6m 18s
    7. Learning to listen
      3m 10s
    8. Balancing expectations from the recording process
      4m 7s
  5. 41m 14s
    1. Get in the Mix: EQing FX returns
      4m 29s
    2. Using common vintage-modeled EQs
      5m 2s
    3. Using frequency analyzers
      3m 44s
    4. Using harmonic generators to excite frequency content
      5m 44s
    5. EQ or compression first?
      3m 3s
    6. EQ and room acoustics: Is your room lying to you?
      6m 15s
    7. Boost or cut? The relative nature of EQ and headroom
      4m 0s
    8. Building healthy EQ strategies
      8m 57s
  6. 19s
    1. What's next and EQ summary
      19s
  7. 5m 51s
    1. A session with Brian Lee White
      5m 51s

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