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In this installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows producers and audio engineers how to properly apply equalization (EQ) and improve the sound of their mixes. The course covers the use of parametric and graphic EQs—and filters such as the high/low pass filters and shelf filters—in a variety of musical settings. These principles can be applied to any digital audio workstation platform, including Logic and Pro Tools, as well as analog workflows.
(music playing) My name is Brian Lee White. I am a mixer, producer, and educator based in Oakland, California, and I like to make records and show other people how to do the same. I grew up in a musical family. My dad played lots of instruments, played in bands, so I've been playing instruments since I can remember.
I got into computers at a really young age too, computers, technology, and the Internet. So to me, mixing kind of really incorporates this left-brain, right-brain, very artistic, right, and aesthetics, as well as highly technical and analytical components, and kind of fusing the two together into this kind of middle-brain spot to really kind of achieve the best of both worlds and deliver something that's really special. (music playing) I originally got into teaching sort of as a way to supplement my income in what is really a hard industry.
Ultimately, I really grew to love teaching, being able to share my experiences, share my tips and tricks with everyone, and I kind of created this kind of nothing-is-secret approach. I came to that point because I would have students and I would have friends come to me and they would say things like, "Yeah, you know, I heard this really cool thing that my buddy was doing and he told me I am not going to show it to you because that's my trick." I would hear that and I would say, "That's ridiculous." That's not the mentality that we need to have in this community of people making art.
And I would immediately go and then show them exactly what they wanted to learn how to do, and then some. The real value of a mixer, a producer, a songwriter is what's in here. It's those instincts that tell you not how to do something, not how to turn a knob, but why you would turn that knob. I think ultimately the mix has to serve the song, right. It has to serve the emotion of the song, and ultimately, when I'm working for somebody I'm providing a service, so I ultimately want to achieve the goal of the songwriter and the producer, sort of where they want to go with their aesthetic, right? And that could be both artistically as well as commercially.
(music playing) What I like personally in a great mix is I tend to gravitate towards mixes that really make a strong statement, right, where the artist and the producer and the mixer have all come together. They're all on the same page, and they kind of say, let's go for this. We're going to go out there. This could be a polarizing aesthetic. This could be the sounds and the textures and the way we're presenting them-- not everyone might get.
We're going to make a really gutsy move on this, and we're going to make an artistic statement. Those are the kind of things that really excite me. (music playing) As a mixer, of course, sonics are a big thing for me, how things sound, is it clear, was it recorded well? While that is my job, I think it's important for me as a mixer and other mixers, all of the greatest mixers, what they recognize is sort of what draws people to a piece of music or a piece of art can be totally disconnected to how it sounds sonically.
You can see it all over the place, right? You see people listening to songs off their cell phone speaker and just loving it, just digging it, right? Listening stuff off YouTube. It's been recompressed thirty times and it's no different to them. They're getting it, right? The emotional connection is not lost. People are really stoked on music, and it makes them happy, and even in very bandwidth-limited presentations where the sonics are just horrible, it still makes them happy, and they're still getting 99% of the same enjoyment out of it.
And so I need to take that to heart and use those concepts to really serve the project I'm working on, and try to present those so that that enjoyment is maximized, no matter what speaker system or compression algorithm is being used to put that out there. (music playing) One of my most important jobs as a mixer is to really own the aesthetic of the song and the genre and really present that to the listener.
So whether it's a crazy garage rock punk tune that's going to have all kinds of distorted vocals and drums or some super clean R&B that's got a ton of low-frequency and a ton of high- frequency extension, for me, I really want to own that genre. I want to own that aesthetic, and yes, fit it within sort of some genre expectations and kind of really push that forward so that listeners of that genre, it's not a super-big stretch for them to kind of take that and run with it.
And I think that really makes my job super fun, because I really get to wear all these different hats and paint with all these different colors from one day to the next.
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