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Equalizers or EQ's are used to boost or cut selected frequencies within a signal. In this video, I'm going to show you how to apply an EQ to an audio track as well as demonstrate some of the more radical EQ plug-ins in Pro Tools. There are several reasons to apply EQ. To improve the tone quality or the timbre of an instrument or voice, to create a special effect like a telephone vocal sound, to help a track stand out in the mix, to fix mic choice and placement problems like frequency problem, likeage or noise issues, to make up for inadequacy in the recording equipment, to create a better blend of instruments, and to improve the overall sound of the mix if you applying the EQ to the master output.
Most home and car stereos have some form of equalizers. Even the simplest bass and treble controls are equalizers. There purpose is the same as the EQ plug-ins you use to mix in Pro Tools. However, our Pro Tools EQ plug-ins are more advanced and give us more control over the EQ parameters allowing us to alter specific and controllable frequency ranges. Let me show you how to apply EQ. We will start with a Digidesign stock 7-Band EQ. This EQ is a parametric EQ which enables us to control three parameters, the central frequency abbreviated here just as FREQ, the boost or cut which is the Gain, and the width of the affected frequency range or Q. The central frequency is the frequency that you want to adjust, so if I grab this knob and move it, you will see that the central frequency is moving here, this orange dot. For example, say you want to reduce the low-end muddy frequencies on an acoustic guitar. In that case, I'll dial this over to about 300 Hz because that's where mud likes to live in a mix.
The Gain is the amount of increase or decrease an amplitude that you want to apply to the central frequency. So, if I boost this, you will see the curve rise, and if I decrease it, you will see it go down. If you want a slight reduction in the guitar parts mud, I would cut it by 1-3 dB. For more drastic change cut 6-9 dB. The third parameter, Q, is the width of the boost or cut region around the central frequency. So, as you see as I turn this knob, the width changes.
A higher Q value yields narrow widths for affecting a smaller range of frequencies, while a low Q provides expanded widths to encompass a larger range of frequencies. And let's hear what this sounds like. So, we have the guitar part soloed, we want to change the Gain to 0, and then press Play. And I'll change the Gain and we'll hear how that affects the sound. (Music playing.) Do you hear how muddy it got when I actually boosted the Gain? Now, when you are looking for the frequency that you want to adjust, try this technique, we call it the boost and twist. So, you insert an EQ on a track, like we have here, and you increase the Gain pretty significantly. We'll bring it all the way up to 14 dB. And now we'll make the Q really high so that it is a very narrow band. And now what we do is play the track, and then sweep with the Frequency control to find a frequency that you want to boost or cut. (Music playing.) Let's say that I actually want to get rid of some of the nasally tone that's right around this area at 761 Hz. So, now that I found that frequency, I can adjust the Gain, bring it down some. And then if I want to expand the width, I can either increase or decrease the Q. Let's hear what that sounds like. (Music playing.) It's a subtle change but noticeable and you will notice that I actually hit the Bypass button here to AB it. That is, to listen to the track with the EQ and without the EQ. One thing we were also doing here is we are listing to this track in Solo. Now you don't want to just EQ while you are in Solo, you also need to listen to the track with the rest of the tracks in the session.
You could make this track sound amazing by itself but it might not sound good in the mix. So, don't EQ in a vacuum by keeping the track in Solo. Let's move on to a common mixing practice called the carving EQ holes. For example, let's say we have this acoustic guitar track and a vocal track. Often it's a good idea to cut out some of the mids of the guitar to allow the vocals to have more room in the frequency spectrum where they sound the best, like between 1-4 kHz. So, let's cut out 3 kHz from the guitar signal, I'm going to adjust the Frequency to about 3, decrease it a little, and kind of narrow it out. And I need to un-Bypass this track. And I'm actually going to take this part of the EQ out by clicking the In button and making that part inactive. So, now we have this little bit EQ'd out of our guitar signal. So we are carving a little EQ hole for the vocals to come in and shine through over the guitars in this area.
Now, another thing that we could do is actually boost some of the guitar Frequencies. Let's go up to around 6 kHz and add a little bit of shine to the guitar sound at that area. And this frequency range on the guitar is out of the way of the vocals. So it's another example of carving an EQ hole where we can actually boost the guitar to have it shine through a little bit more at this frequency. Let's hear what it sounds like. (Music playing.) It takes out some of the bite from the mids that would allow the vocals to shine through. Now be aware that any EQ setting that you change on a particular instrument will affect not only its sound but how the sound of that instrument interacts with all of the other tracks in the mix. Now let's look at some of the more radical EQ effects that you can add to tracks in your Pro Tools session.
I am going to close this up and have a listen to the Bass track instead. First, we check out the Air Kill EQ. So we have got this track soloed, I'm going to press Play and add in some interesting effects that this EQ can do. (Music playing.) This plug-in is a 3-Band EQ with Kill switches on each band, right here. With this plug-in you can cut off the Lows, Mids, and Highs for some really cool effects, like you just heard. Let's try another one. Related to the Kill EQ but with some different parameters, this Vintage Filter is a resonant multi-mode filter that can be manually adjusted or modulated over time, using a built-in LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator. It also has an Envelope follower. Now watch what knobs I'm going to tweak with the mouse, and we'll hear the sonic outcomes. (Music playing.) You have got a lot of opportunity to get creative with this plug-in. So, now you know how to properly EQ a track utilizing the boost and twist method.
You can also sonically sculpt any track pretty radically with some of these EQ plug-ins that are available in Pro Tools.
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