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Equalizers, or EQs, are used to boost or cut selected frequencies within a signal. In this video, I am 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 timbre of an instrument; 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, leakage, and noise issues; to make up for inadequacies in the recording equipment; to create a better blend of instruments; and to improve the sound of the overall mix if applied to the master output.
Most home and car stereos have some form of equalizers. Even the simplest bass and treble controls are equalizers. Their purpose is the same as the EQ plug-ins that you use in Pro Tools; however, Pro Tools mixing EQ tools 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'll start with the stock 7-Band EQ in Pro Tools. I've already got it inserted on this acoustic guitar track.
This is a parametric EQ, which enables us to control three parameters: the central frequency--or freq--the boost--or cut, the gain--and the width of the effected frequency range--Q. The central frequency is the frequency that you want to adjust. For example, say you want to reduce the low end muddy frequencies on this acoustic guitar track. So let's go over here, and I am going to choose 300 hertz, or thereabouts. So by moving this, I moved this orange circle, and I've set the center frequency right around 300 hertz.
Gain is the amount of increase or decrease in amplitude that we want to apply to the center frequency. If you want a slight reduction in the guitar part, let's cut it by 1 to 3 db. Or for a more drastic change, go down to 6 to 9. The third parameter, Q, is the width of the boost, or cut region, around the central frequency. Right now, it's pretty wide, with a value of 1. If we increase the Q, it becomes much more narrow.
The Q determines the degree to which frequencies near the center frequency are boosted or cut. As you can see here, a high Q value yields a narrow width for affecting a small range of frequencies, while low Qs--like closer to 1-- provide expanded widths to encompass a large range of frequencies. So let's hear what this sounds like. I am going to solo the guitar part and change the gain back to 0, and we'll hear what this sounds like. (Music playing.) With a low Q value, a lot of frequencies were taken out, and it really thinned out the sound of that acoustic guitar.
When you are looking for the frequency that you want to adjust, try this technique: it's called the 'Boost and Twist.' So you put an EQ on the track like we have here, and then you increase the gain significantly. We'll put it up to about 12 db. Then you make the Q very narrow, as we already have here, and then we can sweep across the frequency range until we find the frequency that we want to boost or cut. So we can take this Frequency control and go back and forth. So let's try this out and hear what it sounds like.
(Music playing.) Let's say I want to take out some of the nasally tone that I found here, right around this frequency: 627 hertz. So now that we've found the frequency, we'd actually dial the gain back down, and make it into a cut.
I can also decrease the Q and make it a wider cut, and let's hear what this sounds like. (Music playing.) It's a subtle but noticeable change, and you'll notice that I actually hit the Bypass button here a few times to AB this. ABing means to go between A and B--that is, with the effect and without the effect.
One thing that we are also doing here is we are listening to the track in solo. Now, we don't want to EQ just while we're in solo, so we need to listen to the track with the rest of the tracks in the mix. We can make this track sound amazing by itself in solo, but it might not sound good in the mix. So you don't want to EQ in a vacuum by keeping the track in solo. Let's move on and discuss another common mixing practice called carving EQ holes. For example, let's say we have this acoustic guitar track and a vocal track. It's often a good idea to cut out some of the mids in the guitar to allow the vocals to have some more room in that frequency area where they sound the best, like between 1 and 4 kilohertz.
So let's cut out some 3 kilohertz from the guitar track. I am going to boost this up to about 3, bring the gain down, and make the Q a little bit narrower. So now I have just carved a little EQ hole for the vocals to come in and shine through over the guitars in this area. Because we've taken out some EQ here, we might actually be able to boost some guitar frequencies in another range. So I am going to boost this up at around 6 kilohertz, and turn this into a peak EQ, increase the Q, and increase the gain.
Now, we've got a little bump at 6 kilohertz. Let's see what this sounds like. (Music playing.) This takes a little bit of bite out of the mids that will allow the vocals to shine through but then adds a little bit of shine to the guitars just above where the vocal range is. Now something you should note here: I am not suggesting that each instrument should have its own dedicated frequency range in the mix.
Instruments will share frequencies, but clearing a path for the predominant frequencies of a certain instrument can make your mix sound much clearer. Also be aware that any EQ settings you change on a particular instrument will affect not only its sound, but also how the sound of that instrument interacts with all of the other instruments in the mix. Now, let's look at some of the more radical EQ effects you can add to your tracks in Pro Tools. I am going to close this and solo the bass track. I am going to bring up this AIR KILL EQ, and currently it's bypassed.
Now, the KILL EQ is a 3-band EQ with kill switches on each band. With this plug-in, you can cut off the lows, mids, and highs. With the track playing, I will demonstrate some of the sonic possibilities for this plug-in by tweaking the controls, as well as loading some of the presets. (Music playing.) Let's try another one. We've got the vintage filter set up here.
This is related to the KILL EQ but with some different parameters. The vintage filter is a resonant multimode filter--that is, an EQ--that can be manually adjusted or modulated over time using the built-in Low Frequency Oscillator, or LFO, and an envelope follower. I am going to press Play and tweak this a little bit and have a little fun. (Music playing.) We've got a lot of opportunity to get creative with this plug-in.
So now you know how to properly EQ a track using the Boost and Twist method. You can also sonically sculpture tracks pretty radically with this EQ plug-ins, available in Pro Tools.
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