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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
So when working through a mix I generally like to break my EQ decisions down into one of three categories. I like to call them the three Cs: Corrective, Creative, and Cohesive. Again, sort of I think about the challenge versus the solution, and identify what I think is missing or needs correcting with a specific instrument in the context of its place in the mix. Then I'll seek a solution. If I determine that the possible solution is EQ, I'll then proceed.
So when I say corrective, what I'm talking about is that sometimes an instrument just wasn't recorded in an ideal situation. Maybe the mike was placed in the wrong place, or the room had something to with the recoding. Again, we talked about those acoustics problems, the room modes, or the echoes that a room can exhibit. This can all affect the recording process as well as the mix process. So what ends up happening is I end up recording the instrument and the quality of that instrument just even by itself isn't quite right in my mind.
So regardless of how it's going to sit in the mix, I might need to make some changes to it, just to get it ready to even put in the mix. So, some good examples of this would be just mike placement or misplacement I should say one of these that comes up a lot is the Proximity Effect on a vocal. So, if we were to look at this session's Vocal EQ, we could see that some of the low end and the low mids have been dipped out and this is actually very common depending on the type of microphone that was used to record a vocal with.
A lot of times when the vocalist gets too close to the mike, the mike will get a bit too bassy to fit in a larger density mix. So, what we'll do is kind of correct that. This might be something that I do even before I try to start feeding something into a mix. If I feel something is really muddy or just sounds wrong as it was recorded, I might sort of use this Corrective EQ approach to kind of get it back to a solid starting point. Now, depending on what mike or how you record something, sometimes things just can't be corrected.
So at this stage, it's a good time to kind of check yourself and ask, should this have been recorded better, can I rerecord it, if it's that's bad? EQ can help, and help a lot but there's a point where it's just nothing is going to fix that bad recording. Now sort of the second C that I talked about was Creative. So sometimes I'll use EQ to make wild changes to a track, to achieve a specific stylistic result, or just completely change the sound of something from the original recording.
Things like telephone effect, or really extreme high or low pass filtering where I'm really ringing in on the frequencies and extremely kind of placing them in a place in the mix, or just really boosting something to get a resonant sound out an instrument. These different creative uses of EQs, really there are no rules for making these creative decisions, more so than what do you want out of it. How are you using an EQ to kind of stress or stretch an instrument into this specific place that you want to fit it into the mix.
Now, probably the most common type of EQ scenario that I'll come up against in mixing is the third C, what I like to call Cohesive or Blending EQ. Now, what tends to happen is that just because an instrument might sound great in isolation, it doesn't mean it's going to sound good in the context of a mix. So, remember a mix is about assigning focus to specific elements, the most important elements, let's say the lead vocal or the lead instrument. You're going to do what you can not to obscure that focus with the background elements.
So, sometimes this might mean you have to actually make an instrument sound dull or even worse to let another one come forward and stand out. Everything can't sound special and bright and big in a mix. So sometimes you have to thin things out to allow other instruments to come forward and be more present. Again, when your think about this it's important to go back to your plan and sort of create a list of what are the most important things, and can I hear them, and then am I making EQ decisions that move me in that direction.
So when you're making Corrective, Creative, and Cohesive changes in your mix, a lot of times it's going to be all three put together into one EQ. So, if we go back to the vocal, I'm looking at kind of this Corrective and Cohesive down at the low end, getting it to fit better in the mix. Then I'm sort of creating a little bit of high end boost, to kind of give it a little bit more presence and make it stand out. I know another example of sort of Cohesive or Blending EQ. Now, it's really important that you make these EQ decisions, especially the ones that go towards blending something in with the other elements of a track in context.
That means don't solo up the instrument. EQ it, make it sound really great. Then expect that it's going to sound great in the mix. Remember, it's all about context and how one track sounds next to another. Make sure you think about that. I know it's going to be really hard to avoid soloing stuff up and making it sound great. Everybody does it when they first start mixing. But try the best you can to maybe just turn the track up, so you can hear it better and really think about how it relates to the other tacks. Again, sometimes you have make things sound worse to make other things stand out more or sound better.
So, in general as you look through the different EQs in the Take Me Down session and you kind of think about what was going on when that EQ decision was being made, whether it was a creative decision, or a corrective decision, or more of a cohesive blending decision. Remember that EQ is generally an iterative process, because we're sort of relating the tracks to each other and using these to kind of reshape the frequency balance of the different instruments in the mix as a whole, we're going to be making changes.
It's rare that I can go EQ something like my Kick Drum and then leave that EQ intact when I go and EQ my bass. I'm going to have to make changes in sort of an iterative way to complement those two instruments. They live in the same frequency space, so it's going to be really important that I pay attention to them. Listen to one, listen to them together, listen to them in the mix, and keep making changes to kind of better the gel or where the two sit, depending on how I want my overall mix to sound.
So again, go through the demo exercise. Work through some of these EQs, bypass them, take some time to listen to them. So over the next few movies, I'm going to go through some specific examples of using Creative, Cohesive, and Corrective EQ to meet some mix challenges and get the tracks to sit together, and come forward or push backward in a mix, and help everything come together as one coherent picture.
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