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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 for a specific example of using EQ in the context of a mix when we discuss making something more cohesive or correcting the recording process, we want to take a look at the kick drum, and the kick drum and Take Me Down is actually two kick drums that were recorded, a mike inside the kick and then a sub-kick mike using another special mike to record the low frequencies of the kick. And those are bussed into a single mono aux track over the kick bus where I'm doing some group processing on them here.
So if we think about a kick drum in a pop rock tune that has a lot of guitars, bass and vocals and things like that, generally we want something that's going to hit us deep in our chest while still carrying the beat and staying audible even on smaller speakers. So let's just listen to the kick with and without EQ and sort of get a sense of what we are starting with. Here is without. (Music playing) And here is with.
(Music playing) So what's happening here is I'm pulling out a significant amount of the mid range and the lower mids and what that's doing, it's sort of removing some of the boxiness from the kick drum. If I pull these bands out and we listen you can hear a lot of the boxiness of that kick drum come through. And this is really common. It's really hard to record a kick drum without getting this boxiness in there, and it's generally something in more of a rock tune that we are going to pretty much always do is pull out some of those low mids from a kick drum.
(Music playing) And then I'm taking in, I'm boosting in a bit right around 60 Hz, try to give it a little extra power. And then like I said, I want to make sure it carries the rhythm on smaller speakers, because smaller speakers aren't going to be able to reproduce below 100 hertz. So I have boosted a bit of beater end of the kick a little bit. So it's going to give it that nice little snap and go ahead and listen to that.
(Music playing) Now it's important for us to listen to this in the context of the mix, and so to really understand how these changes are going to help kind of define the kicks place in the mix next to the other instruments. So if we listen in the mix with for a bit. (Music playing) (Male singing: We hit the town...) And then without.
(Music playing) (Male singing: We hit the town...) (Male singing: And I'll never forget that sound.) (Music playing) So what's happening is if we don't remove those mid frequencies sort of that boxiness or that muddiness it's kind of masking those important elements that sit in that range of the mix. So those guitars that are kind of driving the rhythm section and the vocal and they kind of sits on top of everything and not in a really cool way.
And so by removing those frequencies we can really rein in the kick drum, and really focus it where we want it right on that low end and the top end. Now sometimes what I like to do when I'm specifically choosing a frequency, sort of this lower mid frequency here on the 100 hertz, I think about the bass guitar and its fundamental, and things like the key of the song and how the bass is sitting next to the kick drum, and I'll make that decision to sort of notch out a little frequency there, so that the bass can kind of just sit right on top of the kick drum.
Now sometimes what we'll see is that the bass and kick kind of trade places depending on the type or style of music we were working on. Some styles of music tend to have lower bass than kick drum while others tend to have lower kick drum than bass. But I like to kind of try to match up their EQ curves, get them gelling together. So I just want to consider both low end elements when I'm EQing either the bass or the kick. Now because again of the complexity and the room considerations of acoustic mike instruments, so this is a perfect example of an acoustic instrument that's been miked, a kick drum.
These can be very difficult to EQ if they are not recorded correctly. And like I said a kick drum tends to usually benefit from pulling out a little of the low mids. There are situations which you would want to keep those, maybe more of a folky Americana thing or that poofy, pillowy kick kind of sounds awesome. But it's generally better to try to capture the sound you are looking for at the source. So when we get into more harmonically complex acoustic instruments like acoustic guitar and vocal, they can't take nearly as much EQing.
So when you EQ them too much they kind of start to sound strained. So I can't emphasize enough how important it is to try to capture a good sound at the source. Try switching out for a different mike, try some different mike placements. Don't just say to yourself, "we'll fix it in the mix with EQ," because generally that can get you in trouble later. Fix it while you can during the recording process.
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