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Whether real or artificial strings, are frequently used as a finishing touch to an arrangement, although they tend to stick out of the mix because of their mostly high-frequency content. In this video I'll show you some tips for EQing strings. First of all let's listen to the song with the strings in the mix. (Music playing) What we just heard was some artificial strings like you'd find on a typical synthesizer and you can hear that they stick out the mix a little bit.
There are pads, three octaves of strings. But that being said there's not much movement and that's the way it usually is with most string sections. What that means is usually we have to make sure that not only does it fit in the mix but we can hear it as well. So let's listen to the string patch just by itself for a second. (Music playing) Now obviously when they're dry it doesn't sound as good as when we envelop it with reverb, but nonetheless you will get the idea where we add some EQ.
We'll go to our 4-Band native EQ in Pro Tools and the first frequency we'll look at is between 200 to 500 Hz and this will give the strings more body. So now I'm going to exaggerate how much EQ I'm going to add just to make sure that no matter what speaker you're listening on you're going here this. So we'll goose it up to almost +10 and we'll put it 334, just arbitrarily picking a number. Have a listen. (Music playing) You can hear there is a lot more body to the strings.
Anything below 250, 240, somewhere in there, you really won't hear because once again strings don't have a lot of low frequencies unless you have basses and in this case we're just listening to what would basically be violas and violins and there's not a lot of low frequencies there. Of course, you can't add anything that isn't there to begin with. This is a little too much. I wouldn't normally put that much on. So we'll bring it back here and now we'll go to the next frequency. Sometimes strings are a little harsh at somewhere between 4K and 5k, and just by attenuating those frequencies you can make these string sections sit better in the mix.
So let's go 4k or so and attenuate a little bit. The other thing that you should remember when we're attenuating is usually what we try to do is narrow the bandwidth somewhat and that's the Q. When we're attenuating, usually a narrow band that sounds better and we're boosting a wide bandwidth sounds better than that narrow one. So now what we're going to do is narrow this a little bit. Have a listen. (Music playing) Let's listen in the track.
(Music playing) Now we can hear it in the track, but it doesn't get in the way of anything and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make sure that there is no frequencies that clash anywhere. Usually, you may be boosting the other instruments at 4K or 5K because it's a typical presence frequency for a lot of instruments, but it's just the opposite on strings.
So on strings usually we want to get rid of that little bit or at least attenuate it somewhat. The final frequency range that we want to look at is between 7K and 10K, which gives the strings some brightness. But we have to be careful. If we add too much, we can actually make everything sound little scratchy there. So what we're going to do is just boost it a little bit. I'm going to boost it more than I normally would just so you can hear the effect and let's solo it and play. (Music playing) Let's listen in the track.
(Music playing) Once again just by listening to a track by itself, be it the strings or any other track, in EQing doesn't really get you where you want to go a lot of times and that's just a solo instrument. What you're you trying to do is have each instrument sit well in the track with all the other instruments combined and sometimes something that sounds terrible soloed sounds terrific in the track.
So just by soloing something and making it sound good doesn't necessarily mean it's going to work with the other instruments. What I'm showing you here is more of an illustration of the frequency points that work, but it's not something that you have to use every time you EQ the strings or any other instrument. Also remember that a high-pass filter will get rid of a lot of the unwanted low frequencies that don't add anything to the sound, except in the case where you have basses in the string section and then you have to be very careful when you use that.
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