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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 the DigiRack EQ III serves as Pro Tools go to console EQ. It comes in three different flavors. 1-Band, 4-Band and 7-Band, all which sound identical, the only difference being the number of bands available. The DigiRack EQ is designed to be a clean, easy to use ChannelStrip EQ and it does just that. Because of its intuitive user interface, I find myself using it all over the place and I'm going to take you through the interface and explain equalization using the DigiRack EQ.
So generally there are two different types of EQs that we are going to use in mixing. There's a graphic equalizer, which is going to have a certain number of fixed bands, 100Hz, 200Hz, 300Hz, 400 etcetera. You can't change the frequency of each band. You can either lower or boost the fixed frequencies and then there are parametric EQs and EQ III is a parametric equalizer. We are going to use these much more often in mixing because of their flexibility, because we can change things like the filter frequency and the bandwidth and things like that.
So EQs are split up generally into multiple bands and so if I have an EQ III 7-Band, I'm going to have seven different bands represented here by the different colors. And each one of those bands represents a unique change to the instrument's frequency response that I can make. So again, we go back to this concept of a frequency specific mixer. This would sort of be like in a sense the number of channels in that mixer, the number of unique opportunities I have to either boost or cut specific ranges of frequencies on any given instrument.
The DigiRack EQ specifically is designed to be a very transparent EQ. It's not designed to sound like any sort of vintage EQ. It's not even designed to look like any vintage EQ. It's mostly set up to be easy to use with the mouse or a control surface and it's very DSP efficient. So it's not going to take up a lot of processing power. Now, there are 1, 4 and 7-Band versions like I said and the only reason you would use one over the other is for DSP efficiency.
So if you only need one band of EQ, use that. You are going to pull less power from your computer. If you need all seven bands, no problem. It's still very efficient. But it's important to know that each EQ sounds the same for a given band that you are using. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to pull up the 1-Band EQ and just use that as an example here on the acoustic guitar so that we can listen to what the EQ does for us. Now, the cool thing about using the 1- Band EQ is that if you can learn and understand all the features of the 1- Band EQ, you are going to be able to use the 7-Band EQ and in fact, if you learn to use the EQ III, you are going to be able to use almost any EQ out there, either software or hardware.
They all share the same basic common feature set. If we take a look at the 1-Band's graphic interface, what I see here on my right-hand side is a graph that's going to show me frequency on the x-axis and amplitude on the y so I can see if I'm boosting or cutting and that would be adding gain or removing gain from a specific frequency range. If we just listen here to what that does.
(Music playing) Again, it's sort of like this frequency specific volume control. I can choose a specific set of frequencies and either increase or decrease their volume. Now, if we go over here and we talk about the different types that we can select here, the most common type that we are going to be working with is a peak or parametric filter and how that's defined is with a center frequency.
Whenever I boost or cut, a sort of mountain is formed around that center frequency and the width or size of that mountain is defined by the Q or the bandwidth. So higher Q settings mean a more narrow mountain and you are affecting less frequencies around the center frequency when you will increase that Q. When I decrease the Q, I get a wider mountain and effectively, I'm boosting more frequencies around this center frequency.
And so the visuals here really help you kind of understand what frequencies are being affected. If you can look at the color here, that's really representing what's happening. In this case, what's being boosted or increased or if I turn the Gain down, what's being decreased. Again, you can think of the Gain as sort of like the volume or level control for this specific filter, for this set of frequencies that we defined by the center frequency and the Q. Now, there are other types of filters here and if I just go left or right, we start with a High-Pass filter and you will notice I don't have a Gain parameter here and that's because what a High-Pass filter is designed to do.
It's designed to cut out all of the low frequencies from the filter frequency down. So if I set this to 100Hz that means below 100Hz we are cutting and we are doing so at a rate of 12dB/octave. So if I go from 100 and I cut that in half to 50Hz the lower octave, I would have attenuated this signal by 12dB. So I increase that to let's say 24dB/ octave, that's a much more aggressive filter.
So at 50Hz, I would have attenuated this signal by 24dB. So let's listen to what this sounds like. (Music playing) So you hear all of the low end of that instrument being cut out and this type of filter is really, really useful for reining in the frequency ranges of really boomy or broadband instruments or loops and things like that.
I'll actually use High-Pass filters quite a bit. Now, I'll show you some specific examples of where they are very useful. Now, if I go to the Notch filter, a Notch filter again does not have any Gain. It's designed to notch out very aggressively, a specific frequency. And you are going to notice that the Q setting, when I increase it, allows me to notch out a very, very fine set of frequencies around the filter frequency or the center frequency. And this is going to be for notching out things like 60 cycle hum or air conditioning noise or specific things like that.
I occasionally use this but not nearly as much as the high low pass filters or the parametric filters. Now, a shelving filter is probably what you are used to using on your home stereo or your car stereo and what it's going to do is if I set the filter frequency let's say to 10K and then I boost, what I'm getting is a Gain increase at the filter frequency and higher to everything from 10K up is being boosted by 7.5dB in this case.
Now, the Q determines sort of the slope there of that shelf. Is it very gentle, so does it start here below the filter frequency, increasing or is it very sharp? Now, in order to get this amount of sharpness, we are going to lose some frequencies right here. So we are going to kind of get a little bit of a dip and this is something that happens with really aggressive shelves. This is just in the nature of how an EQ processes an audio signal.
Now, let's listen to this. (Music playing) So the High-Shelf filter is going to be very useful for adding things like air or pulling back some of the brightness of certain instruments, maybe pushing in into the distance a little bit.
I'll give you some specific examples of that a little later. Now, on the opposite end of a High- shelf would be a Low-Shelf here and a Low-Shelf does the exact same thing as a High-Shelf but with the low end. So starting at the filter frequency, I'm either reducing or increasing everything from the filter frequency down. Again the Q is going to control the sort of aggressiveness of this slope and let's go ahead and listen. (Music playing) So again, you are probably familiar with the shelving filters on a car stereo.
Generally the low and the high EQ controls on a car stereo are fixed frequency shelving filters. So it might be the low end at 250Hz and you could either boost or cut with a very gentle shelf and the high end is going to be the same thing. Maybe up at like 5K or 10K or something like that. The last one here is called the Low-Pass filter and it's the exact same thing as the High-Pass filter except what we are doing is we are cutting out all the highs, essentially lighting the lows, pass through.
Again, no Gain control, the aggressiveness of our filter is going to be determined by the Q or the dB/octave. So if I set the center frequency let's say to 1000Hz, everything above 1000Hz is going to be removed. Now, how that gets removed is determined by the Q and you can see the curve adjusting there. So let's listen to this. (Music playing) So if you have ever walked out of a nightclub or walked into the bathroom at a loud concert, you may have experienced sort of what Low-Pass filtering does, is sort of the high frequencies are easily absorbed, whereas the low frequencies were carried much further.
So Low-Pass filters are actually very effective at sort of distancing things in your mix and sort of can be a really cool way again of reining in on a very broadband frequency rich signal, and sort of putting it in a very specific place. Now, I have a few tricks to share with you on the DigiRack EQ, there are some really cool key commands that you can use. And one of my favorite things about the DigiRack EQ is that I can manipulate the EQ entirely with my mouse and keyboard shortcuts.
So when I'm not working with the control surface and I don't have physical knobs to work with, I can actually use my mouse with keyboard shortcuts to manipulate all the features here. So if I'm boosting or cutting I can just click on the little node, drag up or down or left and right, I can change Frequency and Gain. Now, if I want to change the Q or the bandwidth here, I can hold down Ctrl on the Mac or Start on the PC and drag up or down or left or right to make that wider or skinnier.
So that's really, really neat there. Now, another really cool trick is if I hold down Ctrl+Shift or Start+Shift on the PC, I can create sort of a little band pass filter that allows me to hear just that frequency band that I'm working on and this is kind of cool because, if I'm trying to find a frequency that's really annoying me or maybe I'm trying to find that instrument's resonate frequency or fundamental, I want to kind of kick that up in the mix or the snap on a kick drum or the sparkle on a guitar, I can just kind of hold down Ctrl+ Shift and kind of mouse side to side.
If I narrow the Q out a little bit, and get a narrower band there and just listen through. So let's listen to what that sounds like. (Music playing) And that's actually a really effective practice technique to kind of learn what's happening at different frequencies within an instrument.
I highly suggest that you go through and you take some basic instruments, some guitars, bass, vocals and you just kind of sweep through, and you listen to where things live, where does sort of the body of that sound live, where does the meat live, where is some of the muddiness or the sparkle or the tininess. It's important to remember that again, if we go back to relating frequencies to pitch and instruments only being able to play within certain octaves. Unless we are talking about a piano and most instruments have a specific range that they work in.
It would make sense that not all frequencies being booster cut would make sense for those instruments. If an instrument doesn't have anything down at 50Hz, there is no sense in boosting or cutting that. So what you can do is kind of boost and sweep around until you find a specific frequency you are looking for. If it's an offensive frequency, you can kind of boost around and then cut. If I Shift-click there, it just flips the polarity from 15.6 boost to -15.6.
Again, that's just the Shift-click and to reset the node, I can just Option-click to get it back to the 0 point. So again, learning the DigiRack EQ allow you to use almost any equalizer, whether it's a plug-in or outboard EQ and no matter what DAW you are working in, they generally have the same characteristics in terms of filter types. One thing you want to understand is that each EQ sounds a little bit different. Some EQs are designed to be transparent. Some are designed to add a little bit of saturation. But I think you will find that the EQ III is one that's so easy to use and so intuitive that you will come back to it time and time again, even if it is the free EQ that comes with Pro Tools.
So again, I suggest that you go through the example session. Take a look at some of the EQ settings and boost and sweep and kind of cut and move things around and listen to how that affects the quality of the sound and kind of commit those sounds to memory. So that it's sort of an ear training exercise for when you actually need to make EQ changes to an instrument.
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