Join Scott Hirsch for an in-depth discussion in this video Adding EQ to the mix, part of Up and Running with Pro Tools.
- Mixing has a lot to do with the levels of your tracks, and the panning of those tracks, but there's a lot more to it than that. Equalization can help enhance or remove frequencies in your tracks, to help them fit together in the mix. In this movie, we'll explore the real time EQ plug-ins that ship with Pro Tools 12, and we'll use them to enhance our mix. Here we're gonna touch on the multi-band EQ that ships free with Pro Tools, called EQ3. But, you should know there is a whole range of EQ plugins out there on the market.
And now, in Pro Tools, you have this Marketplace pull down menu. If I click in here, and I click on Plug-ins... It takes me to the Marketplace. It'll ask you to Sign in to Your Avid Account, if you have an Avid Account, but even if you don't, you can click on the home button and see some of the available plug-ins that are out there for purchase. Now, if I click on EQ, it'll filter by the EQ type. So here I get to see a bunch of different EQs, like for example the Graphic EQ, the Focusrite EQ, and the Pultech EQs.
These are all EQs that are sold by Avid, and you can buy them, or even rent them for a short period of time, right here in the Marketplace pulldown menu from within your Pro Tools session. So that's kind of an interesting way to get the plug-ins you need, even for a short amount of time. If you're working on a mix for a week, you can actually rent some of the plug-ins you might need. So let's get into using these plug-ins. I'm gonna demonstrate at first on the drums track. So I'm gonna solo the drums track, because drums have a wide range of frequencies, it's a good place to start hearing what an EQ like EQ 3 can bring to the table, in terms of enhancing or decreasing certain frequencies.
So I'm just pop over to a edit window for a second. And I'll double click the drums clip to highlight that area of the song. Playback was just going, so I'll stop playback. And I'm gonna actually right click on the play button, and loop playback, so it'll continue to loop through this section of the drums. I'll just make actually a even smaller selection. So we'll hear that, and that's a good thing to do when you're mixing, if you need to hear a section over and over. You can always enable loop playback by right clicking on the playback button, and it'll loop over and over again.
So I'm gonna pop back to the mix window, and I'll insert the EQ on the top insert slot of my insert. So multichannel plug-in, EQ, and then EQ3 7-Band. So this gives us seven different EQ bands. And the bands are different, depending on what you want them to be. In other words, we have the high pass filter, HPF, and the low pass filter, lemme start there. Now those filters are useful for cutting out low frequencies and high frequencies.
The high pass filter, if I click in, starts to shave off low frequency. So this chart over here shows us our frequencies, from the lowest frequency at 20 hertz, to the highest frequency at 20 kilohertz. And it turns out that most usable music frequencies exist a little bit above even 30 hertz, and it's a good idea for a lot of the channels in your mix, to increase the slope of this high pass filter, and pull this out a little bit. The lowest sound on the drum kit is the kick drum, and even that doesn't need to extend down to 20, because down there, at the lowest frequencies is all the rumble and a lot of muddy stuff that we might not need.
So it's a good habit, and a good habit that I get into, where I always use a high-pass filter on almost every track. And if it's something like a guitar or a synthesizer that contains frequencies that are much higher in the range, I'll even increase the high-pass filter, as far up to as even 80 hertz sometimes, just to get rid of any low rumblings out there. In drums I'm not gonna be, I'm not gonna go that high. I'm gonna keep it down, maybe around 40 hertz. So everything below 40 hertz is now being cut out, and it's just a good way to get rid of unwanted stuff.
So EQ can be enhancing, but it can also be a way to remove things you don't want. So let me move on, all of these five bands down at the bottom, they can be different types. Now this is the low frequency filter, and it's currently set to be the shelving filter. And you'll see this, when I turn up the gain, it actually increases lower frequencies as a shelf. So it's a different shape than the low-pass filter, it's a shelving filter. And you can use this to enhance, or decrease low frequencies.
Let me just play the track, and I'm gonna increase it, and you'll hear how the low frequencies are increased. I'm gonna move the frequency band up a little bit, to about 200 hertz. So now basically, we're gonna be increasing and decreasing everything below 200 hertz. (drums playing) So as I turn up the gain, I'm hearing the low frequency increase. So it's not a kick drum got louder. And I can decrease that. (drums playing) So I actually like a little bit of a low end bump on this drum set.
Nothing crazy, just maybe one and half dB's, just to enhance that kick drum a little bit. And everything else, I can do the same thing, except it's oriented in the other direction for a high shelf up at the high end. So if you wanna hear the cymbals louder, for example, we can use the upper high shelf to enhance or decrease the cymbals. (drums playing) And now you can really hear a high hat, the high hat has increased. Or if you wanna lessen the high hat, you can use this to carve away a little bit of it.
I actually like it, pretty much flat there. So that's the EQ I would do on the drum. I just want a little bit of low end boost, and I'm gonna carve away some of the low frequencies. And let's open up the same EQ on the bass track, and we'll talk about these middle bands here. Go ahead and scroll down to find our bass track, which is over here. I'll solo that track, I'll take the solo off the drums track. And let me insert the EQ on the bass track. It'll be after the amp emulator.
So I'm going to EQ, EQ3 7-Band, so it's the same one. I'm gonna want to engage the high-pass filter, just to get rid of any super low rumbling. Now the bass is a low instrument, so I'm not gonna get too crazy here, maybe I'll keep this at 30 hertz. And it's just a good habit to get into, can clarify your whole mix if you have these high-pass filters in place. But now I wanna deal with the middle band, so I have these three middle bands. This is low mid, LMF, mid, and high mid. And these are parametric EQs.
So you can see, when I increase the gain, it's actually a parametric, kind of bell shape EQ. And you can decrease or increase the width of the bell by changing the Q value. So if I go to a narrow bell, it'll really peek out, and pick a certain very specific range of frequencies to increase. Or, if I go below the line, decrease. Or I can make the bell shape a little wider. And that's gonna be more natural sounding overall, the wider you get, but now you're dealing with increasing a larger range of frequencies.
So let me just listen to the sound of the bass here, and see if I can work with either the low mid or maybe the mid frequency, which is the one just a little bit above that. Of course, you can always move around the center point of the top of the bell shape, or the top of the parametric EQ, you can move that frequency point around. So I'm gonna work with that, and see if I can carve out a sound that I like with the bass. So let me turn it off for starters, and hear it flat. (bass guitar playing) And then engage it, so I can hear, I'm boosting those mid frequencies.
Or I can remove them. But, yeah that's really changing the sound. A lot of the bass sound in this case, because we're distorting it, lies in that middle range. So, one area I actually don't like so much is somewhere around the 350 to 400 range. It's got a real boxy sound. And I wanna take this up to narrow the Q a little bit. And just notch a teeny bit of that out. Not too much, so we lose it all together, but just a little bit of that boxy sound.
Maybe -1.8 dB. Carve that out. And one thing I do like is some of the bite, right, all the bite ends up being right up here around 2k, if you hear. That's really the bite of the bass, and I think that's kind of nice, aggressive sound for this bass. So I'm gonna widen the Q a teeny bit, and I'll increase the bite of the bass just a little bit, 2.5 dB. (bass playing) So that's how we can use the middle range, the low mid, the mid, and the high mid.
Then you can alter their Q's, so the wideness, and carve out the middle of the frequencies. So we saw earlier how we used the shelves for the high and low, and then we have the filters to filter out any unwanted sound on the low end. Now, at this point, we wanna go through each track and see if there's anything we wanna remove or enhance with EQ. But, I wanna tell you that we've been soloing tracks and making these EQ choices, and that's not always the ideal way to EQ. Cus when you're mixing, it's all about making the tracks blend together.
So I actually would shy away from doing what I did here, which is to solo the track, and make the changes. You actually wanna listen to all the tracks together, and make sure that your EQ moves are blending and working with the other frequencies of the other tracks in the song. So let me just listen and see if these changes I make work, and then what I would do, is I would start to continue and start EQing all the other tracks in ways that help enhance the song, as an overall piece of music. (bass and accompanying instruments playing) Okay, I do like that bite that we've added with the bass, and I like how we've carved out a little bit of that boxy stuff to make room for other instruments, like the cowbell for example.
That's working for me, and then drums are gonna come in, and we can hear if that low end boost is helping. (drums start playing) Nice. I like the power now that we've added, of the kick drum with our EQ. So once we go through all of our tracks and we take care of the frequency based needs of our mix, it's time to think about the dynamic range, and the relative volume of all of our tracks, and if we can help harness that in. In the next movie, we'll explore some real time compression plug-ins to harvest the power of our tracks dynamically.
Find more tutorials on our Pro Tools page.
- Setting up Pro Tools 12
- Working with templates
- Creating a drumbeat
- Loop recording
- Editing and arranging audio and MIDI
- Adjusting tempo
- Adding EQ and compression to the mix
- Performing real-time automation
- Bussing audio
- Creating reverb and delay
- Finalizing and exporting your mix