Join Brian Lee White for an in-depth discussion in this video A working example: filtering loops, part of Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering.
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While not part of the Take Me Down session, I thought this was an important EQ example to point out. Many of us are working with prerecorded, looped, or sample material these days, either exclusively or as components of a larger production. And one of the problems that I find with commercial loops, synth, or sampler patches is that as they ship, they tend to be way too big to combine with other large loops or elements in a mix effectively. Why would a company make a sound huge? Well, it sells more loops.
If you listen to something in isolation and it sounds really thin, you're probably going to say, eh, I don't really want to use this. And so you're finding that a lot of companies aren't making things pre-built to fit in hundred-track pop arrangements more than they're building things to sound really impressive by themselves. In an example I'd like to relate that to is stock photography or clipart. You're generally going to get it in a very high resolution which are probably going to need to scale that down to a smaller size to fit into the context of the project you're working on.
The other thing is many loops have kick drums and when we add a bunch of kick drums together, it usually kind of creates a low-frequency nightmare, both from an arrangement standpoint in then you've got different kick drums, different rhythms playing, as well as a sonic standpoint, where all the loading just kind of blurs into one line note. So let's take a listen to these two loops here in isolation. (music playing) And Loop 2.
(music playing) Both are fairly broadband, containing both low frequencies as well as high frequencies, and they both have kick drums with a lot of sub-bass. Now the kick drums are playing different rhythms, so if I combine these together without EQ, it could get kind of messy. (music playing) Now, unless I really liked that kick- drum pattern that resulted from combining those two loops, what I want to do is I want to carve off, or scale down, one of the loops to remove the low frequencies, and I can do this using a high-pass filter.
So if I activate this EQ, I've set a high-pass filter right around 1K, and if we listen an isolation -- (music playing) --we can hear that the kick-drum has almost completely disappeared. You hear a little bit of the top end, and that's normal, but all that low-frequency stuff is just gone. So now when I combine the two-- (music playing) --I basically get to keep the hi-hats in the percussion of Loop 2 while using the low end of Loop 1.
Now I could actually swap this so that I kept the low end of Loop 2 -- (music playing) --but the clap of Loop 1. So the idea here is I'm scaling these sounds down. I'm taking what are very broadband sounds and I'm scaling them down using a high-pass or sometimes a low-pass filter.
Let's say I wanted to remove the high frequencies from Loop 2. I could use a low-pass filter-- (music playing) --and maybe I want to use a high-pass filter here. (music playing) So basically, I'm using these filters to rein in or wrangle the frequencies that I want and throw away the frequencies I don't want.
Now with a high- and low-pass filter your Q value is going to determine the role off or the aggressiveness of that filter. So here I'm at 12 dbs/octave, but I could go all the way up to 24 dbs/octave. That means if my filter starts at 1K x 2K, the signal has been attenuated by 24 dbs. Using high-pass and low-pass filters is a good example of complementary EQ, because I'm adjusting the frequency spectrum of one element to fit better with the other elements in my session.
I can also add automation to these filters to get cool DJ-style effects. (music playing) Effectively using high- or low-pass filters to rein in your big-sounding loops and samples is a great way to fit many ideas in a mix space without things getting too out of hand. Remember, while it may be attempting to add lots of percussion and drum loops layered into one session, even if things sonically fit together, there is no guarantee that they will fit together from an arrangement standpoint.
In other words, too much may just be too much for the listener to comprehend, but the next time you're working with loops or really big synth sounds, definitely try to integrate low-pass and high- pass filters to effectively place big elements into a dense mix.
- What is mixing? Exploring the past, present, and future
- Mixing "in the box"
- Setting up monitors and ensuring proper acoustics in the studio
- Staying organized with labels, memory locations, and window configurations
- Working with the Pro Tools Mixer
- Building healthy and profitable mixing habits when putting together a final mix
- Using volume and pan to balance the mix
- Employing corrective versus creative EQ strategies to create clarity and contrast
- Knowing when and when not to process the audio of a track
- Working with compressors and dynamics processors
- Using saturation effects to capture an analog-type sound
- Adding reverb and delay to create depth in a mix
- Working with limiting and multiband compression during the mastering process
- Dealing with plug-in delay and latency in a mix
- Using the bundled plug-ins in Pro Tools to add clarity, punch, and width to a mix
- Recording and editing automation to add drama and excitement
- Using clip based gain to control headroom and gain staging