The equalizer (EQ) is a very important tool for molding the sound of individual instruments in the mix. The EQ is also very important for positioning instruments in the frequency spectrum during the mixdown process. This is done by boosting the frequencies that are characteristic of each instrument and cutting frequencies that are conflicting with other instruments. In this way you can establish a niche for each instrument in the mix which in turn lead to a more transparent listening experience.
Removing Resonance Frequencies
To keep your mix clear from the start you can begin by removing disruptive resonance frequencies from each instrument channel. To find the resonance frequencies sweep through the frequency spectrum of the EQ with a high Q-factor and high gain setting. These settings will make the resonance identifiable as humming or high-pitched chiming.
When you find the disruptive frequency ranges you can lower them or cut them completely.
Feel free to drastically lower the gain factor while doing this because the correction only affects a narrow frequency band.
Boosting the Wanted Frequencies
In contrast to the last section we can boost the wanted frequencies with a low Q-factor. The best way to do this is to use shelving settings on the lowest and highest wanted frequencies. When performing wideband boosting of wanted frequencies it is best to be more careful with the gain knob than you were when removing the resonance frequencies.
Preventing Masking and Interference with Multiply Occurring Wanted Frequencies
To ensure a balanced and transparent mix it is absolutely crucial that you create a frequency gap for another instrument in the same frequency range when boosting the frequencies of an instrument. For example, to keep the sound transparent it is recommended to boost the bass drum under 100 kHz using shelving EQ while removing exactly this frequency range from the hi-hat using a high-pass filer.
Considering that the frequency selection is affected by many factors such as the style of music, instrumentation, recording space, microphones used etc. these instructions are only meant as a rough guideline. When using EQ – as with all mixing processes – there are no strict rules. The best thing to do is trust your own ears and use our recommendations as a starting point for developing your own sound.
The fundamental tone of a kick drum lies in the low frequency range between 60 Hz and 100 Hz. This means you can remove the sub-bass range below this to prevent any unwanted booming. The characteristic attack sound of a kick drum can be enhanced by boosting the range between 3.5 kHz and 5 kHz. If you want to remove the skin noise, boost the signal around 800 Hz.
Here are some EQ recommendations for the kick drum:
Sub-bass range under 45 Hz: LoCut
Bass range 60Hz: Trigger Sinuston
Bass range 100 Hz: +3dB
Skin noise 800 Hz. +2dB
Attack 3.5 kHz to 5 kHz: +4dB
Tip: If your bass drum sound is still too muffled, you can brighten it by reducing the frequency range between 250 Hz and 300 Hz.
Here’s how to trigger a 60 Hz sine tone to thicken up the kick signal:
Step 1: In the “Effects” menu open the waveform generator and set the waveform to “sine” and the frequency to 60 Hz.
Step 2: In the following dialog you can specify in which folder the generated audio file should be saved.
The 60 Hz sine ton now appears as an object in the kick track.
Step 3: Create a new track with the name “60HzSine” and drag the generated sine tone object into it.
Now on this track you will hear a continuous sine tone of 60 Hz. However, this should only be audible when the kick signal is present to ensure that it has the necessary pressure. To set this up you can use a sidechain-compatible gate effect to trigger the sine tone.
Step 4: Load the advanced dynamics into the plug-in slot of the pink noise track.
Step 5: In the effect dialog activate the sidechain input and „Spur 01: Kick”.
With this setting the sine tone effect will be triggered by the kick signal.
Step 6: In „Advanced Dynamics” select the „Gate” preset and switch to „Gate & Limiter” mode. The „Reaction” parameter should be set to „Peak”. Setting the gate level to -22 dB means that the signal will only be allowed through when the kick hit has sufficient volume. For our example the best results can be achieved with an Attack Time of 15.5 ms and a Release Time of 70.8 ms.
Step 7: You can use the channel fader of the sine curve to define how much bottom end your kick signal should have.
Another option for editing the various frequencies is called “Multing”. This refers to the different treatments of various duplicate tracks. Multing is particularly useful when working on drums, especially the bass drum and snare, because it allows you to bring out specific sound characteristics. In the following example we want to mix the characteristics of the different kick drum sounds together on two separate tracks.
Step 1: Load the kick signal onto a track and duplicate the object by holding down the Shift and Ctrl keys and dragging it to two separate tracks.
First mute the original track and the second duplicate tracks.
Step 2: The first duplicated bass drum track will be used to create the foundation of the sound. To create a solid base we’ll boost the range around 50 Hz. Because this track is only meant for the bottom end, we’ll reduce the frequency range around 2.6 kHz.
Step 3: Now we’ll mute the first duplicate bass drum track and deactivate the mute on the second duplicate bass drum track.
This duplicate will be used to add more attack and punch to the sound. To do this we’ll boost the frequencies between 5 kHz and 12 kHz. At the same time we’ll roll off the frequencies under 150 kHz.
Step 4: Now we can deactivate the mute on the first duplicate track and mix the two signals together. This gives you the best of both worlds: A natural sounding bottom end with lots of punchy attack.
Tip: In addition to adjusting the EQ on the duplicate tracks we can also use them for other processing such as applying gates or compressors to create an even more distinct sound. You can also mix in the original track along with the duplicates.
Next time we’ll look at how to boost the snare with help of the EQ and how to simulate snare ambiance using pink noise.
We hope you have fun creating the optimal bass sound with the EQ.