Wednesday, June 26, 2013

EQ for Guitar: Finding the Nasty Frequencies

We have talked about sweeping EQs in earlier blog posts but this time we are going to get even more detailed. The goal for this post is to find the nasty frequencies in your guitar tone (or any other instrument) and reduce it in order to bring the savory nuances to light and allow them to cut through in your mix.

For starters, you need to have a flat EQ as shown in Fig. 1:

You will need to know the frequency range of your instrument in order to precisely adjust your EQ. For guitar, much of the juiciness sits between 250 Hz and 5 kHz. You will probably want to go ahead and use an HPF or high pass filter (the grey node to the left that slopes down sharply) and adjust to taste as shown in Fig. 2:

I have also tightened up the Q on the LMF node (orange) and maxed it out. You want the Q as tight as it can go because this mixing technique is about isolation and honing in on the nasty frequencies in a particular track. If you have a wide Q, there won't be as much isolation and it will be harder to tell which frequency is the bad one. Please note that this is NOT a pleasant setting to the ears, but that is the idea. You have to go bad, before you make it sound good. This EQ was used for a guitar track and I swept (moved the node) back and forth (the orange one in this case) until I found the worst frequency possible in the guitar. So go ahead and sweep your EQ and find the villain that is causing issues.

Once you have found the nasty, lower the gain on the frequency by moving the node down as shown in Fig. 3:

When it comes to how far you should lower the gain, you will need to use your ears. While that frequency when overused could cause issues in your track, it may contribute a small something that would be missed if eliminated entirely. When you think you have found the proper gain setting on your troublesome frequency, widen the Q a bit. This will help to grab any slightly troubling frequencies surrounding the one you dropped. However, if widening the Q seems to thin out the sound too much, then leave it alone. Again, use your ears and don't go overboard.

At this point, you might be done with your particular track in regards to EQ. Sometimes subtractive EQ offers just the right amount of sound to cut through the mix and therefore requires no further adjustment. However, if your track does need a little more proceed with caution as too much salt will ruin a meal.

How do you approach EQ and finding nasty frequencies? Please leave comments and responses below!