The Process of Audio Mixing (3)
Here are the steps involved in audio mixing a project. However, note that these often interact to a large extent, and at times you may find yourself going back to previous steps or anticipating future ones.
6. Start Working on EQ
Proper EQ is the secret to getting a great mix. For example, if you want a bass to sound good over small speakers (which don't have good bass response), increase a bit of the upper mid-range and treble of the bass track to give the sound more "snap". This helps the part cut through onlittle speakers, whereas a "boomier" bass sound would get lost.
Again, though, EQ does not exist in a vacuum. If you pump up the upper midrange for more intelligibility on vocal track, this will tend to block out guitar, piano, and other mid-range instruments. Think of EQ as smoothing that makes all the tracks fit so that when mixed together, they will fill tip the entire audio spectrum without any one band of frequencies predominating. (A spectrum analyzer is a great learning tool when mixing.) As an example of how this works, consider a band with drums, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, piano, vocals, and string pads. In the case of the vocal, a moderate upper mid-range boost increases intelligibility and "breathiness", thusmaking the vocals more human and distinct. To keep this from interfering with the background, notch the rhythm guitar response a bit at the same frequency where you boosted the voice. (A parametric equalizer, which can specify center frequency, boost or cut amount, and bandwidth, is best in this application, because you can zero in on a particular frequency, make a shallow notch - also known as a cut - with a variable bandwidth, and effectively eliminate a range of frequencies from the guitar sound.) The rhythm guitar then has a bright top and full bottom, but the mid-range stays out of the way of the featured soloists, the vocal, and the lead guitar.
The technique of using a parametric equalizer, with the Q adjusted to the highest "Q" number (the narrowest bandwidth) and sweeping the equalizer on full boost (or cut) through the frequency band to identify where the 'center frequency of the equalizer is located within the context of the music playing through; can be very useful as a TUNING TOOL. This is NOT to suggest that you should often use the equalizer when adjusted to full boost & minimum bandwidth. Onceyou locate the frequency, you can then reduce to less boost (or cut) as is appropriate.
For example: If you are equalizing a snare drum which has a bothersome 'ring' in it's tunning that you wish to de-accentuate; you can tune a fully boosted, high Q equalizer through that frequency range, just to find the annoying tone and, once the frequency is set; then reduce the levelat that frequency.
Drums have their own natural way of filling out the frequency spectrum, which is why they're often optimized first in a mix. (Another reason for optimizing drums first, instead of vocals, is that with many tunes, the rhythm is actually more important than the vocals or lyrics.) The kickhandles the bottom, the toms the mid-range, the snare the midrange and some highs, and the cymbals, the highs. By adjusting the level of each part of the drum set, you can do a lot of tailoring before you even have to touch the EQ.
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