Learning EQ Techniques

I’m getting ready to record new vocals for a track my band recorded a while back. The drummer sang the song, but there are some high notes he doesn’t quite hit, and there’s no way I can fix them. So I’m going to record a new vocal track myself, and then give him the option of choosing between the two.
The reason I mention this is that I’ve already EQ’d the song, tweaking the various tracks so that they mix better. I’ve finally pieced together the one thing that’s always been missing from my recordings. I was never able to understand why, no matter how hard I worked, my tracks always wound up sounding like mere demos. They never had that final layer of polishing that professional recordings have. I finally figured out that it had something to do with a technique called “EQ shaping”.
Long story short, EQ shaping just means that you sculpt the equalization of each instrument so that it sits better in the mix. So, for example, if you have a guitar track at full range, there will be lower frequencies on the track that are outside of the natural, predominant range of the guitar. But there is still audio in those frequencies. That goes for anything you record. Vocals, bass, drums. There is always audio that’s recorded on those tracks that exists outside of the natural frequency range of that instrument. So that audio in the low frequency of the guitar track tries to exist in the same low frequency of, say, a bass guitar. And the higher frequency above a bass guitar’s natural range tried to exist in the same frequency as guitar. When you have multiple audio sources in the same sonic space like that, it can create an audio traffic jam that muddies up the mix. Using EQ to give each track its own space in the frequency spectrum makes it possible to hear multiple elements without anything being washed out or covered up.
This is the final big piece in the puzzle for me, as far as recording goes. Sure, there are still some things I need to learn about Mastering, but getting the Mix right is the biggest issue. Mastering is just polishing. But if you get the Mix right before you go to the Mastering, it’s a lot easier to polish.
I’m excited to learn this stuff, and the frequency ranges and tweak-able frequencies of various instruments. I’ve been amazed at the difference it makes on my tracks. On one hand, the differences are subtle, but on another they’re striking. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what the differences are, but I think most people could definitely pick out the track that had been properly EQ’d as the one that sounds the best. It’s just clearer, and the ambiance is more spacious.
Needless to say, I’m excited about what this might mean to my original recordings. And I’m thankful that we recorded so many songs with Systematic Chaos. Those recordings have provided me with a wonderful laboratory to shake out Cubase, WaveLab and certain plug-ins, not to mention giving me the opportunity to learn new recording techniques and refine old ones. This will make a big difference as I record tracks for the Crewe CD in the next couple of months.

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