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Old 09-01-2008, 11:54 PM   #21
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Re: General EQing Reference

My preference is to leave that space for a clean kick and Bass. but happily leave a little bit of body in the snare at 250Hz-350Hz or so. Having said that, listening is the game not prescribing rules, So by all means leave a bunch of 100Hz in your snare.

That site also seems to advocate additive EQ. I'll rarely produce additively. I prefer to build a high harmonic signal and make way for frequencies in the mix. You have to have a pretty nice EQ to add. and while plugins are pretty good now. its best done with a high resolution signal to really be worth it IMHO. Cheers
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Originally Posted by zcritter View Post
100 Hz on the snare might not be a crazy idea. Check this out: recordingwebsite.com/articles/eqprimer.php

Very new at this stuff. Just lookin for answers, not trouble.


Cheers

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Old 22-02-2008, 04:51 PM   #22
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Re: General EQing Reference

Well useful mate thanx for putting it up
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Old 29-02-2008, 08:35 PM   #23
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Re: General EQing Reference

Looks like a good guide! I agree with disjunction. Critical Listening is KEY!

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Old 02-03-2008, 05:57 PM   #24
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Re: General EQing Reference

wow. great guide. I have been looking for smothing like this for MONTHS. I have been using this pretty cool book I bought from Yamaha a few years ago called "The Sound Reinforcement Handbook". It gets pretty in depth. It covers everything from Midi code to Harmonic Distortion to how to repair you mics and speakers to live sound and room space. Very cool book but hard to pick out specifics cus it covers so much. That post just made things a little bit easier for me. Thanx.
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Old 16-03-2008, 01:31 PM   #25
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Musical Equalisation

I remember coming across this expression when I started studying the theory of sound in greater depth. I would hear people talking about how a specific production had really musical eq work done on it and I never quite grasped the definition of the term. However, as time has gone on I've developed my own understanding of what makes the application of EQ musical and how to achieve it.

Now, I am by no means an expert on the topic. But I thought I would share my insights and the techniques I've learnt to create very harmonic equalisations in my productions. I think this would be a really interesting topic for conversation around here and I'm very interested to hear what others have to say on the topic and if anything I'm saying isn't quite accurate, then I welcome any further clarification.

This is quite a detailed explanation so I'm going to write it in several parts. The first is my attempt at trying to explain what I am referring to when I describe an EQ's application as being musical.

Before I you read on, please forgive me for my crude laymen's explanation. I've always found this topic to be very difficult to understand and I am yet to find any freely available text on the matter which does any better than my attempts below. The only solid reference that I have on the topic as I write this is years and years of anecdotal information, countless hours of experimentation and the last remaining memories I have from my physics and music theory pre-exam cram sessions.

PART ONE: What does the term musical mean in reference to equalisation?

In simple terms, musicality in EQ refers to its application in a way that accentuates the harmonic content of the sounds being effected.

This is a process of identifying the frequency bands that are present which are in harmony with the overall musical characteristics of the sounds being used. A crude example that demonstrates this would be an A note with a root frequency of 110 Hertz; also the root of the western octave. Logically, you would find that a boost of a few decibels at approximately 220 Hertz would further enhance the musical characteristics of the note in question as this frequency is exactly an octave higher than the root frequency. Such a boost would accentuate the harmonic content which give the note its characteristic sound.

Obviously, the application of such techniques is much more complex than the above example. Such an example would only really work on a sound with very little harmonic distortions and only for A notes whose frequencies simply need to be doubled to achieve an increase of one octave.

Like this:
A0 55
A1
110
A2
220
A4
440
A5
880
A6
1760
A7
3520
A8
7040
A9
14080

Let's just say that every other note's frequency is determined by taking the frequency of the high A note in its octave and dividing it by its fraction of 12. I think I'll leave it at that because such a division involves nasty mathematical symbols which may cause your head to explode. However, if you are interested, read this:
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I guess the point that I am trying to emphasise is that due to the exponential nature of our pitch perception, such an application is not linear and definitely not necessarily bound by a concrete set of rules. Therefore the accurate application of EQ in a way that is musical cannot simply be achieved by using mathematics. Paying attention to the numbers will only serve to give you a starting point in your search for the music.

The best tool you have at your disposal for identifying these frequencies are your ears and in part two I'll share a few little hacks I've learnt along the way that will let you quickly identify the musical content in your sounds and bring them out to full effect.

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Stay chooned for PART FOUR - Adapting the technique for other contexts

Last edited by Jaded; 19-03-2008 at 11:42 AM..
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Old 16-03-2008, 04:30 PM   #26
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Re: Musical Equalisation

That's wicked mate. Crazily enough I had a similar thought last night, which carried over to this morning. Up until today whenever i've got a sound that needs more bass, i've boosted the bass region - nowhere in particular, jus like fiddle around until it sounds right. With this tune i'm working on today though i've been paying much closer attention to where the cuts and boosts are. I've found that boosting the frequencies that feature in the key of the piece and in particular the notes of the sound in question, leads to a much better effect. Like, boosting around the tonic of the bass for instance, or finding frequencies in the drum parts that are in key with the piece. Brings it all together a bit more.
Without wishing to sound like a dweeb, i'm actually pretty well up on my music theory and i'm sure some of the conventions contained within music theory have relevance to things like eq-ing. Like, frequencies and notes are effectively the same thing to us CPU wielding musicians, and I believe it stands to reason that some of the more harmony orientated aspects of music theory can be applied to eq.

I think thats what your talking about isn't it. Fascinating post mate - interested to see what part 2 brings.
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Old 16-03-2008, 06:36 PM   #27
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Re: Musical Equalisation

Bob Katz has a great book called Matering Audio

on the firt page, there is a big scheme with defined freq and correlated notes.
it also has a scheme wich instruments occupy freq spectrum... (did it came out right, not so good in english =P )

it's an a must read
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Old 16-03-2008, 11:11 PM   #28
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Re: Musical Equalisation

I've got a widget that provides frequencies for notes but am wondering, if I boost a frequency higher than the note, am I boosting the harmonic in the process? Is this like when you create harmonic information for a bassline so it can be heard on really shitty speakers that roll-off lower freqs?

I'm looking forward to reading part two

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Old 17-03-2008, 01:01 AM   #29
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Re: Musical Equalisation

Yah i think you would be boosting the harmonics. And I don't know if that's the same as the bass thing u mention. I gather there is specialist software that does the harmonic info thing for shitty speakers, so i'm not sure why there would be specialist-ware if it were possible to just do it with an eq.

I would be interested to find out for sure though.

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Old 17-03-2008, 05:40 AM   #30
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Re: Musical Equalisation

This is an interesting idea that I'd never considered before. Using modular EQs to emphasize the melody in a piece is quite a unique idea.

I'd imagine it would have to be used quite subtly in order to be effective in any sort of conventional manner, though. I'm very interested in what you have to say about it, Jaded, and I will be keeping up with this thread for as long as you're willing to write it.

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Old 17-03-2008, 05:59 AM   #31
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Re: Musical Equalisation

Yeah, so I often think to myself about what makes a, say, lowpass filter in a synth sound "musical". Seems to be in some proportion the phase response that can have a "musical" signature to it, e.g., the moog sound (really the first seriously musical instrument grade synth filter), the phase response signature so distinct that a saw and pulse get kind of the same coloration.

When it comes to EQ, I'm still kind of not sure what is meant when an EQ itsself has a "musical" tone to it. It's not really used or designed like a synth's filter of course ... but I have to wonder what the engineers might do with a EQ circuit or plugin specifically for "musicality" that might otherwise be undesirable in say non-audio/scientific filtering applications where such things would be considered artifacts. Dunno ...

Last edited by cirric; 17-03-2008 at 06:02 AM..

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Old 17-03-2008, 11:06 AM   #32
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Re: Musical Equalisation

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Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
Up until today whenever i've got a sound that needs more bass, i've boosted the bass region - nowhere in particular, jus like fiddle around until it sounds right.
Now this kind of EQ'ing isn't really on topic but as you've mentioned it I might as well reply. There are two areas that I believe you should always give your undivided attention to when treating your bass if you really want to bring it out in a mix

The first thing to pay attention to is your sub tones. For bass lines, my number one rule is to completely remove their sub tones UNLESS you are specifically aiming for a sub-bass tone. I usually roll my bass off at about 80 to 90Hz with a steep slope and have sometimes gone as high as 120Hz if the harmonics of the sounds I'm using permit. If you think about it, most people writing electronic music are near-field monitoring - typically with out a sub-woofer in their speaker configuration - and besides, if you really pay attention to most of our contemporaries' productions you will soon discover that there is actually very little going on below 80Hz in most mixes (More on that observation later).

There's two reasons for getting rid of the subs. [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
You would need to have your sub tones running around 15 to 20dB higher (or more) than tones at 100Hz to perceive them at the same audible level. That means that you now have less energy available for the rest of your mix. Now, given that sub tones add virtually nothing to the characteristics of your sounds it's logical and prudent to take that energy and spend it on frequencies that do.

The second reason for removing subs relates directly to the first. The more energy you devote to your sub tones, the less you will be able to hear them in your mix. If you really think about it, there's only two elements in a track that actually consume sub frequencies - the kick drum and the bass line. If you give plenty of energy to both of these then all you will achieve is a muddy bottom end with absolutely no definition. This will add nothing to your mix and will most likely detract from its quality. Given the amount of energy these low frequencies require to be audible, you should choose only one of these two elements and give them most, if not all, of the sonic energy you have at your disposal. To me, the logical choice is to give that energy to the kick drum as the thumpety-thump of the kick drum is far more noticeable in a mix than sine waves at 50Hz.

That brings me to the second thing that I believe you MUST pay attention to during your bass treatment. To really get the most out of your bottom end you need to explore the relationship between your kicks and your bass lines and exploit it. EQ'ing the bottom end of your kick and your bass lines in tandem will provide far more rewarding results than if you adopt the attitude of each to their own.

You should experiment with mirroring the EQ settings for your kick and your bass. Wherever you add to low frequencies in one, subtract them from the other - hence telling you to choose which gets your sub-range. Typically, I find most of the energy that drives the body of a kick drum - call it the thump - exists somewhere between 90 and 180 Hz and if you really want to accentuate the thump you can achieve this with a low-shelf EQ somewhere between 40 and 80 Hz. I find that this usually results in a really full-bodied kick. With bass lines, I find that the real energy is found somewhere between 200 and 300 Hz. So you want to find the sound's sweet spot and give it a boost with a wide bandwidth parametric can do wonders to bring out your bass.

In Part Two of this discussion, I'll explain the techniques that you can use to find these frequencies and exploit them to maximum effect. But I will leave that explanation for a moment as it relates to the whole frequency range. Just remember the essential rules to observe when applying such mirroring techniques:

1 - Gain increases should always use wider bandwidths and gain decreases should always use narrower bandwidths.
2 - The value of gain decrease on one should roughly be the inverse of the gain increase on the other.
3 - If you need to tweak your gain values after applying rule 2, try to leave your gain increases intact and alter the decreases instead.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
With this tune i'm working on today though i've been paying much closer attention to where the cuts and boosts are. I've found that boosting the frequencies that feature in the key of the piece and in particular the notes of the sound in question, leads to a much better effect. Like, boosting around the tonic of the bass for instance, or finding frequencies in the drum parts that are in key with the piece. Brings it all together a bit more.
Definitely and the observations you have described is very much on par with the kind of EQ application that I am discussing. I always start out my search for the musical tones by working my way up the octaves from the root notes. However, the nature of formants and harmonic distortion mean that those frequencies should only be used as a guideline; so once you have identified those frequencies it's time to start having fun with your ears.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
Without wishing to sound like a dweeb, i'm actually pretty well up on my music theory and i'm sure some of the conventions contained within music theory have relevance to things like eq-ing. Like, frequencies and notes are effectively the same thing to us CPU wielding musicians, and I believe it stands to reason that some of the more harmony orientated aspects of music theory can be applied to eq.
Definitely. I agree with you completely. There are two primary functions that equalisation serves - EQ for sonic treatment and EQ as an effect - and I will describe both of these in part two. The philosophy and approach to EQ I'm describing can be used when applying either of these functions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
I think thats what your talking about isn't it. Fascinating post mate - interested to see what part 2 brings.
Yeah we're not all on the same page but we're reading the same chapter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nunuk View Post
Bob Katz has a great book called Matering Audio

on the firt page, there is a big scheme with defined freq and correlated notes.
it also has a scheme wich instruments occupy freq spectrum...
That is the original pitch relation chart from Carnegie Hall and I agree that it's a beautiful diagram. There is a little note on the side of the chart that says "Suitable for Framing" and I always wonder if Katz intentionally put that there to encourage people to rip it out. I must admit that I've considered tearing my copy out. But I am too anal when it comes to keeping my books in their original condition to remove it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bassling View Post
I've got a widget that provides frequencies for notes but am wondering, if I boost a frequency higher than the note, am I boosting the harmonic in the process?
Simply put: Yes, you are boosting the sound's harmonics.

What's important to remember is that the distinct characteristics that make a sound are determined by the upper harmonic frequencies that are present in a sound. Every layer of harmonic content in a sound effects every other and the result is called harmonic distortion. There are two types of harmonic content present in every sound; root harmonics and formants.

Root harmonics directly relate to the fundamental which determines a note's perceived pitch (A4=440Hz). Regardless of the instrumentation used, these are the same for every tuned sound source. Formant harmonics are directly related to a sound's formant frequency. This frequency is determined by the harmonic distortions within a sound and thus they vary from sound to sound.

Now, I'll leave it at that for now and will explain this in greater detail when I finish part two.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bassling View Post
Is this like when you create harmonic information for a bassline so it can be heard on really shitty speakers that roll-off lower freqs?
Well, yes and no. My reasons for rolling off lower frequencies are stated above. I would never EQ a sound for a particular speaker/amp configuration unless I was actually mixing a live performance. In the studio, the aim is to create a mixdown that plays right on every system. Ultimately, if you apply EQ correctly and combine it with a good gain structure, you shouldn't need to specifically compensate for shitty speakers or the like.

As an aside, bare in mind that your mix should sound consistent when listened to in different conditions including, but not limited to:
- a range of different speaker configurations of varying quality and frequency response
- a range of different audio formats
- a range of different listening levels (extremely quiet to loud)

A mix sounds consistent when sounds are audible and the gain structure remains relatively unchanged regardless of the listening conditions. If you are finding that your mixes are sounding vastly different depending on these conditions, then you still have work to do.


But back to the point. I said my answer was yes and no because you are on the right track. It's just that your wording is wrong. When you're using EQ, you are not creating harmonic information, you are accentuating it. This is an important distinction to make because the information is already present in your sounds. Your aim should be to find and enhance the ones which add clarity and character to your sounds and soften the ones which detract from this.
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Old 17-03-2008, 11:32 AM   #33
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Re: Musical Equalisation

Quote:
Originally Posted by almosthuman View Post
This is an interesting idea that I'd never considered before. Using modular EQs to emphasize the melody in a piece is quite a unique idea.

I'd imagine it would have to be used quite subtly in order to be effective in any sort of conventional manner, though. I'm very interested in what you have to say about it, Jaded, and I will be keeping up with this thread for as long as you're willing to write it.
Well I believe that EQ should always be applied with subtlety and that you should only ever make very small gain adjustments using EQ. However, you can still achieve large variations from the original sound source and its final output by making small adjustments at many different points along its signal chain.

For instance, I may insert an EQ over a snare drum and make gain adjustments of only +/-2dB. But maybe I have several other snare and clap samples with similar EQ's in use. I could then create a stereo spread and insert an EQ over the comp track with more +/-2dB gain adjustments. Of course, after that, I may comp this with the rest of my drum mix and EQ the entire output with the same subtle adjustments. Then finally, I'd probably do the same to the master output which applies this to my entire mixdown.

Now if you do the math on that configuration and assume that I can do that with every sound and sections of sound in my mix then it's clear that all of those subtle adjustments can amount to rather drastic changes in gain adjustment. I've found the main advantage of this approach is that it gives you precision control of the frequency spread across your mix while also allowing you to easily make broad-scale changes.

I wouldn't say that a musical approach would be more or less subtle than any other use for EQ really. It's all down to how you use it and what sounds good I suppose. I've pretty much described my approach to EQ above and if you can appreciate that approach then you can appreciate that the approach I'm going to continue explaining in part two is just another piece in the puzzle. I think the difference with a musical approach is that it is a purely additive process which involves wide bandwidth adjustments. Tasks requiring subtractive or precise adjustments, such as dealing with problem frequencies, separation and such, are best done separately - either later or (preferably) earlier in the chain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirric View Post
Yeah, so I often think to myself about what makes a, say, lowpass filter in a synth sound "musical". Seems to be in some proportion the phase response that can have a "musical" signature to it, e.g., the moog sound (really the first seriously musical instrument grade synth filter), the phase response signature so distinct that a saw and pulse get kind of the same coloration.
I've always thought of that kind of description referring to the way in which the filter's cutoff responds when you increase its resonance. If a filter was musical then the resulting feedback would have some relation to the harmonic content that is going through the filter.

Your example of Moog gets described that way because of the fact that the colour of its output changes with the notes/sounds/whatever. I've not ever encountered a real one. But the software "models" I've used definitely have a musical response. Hi-Res and cut-off tweaks can sound amazing when they're similar in key to the harmonic content in the notes passing through, for instance.

On the other hand, I don't think the filter on NI's Massive synth is really very musical at all. Regardless of the sound gong through it, an increase in resonance and adjusting the cutoff yields exactly the response - lots of feedback at the cutoff frequency.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirric View Post
When it comes to EQ, I'm still kind of not sure what is meant when an EQ itsself has a "musical" tone to it. It's not really used or designed like a synth's filter of course ...
Well, I've always understood that this description in the sense of a specific EQ device refers to its characteristics; such as the way each filter in the circuit interacts with the ones on either side of it or the harmonic distortion that is introduced as you make adjustments - It's the colouration that it introduces and the way that it introduces it. For instance, some EQ's will produce completely different results depending on the levels that are set and so on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cirric View Post
but I have to wonder what the engineers might do with a EQ circuit or plugin specifically for "musicality" that might otherwise be undesirable in say non-audio/scientific filtering applications where such things would be considered artifacts. Dunno ...
Well I would assume that they could pretty much do anything to the circuit that introduces an element chance into the equation - non-linear responsiveness - and therefore makes its response unpredictable. For example, Universal Audio's LA-610 will respond differently based purely on its operating temperature and the surrounding room temperature. I've been in a twelve hour recording session using one and we track some guide vocals to start and then worked on the rest. We came back later to track the proper vocals and set it as we had that morning and the resulting gain structure and compression response was completely different.
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Old 17-03-2008, 02:18 PM   #34
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Re: Musical Equalisation

This is terribly fascinating....I'm going to have to try this.

Interesting (off-topic) stuff about how you EQ bass, btw...I just kind of stumbled upon that on my own earlier this week when I was mixing my most recent track.

re: musical EQing, Jaded do you have a sample of something you've done that you can put in here so we can here it, especially a dry vs wet sample??

Great, great thread.
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Old 17-03-2008, 03:03 PM   #35
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Re: Musical Equalisation

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Originally Posted by jakobcreutzfeldt View Post
This is terribly fascinating....I'm going to have to try this.

Interesting (off-topic) stuff about how you EQ bass, btw...I just kind of stumbled upon that on my own earlier this week when I was mixing my most recent track.
I was actually quite sceptical when I first heard the suggestion that the key to a good bass line was to trim its low frequencies. But after testing it out on a few mix-downs I am a firm believer in the practise. Applying this method on different sounds is probably the best way to develop a better understanding of the sonic characteristics of bass sounds. All my explorations on the matter have revealed is that there are three distinct frequency ranges that will add more to your bottom end than any amount of sub-boosting.

- The tonal body of the bass - around 200 to 300Hz or thereabouts: which allows you to fill out the bottom end and give the bass more impact. I've already described how I would treat this section above.

- The prominent harmonic content - which could be anywhere between 750Hz to 3kHz or thereabouts: which allows you to emphasise the unique character of the sound and give it more drive. I usually use about two or three bands of EQ on this section and which as I typically find that there is a sweet spot around 750Hz to 1kHz then another which will be anywhere between 2 and 2.5kHz and one final one at around 3kHz.

- The upper harmonics - typically above 5kHz: which compliment the prominent harmonic content and allow you to sharpen or soften the sound's definition. I usually start by giving these a big boost with a high shelf EQ which I then drop down until it's just noticeable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jakobcreutzfeldt View Post
re: musical EQing, Jaded do you have a sample of something you've done that you can put in here so we can here it, especially a dry vs wet sample??
I don't have anything specifically no. I don't see the point of touching EQ until I've got a nearly completed arrangement because every EQ adjustment is absolutely related to every other sound sound in the mix. I usually only think about EQ before I get to this point - so, for example, I might hear something that I'd like to bring out in a particular sound or something that I think is taking away from a sound.

I've found that leaving EQ for later has really reduced the amount of time I spend on it. For one, it cuts down on the repetition - going back and forth for minor tweaks every time I add a new sound to the mix; and all of those thoughts I've had along the way mean that by the time I do start working on EQ I've got a list of things that I want to focus on which gives me a great starting point for the process.

Rest assured though, I will provide a clip from my March Set which I'm currently working on as it was the inspiration for starting a discussion on this topic. I've actually bothered to go through and treat each individual track in the mix with a 10 band EQ. I am going to look for a section where there is a distinctly noticeable difference between the treated and the untreated. Beyond that, I'll see if I can put something dealing with an individual sound source during the week.
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Old 17-03-2008, 03:28 PM   #36
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Re: Musical Equalisation

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Originally Posted by Jaded View Post
I've found that leaving EQ for later has really reduced the amount of time I spend on it. For one, it cuts down on the repetition - going back and forth for minor tweaks every time I add a new sound to the mix; and all of those thoughts I've had along the way mean that by the time I do start working on EQ I've got a list of things that I want to focus on which gives me a great starting point for the process.
You mentioned this in another thread recently and I took the advice for this most recent track (well, I'm still working on the mix) and yes, it's much nicer. Otherwise your attention is too split between the tasks of writing and mixing. Anyway, sorry I took it further off-topic a bit.

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Old 17-03-2008, 10:13 PM   #37
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Re: Musical Equalisation

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Originally Posted by Jaded View Post
I've always thought of that kind of description referring to the way in which the filter's cutoff responds when you increase its resonance. If a filter was musical then the resulting feedback would have some relation to the harmonic content that is going through the filter.

Your example of Moog gets described that way because of the fact that the colour of its output changes with the notes/sounds/whatever. I've not ever encountered a real one. But the software "models" I've used definitely have a musical response. Hi-Res and cut-off tweaks can sound amazing when they're similar in key to the harmonic content in the notes passing through, for instance.
Yeah, with my still somewhat limited knowledge of electronics I can only make sort of semi-educated guesses ... but yes resonance is implemented with a negative feedback kind of gain circuit, actually one of the "flaws" of the original moog filter is lack of gain compensation when you crank the resonance, i.e. the resonant band gets louder, everything else gets softer cause of the current energy going towards the resonant frequency.
There's also the capacitors along the ladder that discharge and will cause a phase "slew", contributing to the harmonic character of the tone, also. It's probably true that each stage of the ladder is "tuned" in terms of capacitor voltage to give it that character.
Wish I had time to read more electronics, so I could say for sure ... I like that stuff
There's this clip from the Moog Documentary where Bob Moog himself compares circuit design for synths like violin craftsmanship ... good stuff.

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On the other hand, I don't think the filter on NI's Massive synth is really very musical at all. Regardless of the sound gong through it, an increase in resonance and adjusting the cutoff yields exactly the response - lots of feedback at the cutoff frequency.
Yeah, from what I've heard of it, it seems more towards the rhythm/texture, which is kind of in vogue anyway, seems like.

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Well, I've always understood that this description in the sense of a specific EQ device refers to its characteristics; such as the way each filter in the circuit interacts with the ones on either side of it or the harmonic distortion that is introduced as you make adjustments - It's the colouration that it introduces and the way that it introduces it. For instance, some EQ's will produce completely different results depending on the levels that are set and so on.
Well, speaking of musical harmonic distortion, here's an interesting IEEE article on tubes/valves: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


Kind of technical, but still generally can be followed by a semi-layperson such as myself.

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Well I would assume that they could pretty much do anything to the circuit that introduces an element chance into the equation - non-linear responsiveness - and therefore makes its response unpredictable. For example, Universal Audio's LA-610 will respond differently based purely on its operating temperature and the surrounding room temperature. I've been in a twelve hour recording session using one and we track some guide vocals to start and then worked on the rest. We came back later to track the proper vocals and set it as we had that morning and the resulting gain structure and compression response was completely different.
Yeah, well on the older vintage gear, that kind of stuff was actually really were "flaws", it was just too expensive to make the stuff any better/reliable ... but became beloved for it's "musical" idiosyncracy ... of course you prolly know that

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Old 19-03-2008, 10:09 AM   #38
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Re: Musical Equalisation

Some parts of this text have been taken and expanded from my previous replies to this thread. Please note, that due to character restrictions I have had to move the practical application to part three which will be available shortly.

PART TWO: Further background and considerations to make before you begin

Okay, so in part one I think I managed to explain my definition of musical application of EQ and it's generated some great

conversation so far. This next part is going to look at some simple techniques you can use to apply your EQ in such a fashion. Now, before I get on to that, I'll need to provide a little more background so that this all makes sense.

There are two primary functions which you would use EQ for.

The first is using EQ for sonic treatment. I believe that this is EQ's most important and most difficult method of application. Its results should be very subtle and a lot of conscious ear training is required to properly observe them. Due to its obscurity, I believe that this is the least observed application of EQ in the circles we computer "producers" travel in. The fact that it's often overlooked is understandable because it's a slow repetitive process of observation and adjustment and we work in production environments that allow us to move very quickly from one stage to the next; and given the quality of sounds we have to begin with it's often easy to avoid using EQ to treat your sounds once you've arranged them. But your mixes will sound even better if you take the time to treat all of your sounds with EQ and limit their output to their most audible frequency bands.

The second primary application is using EQ for effect. This is a simple process in comparison to treatment. You tweak - you like - you keep. The results are obvious and applying EQ as an effect takes only as long as you take to move a few knobs and click a few buttons. I believe using EQ as an effect creates more problems than it solves. There are so many other tools available in synthesis that allow extreme alterations in sound and most of these are far more effective. I usually only stick to the most basic applications of EQ as an effect which is using single filters - High/Low/Band Pass Filtering - as these are essential to the type of music that we create.

The musical application of EQ is more a process of sonic treatment than EQ as an effect. I recommend that you apply EQ in this manner in addition to a more practical sonic treatment which would deal with problem frequencies, isolation, gain structure and the like. Typically, I find that it's best to apply standard sonic treatment before the musical treatment because this ensures that any undesirable frequencies are removed or limited and thus are not being boosted any further.

Musical appplication of EQ is an exercise in emphasising the harmonics of a sound.

There are two types of frequencies that determine the pitch and character of every sound; its root harmonies and its formant frequency.

Root harmonies are directly related to a fundamental frequency which is a note's musical pitch (A4=440Hz) and these are the same for every sound that is tuned to a traditional musical scale. It is fair to assume that the frequencies that are in key with your composition are the ones that you should be boosting in your mix. Theoretically, these are the frequencies which define your music. But in practise, you should use those frequencies as a starting point as these root frequencies only determine the perceived pitch of your sound. It is a sound's formant frequencies that determine its character.

A sound's formant is occurs where the main concentration of acoustic energy occurs. Put simply, the formant frequency is the frequency which contains the body of a sound's energy and determines its character. This is not necessarily the same as the fundamental frequency and is typically different for each sound you will encounter. Formant frequencies are the result of harmonic distortion which is why they vary from sound to sound.

Formants occur because every layer of harmonics present in a sound resonate with every other which then causes a slight variance to these frequencies. Resonance, in a physical sense, is simply a process of absorption where one mass absorbs the energy of another. The physical effect of this absorption on each harmony present is a slight shift in frequency. This explanation is crude at best and does not really explain the reason for these changes. However, I hope it gives you a basic understanding of the effect that harmonic distortion has on a sound. The main thing to remember is that the resonance of harmonic distortion has a physical effect on the sound that alters its frequency characteristics.

A further explanation of formant frequencies would merit an entirely new thread and I'd have to do a lot more research. The majority of material you'll find on formants deals with vocal formants. There is one good discussion [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
if you're interested.

In my experience, formant frequencies are usually in close proximity to the root harmonics of a sound. This is why I suggest using these as a guideline when you're applying your EQ. It's not essential that you understand the exact nature of formants or root frequencies to continue this exercise.

Before you start

The technique I'm going to outline does not deal with precise adjustments on specific frequencies. Wide adjustments are the best because if you're working with music, it's most likely you'll be dealing with a range of frequencies which vary from note to note. Of course, if you're dealing with fixed-pitch elements, you can have a lot of fun with narrow bandwidth adjustments and if you spend time tuning your percussion, for instance, you'll find that such adjustments will enhance this process.

Although the end results of this process are very subtle. The process of identifying musical frequencies involves using extremely narrow bandwidths and very high gain settings. Relying on speakers for monitoring will yield less accurate results as the room modes present in your room will colour the output. Filtering using such high gains and narrow bandwidths will increase the effect of these room modes. For this reason, I suggest you monitor with a good set of headphones that have a fairly flat frequency response. Using headphones ensures better accuracy because the output arrives directly at your ears with no additional colouration. Their use is even more essential if your room has little or no acoustic treatment and even more so if it's square.

If you are not already familiar with the resonant room modes and the standing waves that cause them, [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
for further clarification.

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Old 19-03-2008, 11:39 AM   #39
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Re: Musical Equalisation

PART THREE: Practical techniques for applying musical EQ to a single sound that is a tuned instrument

The first technique that I will describe in part three is applied only to a single sound source and is best suited to dealing with a pitched instrument. That is, an instrument which is tuned to various musical notes. The steps I describe here are used in the other applications which I will outline in part four.

There are three main steps that I take during this process:
1 Find the center of a sound's musical frequency bands
2 Determine the width of these frequency bands
3 Boost the frequency bands

You're welcome to use more complex analysis tools like spectrum and frequency analysers while you're undertaking these steps. However, I've found that such tools hinder, rather than assist, the process. The best tools you have at your disposal ar'e your ears and if you trust what they are telling you then you'll get the best results.

Now, if my explanations of roots and formants in part two weren't entirely clear, and are adding to your confusion, then just focus on these points:

1 - Points of harmony in every sound specific to its root frequency that are related to its perceived pitch

2 - There are other points of harmony within a sound that are not necessarily specific to its root frequency which relate to its character and differ from sound to sound.

Like I said, you'll be relying on your ears more than anything else and, if you've got a good pair, you won't need to rely on anything other than what you hear.

1 - Finding the center of the musical frequency bands

I've already said that the best place to start searching for the music is at a sound's root frequency. I recommend starting to search using a section of audio that primarily contains the root notes of your composition's key signature.

In my case, such sections are usually found when a sound is introduced as my composition style typically introduces each element in a more rhythmic arrangement containing said root note and very little others. If your composition style differs from this or if your material is more melodic, then you should either find a point of less melody or create such a loop for the purpose of this exercise.

Once you've chosen or created such a section, take the following steps:

Insert a parametric EQ with variable bandwidth and frequency.

Engage one of the EQ's filters and set its frequency according to your root note.

Set the filter's bandwidth to a very narrow setting.

Boost its gain to the maximum setting.

Now this won't very nice at all and you'll be redlining all over the place (another reason you should use headphones). But you will notice that the sound's output will now be dominated by a single frequency. Now you want to set about tuning the filter by employing a repetitive process of elimination that involves comparison and adjustment.

Listen to the pitch of that dominant frequency and compare it to the pitch of the musical content.

If the dominant frequency sounds flat in relation to the musical content, make very small increases to the filter's frequency.

If the dominant frequency sounds sharp in relation to the musical content, make very small decreases to the filter's frequency.

Listen and compare the dominant frequency to the musical content.

Take note the frequency you've arrived at and make smaller adjustments each time before making your next adjustment.

Repeat the process accordingly making smaller adjustments each time

It is essential that you note the frequencies you have already tried before making your next adjustment. This allows eliminate them as a possibility and narrow down your range of possible frequencies to try for your next adjustment.

Eventually, you will arrive at a frequency that is in tune with your musical content. You will know when you reach it because the perceived pitch of your music will be incredibly clear in relation to the overall tone and character of the sound. The person who described this method to me put it best when he said, "You'll know when you've found this middle band because the sound will just jump out at you."

Locating this frequency means you've found the centre of your musical frequency bands and you're past the hardest part.

2 Determine the width of these frequency bands

This next step in the process involves bringing the filter's gain back to an acceptable level and increasing its bandwidth to boost the surrounding frequencies that will be present in nearby musical notes. The settings you apply here are a matter of personal preference and you will determine these by further comparison. For instance, my definition acceptable levels for EQ is no more than +2 to +2.5dB. If you have different ideas on this, go with what you know.

You may continue using the same looped section that you used to find your tuning if there are already some other notes present. If not, you may wish to find another section with a few more that you will be using. I recommend limiting your range for now to around +/- 3 tones (ie: Bb to C to Eb) as anything above this is getting closer getting closer to the [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
(ie: F to C to G) and would better be dealt with using a separate filter.Reduce the gain of the filter to approximately twice the acceptable level - for me, that's about +4dB

Gradually increase the filter's bandwidth to encompass the surrounding frequencies

Once you have set a relatively broad bandwidth compare the EQ's output with dry output

Broaden or narrow the bandwidth and continue comparing until you're happy with the results

3 Boost the frequency bands

Once you've settled on a bandwidth all that is left to do with this filter is to set its gain to a level which you feel is most effective at bringing out the musical tones in the sound. But you will keep coming back to this with each layer of EQ you apply.

Repeating the process

You'll want to repeat the process using additional filters. You would firstly focus on other musical keys present in your composition, then harmonics, and finally working on your upper harmonics.

I would recommend starting by repeating the above process in the context of musical content that is a fifth above or below as these are often the most common key variations used within an arrangement and typically allow you to cover the majority of notes present in your composition's root key signature. For the first harmonic, try by beginning with a starting frequency approximately double the one that you settled with when dealing with your root note. For each harmonic that follows you would logically start with a frequency double that of the one you chose for the previous harmonic. For the high frequencies (say above 5-8 kHz) I'd also try adding a high shelf EQ just above or below the filter you have used for this with a slight boost. Personally, I find this just gives a crisper sound.

Each time you repeat the process remember to ensure that every other filter is off while you are finding your centre frequency as their effect will colour the results. Once you've settled on your frequency and bandwidth you should then reference it with the other filters and adjust your gain structure to suit.

Compare, Adjust, Eliminate

If you're unfamiliar with the process of comparison and adjustment then you should consider the process of tuning a string by ear or matching the beat of a record. Both are similar processes which may give you a better understanding:

When tuning a stringed instrument by ear, you start at the bottom string. If it's in tune, you can then tune the string above it by placing your finger on the bottom string at the point along the fretboard which produces the same open note of the string above it. You then play this note and the open note of the next string and you COMPARE the two. If the open note is not in tune you would then ADJUST it by tightening the string if it's flat or loosening the string if it's sharp. You would then repeat the process until both strings are in tune with each other.

Beat-matching records is also a process of elimination. You start the playback on your cued track and determine if it's faster or slower. Before you adjust the pitch control you'd make a note its current value - let's say it's 4%. Assuming that cued playback is faster, you would then decrease the pitch control -let's say to 2% - start the playback again, and compare. Assume that it's now slower meaning you'd need to increase the pitch. Your next adjustment will be smaller and more accurate because you now know that the correct speed is more than 2% and less than 4%. If you set it at 3% you can then eliminate half of this range as being incorrect.

Stay chooned for PART FOUR - Adapting the technique for other contexts

Where I'll discuss a few little adjustments in the process which will allow you to apply it to percussive instruments and across several sound sources in the form of a mix group or an entire track mix. I will also strive to provide some audio examples and screenshots to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.
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Old 19-03-2008, 10:19 PM   #40
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Re: Musical Equalisation

This is really interesting stuff. Definitely going to give it a shot.


Also, why is this not stickied? It's fantastic.

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