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Page 2

Get That Pro Sound -
The Ultimate Guide to Equalisation
First Edition

Publication date: February 2013
Published by George Robinson

© Copyright George Robinson, All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying and
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without
prior written permission from the publisher.

While all attempts have been made to verify information provided in this
publication, the Author does not assumes any responsibility for errors,
omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein. Of
course, please let me know if you find any errors and I’ll correct them!

The Purchaser or Reader of this publication assumes responsibility for
the use of these materials and information.

Neither the Author nor its dealers or distributors, will be held liable
for any damages caused either directly or indirectly by the instructions
contained in this book, or by the software or hardware products described

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the strongest present frequencies are not necessarily the ones you want to bring up: you might
very well want to enhance a less prominent aspect of the sound, which can often create a more
rounded and interesting character to the part. So, when using EQ at this stage in your mix you’ll
be considering which characteristics of the sound you want to accentuate, and which you want
to reduce.

Also bear in mind that you can only tailor the sound of an instrument so far without losing its
essential character and identity; not every every instrument can be full, deep, bright and full of
sparkle all at the same time, and we wouldn’t really want them to be - it would be extremely
tiring and confusing to listen to! Remember to leave some room for contrast.

When EQing a real instrument, you will either want to exaggerate its individual characteristics
and make it more distinctive, or reduce its individuality and make it more like a hypothetical
‘average’ of this type of instrument.

EQing For Character: Walkthrough
First set the Gain control to a medium amount of boost - the three o’clock position of the knob
is usually about right. Now sweep the Frequency control up and down to the limits of its range,
listening as you go for the frequencies at which the effect of the EQ boost seems strongest
and most prominent. These are the frequencies in which the instrument is rich. Boosting the
instrument’s strong frequencies will enhance its individual characteristics and, for example,
make a clarinet even more dissimilar to an oboe (or any other instrument).

When you have found the instrument’s strongest frequency band, set the amount of boost
according to taste - and always compare the changes you’ve made with the original sound to
confirm you’ve made a positive difference before moving on.

Enhancing the sounds of individual instruments in this way is useful, but watch out when mixing
that you are not boosting the same frequencies on each instrument. It is a common trap to
wind up boosting every instrument at around 3kHz to help it cut through at a frequency where
the ears are very sensitive (see why this is in the later section on the (Fletcher-Munson Effect).
This will produce a mix that is very tiring to listen to.

Diminishing Character With EQ
The opposite of the enhancement technique is where you lessen the individuality of each
instrument and make it more like our hypothetical ‘average’ instrument. To do this, find the
instrument’s strong frequencies with the mid EQ set to boost as before, but then cut these
frequencies, by as much as you feel appropriate.

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Mix Surgery: Notch Filtering Drums
Notch filtering is basically applying a very narrow bandwidth/Q and reasonably deep cut at a
specific frequency, to remove a very particular element of the sound. It’s the same technique
we discussed earlier in relation to removing harmonic hum and buzz from tracks with very
targeted cuts.
Using EQ to carve notches out of sounds where troublesome resonances or undesirable
features occur is particularly effective on drums. Whether you’re using samples or your own
studio recorded drum tracks, there are usually a few dissonant drum resonances that stick out
of the mix awkwardly even when everything else appears to be at the right level. In these cases
you’re usually just dealing with a single frequency, so your best bet is to position a super-narrow
filter/EQ notch precisely on top of it and just pull the offending resonance down and out of
harm’s way. Generally you can do this without affecting the overall tone of the drum at all.
One method of finding such drum resonances is to boost heavily with your equaliser bands Q
set to it’s narrowest, and then hunt for the offending frequency by sweeping the filter around in
the general area of the frequency spectrum. Another way to find such targeted frequencies is to
use a spectrum analyzer plugin inserted across the drum track, which will probably show one or
two ‘spikes’ at the appropriate points on it’s graphic display.

Notch Filtering Pitched Instruments
While notch filters are good for dealing with drum resonances, tampering with the levels of
individual frequencies doesn’t usually help you when dealing with more melodically pitched
parts, because a fixed frequency notch will inevitably affect different harmonics on different
notes. Nevertheless, notching shouldn’t be ruled out if the musical part in question is quite
simple and only features a small range of notes. For example, notches can be particularly handy
for simple bass parts where the fundamental frequencies of different notes need evening out.
Any part with a static drone or repeated note within it is also fair game if you want to rebalance
the stationary note against any others, although you might find you need to attack more than
one of the note’s harmonics to achieve the balance you need.

Mix EQ Step 3: Fitting Sounds Into A Mix; Low, Mid And
High Adjustments

reduce those already occupying the same frequencies

If you’ve been clear up to this point about which instruments are the most important and
which take precedence over others in the track, and have then balanced these key instruments

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19. EQing Bass Instruments: Boost, But Not Where You Think…

20. Natural vs. Unnatural EQ

21. Try Out Different EQ Plugins For Character And Transparency

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Throughout this guide we’ve covered everything you’ll need to quickly get EQ
working for your mixes in the most effective and efficient ways possible. From
examining and effectively configuring EQ parameters for a number of mixing
tasks, to plotting and implementing a comprehensive EQ strategy for a full and
busy mix, to some more advanced tricks and techniques for creating space,
character and power in your productions.

If you haven’t already, print this guide out and put it in front of you while you work on your
music (or alternatively have it open in a window next to your DAW): this way you can refer
to it as you work through the techniques, put things into practice, experiement with what
is discussed, and see how it all works in the context of your own music. That’s what it’s all

Best of luck, George Robinson
Get That Pro Sound

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