Posts Tagged ‘EQ’

So its been a while since my last post, but there is a reason. I’m working on something big… real big… hopefully it will be up by the end of the year. But for now, some sound design info/mini tut.

Sound design is quite simple when you think about it, in a lot of ways its just recording the sound you’re looking for, then cleaning up the recording and using it, but sometimes you can’t find what you’re looking for… like when you need the sound of a dragon, or a giant vegetable monster (encountered both of these in the same project… lolwut) so what do you do? The answer is much simpler than you think.

‘When you don’t have creatures, be the creature…’ – Geoff Garnett (Wabi Sabi Sound – Dead Space 2, Dante’s Inferno, Left 4 Dead 2)

So start by setting up a mic for yourself, press record, and just go nuts. Make the most messed up creature sounds you can, but whatever you do, don’t hold back, you have to really go over the top. (If you’re too embarrassed, find a shameless friend.)

Now when you listen back you’ll probably think ‘omfg… am I retarded?’ and this is ok. Now, the optimum plug-ins for mixing are Pitch Shifter (for a lower monster sound), and possibly some light distortion (if you want a higher monster sound,) the obviously EQ, Compression, Noise Gate, the standards.

Low monsters: Pitch shift down as low as you dare, create a new track, C&P the recording onto the second track (preferably just slightly offset, like Beatles style double tracking) and put this one at a slightly different pitch (I like 3 semitones higher), you may do this as many times as you like, however once you start getting too high in pitch it won’t work as well. But feel free to add as many tracks as you like, even add in some different samples, this can make your monster sound really intense (but be careful not to make it just sound like 2 monsters), apply some EQ, probably to cut out a little of the bass you’ve most likely created that is now dominating your speaker system, compress to make the monster really loud and in your face, and noise gate out any of the noise floor if you need.

High monsters: This process is very similar to the first, only instead of pitch shifting down, you might pitch shift up a little, or maybe still down, just a lot less. Apply some light overdrive distortion to get your monster sounding less human and more screwed up. There are other plugins you can experiment with, like the harmonic exciter (this can give some wild monster sounds.) But the biggest thing is finding a good pitch, and (if needed) some light distortion if the monster still sounds like someone going (arahfarahrahrara!!!!)

That is my short tutorial on monster sounds,

Thanks for reading.

I know you’re not supposed to master your own tracks but we were working on a budget, so instead I just too a 2 week break from doing anything and came back to master with fresh ears. I purchased a copy of Ozone 5 just for the occasion and I must say, it was DEFINITELY worth it, and as I use it more and become more familiar with it I will try put up a basic tutorial for it at some stage.

As for the EP

First was the linear EQ, as you can see I rolled off the bass a little, and gave some broad presence at 2k, this really helped bring the track out and really make some impression on you.

Next was the harmonic exciter, now these things are tempting to just push up and up and up cause they sound so cool and exciting (lol wonder why) but don’t over do it, you can ruin the effect of the song and the rest of your mix work. As you can see I’ve tried to keep mine relatively minimal with a bit more in the mid and highs were its most effective.

I didn’t do too much with the dynamics and compression apart from the mids, but this was a light deep compressor to bring out some of the clarity and harmonics a little more.

Next is the most noticeable part of mastering, the loudness maximising, I wanted a really full track, but I didn’t want it to just blare in your face so I went for a quite smooth heavy maximiser, and some MBIT+ dither to spread the noise evenly.

I did quite a bit of experimenting with the stereo spread and converting in and out of mono, switching phase, ect, to make sure any spreading I did didn’t cause and phase cancelling, I found some really awesome settings, but many of them didn’t work at all in mono which meant they were best to avoid, or at least tweak, in the end these are the settings I went with.

finally the post EQ, all this work had given really great spread, clarified highs but the bass became a little over powering, so I pulled that down a little and gave a tiny bit more low mids and tiny bit less high mids.

So that was my process for mastering ‘Fairly Natural’ the first serious release by my good friend and the very talented Sam Luff, please check him out and comment on my recording, mixing and mastering with your ideas, advice, questions and opinions as I’d love to hear them.

The Mix was an intense process. Without many instruments we had to create a full sound. With the help of Logic 9, I think it went pretty well.

All songs were recorded in the one session and each instrument had the same track for each song, so these settings were applied to all songs, then split off and minor tweaks were made (most of which probably won’t be mentioned because they’re not really very interesting.) Sam wanted his EP sound to be really consistent so we decided doing it like this would be a fun, challenging and interesting approach.

I started mixing the first song, which was probably the thinnest of the lot with nothing but guitars and vox. It’s quite an intense and raw song and I wanted the EP to start strong. I started with the guitars and did the usual pan each mic to either side, high pass and low pass EQ to keep out sounds not in the frequency range, some low mid cuts and a slight high mid boost to eliminate any masking, compressor and a noise gate. This got it sounding pretty good, but after mixing everything else the guitar just seemed to not… sit right, it was just a little overpowering in the high mids, so I decided to do something I tried in a different mix. I put a stereo spreader on both guitar mic tracks and spread the upper mids a little, order 11 for one and 12 for the other so the same frequencies weren’t being spread on either side. Being already panned to one side, this pushed some of those frequencies just a little closer to the middle, widening it at the loss of some of its power, perfect!


On the left we have the left guitar mic and its plugins, on the right, the right!


The vocals were a lot more simple, just a matter of EQ, compression, noise gate, and a tinyyyyyyy little bit of delay.


Now the lead guitar was interesting, for the electric lead solos we had 2 mics, one dead on and one to the side, so I panned them to show this. This sat the guitar slightly to one side but still gave a nice full sound, almost like if a band were playing and the guitarist had come up to do a solo and was standing just to the right of the singer.

Here you can see the centered mic on the left and the panned right mic on the right, as well as the EQ, compression, noise gate and delay decisions I made.

Next was the acoustic guitar solos, there wasn’t really anything special done here, it was recorded with a single mic so I opted against any crazy stereo imaging, quite a decent amount of EQ and delay, and more compression than I normally try to use, then a good ol noise gate.


The only other major instrument recorded was the double bass, once again a pretty simple process, decided to go for some more creative EQ to try and keep the clarity of the double bass whilst removing resonances and fixing some masking problems.


There were some other instruments used, including an egg shaker, a MIDI glockenspiel, a MIDI kick drum and some whistling, but I opted against doing those ones as they were very simple processes, but if anyone is interested let me know and I’ll show you how I did them, or help as best I can with mixing those instruments.

The final part of the mix was the reverb, this was done by setting up an auxiliary channel strip and putting the space designer reverb on it, then bussing all tracks to it. I don’t know very much about designing reverbs, in reality or in plugins, but I found the preset my ears agreed with most was the small booth reverb. It just sounded right and fitted the style perfectly.

I also used a concert hall reverb on the vocal echoes in the first song, ‘Heaven’.

If anyone has any advice for my mixing process for future mixes, please don’t hesitate to send it my way!

Also, please look up Sam Luff on facebook! or soon iTunes! He will be extremely grateful and is very much worth your time!

A friend of mine organised to record the bass exam of another friend, he had some really awesome originals, a jazzy pirates of the Caribbeany thing, a very Dream Theater like one and some others, all awesome songs.

Anyway the mix:

Most of it was just tweaking EQs and gains to get levels right and keep from masking, but I experimented a bit with stereo imaging using a stereo spreader with the keys, guitar and sax (keys center with a massive spread, guitar and sax with smaller ones but panned to the left and right a little) this gave an incredible stereo image. The keys sat really wide throughout the mix and the sax and guitar sat in areas slightly left and right of center. I highly recommend experimenting with spreading to give a sound a wider sense of space in its position, especially when you don’t have many instruments.

So today I hung around after a music history exam to do help a friend do all the sound/roadie work for the performance exams, he certainly manages to do a lot of different things at once.

1. The Setup

First we had to get in contact with whoever was performing and asked them what was on stage and what would be miked. We set up 3-4 mics for the first couple of exams even though we knew we probably wouldn’t need them, it was a just in case. Most of the exams just required lugging gear on and off, and some slight monitoring on the piano (which was normally the only thing miked). However, some exams wanted more miked, the most intense being a guy singing/playing piano or playing a leslie organ (alternated between songs), a small choir, a lead vocalist, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. The organ, all the vocals (choir of six had 1 mic between 2) and the piano (bass but was muted as it didn’t need any reinforcing) were miked. Everything had 58s on it except the piano which had a dynamic mic I can’t recall on it. 2 foldback wedges were run out the front daisy chained, also. This set up (including the instruments) had to be completed in a little over 30 min. This was the biggest challenge and the reason for not using more interesting mics/setup.

I found during this that the most important part of the speedy setup is to try and neaten mic cables as you’re running them, rather than afterward and ALWAYS try to work from left to right. Because without time to do a labelling system, and without an incredible memory, this will be your saviour. Keep gaffa tape with you if you can, so that you don’t have to go find it when you want to tape something, and you can do some of the taping while you go.

Also, without a sound check or any way for the performers to let you know if theres anything they want in their foldback there isn’t much you can do other than guess, but there are some things you can listen for that may help. If a singer seems to be a little pitchy, especially if they are a singer who is normally very good, chances are it’s because they can’t hear themselves. With all other instruments (and also singers as well), listen to hear how tight the timing is. If they fall behind then catch themselves back up a few times (or push ahead and pull back) then they probably can’t hear either. Drummers in particular have a tendency to push tempo when they can’t hear, however if they aren’t particularly brilliant drummers they may just not really be listening.

As for the actual mixing of this gig, it was mostly level riding, boosts for solos, a little EQ to tidy it up, nothing too fancy, a little bit of reverb as well, all on a basic yamaha mixer.

2. The audio CD and DVD of performance

While all this is going on, a spaced pair of matched cardioid condensers are set up on a high pole in the middle of the audience (everything run neatly so that it only takes up the space of one chair) to record the whole thing, running to the stage multicore and back to a separate digital mixer with a reverb effect on it to enhance the room a little. This signal is then sent to a Tascam CD Burner and a HD video camera running to a DVD burner. This CD and DVD is burnt/ripped/copied/backedup in numerous ways for numerous people and for the Cons achieves.

That’s a little for one person to do for almost 12 hours a day 6 days a week during exam week.

Setup: First step of the setup was placing the 4 AKG C1000 choir mics on boom stands raised up pointing down to the choir rise. They were set to a cardioid polar pattern with a bass roll off. Their XLR cables were run under the choir rises and into the right stage box that ran back to the sound booth and connected to the mixer, plugging into channels 16-20, on the mixer they were then grouped and assigned mute button 1. The wireless headset’s receiver boxes were connected to the right stage box via a cable with 16 XLR connections. The headsets were run to channels 1-13 then grouped on the mixer and assigned mute button 2. The 7 hand held mics were connected to the left stage box and run to channels 25-32. All lines were checked for signal, to reveal one mic was not plugged in, this was quickly fixed. Room was already tuned using a 32 band graphic EQ with a quite a tame curve. The fold backs were connected to aux channels 1-4. The laptop was plugged into the mixer via the tape in using a stereo RCA to stereo 3.5 cable.

Sound check: Played some music through the PA to get a rough mix for the backing track, the got rough fader levels for the choir mics during rehearsals. The backing tracks were run from the laptop into all 4 fold backs at about -3.5dB, as the performers told me that was the level they found most appropriate. All 4 choir mics were compressed slightly to keep dynamics a little more even. Some frequencies around 1-2k were EQed out to reduce some thinness and tininess in the sound.

Set up the fold back levels for headsets at around -1.5dB. Some headsets began experiencing serious interference problems, after changing these for others only to have more begin causing the same problem, and no time to retune, it was decided that the handhelds would be used instead.

Set up fold back levels of handhelds to about -1.5dB. As the number of singers, who was singing, and which mic was where changed each song, little EQing could be performed on these, but some hiss around 16k was pulled down in almost all mics, as many of the younger singers were creating some and all mics were compressed a little to help compensate for children with poorer mic technique and/or difficulty sustaining technique while dancing.

A noise gate was applied to the choir mics to keep them quiet while nobody was singing, however mute buttons were quickly applied during any song without a choir or whilst the presenter/host was on stage.

Once I, the performers and the person putting on the concert was happy with the sound I was able to get a little more creative with the EQ for the choir mics to help them really sit well with the backing track.

Evaluation: Overall the concert went well, despite some problems during sound check, ways around them were found fast enough to get a good sound for the rest of the concert. The sound of the hand held mics was the only thing I wasn’t particularly happy with, and could not do much to fix this, as the mics were not labeled and the singers were constantly changing, so any time a good sound was achieved, it would need fixing in the next song.

If I were to do it over I would be more thorough with making sure all mics were connected during set up, and find a way to label each handheld mic so I know which is which one the channel or arrange a system so that I know which person has which mic for each song (this process would probably work better as it could also be applied should the headsets have been used.) As I was using a mixing desk I had never used before I did not know much about the processing it was capable of and how to apply it, but as I got further into the day I figured more and more out, so if doing over I would also have applied the signal processing much faster to save time and allow me to focus my attention more on creatively mixing.

Everybody knows that the most important part of working with sound is having good ears, these are my personal favourites for ear training:


Quiztones- this app lets you choose to either train your tone recognition, or your ability to hear EQ changes in various instruments or your own music, and if you upgrade to pro you get gain level comparison and EQ expert quizes as well!

EQ Trainer- EQ trainer is only for training fundamental frequencies recognition, however it is has much more variation in difficulty and also is designed to help you improve your speed at recognising them.

Remember: apps are good to keep your practice up, but they only go so far in difficulty, for really serious ear training you will probably need to try one of these…

Audio Books/Listening CDs:

Golden Ears- Golden Ears is a very intense ear training course for anyone really serious about sound engineering, it trains your ears on frequencies, effects and processing, decays and delays, and then returns to do more advanced work on frequencies. This is an incredible course, I very highly recommend it. The other products on the Molton Laboratories website are worth mentioning too. These include the ‘Playback Platinum Series,’  ‘Total Recording’ by David Moulton, Recording Magazine, and I could go on. Golden Ears (and Total Recording) were created by KIQ productions.

Critical Listening Skills for Audio Professionals- This course is great because it just asks you to sit and listen to the different sounds, rather than write down guesses for listening tests, which isn’t a bad thing, however, I find sometimes I would rather just listen and learn than be constantly testing myself.

Other: Train Your Ears EQ Edition- this is another good ear training resource, however I would still recommend one of the CD courses.