"Making space" for different Instruments using EQ

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KVRian
1363 posts since 12 Oct, 2012

Post Tue Jun 15, 2021 2:32 am

Hi,

I'm not new to mixing/producing, but always struggled with the exact intention/definition of what part exactly should be attenuated from one Instrument to make room for another, and how much to cut.

Obviously the spectrum of each Instrument is going to be all over the place with many peaks and valleys, so when searching for clashing frequencies among multiple instruments, are we only looking at the fundemental frequencies?

Once we did find the clashing frequencies, how far should the be attenuated in one Instrument, in order to "make room" for the other instrument?

Thanks

KVRAF
1727 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Post Tue Jun 15, 2021 3:44 am

It depends on what you think is important and how you want the results to sound. Don't cut things you want to hear. Consider cutting things you don't mind losing. If your arrangement has multiple things you want to hear in the same narrow frequency band, consider reworking the arrangement.

KVRer
2 posts since 21 May, 2021

Post Wed Jun 16, 2021 1:18 am

Might I suggest an unconventional approach.
Using a filter plugin like FabFilter Simplon, mix with only a highpass & lowpass filter. (leave the resonance at minimum)

Once you are comfortable mixing with filters, you may gradually progress to using EQ's. Stay away from compressors for now, try mixing an entire song using only FabFilter Simplon.

This will put you in the right mixing mindset, because it will force you to think in terms of "how much low end, mid range, top end do i want/not-want" for this particular instrument in relation to other instruments.

Also keep in mind that its okay if an instrument sounds thin & brittle when soloed, what matters most is how it sounds in the mix with other instruments playing.

Note: try to make it a habit of taking off the very top end & very low end of most instruments. As far as mixing with EQ's is concerned, you might find this video helpful. I certainly did.

Good Luck

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PnQWjtMROs

KVRist
114 posts since 4 Aug, 2020 from Montreal, Canada

Post Wed Jun 16, 2021 5:30 am

Not actively learning mixing anymore, so please take with a grain of salt.

I'm striving to think a sound in a mix as three parts: attack, sustain, and reverb. If anything clashes, which part is it offending? Instead of EQ, a compressor gets there quicker in terms of rebalancing the attack/sustain on the dry track, to make things pop or duck. And you can also do anything you'd like on the reverb - EQ it, compress it to your need. It's not always audible, but our brains certainly take it and cue it to the sound. And any difference between sounds creates another dimension of separation.

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KVRist
44 posts since 15 Jun, 2021 from Brazil

Post Fri Jun 18, 2021 4:33 am

shockenkleid wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 1:18 am
Might I suggest an unconventional approach. (...)
Unlike the OP, im new in electronic music production, but old in terms of music composition. I mainly created works for real instruments in real spaces (classic music and derivatives). I would like to thanks your answer here and continue the discussion with more questions, if I may...most of them should be very basic for you guys.

I usually use a DAW to create melodies, choose sounds, effects, etc but following the rules that every voice should have its "space", like in a classic composition (bass, 2 middle voices and soprano). Hardly they cross each other or play to close.

Even following those rules, i feel that most digital compositions get a lot cancelation and masking, some voices couldn even be heard properly, in some parts (volume automation sometimes solve it, i guess).

Thats when i started looking for answers and found those technices: eq, compressors, etc.

So, my questions are:
1) A voice or sound or timbre has its beauty because of its frequencies, if i remove some of them, wont it loose part of its richness?
2) Some instruments have more lowend/midend/highend than others, how can i balance that in my song (to have an equilibrium on those frequencies)
3) Should i automate eq so when i solo a instrument i remove the cuts for it sound better?

Well, sorry for my noobish questions and thanks for the video, very helpful!! Ill try to mix with filters in my next work, i need to learn how to use those tools :)
My music project "Strange Adventures in Void" :arrow:
https://soundcloud.com/savoid

KVRist
101 posts since 31 Jan, 2021

Post Sun Jun 20, 2021 12:11 pm

As you said, arrangement, including choosing contrasting voices and timbre, is key to mix clarity and space. In my own mixes, which are largely acoustic, in addition to arrangement, I use subtle notched EQ, no more than 2-3db, gentle highpass filters, and a touch of dynamic EQ frequency-dependent ducking to reduce unwanted masking, particularly for the bass frequencies--keeping in mind that not all masking is bad, and maybe sometimes desirable. More drastic ducking and EQ carving may work well for Electrified or EDM-type genres, but I find with acoustic instruments gentleness is the key since they can be more sensitive to processing.

In the past, when I tried highpass filters with sharp slops (-18db to -24db/oct) on individual tracks, close to the lowest fundamental, I liked the clarity of separation it gave to mix but I didn’t like the effect on the tonality, particularly with lower instruments–-possibly due to phasing distortion? Using a high-quality HPF filter, such as free BX Cleansweep plugin, and gentler slops, I got the clarity without the noticeable artifacts. The moral of the story is, if one is not liking the effect of HPF on an instrument or group bus, try a gentler sloop (e,g., -6db/oct), or a low-shelf, which will allow rolling off higher up, and a different EQ such as Cleansweep (the quality of HPF/LPF filters differ).

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KVRist
44 posts since 15 Jun, 2021 from Brazil

Post Mon Jun 21, 2021 4:22 am

Those micro adjustements are hard to perceive isnt it? Ive tried some here and didnt change much. It could be my ear or the equipment i using, both arent top notch lol... My problem in digital composition has been on how some synths "covers" lots of frequencies and mask other sounds. Thats arrangement problem i guess. About dynamic EQ, is there any tutorial about that, ive found the principle here very interesting.
My music project "Strange Adventures in Void" :arrow:
https://soundcloud.com/savoid

KVRer
15 posts since 11 Apr, 2021

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:03 am

A full Orchester has sometimes over 200 Instruments and no EQ option. With a good conductor it sounds great anyway.

KVRist
114 posts since 4 Aug, 2020 from Montreal, Canada

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:24 am

SteveCo wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:03 am
A full Orchester has sometimes over 200 Instruments and no EQ option. With a good conductor it sounds great anyway.
Because when you sit in a concert hall, the elements you hear already have the 'space' built in.

Electronic production has to use tools and tricks to emulate all this.

KVRer
15 posts since 11 Apr, 2021

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:11 am

shawshawraw wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:24 am
SteveCo wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:03 am
A full Orchester has sometimes over 200 Instruments and no EQ option. With a good conductor it sounds great anyway.
Because when you sit in a concert hall, the elements you hear already have the 'space' built in.

Electronic production has to use tools and tricks to emulate all this.
The space makes it even harder. But a conductor has 2 mixing skills: leveling and panning. I think these two skills should be the most important. Don't castrate your instruments too much.

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KVRist
44 posts since 15 Jun, 2021 from Brazil

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:01 am

Guess who creates all that in a acoustic classical composition is the composer, not the conductor. A good composer knows all instruments available in a orchestra (or quartets, diff. ensembles, etc), range, timbre, etc beside compositional techniques (form, tempo, styles, expressions, etc). And theres the environment acoustics too. Conductors only rehearse, orient, and somewhat interpret tempo and levels to their tastes... what they do in presentations usually are only a "theatricality", every orchestra musician knows back and forth what to do an when at that point.
My music project "Strange Adventures in Void" :arrow:
https://soundcloud.com/savoid

KVRist
114 posts since 4 Aug, 2020 from Montreal, Canada

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:05 am

SteveCo wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:11 am
The space makes it even harder. But a conductor has 2 mixing skills: leveling and panning. I think these two skills should be the most important. Don't castrate your instruments too much.
Sorry but when you decide to move the timpani back in the room, you're not only altering the level.

High frequencies are naturally rolled off at your listening position. The first reflection comes to you at about the same time as the direct sound. The reflection patterns change. And also the panning narrows.

It's not that straightforward.

KVRer
15 posts since 11 Apr, 2021

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 9:35 am

The conductor is not that far away. Even in a dry room it works. The conductor needs the composer and - when you believe in the words of Richard Strauss - the composer needs the conductor. I just wanted to say: Leveling and panning is gold - EQing is silver - masking is not that important as someone told.

What I mean:
An orchestra piece can sound muddy or transparent, dark or shiny - it depends on the conductor (and the orchestra skills)
A track can sound muddy or transparent, dark or shiny - it depends on the mixer

The conductor has no masking things

KVRist
114 posts since 4 Aug, 2020 from Montreal, Canada

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:19 am

SteveCo wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 9:35 am
The conductor is not that far away. Even in a dry room it works. The conductor needs the composer and - when you believe the words of Richard Strauss - the composer needs the conductor. I just wanted to say: Leveling and panning is gold - EQing is silver - masking is not that important as someone told.
Mediocre is gold, mastery is silver, what a ridiculous statement you just typed.

Volume and pan get us 80% there, I agree. However, the rest 20% is really making things shine or bland. EQ is important, but it does NOT finish up the equation.

Even in a small, 'dry' room (not anechoic, huh?), the few milliseconds/feet still play a vital role in perception. Just close your eyes and really think about what cues you're using to determine where a sound comes from. Then work towards it on the cold, mechanic and numerical DAW. This is called engineering and takes lifetime to learn. If you can't appreciate it, please don't call it 'silver' or 'not that important' at least.

KVRer
15 posts since 11 Apr, 2021

Post Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:46 am

I think you missed the point. (And you are a bit to agressive for my taste - I'm out)

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