January 26, 2024
Clarity is job one when mixing, especially in modern recording. Even when your goal is a wall of sound, you still need a certain clarity, or you can easily find yourself in a muddy mess. So, we thought we’d talk about some slightly more advanced EQ and compression techniques for that purpose. We chose to put these two together because the combination of EQ and compression is a huge part of how modern mixers achieve such pristine clarity.
Let’s start by reviewing some fundamentals. So: EQ (equalization) is a fundamental audio tool that allows for precise control over the frequency content of a signal. By adjusting (aka boosting or cutting) different frequency bands, EQ can shape the tonal balance of any signal. We normally refer to five frequency bands – lows (20-200 Hz), low-mids (200-800 Hz), mids (800 Hz to 2 kHz), high-mids (2-6 kHz), and highs (6-20 kHz).
EQs come in four basic flavors:
Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s go over some EQ techniques:
Dynamic EQ is yet another advanced EQ technique but it deserves its own section, as it has so many uses, and is kind of a hybrid between EQ and compression. Briefly, dynamic EQ lets you set specific frequency bands and adjust their gain based on the input signal's level. It’s actually just a band-specific compressor. Dynamic EQ can be used in a number of ways:
Compression reduces dynamic range. Put simply, it makes loud parts of a signal quieter so that you can bring the overall level up, thus making quiet parts louder. As complex as compression can be, that’s the bottom line. Obviously, the usefulness of this tool is immense. So, let’s look at some specific techniques here.
The artful interplay of compression and EQ, and using them in tandem, is a large part of how the best mixes are so clear and audible, while still maintaining a kind of unity. This concept is huge for mixers, and once you start to master using your EQs’ and compressors’ full capabilities in tandem, you start to see palpable improvements in your mixes. Hopefully, this has helped you in that endeavor!
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