Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks | DiskMakers

shutterstock 170956478 Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks

[This article was written by Alex Andrews of Ten Kettles Development.]

The equalizer (EQ) is a very powerful tool that is EVERYWHERE. Seriously. Open up iTunes and click on the “Window” menu. There it is. As a musician, you’re going to see some form of EQ on virtually every soundboard and amp you play through. This is fantastic, because if you spend a bit of time developing your EQ skills, you’ll suddenly be able to bring a lot more control to your sound—no matter what venue you’re playing in. This article is for new bands looking to take control of their sound and bring it to the next level. Looking to get your head around the basics? You’ve come to the right place. Welcome.

Primer: what’s an EQ anyway?

There are many different types of EQs—graphic, parametric, semi-parametric, and so on—and though they’re each used a little differently, they all do a very similar thing: an EQ makes a group of frequencies louder or quieter. For example, think of the “Bass” knob on a stereo: it’s just a simple EQ that controls the low frequencies. Getting comfortable with the idea of frequencies is a great first step in gaining control of your live sound. 

iTunesEqualizer 1 Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks
The graphic EQ in iTunes controls 10 frequency bands

Let’s take a look at the iTunes equalizer (if you have iTunes, just click “Window” and then “Equalizer”). You’ll see a 10-band EQ like the one on the right. Those numbers at the bottom of each slider are the frequencies—e.g., the slider labelled “32″ controls the very low sound around 32 Hz. Our ears generally hear between around 20 Hz and 20 000 Hz (that’s 20 kHz), so this EQ has us covered!

Different frequency ranges have different qualities, different characters, different feels—and knowing this stuff is the foundation of your future EQ mastery! For example, too much volume around 1 kHz is going to sound nasal; too little 8 kHz will sound dull. Knowing this, we can just turn up or down the right sliders to fix the problem. We’ll hear some examples of this once we get to the video!

EQing the band: it’s a team sport!

Before we get into some specifics, there are two HUGE points often overlooked by beginners, and I can’t emphasize them enough:

1. Even if all instruments sound great on their own, they may not sound good together. EQing a group of musicians is about making sure they sound excellent as a unit. If you take a great sounding band and have one member play on her own, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t sound great: a bass may sound dull, a guitar or vocal may sound thin. That’s OK! All these instruments leave a bit of space in their sound so they can jigsaw together into one impressive band sound. At a show, you play together—so that’s how you should EQ too. EQing is a team sport.

2. To make one instrument sound its best, consider everyone’s settings. For example, if the bass guitar has its highs turned up loud, the guitar may not pop through. Just turning that guitar up—instead of tweaking the bass’s settings—could cause more problems.

So what do you do? A rule-of-thumb for beginning EQers is to let each instrument own a zone. In a classic four-piece (guitar, bass, vocals, drums), give the bass the lows below ~200 Hz (turn these down on the guitar and vocals), give the guitar the mids (up to roughly 1 Hz), and let the vocals pop by owning the high-mids (around 4 kHz). A simple way to cut high-mids on an electric guitar or bass is with the tone knob usually found on many electric instruments. And this can be quite a small change too — even just a 1/8 turn can do wonders.

The vocals: making them pop

To get a good vocal sound out of a basic soundboard, you can do a few simple things. (We focus on vocals here, but many of these tips will apply to all instruments.)

Turn down the lows. Women generally don’t sing much below 200 Hz; for men it’s 100 Hz. So, any sound below those frequencies that makes it into the microphone is probably not what we want. Maybe it’s the rumble of nearby traffic, or some low-frequency electrical hum. Let’s get rid of it!

The next step depends on your equipment. You’ll likely have at least one semi-parametric EQ for the vocal track mids. (Wait, what’s a semi-parametric EQ? It’s just two knobs: one for the frequency, and one for the level.) Now listen to the vocals (with the whole band playing), and pick the problem that’s most obvious: muddiness, a nasal sound, lack of warmth, or lack of presence. Picked one? Then follow the instruction below that fits. If you have four of these semi-parametric EQs, then you can move onto the other three instructions when you’re done. If not, you’ll need to choose carefully!

SemiParametricEQ Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks
A semi-parametric EQ controls the volume of sound at a specific frequency.

Turn up the presence range. Sometimes you put on a record or go to a show, and you can clearly hear everything: lead vocals, harmonies, guitar, bass, drums—it all sounds terrific. And yet, you find one particular instrument is highlighted—usually the lead vocals. While you hear everything, you find yourself listening to that one instrument above the rest. You can place an instrument at the forefront, just like this, using the presence range (around 4 kHz). For example, if you want the vocals to really pop through, turn up this range on the vocals and turn down this range on everything else. Changes of even 3 dB (that’s small) can do a great deal.

Cut the mud or increase the warmth. The muddiness/warmth region is around 250 Hz. If your vocals are muddy and the words just aren’t making it through, you may want to cut this region. On the other hand, if the vocals sound weak and need some warmth, you’ll want to raise it.

Reduce the nasal sound. The nasal region is around 1 kHz. If you find the vocals are getting too nasal, cutting this range a little can make a noticeable improvement.

Finding the frequency. Now that you know which frequency range to adjust, let’s improve that vocal sound! We’re going to assume you have a semi-parametric EQ control for mids (explained above). To start, crank the level knob most of the way high or low, depending on if you’re cutting (e.g., to reduce mud) or boosting (e.g., to increase presence). Then have the singer sing normally (not just say “Check.. 1… 2…”!), with or without the band, as you slowly turn the frequency knob around the frequency range you want to change. For example, scan from 2 kHz to 8 kHz for presence. Somewhere in that range the effect will really stand out—that’s the magic frequency, and it’s a little different for everyone. Bring the level back to something a bit more subtle, and you’re good.

Remember: when you’re EQing the vocal, your goal is to make it sound good with the band, not just on its own. Make sure you always do some EQing with everyone playing!

The caveats: EQing is great if

Building your EQ skills can lead to a giant improvement in how your songs sound to the audience. But, just like any effect, they aren’t a fix-all: songs still need to be awesome, and the performance should still be both engaging and tight. Music comes from the heart, makes its way through your instrument and sound equipment, and connects to your audience. Knowing your effects, like EQ, makes sure it gets there in one piece! And for you vocalists, know your distance to the mic! If in doubt and you’re using the usual SM58-style microphone that you’ll find in most clubs—stay very close!

Train those ears: enter hearEQ!

Developing good EQ skills involves building both knowledge and experience—and that practical experience can be tough to get at first. That’s where hearEQ comes in. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you can check out the hearEQapp—a 99¢ app that teaches you about different frequency bands, and then helps you practice EQing using custom exercises—all on your very own tracks. Understanding how the different frequency ranges sound—so you can say “hey, sounds like the bass could cut the highs a little” or “vocals could be warmer, let’s boost around 300 Hz”—is a powerful skill and hearEQ helps you get there. We are super proud of this app, and we hope you find it as useful as we have. Check out our video below to learn more—it’s also got some cool EQing examples!

hearEQ: Ear training for musicians, engineers, and audio lovers from Ten Kettles on Vimeo.

Bio: Alex Andrews is an engineer (B.Sc. Engineering Physics, M.Sc. Electrical Engineering), active musician, and Founder and CEO of an app development company called Ten Kettles. After ten years working with some terrific research labs—from physics to music psychology to cochlear implants—founder Alex began Ten Kettles as a creative, productive, and thoughtful company. He is passionate about creating software and mobile applications that have a positive, meaningful impact. Based in Toronto, Canada, Ten Kettles focuses on apps for music and education.www.tenkettles.com

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

It’s interesting to me that for all the industry insider perspective I post, it’s the gear reviews that seem to get the most traction.  Comments anyone?

Happy, successful 2014 everyone!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Have a very disco Christmas, everyone!

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How To Archive Your Recording Projects For Future Use | Digital Bear Entertainment

Here’s a little video we did about our archiving process.  This is what everyone should do when you’e finished a project.  The key is making files and stems of each part in the session so that you can recreate the work without relying on the DAW or the plugins being available at the time that you need them.

Also, understand that backup and archiving are different.  Backup is making sure you can recover from immediate disasters while you are working on a project.  That’s difficult and requires some planning.  Archiving, on the other hand, is preserving your work for future use long after you’re done with the project.  That is much more difficult and more important still.

Remember that your storage medium won’t last forever either, so use a RAID, and copy forward all of your work as new, larger drives become available at reasonable cost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding Preproduction: The Key To Making Meaningful Recordings | Gibson.com

Ted Drozdowski

Preproduction is the ultra-important process of getting everything in place to make the best album possible. It has an indelible impact on the recording process and the quality of the album that results. The sad fact is, it is overlooked entirely or in part by most new artists and by a shocking number of established recording and touring acts. That’s a major reason why so many albums suck. A lack of preparedness always results in mediocrity, whether you’re a garage band or Bob Dylan.
Cerwin-Vega cvm 1224_If you’re planning to record an album and you’re interested in creating something that has artistic value and integrity, consider this article a nudge in that direction. And remember one overall rule: if at all possible, do not rush any of the steps of the preproduction process. And if you need help making decisions along the way, seek it out, whether in the form of a producer or a knowledgeable friend with a broader grasp of the fundamentals of recording, arranging, songwriting and project management.

Another thing to consider is that there are no absolutes in preproduction other than the need to fully understand the artist involved and the nature and goals of the album being recorded. That dictates exactly what needs to be done for each project. Understand also that all of these elements are typically approached concurrently, which helps give a project momentum and establish a clearer overall picture of the final results.

This is complex, so let’s try to break it down into a few areas of discussion:

• The Artist: Every album that’s meaningful says something about who a band or artist is. Green Day’s American Idiot, for example, defines the group as thoughtful, socially committed individuals with an anti-authority attitude who use punk-rock-based music as a mode of expression. Tom Waits’ Bad As Me reveals him as a poetic writer and musical character actor with a wide berth of reference points on the search for new musical narrative forms – but with a strong foundation in established forms — and committed to experimentation. Nevermind defines Nirvana as a punk and classic rock fueled band, interested in examining the human condition and celebrating individuality, but in a way that is clearly accessible to more than a cult audience.

It’s easy to back analyze albums this way, but to really understand one’s own music and how it should crystallize in the studio requires self-examination, which means artists needs to have a sense about where their roots lie, what motivates them to create as they do, and other important factors.

A good producer can help an artist figure this out. And a good producer will spend time seeing live performances and getting to know a band or artist before entering the studio. Sure, there’s always the option to just go in and blast down a bunch of songs and hope for the best, but “the best” is easier to achieve when there is an attuned sensibility guiding the project that’s based on understanding the artist that’s recording. And that sensibility can belong to a producer or to the artist him- or herself.

• The Songs: If you’re doing two or three songs so you’ve got a demo to get regional gigs with or to get played on the local college station, there’s nothing wrong with going in and blasting those songs down. But if your goal is to make a good album that has artistic merit, material should be carefully culled and cultivated.

This process can be as simple as sifting through songs that have been written and demo’d in advance (making demos is important and educational, regardless of one’s experience level) or as complicated as soliciting tunes from outside songwriters, sifting through the recordings of other artists or finding a co-writer with whom to pen the necessary numbers. Only a genius should write songs in the studio, as the clock ticks and costs rise.

If you’re planning to make an album or producing an album for another artist, make sure you have more songs on hand than you need. And if you’re producing, you need to have songwriting chops so you can fix things that don’t work in lyrics and arrangements.

Ideally, start with 18 to 20 songs for a projected 10- to 12-song album, and winnow those down to the best. There’s nothing like playing songs in advance live to learn if they’ll stand the test of an audience or the studio. And if you’re producing, seeing a band live can provide fantastic insights for arrangements, rewriting and more — as can good demos on GarageBand or fully audible live recordings from the board or other sources. If a song doesn’t feel right for any reason, don’t force the issue. File the song away for later, since more performances or musical growth might reveal the improvements it needs to rise above the pack.

• The Experience Level: Not every band or artist is ready to make an album. If you’re not ready for the studio, don’t force it. Bad recordings exist on the Internet, on YouTube and on CDs for a long, long time. And they will be held against you. It’s best to wait until your playing is dependable enough to generate solid results. Try to be dispassionate in judging your or your band’s abilities.

Practice, playing live gigs and working on fundamental weaknesses can be viewed as long-term preproduction strategies, at a basic level. Doing demos on GarageBand or another simple hard-drive based recording system — or even live recordings on a Zoom or other self-contained, easy to use recording device — is a great way to prepare for the studio.

A good producer will level with an inexperienced band or artist, offer them some advice and be available later when they’re really ready to make an album.

• The Cast: A good producer or a self-aware band or artist will also know when to look outside for musicians in order to realize the best recordings possible. Think of the producer or artist spearheading the recording project — and there should always be just one person who is the ultimate creative decision maker — as a casting director. He or she needs to know who to call to play the right role in the recordings.

Always get the best players your connections and your budget afford. Always. And if you’re not sure who you need to play that Hammond B-3 organ part, or who the best local musical saw maestro is, ask friends and other artists for leads. These don’t have to be high-priced session musicians and perhaps shouldn’t be if you’re looking for something outside the box. They can be club players and mavericks, too — just like you.

A good producer should have a contact list that covers just about all requirements, including the phone number for the right engineer for a project, if that producer isn’t also manning the mikes and faders.

Thinking beyond the limitations of one’s own band is an important growth point for an artist. It is a sign that the music the artist makes has taken on a life of its own that extends beyond a comfort zone and regular reference points. It is a sign of creative maturity.

• The Studio: These days it’s possible to make cool albums in a bedroom. Tom Waits once used a metal Quonset hut in the desert as a makeshift studio. But it’s often hard to beat a professional or, at least, well developed home studio for big sounds, due to the design of live recording rooms and the selection of microphones, compressors and other cool gear that good studios should offer.

When looking for a studio, consider your budget for the project — including food, lodging and transportation for musicians; determine whether the cost includes the engineer and other personnel; you might want to investigate credit or payment terms; and if it has any meaning for you, look at the gear list. If you’re not technically informed, read the list of artists who have recorded there. That will be revealing, since each of them also went through the process of choosing a studio. And listen to recordings made in the studio. When the stars align, you’ll know.

Also, don’t go in over your head. These days very, very few indie albums recoup their recording costs. It’s simply the nature of the business and the times.

• The Goals: Know why you’re making an album before you start a recording project. Do you simply want a calling card for your band? Do you want to make an album that will take you to the next level? Do you want to compile recordings that might be ripe for film, TV and other synch licensing? Do you want to make a profound artistic statement?

All of these considerations may require different strategies — strategies that affect what kind of songs you’ll record, how you’ll record them, how many tunes will be part of the project, whether guest “stars” are appropriate, how you’ll mix… the list goes on.

Understanding a project’s goals – the “Big Why” in making an album — is very, very important. And many artists in today’s absurdly difficult music business environment haven’t answered that “Why” or even thought clearly about it.

For example, if you independently released an album 10 months ago that was never promoted to radio or marketed, sold only a couple hundred copies and is mostly sitting in boxes in your basement, why — in practical terms — would you consider making a new album? And yet so many artists and bands do, and slide down a slope of frustration and debt. Understanding why you’re making an album and analyzing the likely outcomes is a way to avoid both of those demons.

Hearing Protection and Your Music Career | DiscMakers

by MICHAEL GALLANT

When it comes to hearing protection for musicians, it’s worth finding a solution to prolong your career and livelihood

 

[Ed: This is a subject near and dear to my heart.  Please get protectors that aren’t the squishy things.  They don’t block low frequency energy which is where most of the power is.  Get the Etymotic Musician’s Earplugs.  They run around $100 but that includes a hearing test, fitting, and post manufacturing test to be sure they work.  I’m on my second pair, and they’re the best money spent!    – JT]

 

Hearing protection for musicians

About a decade ago, I worked with a drummer who refused to use any sort of hearing protection when playing, even though many of our rehearsals and gigs were decidedly decibel-heavy. “I just let the sound wash over me,” he told me.

After a year or two of not playing together, I had another conversation with that drummer, who, not surprisingly, was beginning to experience ringing in his ears, which could be a sign of tinnitus and other potential hearing damage. He was on his way to an audiologist to get an exam and custom fitted musicians ear plugs.

When it comes to hearing, the truth is your ears don’t care how good the music is, how hot the jam, how deep the connection, or how much you let the sound “wash over you.” Noise is noise, and too many decibels for too long will permanently damage your hearing. (For more on this, check out my article in M: Music and Musicians magazine on hearing protection).

That said, many musicians feel that ear plugs act as an unwelcome barrier. Whether foam, plastic, or silicon, plugs make it difficult to connect with the sound or audience, or muffle the nuances of a player’s instrument, the argument goes — so ears go unprotected.

In my own experience, I’ve found that working with ear plugs as much as possible during practice sessions and rehearsals — especially when mics and amplification are involved — helps me maintain my connection to the music, the audience, and my bandmates without putting my ears at undue risk. I try to practice the same songs or techniques with and without hearing protection – and sometimes with one ear plugged and the other open. This sort of repetition gives me a frame of reference, so when I hear something with ear plugs in, I more quickly imagine what it would sound like with ear plugs out.

Living in New York City, I also have ample opportunities to protect my ears from loud subway screeches or bus air breaks, and I sometimes wear my musicians ear plugs out and about during the day. The more time I spend with them in, especially while engaging in conversations on the street or bouncing around the city, the more comfortable I become with them in general, and the less like I’m walking around — or making music — inside a bubble.

It’s worth experimenting to find the hearing protection solution that works for you. While specially molded musicians earplugs are my favorite choice for now, plenty of players opt for other options, including inexpensive foam ear plugs that you can get from any drugstore. The key is to see what works given your instrument, decibel level, and performance habits, and not to give up on hearing protection as a whole, just because one solution is not be the best fit.

As musicians, we’re in this game for the long haul. Ears are a precious asset, and anything that can be done to maintain hearing acuity while still connecting with your performance is energy well spent.

Read more: Hearing Protection and Your Music Career -Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2013/09/hearing-protection-and-your-music-career/#ixzz2fG8ql3ta