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BACK TO REQ MID-QUARTER 2000 ISSUE 1

USING COMPLIMENTARY EQUALIZATION

BY ROBERT DENNIS

ADMINISTRATOR,   RECORDING INSTITUTE OF DETROIT

One of the hardest things to overcome in mixing is the hearing limitation known as masking.  Masking is one sound covering up all or part of another sound because the frequencies of the two sounds are close.  The sound that is slightly louder sort of "wipes out" the other sound.

The way this works with music is that one instrument will make the other instrument sound dull and indistinct.  It is frustrating to both the novice and the experienced engineer that an instrument sounds so great by itself and so "lifeless" in the mix. 

An equalizer is a "level control" for certain rangers of frequencies.   When you boost a frequency with EQ, you are making the dialed up frequency louder than others (as well as frequencies that are close to the frequency set on the equalizer).   When you dip or cut with an equalizer you are reducing level of frequencies in that range.

When you have indistinct sound between two instruments, you can use a method called "complimentary equalization."  The idea is to boost a certain frequency on one instrument and dip that same frequency on another instrument.  This will get both instruments distinct, when properly done.

Some key conflicts that come up often in mixes include:

Foot Drum Vs. Bass

Dip between 350 Hz and 400Hz on the foot drum (to remove the "cardboard" sound) and increase the same frequency on the bass (to add bass presence).

Lead Vocals Vs. Background Vocals

Dip between 3 kHz and 4 kHz on the background vocals to give them an "airy" sound and increase the same frequency on the lead vocal.

When using this method you will be surprised that you get a lot of change with only a little amount of equalization.  Use between 3 dB and 6 dB of boost and cut.

Next week's tip will give the standard :"recommended" frequencies for equalization.  With this chart you will be able to come up with additional frequencies to use complimentary equalization.

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