That’s a question I get asked a lot, and as a mastering engineer, I’m conflicted about what advice to give. The follow-up, “should it be single or multi-band ?” is easier to answer, though.
First of all:
Why would you use a buss compressor over your whole mix anyway ?
This post started out as a comment on The Recording Revolution about buss compression, and Graham’s video from that post (above) gives a good explanation.
He’s pretty clear that you should compress your whole mix, and the truth is that almost all “name” engineers in the pop, rock and indie genres, will slap an SSL or similar buss compressor over the mix as one of the first things they do when setting up a mix.
Simple, right ?
Well… maybe. A great buss compressor used on a great mix will often “glue it together” nicely, as Graham says. It’s a tried and tested technique that has been used on a huge number of hit records.
By the way, just in case you haven’t come across TED Talks already, check out the video above first – it does a great job of explaining the concept, as well as being essential viewing in it’s own right.
But wait – TEDx? What does the “x” stand for ? A TEDx conference is the same thing as the main TED conferences, but smaller, local and independently organised. If you think that means it’s in any way a poor relation though, you couldn’t be more wrong – just look at that line-up !
I was taught these EQ “rules of thumb” when I first started out as a trainee, to help learn the art of mixing - each EQ band influences different qualities of a mix or instrument, and I thought you might find it useful if I shared them.
Later in the post I’ve also embedded another great video by Joe Gilder. Like the one in my using compression post recently, it gives an excellent introduction to the different EQ settings and parameters, plus some great real-world examples of using EQ in Pro Tools, although the ideas are applicable to any DAW.
[Edit - this is an old post - I'm bringing it back to the front page because Joe has just released a great new HD video tutorial called "Understanding EQ". If you find this post useful and would like to check it out, click here.]
Before we get to the tweaks, I want to stress that these are just ideas, guidelines and starting points. Always remember the golden rule of EQ:
Balance is everything
You can’t just add a load of 100Hz and expect your bass to sound rich – the key is to get each area balanced with every other, so that all the instruments complement each other, and don’t fight. This may even mean cutting out some frequencies to stop them clashing with other instruments – you can probably lose everything below 1kHz on a hi-hat mic, for example.
Balancing the mids – roughly 200 Hz to 2 kHz – is particularly important, since the 2K area is the most sensitive region of the ear, and getting the mid-range right is essential for things to sound warm, natural and real.
People loved this when I posted it on Twitter, and I thought it was well worth putting it up here, too.
If you think you put loads of effort into your recording and mixing – watch this, and think again ! Brings new meaning to the phrase “playing the studio”. No extra commentary is needed from me, I don’t want to spoil the fun – enjoy.
This is an enjoyable short film about the making of Amon Tobin’s excellent Foley Room – a great album which you may already know about. If not, I strongly recommend it.
I talk a lot about classic albums, recording live instruments and ¨real, natural sound¨ on Production Advice, mainly because in this time of virtual instruments and laptop recording studios I think it’s becoming something of a lost art that needs highlighting.
BUT I have always had a passion for electronic and dance music – Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene’ was the second tape ever played in my Sanyo personal cassette player (I couldn’t afford a Walkman !) and it would be hard to overstate the importance of Orbital in my music collection – to pick just two examples.
(What was the first tape ever played in my Walkman ? It’s too embarrassing to reveal in public, but ask me on Twitter and I’ll DM you the answer :-p )