How To Perfectly Equalize A Song

Hello dear Renoise Chiefs,

After I have managed to learn quite a few good tricks about mastering in general, I would love get some of your insight about equalizing a song.

I know it may be considered as a part of mastering, but to me it is a slightly different issue with its own set of problems.

In mastering, I had to deal with the volume maximization, and sound excitation mostly.
Now, the thing is this:

I am listening to my music on my own set of speakers, and it is very difficult for me to know what amount of bass and treble to apply to the finished work.

Is there any rule of thumb or a tool that is designed to help do such decisions? If not, how do you approach it?

What speakers do you have? Best sugestion i can give you is to use some more or less decent set of monitor speakers and right EQ will come naturally :) I know my mixes improved dramatically after i bought my monitors.

You can also listen to some reference CD with good mastering and compare it to your music and make some judgements.

To be completely honest with you here, I am not sure I understand the concept of “monitors”.
How do they differ from normal, good quality speakers?

Also, when you do your tracking and mixing, are you applying any equalization? If not, then you will naturally equalize your tracks (i.e. apply bass and treble to your taste) inside the tracks themselves, and when you go outside your “monitored” station, and put it in your stereo, where you have an ADDITIONAL bass enhancement , it all sounds like you know what.

I mean, the most natural thing for me, is to NOT use special equipment. I mean, your listeners will not have monitors right? They will have normal stereo, so my (most obviously wrong-) conclusion would be to use just a normal set of speakers, using the equalization settings you always use (for other music) and then you may have a result similar to other stuff you like.

Too many words I know, and I dont even know if I asked something in all this text, but I am just wondering out loud.

Hey crytek,

These are some nice comments. Thank you for that. I have some clashes in my songs, but never considered them as a part of my equalization process. Also, good tip about the subtractive equalization.

No no - dont know nothing about anything! :)
I dont understand these two tips. Maybe I know them, but dont call them like such.
Care to elaborate?

There are many ways to tackle this. I didn’t have professional monitors so I took it upon myself to listen to my album through every different stereo I could get access to. Whether it be a car, laptop speakers, a friends stereo, or even as far as going to a Best Buy and asking the clerk if you can take a gander at a nice stereo with your CD. ( hey, we’re all musicians here, we gotta do what we gotta do ). Also if you can, add post EQing from whatever stereo you’re listening to it from, if adding more to it makes it muddy or the levels drastically unbalanced then you can take cues on what frequencies you can limit or bring out.

I guess a general rule from what my producer told me was that “headphones are the devil, all you’re hearing is the ear candy”. His words, not mine… but I can kinda see what he was talking about.

The concept of monitor speakers is to give you flat frequency response along the spectrum and uncoloured sound. It means that they try to produce as neutral and “true” sound as possible. Most hifi speakers dont have flat frequency response and they colour sound, in other words they have boosts in bass (or some other frequency band) and dips in other bands etc, they shape/shange the sound.

Yes, you have a point there when you say that most people dont listen music on monitors, BUT the problem is, people have very different speakekrs, each have their own boosts dips and “colour” of sound. So if you mix on spekers that have week bass then you compensate for that with boosing EQ on bass, but then somebody will listen to your music with the set of speakers that have strong bass… imagine how it will sound, it will blow off his woofers :) And vise versa, if your speakers have boosted bass then your mix will have week bass and it will sound even weeker on ordinary speakers wothout woofers.

With monitors you are trying to mix so, that your mixdown will sound good on very different speakers.

I usually try to EQ and mix sounds/tracks right in the process of composing/tracking. For me mastering is just adding finishing touches, just very slight EQ adjustments, slight compression or limiting etc, nothing major. As they say, you cant fix mixing mistakes in mastering. Try to make it right and sound as good as you can in the composing/mixing process. Yes, avoiding clashes and EQ-ing instruments/tracks is exactly what i mean by that. But to hear the clashes and make right judgements and adjustments you have to have monitor speakers, this is really the best suggestion i can give you.

There is no magic equation to make your mixes sound good, you just have to use your ears and feed them trustworthy input

Actually if you buy monitors and listen to them at first you might say “naah, i dont know man, they dont sound that good, my hifi stereo set sounds more powerful and stronger and i like the sound more” but after you spend some time with them and compose/mix some tunes on them then you notice that “damn… my mixes are getting much better, they sound nice on my hifi set and on my little headphones and even in my friends car etc”

this is what monitors are about, not for everyday listening but for mixing.

Also, if you want just some tips then try to fill your spectrum with different instrumens and make sure that there are no instruments thats main power is in the same frequency (as crytek said). You will just hear it, if sound will start to get messy and muddy. You can also split some instruments. Lets say you want to make a bass sound that has low and high component. You can then just copy paste the same track and make it 2 tracks, then EQ the first to have beefy low subbbass component and cut all highs and then EQ other track to have high squeechi sound and cut all lows. This way you will have nice clean but powerful bass.

I dont know what music genre you are into, but if its electronic dance music then lowpass beefy subbass around 70-80 HZ, highpass kickdrum around 60-70 Hz. This way you will have powerful combination of subbass and kickdrum. Dont try to make bass and kick powerful individually, they have to be powerful in combination. Also EQ or filter out frequency components of instruments/sounds, that dont belong to it. For example, if you have highat sample then filter out all mids and lows to free up space for instruments that belong to mids and lows, etc etc. Think of your mix as box with limited space, you want to fill that box up as much as possible, but at the same time you cant put too much into it, cause there is just no as much space in it.

wow wow wow… you guys are insane… hold on, reading… :)

Hey Icarus,

Check out the video I linked to some time ago in the Tips & Tricks forum:

Especially the EQ part may be of interest to you, if you haven’t watched that yet.

Yes, I think I agree.
You know, I purchased headphones that were supposed to be for professional use, and the sound always sounds a little too deep with them. Cant get used to it.

Yes, see your point there. Makes perfect sense.

Totally with you on this one.
At first I said “I will worry about the balancing later” and that did not work out too well for me.
I do not move on to the next pattern until I am happy with the sound.

Say - do you have two sets of speakers connected to your computer? Monitors and your regular 2.1 speakers?

So this in effect, cuts off the mid range of this instrument. Yes?

Thats good.

You are sorry?! :)
I am sorry I made you work so hard on that post!

It is very clear, and very thoughtful of you to make such an effort.
Intuitively, I always boosted wide (you see how I use it in a sentence now? :) ) but I never considered cutting narrow.

I am comfortable with dramatic effects and gated-pad “buildup” effects using cutoff automation. Here I wanted to focus more on the mixing/balancing part of eqing.

Yes. I usually solo first, listen to see that it is the cleanest and warmest I can do, then I listen to it together with the rest.

@Transcender - good to see you.
Your link is generating an SQL error - “There appears to be an error with the database.”

Would love to see that video.

Working now.

600mb HTTP download… thats something I havent done in a while… :)

Downloaded and reading.

He said: “I started making music with Impulse Tracker.”
I like him already!

Actually i have 3 soundcards in my comp :) m-audio audiophile 192 are connected to my monitors, SB audigy 2 are connected to ordinary speakers and some headphones on crappy built-in soundcard. Actually i listen to music with my monitors at most times, this helps to learn your monitors better if you know how other commercial stuff sounds on them etc. It wasnt my point that you cant listen to music with monitors, of course you can, but they are not supposed to make it sound “the best” as hi-fi speakers, they are supposed to sound “truthfuly”. So sometimes it may happen that your hi-fi will “sound better” than monitors. My point was that monitors are not supposed to “make tune sound the best” but on the contrary “help you to hear your mistakes” so you can fix them

I also use my ordinary speakers to “check” how my mix sounds on them.

That wasnt actually exactly what i meant (although it can be done for that also). What i meant is that you can split for example bass up. You take one copy of the same thing and cut all mids highs, boost bass, maybe add some bass expanding effect etc. Then you take another copy of that bass, cut all lows, and effect it with mids and highs in mind, maybe put some (guitar) distortion on it etc. So if you listen to those 2 tracks at the same time then it sounds like complete powerful instrument that you cant do in just 1 track.

A great interview with Rob Acid about his Mastering career including his thoughts on smashed (square) waveforms. He also talks about his modified vintage gear and giant sized spring reverb. If I could even apply 1/3rd of the knowledge this guy has to my tracks I would probably not be making aggrotech-glitch-noiserock (an easy way of saying, what eq?).

hehe, he has dblues Glitch installed :) dblue made one hell of a plugin, its quite famous :)

Yeah, this guy is cool.
Made me feel very small and insignificant though…
he and his giant reverb spiral tube… my dishwasher is smaller than his reverb “plugin”… pfft…

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these guys are gearjunkies :) dont let it bother you, you can do more than enough stuff in your homw with computer and software (and dont forget to buy some monitors :P )

Icarus, if you need some serious help with your mixes or masters just pop me a PM, I may be able to help you get a professional result. See my signature for details.

That’s a very useful tutorial!

Imagine if there was a spectral analyzer that could color each of your tracks differently, like the diagrams in this tut! Perhaps a future feature? Renoise needs a better analyzer anyhow, and color coding the tracks has been suggested for quite a while now…

Yes. I would also love the ability to use some tools that help visualize your “box” and actually see how full it is… I am guessing there are some analyzers like this?
And you know - I have to ask - what equalizer plugin are you guys using? Is the Renoise EQ sufficient? If not, what is recommended?