Eq-ing VDL2

Could anyone with some pro-audio/drumline experience give their preferences on how they EQ the drumline and mallet instruments?

Also, are there special considerations when it comes to blend? For example, I can usually eq individual instruments to sound good, but when the whole ensemble plays back, I get a feeling like things could gel better. Any tips from the masters? :)
I'd hardly call myself a master, but you have a key concept down already.  Change it to the way YOU like it.  A couple of things...

First, if you don't like the way the whole ensemble sounds, you should consider either adding a master EQ effect for the entire ensemble, or change your EQ settings when you are playing back the entire ensemble.

EQ is a bit of a trick, too.  Equalization is simply a volume control spread out over frequencies.  The harmonics of most mallet instruments is very tightly constrained, so EQ on mallets needs to be done with a light touch most often.  In essence, EQ on a mallet instrument is like taking 5 or 6 bars and making them louder per slider/runner.  For realism, it should be a smooth line in whatever choice you make.  Maybe add a little to the marimba bottom end, but don't overdo it.

You may also want to look at some other effects for realism, such as some reverb, chorus, stereo expansion/contraction and panning.

How are you getting to your end result now?  Are you using a DAW, or just the notation's VST effects?
[quote author=perpetualpoet link=topic=2067.msg10537#msg10537 date=1193838620]
Also, are there special considerations when it comes to blend? For example, I can usually eq individual instruments to sound good, but when the whole ensemble plays back, I get a feeling like things could gel better. Any tips from the masters? :)
[/quote]

You just hit on one of the most common errors of inexperienced mixers.  It's really tempting to go crazy with the solo button, spend about 3 hours EQ'ing everything by itself, then find out the mix is a muddy mess when you add it all back in.

If your ears are not used to picking out different frequencies and muddy/bright spots, try this...This is how I approach a fresh mix when I'm in the studio-

In Logic Express, load up your song and select the entire thing plus about 20-30 seconds of silence at the end.  Also, bypass any processing, and set all of your tracks to unity gain.  Listen to the entire tune a few times over leaving yourself some time to think at the end.  Come up with a list of sections in the song that bother you from a clarity standpoint.  Write down what bothers you about the sections, such as ";muddy";, ";bright";, ";shallow"; and so on.

Next, set levels.  Go through your tune with the score, and place instruments at appropriate volume levels for each section.  It helps to do some quick automation for this, in case an instrument goes to the front and back of the ensemble a lot volume wise.

Then set your panning.  You'll find that by getting all of this set roughly first will solve A LOT of frequency and balance issues before having to turn to processing.

Now head for the EQ if there are areas that still have clarity issues.

Remember that there are three major rules that apply to EQ.

1) Use subtractive EQ to make things [i]fit[/i].
2) Use additive EQ to make things sound [i]different[/i].
3) You can't add any frequencies that are not there.

You'll find that the majority of your problems come from areas in the 200hz-700hz, and from 1k-3k ranges.  These areas are buildup ranges, where most instrument's fundamental ranges are.  Remember that a little goes a long way, a 2dB boost is a lot, and usually you only need to cut 1-3dB to make a major difference.

Any problems in the 200hz-700hz range are what you would usually describe as ";muddy"; or ";boxy";.  Instruments in this area are any type of pad synth or low end keys, bass drums, low to mid octave marimba, low octave vibes, concert bass, bass guitar, low end guitar, low end strings, fundamental snare pitch, and the 3 and 4 drums on a set of quads.

In the 1k-3k areas, problems are usually described as sibilant, or over-present.  This is where the mid range pitch of a snare, top basses, upper quads drums, higher end marimba, vibes, xylo, and so on live.  This is also the area that is most sensitive to human hearing, and a buildup in this area causes an uncomfortable feeling (try it, open up an EQ and crank on 1-3k and see how your head feels after listening to it for a bit).

So as you listen to each problem area, if things sound funky, open up a EQ.  Place it on the instrument you think is causing the problem, then start slowing sweeping the frequencies.  Start by [b]boosting[/b] about 7-8dB, making the Q (bandwidth) fairly sharp, then sweep the frequency control (slowly turning) from 50hz or so on until you hear something that sounds really bad.  That is most likely the cause of the problem.  Leave the Q and frequency where they are, then attenuate that area by about 2-3dB.  Continue on doing this until the area cleans up.

Throwing a mastering EQ over the stereo buss (master fader) can help a lot.  Boost a tad at 40-80hz, cut a bit around 250hz, cut again at about 700hz, slight cut at 1-3k, slight boost at 8k, slight boost at 16k, and a slight cut at about 18k if things are too bright.

Although it's a totally new monster, compression can help immensely.  Compression does what it says, compresses the dynamic range of instruments.  Adding a slight amount (like a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio) to marimbas, bass drums, snares, quads, bass guitar, and synths will make them sound and feel much punchier and upfront.  Open up a compressor on the bassline track, set a small ratio, and slowly pull down the threshold control until you see the meter starting to pump slightly.  I usually like a fast attack and slow release, which causes the instrument to get a slight pulse to it.  I view compression as less of a dynamic and sonic tool, and more of a feel type effect.  Word of warning though, too much will make everything VERY muddy, kill your dynamic range (invalidate all of those nice soft moments), throw everything to the back of the mix.

A Limiter plugin on the stereo buss adds some interesting qualities as well.  A limiter is basically a brick wall compressor, and a little of this will give your song more oomph and volume makeup.  Like before, too much will destroy the tune.

Lookup how to set your plugins to a Pre-Fader mode as well.  This places the plugin BEFORE the fader (volume controls) in the mixer.  Reason being, is that most plugins like compressors rely on input volume to work.  That means if the plugin is placed after any automation or volume changes, it will change how the plugin reacts to the incoming volume, and will give you an inconsistent sound.

Place any EQ plugin BEFORE any compressor as well, since you really don't want to bring out any problem areas before they get fixed.

If at all possible, avoid using headphones.  They do not give an accurate view of levels, panning, and depth.  Even if you have crappy consumer monitors, they will help you more than headphones will.  Also, be careful with how loud you're listening at.  Even at a reasonable volume, constant listening for a few hours will wear your ears down a lot.  You're not doing any damage, but like every other part on your body, they do get tired after a while from critical listening.  You can hear a lot more at really quiet levels than you can loud.  Your ears have a harder time discerning certain frequency areas at high volumes, and certain phenomena cause these areas to be masked.  I do most of my mixing at a low speaking voice.

It also helps to do things in groups.  I mix in groups, such as drums + rhythmic instruments, guitars, strings, and vocals.  Start with the rhythmic base for your tune (battery, drum set) and get that pumping first.  Then go for the lead melodic stuff, like lead marimbas, xylos, lead synths.  After you have those parts working well together, build in the background support like chordal vibes, bass marimba, pad synths, and so on.  I go from the philosophy that I can mute all of the background and harmonic parts, and the song should still be able to stand on it's own with basic melody and rhythm.  If it falls apart when you do that, something is wrong.

It'll take a lot of patience and time at first.  Most of the rock tunes that I mix average about 40 tracks, and I take about 8-12 hours to mix one song.  About 6 hours of that is spent listening, and doing very little knob turning on the console.
There's your master.  Couldn't agree more with what he said.
Ditto that! Thanks very much for your detailed expertise Justin. Very helpful information for all of us to consider!
I expanded on things a bit here-

https://www.tapspace.com/forums/index.php?topic=2070.0

Hope that will help some of you!
Wow! Justin, you just made my head spin a little. But I think after a few reads I understand thing a little better now. ��I'll have to print out what you wrote and play with the settings that you mentioned. Thanks for encouraging experimentation!

I've only recently started exploring logic and pro audio ��(amateur audio in my case :) ) ��
Could anyone recommend any books?
[i]Modern Recording Techniques[/i] by David Miles Huber covers a ton of concepts in the audio world.  It covers everything from what each piece of equipment does, up to mic placement concepts which can easially be translated to micing your pit.  It can be a little heady at first, but after a few reads it'll make a lot more sense.  I would start with this book, then expand out more if you ever want to go more in depth.

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Recording-Techniques-Sixth-David/dp/0240806255

If you want some help with Logic, definitely check out Apple's Pro Training Series manuals.  The book is [i]Logic Pro and Logic Pro Express: Professional Music Creation and Audio Production[/i] by Martin Sitter.  It isn't dull, and contains a CD with session examples that goes along with what each chapter is talking about.

http://www.amazon.com/Apple-Pro-Training-Logic-Express/dp/032125614X/ref=sr_1_3/002-0664204-8076859?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193969911&sr=1-3
I got a chance to work and party with Mr. Huber.  He's, um...  a very fun character.  :)

Just be careful at a pool party....  and that's all that needs to be said there!
Again, Justin rocks!!!
Wow. Justin, in about ten years I hope to completely understand what you posted up there...

awesome!
some great information - for EQing in general.  Thanks guys.
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