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EQing ambient music (beginner)
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author EQing ambient music (beginner)
scanningthemirror
I've found plenty of tutorials and guides to apply eq to drums / guitars / bass in traditional ways, but for more ambient based recordings I've found very little.

I was wondering if anyone had any tips or guidelines when working with minimal / drone based music.

Here is an example of what I'm working with
the great lake of sighs

I have also wondered: if it would be beneficial to a beginner to switch to a non-graphical eq plugin to learn to eq with my ears and not my eyes?

I've also thought about getting some tube/vintage modeled eq plugins (like the slate digital ones) to add some coloration to some of my tracks.

As of now all I use is ReaEQ.

If any of you have any advice or tips to help me out it would be greatly appreciated
ObtuseMoose
Sorry, I don't have any EQ advice, but I DO like the piece you posted.

--
Moose
Muzone
Also no expertise to offer, but enjoyed the track
I similarly find the visual eqs can be a bit hypnotising, currently playing around with this freeby which seems to he highly rated, and is very easy to use

http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-vos-slickeq/
boboter
When mixing my tracks, I prefer to use EQs with a graphic spectrum. You can still close your eyes and move the mouse, if you need to make decisions.

In general, the mixing- and eq-process is not that different to tracks with drums. I recommend putting a spectrum on the master channel and following how the changes on the individual tracks affect the main signal.

When some frequencies get too crowded, you need to clean up a bit. Sometimes you might have to get rid of sounds/track all together. In general, you are going for a nicely even spectrum. You might want to study how your favourite ambient tracks "look" as well. Of course your ears are the final judges, but visualizations sure can help big time.

I can't say much about plugins like vintage warmer etc. Sometimes I use a bit of U-He Satin, but most of the time I use Ableton's stock effects to mimick a classic mixing desk. With very little compression and basic EQs. Don't be afraid to cut away the mud in your frequencies.
mousegarden
I don't think anyone can advise you, as a rule I try and keep an ear out for things getting too muddy, around the 200hz region, but sometimes, muddy might be what you're after, so really, there are no rules.
I do use the PSP Vintage Warmer though, one of my favourite plug-ins.
taylor12k
as mousegarden said, clearing up mud in the lower mid frequencit's can be very helpful. it allows more detail and air to come through your mixes.

also, my biggest EQ advice (besides using your ears and do what sounds good) is to EQ *subtractively* as much as you can... make cuts, not boosts. it creates more headroom and leaves less artifacts, especially with lower quality EQs.

taking the lower mid mud example... you may be inclined to boost the highs to make the mix less muddy... but always think subtractively first.. cut the mud and the highs will have room to come through.

in my many years as a professional mastering engineer (and running an ambient label), whether i'm using my hardware or plug in EQs i have put the subtractive EQ rule to test on a daily basis.

that's not to say boosting EQ is a no-no, but i tend to break it down in a simple manner where "mix correction" comes in the form of EQ cuts (mud, harshness, etc) and "mix enhancement" tend to be hardware boosts (warmth, kick drums, etc)

of course, there are no rules... these are just the ways i, personally, have chosen to think about EQ in my own, and clients', music...
mt3
Maybe meet midway, and use a Pultec-style boost/cut where the adjustments are more subtle but result in the same amount of dB change?

taylor12k Do you have a general rule of thumb the frequency threshold which everything below is mono?
flo
Cutting rather than boosting is a favorite of mine, too. Apart from most EQs sounding better that way (especially software, IME), it also forces you to concentrate on finding the "offensive" frequencies rather than the "nice" ones. In that sense, I find that it helps to develop an ear for such frequencies.

As far as cutting the sides, I generally cut everything on the sides between ca. 200-300Hz (since most of my stuff ends up on vinyl one way or another). I get much better results doing that on individual instruments, though, rather than on the 2bus or in mastering. However, I also anticipate that in tracking and it is mostly effects (reverbs and delays, specifically) that actually show anything down there to begin with.

Cheers Guinness ftw!
taylor12k
that's a great question, but highly dependent on the source material and ultimate release format.

the main reason to mono your low end is for a more successful vinyl cut. in this case you want the low end in phase as much as possible. so you mono up to the point it's needed. i've gone up as high as 300hz+ if things are really wacky down there.. but it all depends what range has the phase issues.

i tend to correct phase issues in mastering no matter where they occur because, personally, i really dislike the sound of phase incoherence. sounds unnatural to me.

if you're not going to vinyl your only main concern about phase is mono compatibility. out of phase sounds will disappear in mono... so if you care about mono playback it's good to correct them as well. however, unlike vinyl CD or digital playback won't be affected by phase incoherence... at that point it becomes an aesthetic choice (or mono compatibility choice)


but, back to the original question... only mono the low end as much as you need to! completely track dependent, no rule or preset.


mt3 wrote:


taylor12k Do you have a general rule of thumb the frequency threshold which everything below is mono?
drowld
taylor12k wrote:
that's a great question, but highly dependent on the source material and ultimate release format.


Thanks a lot for your insights. I am and for sure the only one really interested in some more mastering or creative tips from you. I love your own music and the stuff i usually see mastered by you.

It would be nice to have some sorts of Q&A here on muff from a highly qualified producer and mastering engineer like you.

Is it doable ? Chicken
taylor12k
thank you for the kind words! i'm happy to take part in a Q&A if the powers at be need to set it up.. or not?

drowld wrote:
taylor12k wrote:
that's a great question, but highly dependent on the source material and ultimate release format.


Thanks a lot for your insights. I am and for sure the only one really interested in some more mastering or creative tips from you. I love your own music and the stuff i usually see mastered by you.

It would be nice to have some sorts of Q&A here on muff from a highly qualified producer and mastering engineer like you.

Is it doable ? Chicken
johnnywoods
One neat trick I like for any track, but especially for ambient, is to EQ tracks against each other. Look for the dominant frequencies of a track, and then cut those frequencies on other tracks that fall in the same general frequency range. I try to think of it like a jigsaw puzzle, where every piece occupies a specific range, and the other parts get out of the way. If two tracks need to occupy a similar frequency, I pan them against each other.

Another important thing to keep in mind with synth music is your use of filtering, which is basically a severe eq. If everything is low pass filtered, you lose a lot of flexibility in how you can eq. Composition and sound design play a big part in how much or how little you need to EQ in the end.
mt3
taylor12k wrote:
that's a great question, but highly dependent on the source material and ultimate release format.

the main reason to mono your low end is for a more successful vinyl cut. in this case you want the low end in phase as much as possible. so you mono up to the point it's needed. i've gone up as high as 300hz+ if things are really wacky down there.. but it all depends what range has the phase issues.

i tend to correct phase issues in mastering no matter where they occur because, personally, i really dislike the sound of phase incoherence. sounds unnatural to me.

if you're not going to vinyl your only main concern about phase is mono compatibility. out of phase sounds will disappear in mono... so if you care about mono playback it's good to correct them as well. however, unlike vinyl CD or digital playback won't be affected by phase incoherence... at that point it becomes an aesthetic choice (or mono compatibility choice)


but, back to the original question... only mono the low end as much as you need to! completely track dependent, no rule or preset.


mt3 wrote:
taylor12k Do you have a general rule of thumb the frequency threshold which everything below is mono?


Hmmm, I didn't think it was a great question, but it became great only because you're the person who might encounter a different "spectrum" of music than anyone else.

I imagine you encounter "subsonic" tracks (nothing above 50 Hz), as well as "supersonic" ones (nothing below 22 kHz)! Thus I was curious what "mono" meant to you in such instances.
And how to deal with Bernhard Günter's ‎"Un Peu De Neige Salie" barely-there-ambient works as well?
Quite the challenge I imagine.
AW198
Cut rather than boost

Don't be scared of parametric EQs, sometimes you might need one to cut out that one particular angry frequency

As always, Good source signal > Bad source material + mixing

Trust your ears, but also use reference tracks if you can find them.

Tbh all my advice isn't limited to drone/minimalist music, but hey, that's what came to mind w00t
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