You’re probably familiar with the typical bass, midrange and treble controls found on guitar amps, bass amps and some mixers. EQ is just like that, only more so.
If you have bass, midrange and treble knobs, that’s a “three-band”, or three channel EQ system. Each knob controls a different part part of the sound. That’s all well and good for some things (like guitar amps) but for recording it’s not all that useful.
We don’t want 3 bands, we want 20 or 30, or at least 10, so that we one can target a much narrower portion of the tone spectrum.
Why is this useful?
There are several reasons, but the most obvious is that it can help make the recording sound better. Let’s say you have a boomy kick drum and a deep bass guitar playing on a tune. They both have a lot of information in the low end of the sound spectrum and things can start to sound muddy or mushy. With EQ, you can lower the volume of, or attenuate, certain frequencies in the boomy kick drum so it doesn’t “compete” with the bass (or vice versa). It’s kinda weird in that the kick drum might sound less full by itself, but it will sit better in the mix and the overall sound of the song will be clearer, less muddy and more distinct..
Another common example of tone shaping is applied on rhythm guitar parts. Lot’s of guitarists come in with a really full, thick tone and it sounds fantastic BY ITSELF. But when you add in the drums, bass, keyboards & so-on, again, the thing starts to sound like a muddy mosh pit.
What to do?
You cut or “roll off” the low end of the guitar using a high-pass filter to make sonic space for the other instruments. The result is that the guitar will sound a little “thin” by itself but will sound great in the overall mix.
I’ll be diving into which frequencies affect which parts of the sound and what emotional effect or impact different frequencies can have on the listener. (We’re in this to have an impact, right?) For now, just think of EQ as an essential tool that will soon become one of your best friends in the home studio.
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