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Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet Step 3: Enhance It Mastering EQ

Step 3: Enhance It

Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

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By Rob Williams

©2012 Rob Williams

ProSoundFormula.com UltimateMasteringFormula.com All Rights Reserved

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

Preface.

EQ is one of the most powerful tools we have to add those final touches to our mix, that make it sound just right.

During recording and mixing we’re simply EQing ONE instrument at a time, and if we don’t get it exactly right, it’s not going to make or break the mix.

But when it comes to mastering, we’re applying the EQ to the ENTIRE song, and so the stakes are MUCH higher.

We need to make sure that we get it just right.

And it’s very important that we DON’T overdo it.

The key difference between using EQ in mastering verses recording or mixing, is that we want to make our changes are VERY SUBLTE.

If you find your EQ curve looking like a silhouette of the Swiss Alps, something is wrong with your mix and it’s best that you go back and try changing the EQ on individual channels first.

Using EQ In Mastering

There’s essentially two reasons we use EQ during mastering:

1. To FIX something in the mix. 2. To ENHANCE the mix.

This guide focusses on ways you can ENHANCE your track using some of the most common EQ’s used in mastering.

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Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

I put this book together to serve both as a helpful guide to those who are new to mastering and using EQ, as well as a quick overview and refresher for those with more experience.

Now I just want to be clear here, this is JUST A GUIDE.

It’s a bunch of OPTIONS that you can try out on your tracks to hear what works and what doesn’t –obviously this is going to differ from track to track.

That’s why I wanted to put it in a guide like this, instead of making a bunch of presets.

Because you need to CUSTOMIZE your EQ for the specific track you’re working on.

So you’ll probably want to COMBINE some of the suggestions in here.

The Yin & Yang Of EQ

Understanding how to EQ your masters starts by understanding that there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG.

Every change is RELATIVE.

Brightness in excess becomes harsh and thin.

Warmness in excess becomes dull and muddy.

Too much of one thing throws out, or clouds over, the other.

It’s about finding the HARMONY and BALANCE.

It also comes down to PERCEPTION.

What sounds nice and bright to one person, may sound thin and brittle to another.

What sounds full and fat to one, may sound muddy to another.

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Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

So you’ve got to decide what you prefer, and what works best for the SONG.

That said, although there’s no wrong or right per se, there is a CERTAIN RANGE that we need to work within if we want our tracks to sound good on the MAJORITY of playback systems.

When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious:

The manufacturers that produce the playback systems, from car stereos to iPod earphones, create them to reproduce the frequency spectrum in a way that sounds most favorable.

So it only makes sense that if we want our songs to sound the best possible, we need to work within that range.

This is why it’s ALWAYS important to keep listening and comparing to your commercial reference tracks that you’ve chosen.

You’ll notice that I’ve used an orange cross to point out the effect that overdoing a certain EQ can have.

Bandwidth / Variable Q

Bandwidth, also known as ‘Q’, refers to how broad or narrow the EQ filter is.

Most EQ’s should give you the option to change this.

Because we’re going for SUBTLE and TRANSPARENT adjustments during mastering, using a BROAD bandwidth generally works best.

So although I haven’t given you a specific number (because values differ between manufacturers), just use a broad bandwidth as a rule of thumb.

Typically the only time you’ll use a very narrow Q is when notching out a problem frequency but that’s a topic for another book :)

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Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

Deciphering My Descriptions

Throughout this guide I’ve used some fancy and somewhat interesting terms to try and describe what the EQ is meant to achieve.

Please, take these with a pinch of salt, they’re just rough descriptions :)

I’ve used a couple of different terms because different words mean slightly different things to different people.

Also, I haven’t used inverted commas on all of them –i.e.“air”,“glisten”,“sheen” -Because there’s so many that it would start getting a little ridiculous.

But

I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out what I mean.

Focus On The Whole

Always keep in mind that in mastering we’re focussed on the ENTIRE mix, NOT individual instruments.

You’re always looking to benefit the WHOLE, not some specific part.

So for example, you may find that a High Shelving Filter boost brings out the vocals really nicely, but at the same time now makes the cymbals sound harsh.

In this case, it may not be benefitting the overall song, and so it would be better to leave it out.

Of course, when you find something like this that works, if possible, go back to the MIX phase and change the EQ over there.

In this example, you may go back to the mix and slightly darken the cymbals or add a bit more top end to your vocals.

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Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

How do I know Which One To Use?

This will come with TRIAL and ERROR.

I heard a great quote not so long ago:

“Success comes from good judgement. Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement!”

In other words, when you try something and it doesn’t quite work, you LEARN SOMETHING.

And each time you learn, you get better.

So if you’re new to this, just TRY some of these out and listen to whether they make your track sound better or not.

You’ll know whether you’ve gone too far when you compare to your reference tracks.

As always, if you have questions or comments for me, you can email me at

Enjoy!

–Rob Williams

* NOTE: These EQ curves may LOOK drastic, but if you look closely at the dB scale on the right of the EQ, you’ll notice that it very ZOOMED IN.The very top and bottom are only 3dB. So just be aware of this with whatever EQ you’re using.

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Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Sub-bass . Power . Fat . Feel Thump }
{
Sub-bass . Power . Fat . Feel Thump }
EQ Cheat Sheet { Sub-bass . Power . Fat . Feel Thump } Frequency: 50Hz –
EQ Cheat Sheet { Sub-bass . Power . Fat . Feel Thump } Frequency: 50Hz –

Frequency: 50Hz – 65Hz

. Power . Fat . Feel Thump } Frequency: 50Hz – 65Hz Filter Type: LSF (Low

Filter Type: LSF (Low Shelving Filter), Broad Q

Gain:

+ 1dB to + 3dB
+ 1dB to + 3dB

This will increase sub-bass, power, fatness of a mix on bigger playback systems / systems with a subwoofer (i.e.Won’t be heard on smaller systems)

This is the FEELING part of the bass

smaller systems) ✓ This is the FEELING part of the bass ! Too much can cause

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Too much can cause your limiter to distort

of the bass ! Too much can cause your limiter to distort ©2012 Rob Williams -

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Bass . Sub-bass . Fat . Power . Thump }
{
Bass . Sub-bass . Fat . Power . Thump }
EQ Cheat Sheet { Bass . Sub-bass . Fat . Power . Thump } Frequency: 120Hz
EQ Cheat Sheet { Bass . Sub-bass . Fat . Power . Thump } Frequency: 120Hz

Frequency: 120Hz – 150Hz

Sub-bass . Fat . Power . Thump } Frequency: 120Hz – 150Hz Filter Type: LSF (Low

Filter Type: LSF (Low Shelving Filter), Broad Q

Gain:

+ 1dB to + 3dB
+ 1dB to + 3dB

This will increase low end on virtually all playback systems

Will add power, warmth, thickness, fatness, thump

Too much can start to sound dull, muddy, or boomy✓ Will add power, warmth, thickness, fatness, thump Too much low end can make it difficult

Too much low end can make it difficult to get a louder mastered level without distorting the limiterthump Too much can start to sound dull, muddy, or boomy ! ©2012 Rob Williams -

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get a louder mastered level without distorting the limiter ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com, All

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Sub-bass . Kick . Feel . Sub-Thump }
{
Sub-bass . Kick . Feel . Sub-Thump }
EQ Cheat Sheet { Sub-bass . Kick . Feel . Sub-Thump } Frequency: 50Hz – 70Hz
EQ Cheat Sheet { Sub-bass . Kick . Feel . Sub-Thump } Frequency: 50Hz – 70Hz

Frequency: 50Hz – 70Hz

. Kick . Feel . Sub-Thump } Frequency: 50Hz – 70Hz Filter Type: Bell Curve, Medium

Filter Type: Bell Curve, Medium Q

Gain:

+ 1dB to + 3dB
+ 1dB to + 3dB

A Bell Curve filter at around 50Hz – 70Hz will bring out the SUB- THUMP

You FEEL this instead of hear it

This is mainly used to target just a bass drum that is lacking low- end power

to target just a bass drum that is lacking low- end power ! Overdoing it can

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Overdoing it can make it difficult to reach a commercial level as it will start to distort the limiter

a commercial level as it will start to distort the limiter ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com,

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Brighter . Clearer . Less Muddy . Thinner }
{ Brighter . Clearer . Less Muddy . Thinner }
Cheat Sheet { Brighter . Clearer . Less Muddy . Thinner } Frequency: 450Hz Filter Type:
Cheat Sheet { Brighter . Clearer . Less Muddy . Thinner } Frequency: 450Hz Filter Type:

Frequency: 450Hz

. Clearer . Less Muddy . Thinner } Frequency: 450Hz Filter Type: LSF (Low Shelving Filter),

Filter Type: LSF (Low Shelving Filter), Broad Q

Gain:

– 1dB to – 2dB
– 1dB to – 2dB

A broad shelf is good for SHAPING a mix, in this case, making it brighter, clearer, less bassy, less muddy

Can achieve a similar result to, but sound more natural than, ADDING top end

result to, but sound more natural than, ADDING top end ! Reducing too much bass can

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Reducing too much bass can start to sound thin, weak and cold

too much bass can start to sound thin, weak and cold ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com,

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Clearer . Less Muddy & Boxy . Tighter }
{ Clearer . Less Muddy & Boxy . Tighter }
Cheat Sheet { Clearer . Less Muddy & Boxy . Tighter } Frequency: 250Hz Filter Type:
Cheat Sheet { Clearer . Less Muddy & Boxy . Tighter } Frequency: 250Hz Filter Type:

Frequency: 250Hz

. Less Muddy & Boxy . Tighter } Frequency: 250Hz Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Gain:

– 0.5dB to – 3dB
– 0.5dB to – 3dB

Can increase clarity in a mix

Similar effect to increasing the presence range, but sounds more natural and transparent

Can tighten the low end by reducing muddiness and boxiness

Cutting too much can reduce bass clarity on smaller systemsCan tighten the low end by reducing muddiness and boxiness Overdone can make a track sound

Overdone can make a track sound thin and harshCutting too much can reduce bass clarity on smaller systems ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com,

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systems Overdone can make a track sound thin and harsh ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com,

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Bass Clarity . Thicker . Fatter . Punch }
{
Bass Clarity . Thicker . Fatter . Punch }
Cheat Sheet { Bass Clarity . Thicker . Fatter . Punch } Frequency: 150Hz – 300Hz
Cheat Sheet { Bass Clarity . Thicker . Fatter . Punch } Frequency: 150Hz – 300Hz

Frequency: 150Hz – 300Hz

. Thicker . Fatter . Punch } Frequency: 150Hz – 300Hz Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad

Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Gain:

+ 1dB to + 3dB
+ 1dB to + 3dB

Adding this low-mid range can make a mix thicker, fatter, punchier, warmer, rounder

This will increase the range where you HEAR the bass

Make bass stand out more on smaller systems

the bass ✓ Make bass stand out more on smaller systems ! Too much can start

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Too much can start to sound muddy and boxy

smaller systems ! Too much can start to sound muddy and boxy ©2012 Rob Williams -

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Less Hard . Depth . Bigger }
{
Less Hard . Depth . Bigger }
- Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet { Less Hard . Depth . Bigger } Frequency: 900Hz –
- Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet { Less Hard . Depth . Bigger } Frequency: 900Hz –

Frequency: 900Hz – 2kHz

{ Less Hard . Depth . Bigger } Frequency: 900Hz – 2kHz Filter Type: Bell Curve,

Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Gain:

– 0.5dB to – 2dB
– 0.5dB to – 2dB

Can reduce the hardness of a track, make it sound mellower

Can add depth and distance, can sound bigger

Can sound more ‘expensive’ by reducing tinniness

Too much can start to sound unclear and over-scooped✓ Can sound more ‘expensive’ by reducing tinniness Often ‘scooping the mids’ can sound good on

Often ‘scooping the mids’ can sound good on your monitors, but keep in mind that many music players these days have ‘audio enhancers’ (often called 3D sound / stereo enhancer etc.) that do this automatically, so you don’t want to overdo itToo much can start to sound unclear and over-scooped ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com, All

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do this automatically, so you don’t want to overdo it ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com,

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Edgier . Aggressive . Clarity . Presence }
{
Edgier . Aggressive . Clarity . Presence }
Cheat Sheet { Edgier . Aggressive . Clarity . Presence } Frequency: 2kHz – 6kHz Filter
Cheat Sheet { Edgier . Aggressive . Clarity . Presence } Frequency: 2kHz – 6kHz Filter

Frequency: 2kHz – 6kHz

Aggressive . Clarity . Presence } Frequency: 2kHz – 6kHz Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Gain:

+ 1dB to + 2dB
+ 1dB to + 2dB

Can add clarity, edginess, presence, crispness, more aggressive sounding

Will make a track sound closer

Will make vocals clearer and more intelligible

Too much can sound harsh and brashcloser ✓ Will make vocals clearer and more intelligible Use this with caution as this range

Use this with caution as this range can be very TIRING to the earsand more intelligible Too much can sound harsh and brash ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com,

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with caution as this range can be very TIRING to the ears ! ©2012 Rob Williams

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Warmer . Mellower . Less Aggressive }
{ Warmer . Mellower . Less Aggressive }
EQ Cheat Sheet { Warmer . Mellower . Less Aggressive } Frequency: 4kHz – 6kHz Filter
EQ Cheat Sheet { Warmer . Mellower . Less Aggressive } Frequency: 4kHz – 6kHz Filter

Frequency: 4kHz – 6kHz

. Mellower . Less Aggressive } Frequency: 4kHz – 6kHz Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Filter Type: Bell Curve, Broad Q

Gain:

– 0.5dB to – 2dB
– 0.5dB to – 2dB

Cutting the presence range will darken the mix and add depth

Will make the mix warmer, mellower, less aggressive, less harsh

Reducing too much can start to sound distant and unclearmake the mix warmer, mellower, less aggressive, less harsh Overdone can reduce vocal intelligibility ! ©2012

Overdone can reduce vocal intelligibilityReducing too much can start to sound distant and unclear ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com,

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and unclear Overdone can reduce vocal intelligibility ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com, All

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Presence . Brighter . Open . Clearer }
{
Presence . Brighter . Open . Clearer }
EQ Cheat Sheet { Presence . Brighter . Open . Clearer } Frequency: 2kHz – 5kHz
EQ Cheat Sheet { Presence . Brighter . Open . Clearer } Frequency: 2kHz – 5kHz

Frequency: 2kHz – 5kHz

. Brighter . Open . Clearer } Frequency: 2kHz – 5kHz Filter Type: HSF (High Shelving

Filter Type: HSF (High Shelving Filter), Broad Q

Gain:

+ 0.5dB to + 2dB
+ 0.5dB to + 2dB

This will add more presence, definition, and brighten the mix overall

Make vocals clearer and more intelligible

Can give a track a more open sound

Can bring out harshness if overdonemore intelligible ✓ Can give a track a more open sound Can bring out sibilance on

Can bring out sibilance on vocalstrack a more open sound Can bring out harshness if overdone ! ©2012 Rob Williams -

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harshness if overdone Can bring out sibilance on vocals ! ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com, All

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

{ Air . Glisten . Sheen . Shimmer }
{
Air . Glisten . Sheen . Shimmer }
EQ Cheat Sheet { Air . Glisten . Sheen . Shimmer } Frequency: 14kHz Filter Type:
EQ Cheat Sheet { Air . Glisten . Sheen . Shimmer } Frequency: 14kHz Filter Type:

Frequency: 14kHz

{ Air . Glisten . Sheen . Shimmer } Frequency: 14kHz Filter Type: HSF (High Shelving

Filter Type: HSF (High Shelving Filter), Broad Q

Gain:

+ 1dB to + 2dB
+ 1dB to
+ 2dB

Will add sparkle, shimmer, sheen, glisten, air

Bring out the details

Can give a track a more ‘expensive’, polished sound

Can give a track a more ‘expensive’, polished sound ! Conversely, too MUCH can start to

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Conversely, too MUCH can start to sound brittle and cheap – If this is the case, CUTTING this range slightly will smooth out and darken the mix

this range slightly will smooth out and darken the mix ©2012 Rob Williams - UltimateMasteringFormula.com, All

Step 3 - Enhance It - Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

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Step 3: Enhance It

Mastering EQ Cheat Sheet

By Rob Williams

©2012 Rob Williams

ProSoundFormula.com UltimateMasteringFormula.com All Rights Reserved

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