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introduction :

Using the EQ's

We've briefly talked about EQing (equalising) in the Mixer section as a basic function. Essentially all they are is a control method of either enhancing certain frequencies or removing them from a played sound. Most mixers, even budget ones will mostly have them in some form or another.

Imagine a tune that you know or chord of music. Every instrument and noise made in music has a frequency. This frequency (in terms of this tutorial those frequencies that can be heard by the human ear) will have very low bass at the bottom of the scale and very high pitched frequencies at the top.

Think of this frequency range as a vertically arranged sausage on a plate. If you cut the sausage in half this will separate the frequency range into two sections, giving you a two band equaliser. All your high hats and most vocals with be represented by a treble dial (or slider) and is situated on the mixer on the EQ found on the mixer furthest from you. Lower frequencies such as kickdrums, bass, sub bass etc. are all covered in the lower part of the sausage nearest you.

A three band EQ would be like cutting the sausage into three equal sections. This gives you added control. On a two band mixer at the centre point where you cut the sausage those frequencies at the point where the sausage was cut (where snare drums may well be hiding) are very difficult to enhance or change the way they sound. You may find you can dull a snare on one record by reducing the treble (or highs) but you can't make it go away which you may want.

Three band EQ's will have bass, mid-range and treble on three separate controls. This centre point doesn't occur and gives you, the DJ, more control over a greater number of frequency bands and therefore over the sounds used within the tune.

Four EQ's takes this one stage further with bass, lower mid-range, higher mid-range and treble.

The more EQ's the greater the scope for picking out single groups of instruments instruments or sounds allowing a more subtle blend to occur when you put two records together.

What is a db value and what does it mean?

This very much depends on the manufacturer and the specific model you own or are looking to buy.

An EQ (no matter how many bands it is split into) will be given a decibel (db) value 8 to 27 for example. An EQ dial, no matter which band is simply a volume control.

Some EQ's allow you to totally remove, (or "kill") an entire band of frequencies. These EQ db ratings are high. +/-20 or more is not uncommon. If your EQ's have a db value of 12 they won't remove all sound or "kill" it. Muffle it maybe, remove it, not quite.

We will use the example of a dial operated EQ control as this is the most common form on mixers. Sliders like you'd find on hifi's are now available but not really the norm.

Imagine the dial is set to 12 o'clock i.e. pointing directly away from you. This is the default position and where you would normally leave it at when you are mixing. It's value at this point is 0db.

If you turn the dial anti-clockwise the db value decreases into a negative figure and the more you turn it, the more it reduces the volume of the selected frequency band.
If you turn the dial clockwise the db value becomes positive and the band you have selected becomes louder.

The effectiveness of the EQ will be affected by the positive (+) or negative (-) values the EQ is given. The higher the value the more or less you can increase or decrease the volume.

If the db value is +/-10 this will allow you to muffle at best or make slightly louder each band.
If the value is +/-30db this will allow you reduce or increase each band by three times this volume giving potential to actually remove (or "kill") an entire band of sound.

If you find a mixer has kill switches, this is exactly the same as setting the EQ to -30db but saves you twiddling a dial. Instead you can kill a frequency band by flicking a switch or pressing a button. Flicking the switch back to its original position or re-pressing the button will bring it all back again.

House music and trance are very heavy on the use of vocals and synth riffs. This is what separates one tune from the next with the beat being fairly uniform from record to record (I exaggerate again for the sake of the explanation). Most four way EQ's will be designed and used mostly by DJs of this music style or its variations. it relies heavily on mid range. To have mid range control is essential and a two band EQ will simply dull or change the bits you most want to hear.

In certain music types (arguably those bass reliant genres such as drum and bass, garage and hip hop) where in most cases its the beat and bass that segregate one tune from another. Mid range in the most part is relatively unimportant in comparison. Scratch and battle mixers (some vestax models for example) only have a two band equaliser. It allows the DJ to remove bass from a scratch sample which is a regularly used technique. It removes rumble that is transferred through the stylus and cartridge as you manipulate the vinyl. The result is a clearer, more crisp sounding scratch sample. Two EQ's on these mixers is not uncommon. Those mixers that are all rounders and appeal to DJs of most music styles will have three EQ's to allow control when beatmixing as well as adjustable faders etc. to allow scratching to be done.


How Do You Use Them Effectively

Quite simply they are a volume control and as it is that straight forward there is no right or wrong way to use them. They are adjustable so twiddle and experiment at different times during a tune. Its a good idea to always record yourself every time you mix as you can listen back what you've done, training your ear to pick up mistakes and also to listen to techniques to use. Equally important is to learn when not to use them.

The 10 to 2 Theory

This is just an example and a technique I call the 10 to 2 theory as with many things its based as if the dial was a clock face. You are playing one record with all the EQ's for that channel running at 12 o'clock. You beatmatch and set it up as normal. You throw the record in and bring it into mid mix point however you felt you wanted to. The transition phase between records can sound a bit flat. the EQ's can be used to enhance one frequency band on one record and dull it on the other. This gives the listener a smoother changeover as you are individually bringing the new tune and sounds in in waves rather than clubbing round the ears with it.

You are mixing house music on a three band EQ where mids are very important. You may find that you wish to develop the mix and move the dominating tune back and forth from deck to deck. To do this as stated above we assume all your EQ's will be positioned at 12 o'clock.

Channel 1
Channel 2
Treble
(|)
(|)
Mids
(|)
(|)
Bass
(|)
(|)


As you mix you reduce the mids on one channel by turning moving the dial from 12 o'clock to 10 o'clock

At the same time you increase the mids on the other channel so the dial now points to the 2 o'clock position.

Your EQ's would then look like this.

Channel 1
Channel 2
Treble
(|)
(|)
Mids
(\)
(/)
Bass
(|)
(|)

As the mix goes on you reverse the mids positions like so repeating as many times as you wish for complete bars or gradually if you'd rather.

Channel 1
Channel 2
Treble
(|)
(|)
Mids
(/)
(\)
Bass
(|)
(|)

I call it the "10 to 2 rule" as each EQ band will always end up positioned at one of these points on the "clock face".


Advanced EQing

Its pretty clear that the scope of EQing is about as varied as you want to make it and will vary further with every different combination of record and mixing point you choose from within them. You can, what i call, "flat mix" using just the records and the crossfader only.

View a mix of two records as a long but very thin piece of wood. You lay the length out from left to right and cut the piece of wood in half across its width from top to bottom. Because you are a craftsman you use a saw and leave the wood with nice clean, square edges. You now have two pieces of wood each representing one channel of sound (deck or CDJ plugged into your mixer).

Flat mixing is exactly this - pushing these smoothly flat edges back together and gluing them to create a join. Yes it works but the disadvantages is a weak join that needs loads of glue to hold it. As the two halves are pushed back together the glue will overflow onto the top of the wood making it very easy to spot pretty much by anyone. In DJing terms you are using the fader only and all the EQ's untouched. Yes it works but your join will always be weak and a clean joint glued back together is always pretty difficult to hide.

However if you split the wood by bending it quickly so it snaps, this will leave it still in two halves but the join will not be a clean one. It will have one or two jagged and splintered edges. Even though the break has uneven length splinters when the two halves are pushed back together, the splinters will interlock exactly as when they were broken. Any glue used, will be used on the lengths of the interlocking splinters so won't be seen on the surface, unless someone with a keen eye for detail comes along or who knows about joining bits of wood. The wooden grain layers also add surface detail to allow an almost seamless mix to be created.

This interlocking of layers is the same as you using the EQ's to create splinters. A splinter is created by reducing an EQ on one channel and decreasing the same EQ on Channel 2, or vice versa.

Does that make sense? I hope so.

An extreme example of EQing is to create your own live mashups whilst in mid mix. You have two tunes one with a vocal and on the other tune a bass line that from experience know it melodically (see harmonic mixing here for more info). Ideally you need the vocals on one record and the bassline on the other.

On the tune mixing out, you ensure that this is the record with the bass you are going to use. It will use the majority of beat from this record. Reduce the tops and eliminate mids leaving the bass at 12 o'clock or set slightly more depending on how overpowering the actual bass sample the producer has used when making the record. You'll need this to balance it with channel 2.

On the vocal tune (channel 2 mixing in) you do the exact opposite to channel one. Leave the tops at 12 o'clock. This will mean you are getting high-hats and cymbals from Channel 2 playing dominantly over the beat and bass from channel 1. Mids are left at 12 o'clock or increased slightly if the vocals are a little weak. Kill or reduce the bass EQ as far as your mixer will let you.

You reduce as far as possible (if kill is not available on your mixer) to dull all cue or kill if possible If you are mixing out of a tune although mashups usually require a vocal with no instruments

This will mean you are getting high-hats and cymbals from the new record mixing in on Channel 2 playing dominantly in the mix.
Mid range will be totally the new record mixing in. This has no beat but this is replaced by the beat and bass from channel 1.

You could take this one stage further and just use Bass and treble as dominant on channel 1 (bass and total beat, no mids) with treble or bass killed but leave mids in.

The possibilities are endless.

Don't just think increasing mids on Channel 1 means you have to decrease mids on the other channel. Although this works you could decrease bass on Channel 1 and increase mids on channel 2, or increase both. It's whatever sounds good. That simple.

Practicing with different records may mean that intelligent use of the EQ's can mean tracks that don't normally sound good when mixed together using purely the crossfader as they may musically clash. Fine tuning the EQ band can reduce two clashing synths to a steady change over from one to the other. All other instruments may sound great together AND be harmonious, leaving just two noises that don't sound good together. They may musically fit or have one note in the whole sequence or riff that clashes with one note on the other record causing an unpleasant clash. It might just be totally different noises that conflict on the ear for reasons that are unknown - you just know it sounds rubbish. Use the appropriate EQ to get rid of one of the offending noises or just take the edge of it's domination in the mix by dulling it a bit. Do this and it is likely just to fall into the background and not ruin the mix altogether. However you aren't cutting the volume on channel 1 for all bands as you would do by simply moving the fader further to becoming totally Channel 2 and ignoring the EQ's. You then have control over the mix whilst keeping the sound rich by enhancing all the complimenting elements.

Moving the listener's attention back and forth from record to record at different points whilst in the mix will make transitions much smoother and less noticeable creating a more seamless set.

 

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