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electronic MUSICIAN

Cool Tip of the Month

November 1, 2002

Getting Started with EQ Plug-Ins

The EM Cool Tip of the Month is presented courtesy of Cool Breeze Systems.

You recently bought a new DAW and laid down a few tracks, and now you're ready to bang out a mix. But when you solo the kick, snare, toms, hi-hat, overheads, and bass, they just don't pack the punch you had hoped for. EQ to the rescue!

Equalizers can be a powerful tool for shaping the tone of your mix, but when you grab a knob for the first time, they can be a little confusing. Here's a tip for getting started on your tone-shaping adventures. I'll be using Pro Tools in this example, though the general concepts apply to most DAWs, including Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic Audio, and Sonar.

  1. With a multitrack Session open, click the Solo button on the track you'd like to equalize first.

  2. Select a region (maybe a four- or eight-bar phase) and choose the Loop Playback option from the Pro Tools Operations menu. Make sure that the Link Selection button is enabled.

  3. Insert a multiband EQ on the track you'd like to equalize. In most cases, EQs are inserted in-line on the channel that the audio file is playing back through.

  4. Set your monitors to a conservative level and press the Spacebar to begin playing a loop of your selection.

    (When you first begin using equalization, one goal should be to develop your ears so that you can relate numerical values [frequency in hertz] to what you are hearing. To help train your ears, try sweeping through the frequency spectrum while exaggerating the gain of specific bands.)

  5. In the EQ plug-in window, increase the gain of a midband Peak (parametric) EQ to, say, +8 dB. Be careful to set monitor levels so that you don't clip the signal or damage your gear or your ears. Adjust the Q (bandwidth) to a medium setting.

  6. Sweep the frequency selection from the low to high settings. Notice how the tonal quality changes and what frequencies bring out the boom, ring, mud, snap, and sizzle in the track.

This little exercise should help you identify the track's tonal qualities and give you a picture of which frequencies to boost or cut to achieve the desired sound.
Steve Albanese

Double Your Energy

Having problems getting an important track to cut through the mix? If adding EQ and extra makeup gain from the compressor doesn't give you enough of what you want to hear, doubling can be helpful. When you think of doubling, you probably think of doubling the lead vocal to get a fuller, richer sound; slight pitch variations often make for an enticing chorus effect. But I'm referring to a much easier form of doubling: copying the original track to another track.

I use doubling most often on bass and vocals. By doubling the signal's energy, you can get more gain without maxing out the mixer's headroom. Be sure to double the track before processing the signal. After doubling the track, try to put the two identical tracks on adjacent faders so that it's easier to bring up both faders together. You'll notice that the doubled instrument or vocal will be much more audible in the mix, even with the two faders considerably lower than the lone fader was prior to doubling.

Doubling often works so well that you can use less EQ and compression than you initially dialed in. In fact, I typically process only one of the tracks. Keeping the second track unprocessed helps maintain a more natural sound, but having two identical tracks also grants more creative processing options. For instance, try compressing two identical bass tracks with different types of compressors — one opto and one VCA-based — or use a plate on one vocal track and a flanger on the other. You'll have all the gain that you need, with precious headroom to spare.
Brian Knave

Facts of Live Mode

If you own either a Kurzweil K2500 with a recent operating system or a K2600 and you haven't yet spent much time with Live Mode, you're in for a treat. Live Mode lets you process any real-time analog or digital audio signal the same way you would process a sample loaded into the Kurzweil's sample RAM.

To use Live Mode, go to the Sample Page and set Mode to LiveIn. Then select Analog or Digital in the Input parameter (don't forget to choose a sampling rate if you pick Analog). Now pick a Program to process your sound, access the Program's Keymap page, and assign Keymap 197 (LiveL), 198 (LiveR), or both if you have a stereo Program.

Then play a note on your MIDI controller or send a note from your sequencer to the Kurzweil. As long as that note is on, the processing used by the Program's algorithm will treat any audio received at the Kurzweil's inputs. You can pitch-shift your sound by playing a note above or below middle C (middle C is the so-called unity pitch); harmonize the signal by using multiple Layers in the Program, each pitched to a different note; or combine any number of processing functions to alter your sound. If you plug in a microphone and select Backwards as the Playback mode in the Keymap, you can hear yourself talking backwards. (Okay, there is a fraction of a second delay.) Recording the output as you explore Live Mode is highly recommended, because you might end up with hours of new source material!
Dennis Miller

Creative Conversions

According to Tascam, GigaStudio can load GIG Instrument files as much as five times faster than GigaSampler can. The greater speed is the result of improvements in GigaStudio's version 2.0 Instrument specification. GigaStudio's File Viewer and System Viewer provide convenient right-click access to conversion utilities that let you convert GIG 1.0 files into GIG 2.0 files, so GigaStudio owners can take advantage of the faster loading times. Keep in mind, however, that GigaSampler does not recognize version 2.0 GIG files.

Many sample libraries (especially older ones) were released in the 1.0 format, which offers broad compatibility but lacks support for several important newer features, such as multilevel crossfade layering. The GigaStudio File Viewer shows the GIG file format in the Type column. To convert a 1.0 file, just right-click on the file name and choose the Convert command.
David Rubin

Defensive Drivers

When you install new audio software on the Macintosh using OS 9, it levels the playing field if the audio driver that's selected in the Sound Control Panel is the Apple Sound Manager. If you have a third-party audio interface, some applications will crash when the audio interface's driver tries to load the first time you open them. Why take unnecessary risks?

After you've installed a new audio application, open the Sound Control Panel, click the Output tab, and choose Built-in as the output device. Then open your new software, find the audio port preferences, select the driver for your audio interface (such as ASIO or Direct Connect), and quit the program. Then reopen the Sound Control Panel, select your usual driver, and reboot the program.
Geary Yelton

Make sure to check out the CoolSchoolOnline library streaming movie of this tip to view this procedure and additional automation options.

Visit for this online adventure. Also, if you dare, take the quiz to review what you've learned!

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