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Below are the five frequency ranges you can start with when you are in trouble and need to figure out how to equalize your vocal so that it sits better with your song.
It goes without saying that no amount of “EQ’ing” is going to fix a badly recorded vocal. So be sure to have a clean and well recorded vocal before you start mixing it.
1. The Too Low-Range
Usually vocals can be filtered quite severely in the lowest range. Flip on the low-cut filter on the microphone when you’re recording to cut out the low-end rumble. Usually this cuts at 75 or so but during mixing you can filter it out even more.
Obviously this depends on the singer’s voice but I usually go for a little over 100 Hz. Listening is critical here because you don’t want to cut out the singer’s character, especially if he has a good presence there in the lower register. For female singers you can go even higher. But be careful of Barry White and Leonard Cohen type singers, they may need that extra rumble in their voice.
2. The Thick 150 Hz
For rounding out a vocal and making it more thick and full I would search around the 150 Hz area. Some singers sound thin and nasally and can do with a little meat on their vocal chords. Boosting here can give the vocal more punch.
3. Honky-Boxy 4-500 Hz
If your vocal track lacks definition and sounds boxy you can sweep around this area, even going so far as up to 800 Hz. Remember that when cutting you should have your Q pretty narrow because you are trying to repair your recording, and cutting too broadly from the frequency spectrum will severely compromise the natural sound of the vocal.
4. In Your Face Presence of the 5 Khz
If your singer doesn’t seem to be cutting through the mix, he might need to be presented to 5Khz. It will push the track a little more to the front and give the singer a much needed presence.
5. Sibilance Around the 7 Khz.
Some people have more sibilance than others. The s’ sounds have much more energy than other consonants. If your singer has an excess of s’s you can try cutting around 7 Khz. It will make the s’s less pronounced and won’t make them jump out too much. Better yet, inserting a de-esser or a compressor that only compresses the ‘s’ area can work even better. As;Randy Coppinger;pointed out, “male sibilance is typically 3-7k Hz and female sibilance is typically 5-9k Hz” so there needs to be some experimentation to find that annoying ‘s’ sound.
The Art of EQ’ing
Obviously, treating vocals is an art and every case is different. These are only basic suggestions and one should search for the right frequencies on a case to case basis. But having an idea what you need and where to find it makes it all the more easier, and fun.
1. Your equalizer or spectrum meter are your best friend when it comes to producing a song. If you don’t have a spectrum meter plug-in you can cross reference your song by playing it in any music program like winamp http://www.winamp.com By analyzing the EQ and its responses. Find the frequency range that is not jumping very high and fill it with sounds of the appropriate frequency. You should also use your eq to pump these missing frequencies if they are coming in too low.
2. Do not mud up your song by putting to many sounds of the same frequency range this will not produce a desirable effect, keep your song clean sounding. Take an overview of your song and what you are using to fill these specific frequency ranges. Get rid of any sounds that are causing complications in the mix they will only make it sound worse.
3. Clearly label all of your sounds, FX, and anything that you can about the song you are writing because chances are you’ll eventually come back to it without a clue of where you left off. If you work on one song at a time sticky notes and/or masking tape for your mixer and monitor will do the trick quite nicely.
4. Save your song as new versions, as it progresses, so that if it starts sounding worse than the previous work you can go back to its basic structure and re-write it.
5. Hearing the same riffs over and over can start to numb your ears of its catchy sound. Go back to what you are working on after a nights sleep its always better to have a listen with fresh ears.
6. Keep the volume at a reasonable level while you are working in your studio and only turn it up once and a while. This will help yourself from going deaf and will help maintain your interest in the song while you are producing it.
7. I have said it before and I will say it again, save a back up file of your work, hard drives randomly crash without warning, it’s better to sort through a bunch of files on CDs than to loose your song.
8. Experiment as much as you can, as long as you have back-ups you can always go back. Producing music is all about stretching the boundaries outside of the mainstream.
9. Keep all of your files in order sometimes this can help when going into the songs final mix down. and really helps when backing up all of your songs rough work for any future re mixes to come.
10. Continue to produce lots of music, you will always learn something after writing every song. Its all about finding that one good sample/sound that catches your ears attention, and sticks in your head for the rest of the day.