View Full Version : How to properly use effects
04-30-2007, 10:27 PM
How does one use effects effectively to make the mix sound authentic, natural and not muddy. What of the effects are to be applied and what in the effects should be done to make the instruments sound "independent", if you may, and clear of other instruments. Thanks for the help
04-30-2007, 10:44 PM
You're gonna have to elaborate. What do you mean with authentic? What kind of music are you trying to make?
04-30-2007, 11:03 PM
Overdrive on sounds you want to stick out. A small amount can go a long way to make things stand out and add more color to the sounds.
Compression can give sounds more presence. It is prob the hardest and trickiest effect/mastering tool to learn and become good at.
Panning left and right of sounds that take up the same freq range.
Reverb can make sounds seem more distant or in the background. Watch out for decay time as long decay times create lots of mud. Do not put reverb on the bass, if you do only a minimal amount.
Stereo imaging for creating a wider sound. Really good to use on pads and harmonies.
EQ'ing. Make sure each sound has it's own freq rage that is takes up. Also personally the only two sounds I have that are present 100hz and below are the kick and the bass. Make sure the kick and the bass occupy opposite freqs 100hz and below. Also watch out for how many sounds are in the 250hz freq range. Lots of sounds in that range can easily cause mud.
If you search online you find tons of websites with lots of info on different effects.
Here is one for instance: http://www.tweakheadz.com/EQ_and_the_Limits_of_Audio.html
04-30-2007, 11:20 PM
Typically, what are the frequencies of the instruments if I may ask.
04-30-2007, 11:26 PM
It all depends there are so many sounds out there. Although there are charts online that cover the basic ones. Just search for it online and I'm sure you will find plenty of them really quick. Even then it's best to try and learn how you personally should EQ each instrument to create your sound.
Honestly it's best to use your ears. The more you train your ears the better you will be able to master songs.
04-30-2007, 11:55 PM
How do you tell where the frequency of the instruments are at.
05-01-2007, 06:07 AM
How do you tell where the frequency of the instruments are at.
Your ears are the most useful tool for this [never forget that!]. Sometimes there'll be interfering frequencies that you can't hear. You could see them with a spectragraph if you want, though I don't know if Reason offers anything like that.
05-01-2007, 06:55 AM
That's just the thing, everyone talks about watching the frequency ranges and not to let them overlap. How does one know what frequencies are overlapping and how to find that and so forth. I realize that it is great to listen, but how does one know what to listen to.
05-01-2007, 01:08 PM
The only way to visually do it in Reason is to split the audio signal you want to look at and send it into the vocoder (plug it into the modulater socket). Set it to 32 band. You can then see the freq's it is taking up.
If you are listening take two sounds. How clearly can you hear both of them. Are the highs/mids/lows inaudible? Once you figure that out go there by boosting or taking out freqs using EQ. Or you can pan them opposite sides left and right.
05-01-2007, 04:24 PM
Thank you for your time and patience on answering my questions. It is greatly appreciated.
05-01-2007, 05:11 PM
You may be interested in my guide on effects and my guide on general production values, both of which are available here:
05-01-2007, 10:16 PM
How does one EQ frequencies to a certain frequency range to allow them to not interfere with other instruments in that same frequency range. OR am I totally wrong on this question.
05-01-2007, 10:34 PM
The idea is to have different instruments roughly represent different frequencies. Pianos have a lot of low-end, for example. Basses have a lot of low end. You want the bass to stand out and you want the piano to stand out. So, EQ the low-end of the piano down and you can increase its volume more without it interfering with the bass. Easy.
05-01-2007, 10:48 PM
Right I understand, but how do you EQ an instrument without interfering with another and how do you know if it is interfering. How do you interpret the vocoder and use that to know what frequencies are overlapping.
05-01-2007, 10:57 PM
You can apply EQ to single instruments, you don't do it to the whole track. Ideally you want an individual equalizer on *each instrument* for total control.
How do you know if two instruments are interfering? Use your ears. It's all practice. That's really all I can say. You need to develop your ears and listen to lots of well-produced music.
The vocoder thing is a rather unorthodox suggestion, IMO. I wouldn't do it personally.
05-02-2007, 12:10 AM
What does it mean to EQ the high ends and low ends of an instrument like what Zircon said a little back? How do you boost or take out frequencies using the EQ?
05-02-2007, 12:14 AM
It sounds like you don't know even the basics of sound processing. I suggest you do some reading on the links provided here. These are extremely simple questions of definition, at this point. To get you started, however, an "equalizer" (EQ) lets you turn the volume of audio (eg. an instrument or synth) UP or DOWN at a specific frequency. By turning the "high end" (the upper frequencies) UP you get a brighter sound, By turning them DOWN the sound becomes muffled. You control the volume of the specific frequency bands by using knobs or sliders on your equalizer of choice.
05-02-2007, 12:56 AM
I understand most of this, it is just the terminology is not clicking in my head. I need more pinpoint answers to all of these. I apolagize if I seem like I don't know anything. But I am new to sound processing. I can't seem to find the answers I am looking for anywhere. They are all too broad, I think. Maybe they aren't and it is just me.
05-02-2007, 01:03 AM
I know it can be daunting to begin with, but just try to take it one step at a time. It took me over a year to even figure out how to use FLStudio to make a song. I could barely wrap my head around the concept of a synth for at least two years.
05-02-2007, 03:06 AM
All I need to do is understand different frequencies of instruments and how to manipulate them with EQ's and know what it sounds like.
05-02-2007, 05:35 AM
Im going to try and explain what Zircon was talking about with frequencies using some images to help visually show how frequencies work. I'll be using a really basic example, so its going to be much less complicated than actual EQing of several sounds, but it should show you the basic principle behind it.
The above is just a bar to show various frequencies, ranging from 60 to 16K (16,000). Each block represents a frequency. Right now theres no sound here, so lets put in a bass.
The red blocks represent the bass. The blue blocks are the piano. The patterned block is the peak frequency of each instrument, or the frequency that has the most sound. Notice how the peak of the piano is at 3K, but there are frequencies all the way down to 310 in this case. This is the lots of low-end Zircon was talking about. So what will happen if you put the two instruments together as-is?
The purple areas represent an overlap between the piano and bass. You dont want your instrument frequencies overlapping much at all, but this is a very bad case because the peak frequency of the bass (310) is overlapped. You'll definitely need to fix this. There are several ways to go about it, but I'll go into the most basic in my opinion: a filter.
The gray areas in the first bar represent the filtered section of the piano. This particular filter cuts every frequency below 1K. There are other filters that cut everything above a frequency, or that cut everything outside a certain frequency. As shown in the second bar, you can put this alongside the bass with no clashing.
As a general rule of thumb, overall with pianos and other "melodic" instruments, you can filter out the low frequencies with little effect on the overall sound. Thats why filtering out the low-end of the piano is acceptable. If you start filtering out high freqs though, you'll end up with a very unrealistic sound (which you may or may not want, its just something you should be aware of).
Again, this is a VERY simplistic model compared to actual EQing, which involves several sounds at once, and this doesnt get into other ways to fill your soundscape without interference (such as panning), but this is the basic principle of EQing.
And I would definitely suggest you read Zircon's tutorial, I got pretty much everything I know about EQing from there. Ive only been even learning music for about 2 months now, so Im just as much a beginner as you, if not more. Just take every piece of knowledge bit by bit, after a while it'll become second nature, I promise you : )
05-02-2007, 05:53 AM
Thank you Dr. Rod, you are the first to answer some of my questions. I just want to know how things work. Instead everyone says cut this and use that, but what does it do and how does it work. Like I said, I want to know the terminology to better understand the subject and to know what I'm dealing with. I'm not saying that the other stuff is not what I want or not usefull, I will need it when I figure this stuff out first. I Thank you and everyone who has helped me.
05-02-2007, 06:04 AM
Ah, I think the real question that I just want answered is: When it is obvious that two instruments sound like they are clashing, how do I know what frequency to cut off and what not on the two clashing instruments. Like on your little model, how did you know to filter below 1K on the piano? The same for other instruments. Ultimately I think these are the questions I want answered. Sorry if before I was clear.
05-02-2007, 07:54 AM
Ok, I'll try and show one way to identify your sound's freqs, and whats interfering with what. I remember reading in an earlier post something about Reason, so I'll assume you're using that. Reason's equalizer is the MClass equalizer. It can be used very much like a filter. Like Zircon said earlier, you'll want one on EVERY instrument. This is a rough diagram what its screen looks like:
There are knobs on the right for one of 4 frequency modifiers: 1 lo-shelf, 2 custom parameters (param), and 1 hi-shelf. The way I'll show you to identify your sound's main frequencies are using the lo and hi shelf.
First, once youve turned on the lo-shelf (its icon will light up red), turn the Gain as low as you can (all the way to the left) and the Q to the highest slope (all the way to the right). What this does is rapidly cut all sound below the target frequency. You can change the target frequency with the FREQ knob. Change it back and forth until youve found the furthest area you can push it where you still have a good sound. Once youve found it, the peak will tell you the low range of your sound. For example, this is what it looked like when I did it for my vibraphone:
Now you do the same thing for the high shelf. Basically you set up the Gain and Q the same way, so you get a sharp slope. This will rapidly cut all sound above a certain frequency. Play with the frequency knob until you can push it as far as you can while keeping the sound you want. The right peak will tell you the high range. Again, for my vibraphone, I got this:
So the frequency range is 312 to about 2.5K for my vibraphone. Remember, where you choose to push the equalizer is based on how YOU like the sound. The reason my range is so wide is because I want to maintain the natural reverb and depth of the vibraphone (something I forgot to mention, as you cut lower frequencies, the sound will slowly lose depth). If I wanted a more staccato sound, Id push the lo-shelf a little further, or use a different instrument altogether. Now I'll show you the graph for my vibraphone compared with the graph for my electric piano.
The vibraphone is on top, the electric piano is on the bottom. The electric pianos range is about 1.2 to 2.5K, so I can see that it overlaps with the vibraphone in those frequencies. Now since I wanted the electric piano to be a background instrument, I simply lowered its volume, so it didnt clash as much with the vibraphone. To prevent the vibraphone from completely covering the electric piano, I panned them in slight opposite directions.
But thats one way to determine your sound's frequency range. You'll notice for a lot of instruments you can barely hear the lowest frequencies; feel free to cut those out. In fact, thats the main reason why a song will sound "muddy", the musician forgetting to filter out those invisible low freqs. Even though theyre hard to hear, they will compound and create a very undefined low-end to your song if you let them be.
And again, I'd like to reiterate that everything I learned about the technical aspects of mixing came from Zircon's tutorial, so I STRONGLY suggest you take a look there. Well, I hope I was of some help : )
05-02-2007, 05:10 PM
Thanks Dr. Rod, that's exactly what I was looking for.
Another quick way you can tell is (for audibly seasoned people, albiet), is if you cannot distinctly hear each instrument in the soundscape.
When instruments start "running together" and you cannot tell where one begins and the other ends, is an aloof, mediocre, metaphorical way of explaining it.
Maybe in the same way when someone says a song is "too muddy" or such. The "muddy" part would be the purple area in Dr. Rod's graphics above.
As like Dr. Rod, I've been learning music and how to use Reason for the past 3-4 months, not very long. But I'd like to think I understand the concept of what sounds good and what doesn't.
Nice posts by the way, Dr. Rod! And many kudos to Zircon as well.
05-02-2007, 09:38 PM
Dr. Rod, thanks for enlightening others. Why don't you put together something like your two posts and ask someone to sticky it? It would be a nice visual complement to zircon's guide.
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