Using EQ to add presence and dynamics to a Guitar Line
It happens to all of us. You record a great guitar take and drop the stem in your mix project and on playback you notice that the guitar is lacking in dynamics and has lost focus. We can remedy this by getting creative with equalisation but any old EQ will simply not do. We need something far more powerful and detailed with all manner of processing modes and the dynamic that ticks all these boxes is a dynamic equaliser.
A dynamic equaliser applies the gain change directly to the gain parameters of a multiband parametric equaliser. As with most dynamics processors, the the threshold determines at which point gain changes take place. You have control over the bandwidth denoted by the Q value and, much like a compressor, the response is controlled with attack and release functions.
The beauty of some dynamic equaliser designs is that they can be used to perform both traditional downward compression and upward expansion.
Upward and Downward Expansion
There are two basic forms of Expansion we use in music production - Upward and Downward Expansion, and the best way to explain them is to compare them to existing processes like a gate and a compressor. Whereas compressors narrow the dynamic range of a signal expansion does the exact opposite and extends the dynamic range. A downward compressor will reduce the audio signal above the threshold whereas an upward compressor will boost the audio signal below the threshold. Both narrow the dynamic range of the audio signal.
Downward expanders reduce the level of an audio signal below the threshold, making quiet sounds quieter. This extends the dynamic range of the audio signal.
Upward expanders boost the level of an audio signal above the threshold, making loud sounds even louder. This extends the dynamic range of the audio signal.
Compression is a process we engineers use to control the dynamic range of audio (the difference between the quietest and loudest parts of audio). We do this so that we can level out audio and allow it to fit into the mix. Let us take a simple example to define the process. On occasion you will have vocal takes that have huge dynamic range and it can often be difficult to fit this type of vocal into a mix. The reason is simple; the quiet parts of the vocal take can get lost in a mix with so many other sounds playing. The vocals sound great when they hit the loud sections but get lost under all the mix elements when quiet parts are met. So, we narrow the dynamic range and bring the loud bits and quiet bits closer to each other. This helps to level out the volume so it can be heard in any part of the mix.
The most common form of Compression is downward compression. This means that we 'turn down' the loudest parts of the audio to closely match the quiet parts.
Now that we know how a dynamic equaliser works and how we can use it for both compression and expansion we can now get serious in carving our sounds to exhibit clarity, punch and dynamic motion.
In the video I explain how a dynamic equaliser works and how to use it for both expansion and compression. I show you how to use the EQ's filters paying close attention to the slopes and bandwidth. I explain the difference between Peak and Shelf and which to use when and end the video with examples of various EQ processes highlighting the strength of this wonderful process.
Topics covered in the video:
Expansion versus Compression
Resonance and Q Factor
Peak versus Shelf
Brickwall versus Variable Gradients
Tips and Tricks