Subtractive EQ on Vocals

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Creativemind
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29 Oct 2017

Hi Everybody!

Just found this video on Subtractive EQ on a vocal.



He identifies 3 main issues with the vocal. Muddiness, boxiness and sub-low build up.

What does he mean by boxiness exactly and how did he identify these 3 areas? I didn't really hear anything as such (and I'm listening through 20/20 headphones too.) Does it just take years of practice to just train your ears to be able to identify things to remove?

Also, what things would I be listening for in a vocal overall apart from maybe the 3 he mentions here, anything else? and do people agree with his boosting things at 17mins? he says a little boost to give it presence around 3-4k etc.

What other FX too would people apply to a vocal. Is there a particular chain?

I'm guessing Compress then EQ (as I heard you want to compress before EQ;'ing when mastering so I'm presuming it'd be the same in the mix stage?), then De-Ess and Reverb last?
:reason:

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AttenuationHz
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29 Oct 2017

The thing about De-Essing is when you apply it before compression you will most likely have to de-ess again because the compressor will try to level it out again. De-essing is just applying a dynamic reduction typically around 7kHz and up. Reducing Sibilanse that is Esses or F but also other letters V's Z's C's H's X's J/Q/T sometimes. Whichever letter require higher frequencies.

I tend to EQ compress EQ again. But Typically whatever you attenuate compression will try to level it out.

Best thing I can tell you is to play white noise and use EQ curves to try figure out what sounds like what Boxy, Muddy, Presence, Air, Sub build up, it is all present in white noise.
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normen
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29 Oct 2017

Too few info to answer your questions. Cookie cutter approaches don‘t really work for audio, you do things because you want to change something - meaning what you do and how depends on the source and on the desired outcome.

Edit: His „problem areas“ are also kinda funny. „Boxiness“ is most of the time comb filter effects from reflections, also „muddiness“ etc. are mostly issues with the miking and you‘d want to fix them there, not in mixing. A good microphone (thats above 100€, not Neumann-level good) doesn‘t sound „boxy“, „muddy“ or „boomy“. If it does you did something wrong with the miking or during the recording.
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selig
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29 Oct 2017

Creativemind wrote:
29 Oct 2017
Hi Everybody!

Just found this video on Subtractive EQ on a vocal.



He identifies 3 main issues with the vocal. Muddiness, boxiness and sub-low build up.

What does he mean by boxiness exactly and how did he identify these 3 areas? I didn't really hear anything as such (and I'm listening through 20/20 headphones too.) Does it just take years of practice to just train your ears to be able to identify things to remove?

Also, what things would I be listening for in a vocal overall apart from maybe the 3 he mentions here, anything else? and do people agree with his boosting things at 17mins? he says a little boost to give it presence around 3-4k etc.

What other FX too would people apply to a vocal. Is there a particular chain?

I'm guessing Compress then EQ (as I heard you want to compress before EQ;'ing when mastering so I'm presuming it'd be the same in the mix stage?), then De-Ess and Reverb last?
It's all relative. If you have a vocal that's already harsh, then boosting 3-4k may make it downright painful. I would identify more vocal issues: harshness comes to mind, as does sibilant, overly bright, etc.

Basically, for every frequency range, let's say for every octave, there are good qualities and there are bad qualities. Which implies you can't say any particular frequency is 'good' or 'bad'. Making matters worse, some of these negative attributes are dynamic, which is to say they are not static and you won't hear them at all times. And some may even be contextual - the slightly boomy vocal may work fine if acoustic guitar is all it's up against, but in a dense mix it would never fit.

Some of these can be fixed at the source, which is always desirable when possible. Getting too much proximity effect can lead to some of the low frequency issues, and can be fixed by either backing off the mic or using a different mic. Some microphones pronounce sibilance, and switching mics can help there too.

It can take years to hear these things at first listen, but there are also processes you can go through to help identify them as well. These can include cutting (or boosting) different areas and listening to see how it affects the mix. This can help 'train' your ear so they become easier to identify with experience. It may be helpful to start working through the spectrum by octaves, with a parametric EQ set to cut/boost around an octave wide.

Imagine ten equally spaced bands across the audio spectrum - or better yet just use the Spectrum Analyzer in Reason to do so, as it is (as are most SAs) nicely divided up into ten "octave" bands. For a vocal you can skip the lower few octaves (unless you see something there and want to hear what it sounds like).

Since very vocal is different, it's not a totally straight forward task, but just jump in and start getting your hands dirty - the more time you spend listening and exploring/experimenting, the quicker you'll learn!
:)
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EthicistBeats
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26 Feb 2018

this is more of a recording question, and also relative to taste ... but when recording vocals ...how should the frequency distribution look ?

fairly balanced distibution, like white noise?

or a frequency distribution more like pink noise?

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normen
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26 Feb 2018

EthicistBeats wrote:
26 Feb 2018
this is more of a recording question, and also relative to taste ... but when recording vocals ...how should the frequency distribution look ?

fairly balanced distibution, like white noise?

or a frequency distribution more like pink noise?
More like pink noise in general (whole mix). Obviously theres limits and focus areas for each instrument (including vocals).
Professional Audio Engineer, Germany / Part Time Programmer

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EthicistBeats
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27 Feb 2018

normen wrote:
26 Feb 2018
EthicistBeats wrote:
26 Feb 2018
this is more of a recording question, and also relative to taste ... but when recording vocals ...how should the frequency distribution look ?

fairly balanced distibution, like white noise?

or a frequency distribution more like pink noise?
More like pink noise in general (whole mix). Obviously theres limits and focus areas for each instrument (including vocals).
thanks bro... ive been shooting for pink noise, but maybe my curves are more brown noise ... cuz my mixes always sound muddy/dull hhaha ... ill find some pink noise and mess with the curves...thanks duder

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selig
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27 Feb 2018

EthicistBeats wrote:
normen wrote:
26 Feb 2018


More like pink noise in general (whole mix). Obviously theres limits and focus areas for each instrument (including vocals).
thanks bro... ive been shooting for pink noise, but maybe my curves are more brown noise ... cuz my mixes always sound muddy/dull hhaha ... ill find some pink noise and mess with the curves...thanks duder
Just speculating…
If you can hear that your mixes sound dull, you don’t need to look at a display to know how your vocals should sound - maybe you have all the tools you need between your ears!

…and no, this isn’t another “turn off the meters and use your ears” post, I’m just pointing out you are possibly already using your ears at one point but not another.

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Marco Raaphorst
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27 Feb 2018

very subjective. I guess this guy is EQing his room acoustics :D didn't agree on his boxyness comments. sound warm and great imo. no need to kill such a lot of warm low end.
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strangers
Posts: 278
Joined: 06 Mar 2017
Location: NJ

27 Feb 2018

I wouldn't pull too much from videos like this. Sure, there's useful tips and tricks to pick up on for some cleanup on vocals but after the first 15-ish seconds or so there's zero context of the song as a whole. It's easy to make a solo'd track sound night and day. Making that same track stand out and sit well in the mix is where the real magic happens. I recently heard a great piece of advice from someone I look up to, "nobody is ever going to solo your track." That's obviously a different story if you're sending your music out to be mixed.
normen wrote:
29 Oct 2017
Too few info to answer your questions. Cookie cutter approaches don‘t really work for audio, you do things because you want to change something - meaning what you do and how depends on the source and on the desired outcome.
Free quote for a whole lot of truth.

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selig
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28 Feb 2018

strangers wrote:I wouldn't pull too much from videos like this. Sure, there's useful tips and tricks to pick up on for some cleanup on vocals but after the first 15-ish seconds or so there's zero context of the song as a whole. It's easy to make a solo'd track sound night and day. Making that same track stand out and sit well in the mix is where the real magic happens. I recently heard a great piece of advice from someone I look up to, "nobody is ever going to solo your track." That's obviously a different story if you're sending your music out to be mixed.
normen wrote:
29 Oct 2017
Too few info to answer your questions. Cookie cutter approaches don‘t really work for audio, you do things because you want to change something - meaning what you do and how depends on the source and on the desired outcome.
Free quote for a whole lot of truth.
+1 for Truth! The quote I always use is “no one has solo at home”. If your song is going to be mixed by someone else, better to capture tracks fairly raw, and not go in and start surgically altering things too much IMO.


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strangers
Posts: 278
Joined: 06 Mar 2017
Location: NJ

28 Feb 2018

selig wrote:
28 Feb 2018
+1 for Truth! The quote I always use is “no one has solo at home”. If your song is going to be mixed by someone else, better to capture tracks fairly raw, and not go in and start surgically altering things too much IMO.
Both are great lines for sure. It's funny how something so simple can easily be overlooked, over-analyzed, over-processed, etc. then when that line actually sinks in it's the ultimate "duh" moment and the lightbulb burns brighter than ever.

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EthicistBeats
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05 Mar 2018

selig wrote:
27 Feb 2018
EthicistBeats wrote: thanks bro... ive been shooting for pink noise, but maybe my curves are more brown noise ... cuz my mixes always sound muddy/dull hhaha ... ill find some pink noise and mess with the curves...thanks duder
Just speculating…
If you can hear that your mixes sound dull, you don’t need to look at a display to know how your vocals should sound - maybe you have all the tools you need between your ears!

…and no, this isn’t another “turn off the meters and use your ears” post, I’m just pointing out you are possibly already using your ears at one point but not another.

Sent from some crappy device using Tapatalk
... mixes sound dull in response to references, and still can't seem to get the sound "right" to my ears ...hence my question ... so im not shooting in the dark ... but thanks ;)

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selig
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05 Mar 2018

EthicistBeats wrote:
selig wrote:
27 Feb 2018
Just speculating…
If you can hear that your mixes sound dull, you don’t need to look at a display to know how your vocals should sound - maybe you have all the tools you need between your ears!

…and no, this isn’t another “turn off the meters and use your ears” post, I’m just pointing out you are possibly already using your ears at one point but not another.

Sent from some crappy device using Tapatalk
... mixes sound dull in response to references, and still can't seem to get the sound "right" to my ears ...hence my question ... so im not shooting in the dark ... but thanks ;)
I wasn’t suggesting you were shooting in the dark, I was suggesting your ears are better than you’re giving them credit for - you can hear when your mixes aren’t as bright as other mixes, so do the same with vocals!

In other words, you don’t need to look at the spectrum to tell if something isn’t bright enough, your ears are already able to do that on their own.

If your mixes aren’t as bright as your reference, add more high end (or less low end). Same for vocals.

That’s exactly why almost everyone learns how to EQ by listening to references they like!


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Marco Raaphorst
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05 Mar 2018

and remember: this is a life long journey. you only learn when you make mistakes first.

I made many mistakes. and I learned a lot. and I am still learning. about EQ? for sure! about compression, saturation, etc.

and nowadays we have more tools than ever. this makes it harder to make decisions. expect when you limit yourself. a cool limitation: don't try to sound perfect, start loving lofi :)
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dustmoses
Posts: 173
Joined: 04 Oct 2015

09 Mar 2018

I use RE3Q. Everyone has a different voice frequency wise. Everyone I work with is a baritone right now though so I cut the first two bands and boost air at 5khz, obviously to different extent on each track.

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