Ben Burnside’s Insite Production Tip of the Week!
When it comes to EQ, it’s easy to slap some everywhere and just blow it out. However, EQ should be used more judiciously at all times. Instead of wide swipes and broad “Q” levels (notice I didn’t say “EQ levels”), we should focus on more notches than anything. It’s a habit to just grab the slider and go until it sounds good, and there’s nothing wrong with sounding good. The problem with that is production is one of the few things that actually compete with the music on a station. Tuning in to the right frequencies is key. Music mixing engineers have used this approach for decades. Understanding that 2-3K in an EQ is where the voice is generally going to lie.
Most engineers call this area the energy. What they generally do is increase the energy of a song so by the time you get to the end of it, and the song builds up to a climax. Radio producers very rarely understand this premise. To gradually increase this frequency from section to section of a promo makes your promo more “exciting”. More times than none, we feel that the more things from the kitchen sink we can throw in the promo by the time we hit the end the better. This lends itself to creativity, and that’s fine. But being a “Pro” duction director is key. Use things aurally to excite your listener than just shoving more s(*^ up the bull’s a@#! Understanding your frequencies and notching different elements in your production will make your production glow. Your music for example could be a huge distraction for producer and listener alike. However, this doesn’t have to be that difficult. Sure you can reduce the level of the offensive track, but that’s not going to make things better per se. If you still want that energy of the bed, but the levels won’t permit; pull out your graphic EQ and go to work. It only takes about 30 seconds to make the adjustment. All you have to do is notch “down” the EQ in the 2.5K range. Now your “Q” notch may not be extremely sharp but that is where I would start and enlarge it to taste. Nonetheless, you will find that you can keep your music levels up but the “space” for the vocal has opened up. Now if you want the music to pump and it has a lot of low frequencies like basses, 808’s and such, 80Hz is going to be what you use. A small dose of EQ here can make it boom! One to two db in the 80Hz range can significantly make your production bump. But don’t get carried away. You really want to keep your Q notch really tight. From there you may want to run an hi pass filter to knock off anything below 50Hz so it doesn’t get too boomy. Now I’m going swing over to the other side of the table, which is the “sweet” area of the EQ. This is where things get “pretty” so to speak. We instantly gravitate to the upper end of the EQ because it sounds “cleaner’ or more, let’s say “HI Def.” But that can be kind of dangerous. Used correctly with other portions of your EQ used properly, You really don’t have to sweep the Hi’s as much as previously. The 10-16k range is where the “air” opens up. The stereo field begins to take shape and the sound becomes pretty. It’s like sugar in your coffee. Just enough makes it delicious. If you add too much, it becomes nasty and you pour it out and start over. Now keep in mind the processing that’s on your station. This will have plenty effect of your mixing. What I would do is to process my master bus to the station. This would essentially ensure that what I hear is what It will sound like on air. Alright… Just a tip. Have fun and happy producing!!!