EQ Brute! Yes even you should use EQ…by Dan Lenard

Posted on January 28, 2012 by

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Yes, even you too, should use EQ.   (With my apologies to the Bard.) What is EQ? How, and when do you use it? Some super simple basics first: EQ is “Equalization.”

What it all refers to is the manipulation of the level of the individual frequencies that make up your voice. No? I lose you?

OK, The human voice has a range of (roughly) between 20Hz and 20kHz. Hz.  A Hertz (Hz) is 100 Cycles per second, (Vibrations up and down on the waveform) (Count them!) or “frequency,” and they are the lower frequencies of our voice. Kilohertz (kHz) are 1000 cycles per second. So 20 kHz is 20,000 vibrations a second.  So kHz is the mid-range and high frequencies of our voice range. I just made it worse didn’t I?

So what does all this have to do with EQ? Equalization is the raising and lowering the volume of each of these individual frequencies to accentuate or de-emphasize that frequency.

OK, back to the beginning of time, or at least our time.  Remember the “Tone dial” on the radio?  Remember Bass & Treble? Turn it one way and the low end got deep. Go to treble and voices became clearer?  That’s “EQ” in a very rudimentary way.  You changed the treble tone to make things clearer, or because you liked the warmer tones of the bass end.  Make sense? With EQ for us, we don’t have this or that. We have control in all the areas in between. So if I like to accentuate a specific frequency in the midrange, I’d isolate that frequency using a “Graphic Equalizer” and raise or lower the volume of THAT SPECIFIC FREQUENCY. Not the whole signal.  And I can manipulate that for all the frequencies within the spectrum of our voice. Cool huh?

Hopefully you’re still reading this.

So why would we do this? Well, not to really accentuate or make a few frequencies stand out, but to CORRECT for any differences in the response of your microphone to the true tone of your specific voice. No mic is perfect (Some damn close). So in order to make your voice as real as possible, you sometimes need to bring up those frequencies that your microphone may not pick up as well, and conversely, de-emphasize any frequencies of your voice the mic is too sensitive too. Ah.. I’m beginning to make sense, huh?

But here’s where the art comes in. The adjustments are subtle.  ½ Db here and ¼ of a Db there, not wide swings. And, more importantly, the adjustments are for the quality of your audio, not what frequencies are pleasing to you. Lots of radio guys tend to boost the low end because that’s what they’re used to hearing on the radio.  But then you have “radio voice.”  How many auditions do you see here that say “Not an announcer?” on Voice123, or anywhere else. Well, most of them.

Try the graphic EQ settings in effects after you’ve recorded.  Play with each frequency slider and see how it changes the sound. Then make small adjustments to make your voice as clear as possible using all the frequencies, although, generally the adjustments are more to one side or at opposite ends of the audio spectrum. EQ can also be used to correct for high frequency hissing (Which to me means fix the source of the hissing first. Not correcting for it) or for lessening the bass end because of microphone proximity effect or a mic that really favors the low end.  It can also be used to limit sibilance, or create a telephone effect by getting rid of the low end completely.

So use the EQ judiciously. A little bit there, a little here..

So go out and play with it and learn the qualities of each frequency of your voice. But beware the “Ides of March.”

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About the Home Studio Master

Dan Lenard Dan is a Voice123 talent and owner of http://www.homestudiomaster.com/