How To EQ – Pro Tools EQ3 7-Band

Pro Tools EQ 3 7-Band

Pro Tools EQ 3 7-Band

​By Lij Shaw -

This is a continuation of How to EQ part 1 where I explained some of the basics of EQ and Frequency. But now its time to get to the real stuff. What do we do with this EQ?

Ok Ok thats all nice and wonderful, but what do we do with these crazy colorful buttons and lines on our computer screen??
Eq 7-Band Knobs

Eq 7-Band Knobs

Most EQ plugins have a combination of knobs and graphs for managing the EQ curve. This means that you can often adjust the settings in a couple of different places. However they are controlling the same thing in the end. The EQ graph is usually low freq to the left and high freq to the right.

EQs often have frequency “bands” or points that you can move up or down or side to side to boost, cut, or move the center point of a frequency.

In Protools the stock EQ plugin is called the 7 band EQ. It has seven different frequency areas that represent the most common and useful areas to add or subtract EQ.

There a few different types of EQ curves to use:

  • Hi Pass and Low Pass filters - These are useful to remove frequencies above or below a certain point. You may find yourself using hi pass filters often to remove the unwanted bass, rumble, or boominess from some instruments.
  • Bell curves - These are the most typical EQ curve and boost or cut at the center frequency while tapering off to either side. This creates a bell shape. If the Q or quality of the bell curve is set high then the bell shape is very narrow and sharp. If the Q is low then the curve is wide and softer sounding.
  • Shelf EQ - This curve boosts or cuts the audio at the selected frequency point and then stays that way for the rest of the spectrum. A low shelf boosts everything below the target frequency, and a high shelf boost everything above. So If you boost with a low shelf at 100Hz then the frequencies below 100 will stay boosted all the way down to 0Hz. Or if you boost with a high shelf at 10kHz then the frequencies above 10kHz will stay boosted all the way up to infinity.

Here’s a breakdown of the Protools 7band EQ:

  • Low Cut

    • Cuts everything below the selected freq

    • The Q selects different dB/octave settings. 6dB is a gentle slope. And 24 dB is a sharp cut

  • LF - Low Frequency

    • This defaults to a low shelf but can be changed to a bell curve

    • The default freq is 100Hz

    • You can boost or cut by 12dB

    • 100 Hz and below is where the bass instruments live. Kick drums, bass guitar, and sub are living down below 100Hz

    • You won’t hear any of this on your iPhone speaker output! 

  • LMF - Low Mid Frequency

    • This is a bell curve

    • The default freq is 200 Hz (an octave up from the LF selection).

    • You can boost or cut by 18dB. More than the shelf EQ. A lot really!

    • 200 Hz and below is where the body of your tone lives. It’s also the area referred to as muddiness. Hearing the note of your bass guitar, the body of an acoustic guitar, the body of a snare drum, and the lower tone of a human voice all live in this area

    • 100-200 Hz This may sound a little more like the bass area on your iPhone speaker. I can hear 80 Hz if I hold the speaker up to my ear!

    • Despite the fact that too much info at 200-300 Hz will make your mix sound muddy humans actually find these frequencies comforting. 200-500 Hz is what we heard for 9 months growing inside our mothers wombs! So we feel safe and secure hearing this stuff. If you remove too much LMF to clear up your mix then it can lose its appeal.

  • MF - Mid Frequency

    • This is a bell curve

    • The default freq is 1000 Hz

    • You can boost or cut by 18dB. Thats a lot, by the way!

    • 1kHz is the tone used to test audio levels and studio equipment. Because it is right in the middle range of human hearing. The reason it is so easy to hear is because that matches the size of our ear canal. The hole in the side of your head resonates at 1 kHz! You ear is an instrument similar to a wind instrument.

    • This is the frequency area of voice. It is where we get most of our useful information in the audio world because our ears and hearing have developed through evolution to accommodate the human voice.

    • a 1000 Hz (or 1KHz) sounds pretty loud on your iPhone speaker. It is that midrange frequency that can start to get painful if it’s too loud.

    • You my want to add a little 1-2 KHz to your mix or to the guitars if you want them to sound a little louder. Music turned up loud needs some solid midrange to be crankable.

  • HMF - High Mid Frequency

    • This is a bell curve.

    • The default freq is 2000 Hz (or 2kHz).

    • You can boost or cut by 18dB. Be careful!

    • 2kHz and above is the upper range of the midrange and gets into what is called presence. This is the area where we get a sense of clarity in sound. Without proper presense a voice or instrument can sound cloudy or muffled.

    • Watch out that you don’t boost too much here or you will start to hurt your ears. Too much 2KHz can make my jaw tighten and ears cringe!

  • HF - High Frequency

    • This defaults to a shelf but can be changed to a bell curve.

    • The default freq is 6000 Hz (or 6 kHz).

    • You can boost or cut by 12dB.

    • This is where the treble and air in your music lives. This will affect the sound of a pick on an acoustic guitar, cymbals on the drums, tape hiss and general hiss noise from equipment. These are your brightness frequencies.

    • If you boost with a shelf above 6-10 kHz you can get a sense of hi fidelity and clarity. This can sound like you are adding more air to the mix.

    • However watch that dont add too much as it will make your mix sound brittle and very “un-crankable!”

And of course, boosting is not the only direction to go with EQ. There are many who swear that cutting EQ sounds better than boosting. So if you find a problem area in your music you can use the cut feature to remove it rather than trying to add more of the frequency that you like.

Another consideration is that the more that you boost or cut EQ the more it creates phase shift in the audio. When you add up the phase shift of different tracks together it can make the final result sound unfocused and you may not like the results.

A smart practice is to only EQ when you really want it, and avoid EQ if you don’t really need it.

A great way to get more familiar with EQ and what the different frequency areas are like is to use a signal generator plugin to sweep through and hear the different frequencies. Protools has a stock plugin called Signal Generator. You can sweep the signal frequency up and down to hear the change in pitch and what parts of the low bass you can hear, or where the top-most frequency is for your speakers and your ears, for example. Play with this until you become familiar with all the frequencies. another great resource is the app listed below!

But be very careful that your speakers are not turned up loud while you sweep the Signal Generator or you could damage them!

I hope this helps explain some of what an EQ is all about and gives you a little more insight into how to use the stock EQ in your audio app. Most all audio apps come with some sort of free eq plugin and they are generally similar to the one I described here.

If you want to get more practice understanding EQ then I highly recommend you get a cool little app called Quiztones. This app lets you practice identifying various tones and EQ selections.

Quiztones puts the fun into learning EQ!

Good luck!

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