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EQ Compression technique
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Doobah



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 3:15 am    Post subject: EQ Compression technique Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I am interested to find out how people get the most out of sounds. I make alot of music, though i have great difficulty in taking the time to eq everything and compress before mixing. I often will eq or compress a sound quite randomly based on what it sounds like to me, though often when i listen back, or listen to professionally mastered pieces i see alot of problems with my techniques. Perhaps it's the standard of equipment i use, or an attention defecit. I want to be able to hear all of my sounds in amix, though they often tend to drown each other out. [organs clashing with bass clashing with drums etc]

Would it be a good idea to find a good eq/compression setting for a specific setting then kill the other frquencies and eq other sounds in reference to the killed sections of the other sounds, or is there a big difference between professional mastering eq's compressors and the amateur ones? I use reason, is this the problem?

I would love to hear how others go about eqing and compressing, with out having to read through a 10. 000 word document writen by an engineer based on the science of sounds rather than their musicality.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 3:36 am    Post subject: Re: EQ Compression technique Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Doobah wrote:
I want to be able to hear all of my sounds in amix


I'm often surprised at how much better some sounds fit in to a mix at -20dB.
Mind you, I do admire the way pro tracks get all the LEDs to light at the same time on my spectrum analyser.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 5:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I rarely compress while mixing, I usually only compress on the way down, (very gently). I EQ tracks of sonically "wide" sound by taking out a bit of what is hiding the "narrow" one.
And I agree with G2ian, when you pull something out a bit it frees up front space which can actually let you hear it better as part of the background.

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flipside



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

What I'm writing is not necessarily -the- way of doing things, or the most "correct" way of doing them, but it is a way that I found working for me. So these are my experiences.. Feel free to read and try out what I tried, and maybe some of it can work for you too.. Alot of stuff is hard to explain too, some things gets intuitional after a while..

I work with hardware synthesizers, so everything I record goes through a TL Audio Ivory2 5052 (tube eq, compressor, limiter). However, that doesn't mean I boost this frequency and that frequency on every thing that goes through it. It's important that you know what your main elements are. And these may have a boost in their appropriate frequencies. Or rather, if you can, first cut the frequencies you don't need.

I would advice on reading some articles anyway though, find EQ- and compressor-articles on Sound on Sound's website, and also Future Music. Alot of the technical stuff there will probably be boring to read, but try to understand what's important for you and what's not in these articles, and try applying it to your music. When I started out with a few synths and a mixer, I sequenced my whole track via midi, and recorded everything in one go. Needless to say, a lot of sounds were battling with eachother. After reading a lot of boring articles, however, I started to understand the basics of how I should work with an EQ, and things started getting better..

Basically, what I learned was this:

1. lowcut everything that shouldn't have low-end frequencies to it. (Usually that's everything except your bassline and bassdrum, and maybe some percussive sounds). This alone will clean up your mix considerably (it cleaned up mine atleast)

2. 300hz is usually considered a "muddy" area.. If an element in your track seems "muddy", "wooly", and you don't like it, it may help to reduce around 300hz

3. every sound has atleast one "sweet spot" I think.. Find it by doing this: (First make sure your volume is turned slightly down).
Set up an EQ, using something between a bell and a spike shaped curve (you need an eq that features a "Q" parameter), start at the higher end of the frequency spectrum (16khz+), boost it a good deal (don't worry if it's too much), and sweep slowly down the frequencies and pay close attention to when the sound "jumps out", and gets noticeably more clear. Now reduce the boost so it's not too harsh. If this is, say, a lead sound, set up another EQ point with a lowcut, start at the bottom end, sweep upwards till it sounds a bit thin, and then back down a bit.

4. You can probably lowcut your mix at around 40hz. Some will argue and say either a higher or a lower value, but this works for my music. Find out what works for your music.

5. If you have more melody/lead elements to your track, and did what I described in step 3 on one sound, you should try -reducing- the boosted frequencies of the first sound on the second sound. It's all about allowing every piece of your track to interact over the frequency spectrum. You only have so much space, and if you put too much in, some things will cancel eachother out and sound messy.

There's more to it, and probably other/better ways of saying it, but I can only hope it helped a little Smile Good luck!

Best,
Alex
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opg



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I do just about the same things - the lowcuts, and 40Hz for the whole mix. Sometimes I even choose my instruments by what frequencies haven't been "used" yet in the mix. This can be rather limiting, though (pun intended).

Where I get frustrated is mastering. Not necessarily the process, but deciding whether or not to think about it when I'm still making the song. What I mean is: I have goals as to how I want my songs to sound (tape saturated, playing from a cheap speaker, lots of vinyl crackle, etc) and I don't know whether I should make adjustments for that while I'm making the song or wait until it's done. There are a lot of effects plug-ins out there that can lead you down bad paths or habits.

The next time I finish a song, I've decided that I will record the whole thing onto cassette or reel-to-reel, and then back into the computer. Then I may tweak it with some mastering program like TRacks. If I do this, should I back off on any tape saturation effects plug-ins that I've been accustomed to using? Who knows? All I know is that there is going to be a lot of experimentation to get it the way I want it. I have a feeling though that if I'm trying to get a vintage hardware sound, I'm going to have to use vintage hardware.

This still doesn't make me comfortable about the samples/instruments I use and what EQ, compression, and limiting I should add to them. Say for example, I want a fat sawtooth synth bass and a kick drum from an old drum machine (Korg Minipops, Watford, etc - thanks Hollow Sun!) playing at the same time and they're hanging around that 65Hz area. I'm going to have to use some compression, I guess, or pull out a little with EQ on one or the other. I hate doing this sometimes because the instrument never sounds as big as it does by itself. Most of the time, I'll lowcut the kick drum and then watch a spectral analyzer to see what the synth is doing way down low.

I guess I'm saying that some of these processes that are easily available to us now on computer were not there to use on those songs that were recorded for vinyl, 8-track, or cassette. And therefore, should I be doing them if I'm planning on using some vintage hardware after the song is done?

Mother of God that was long-winded.
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paul e.



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 9:22 am    Post subject: Re: EQ Compression technique Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

g2ian wrote:
Doobah wrote:
I want to be able to hear all of my sounds in amix


I'm often surprised at how much better some sounds fit in to a mix at -20dB.
Mind you, I do admire the way pro tracks get all the LEDs to light at the same time on my spectrum analyser.



true...'under compression' can be just the trick sometimes..less is more...

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paul e.



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 9:25 am    Post subject: Re: EQ Compression technique Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Doobah wrote:
or is there a big difference between professional mastering eq's compressors and the amateur ones? I use reason, is this the problem?


when a good multi-band compressor is called for, you may have to look toward Waves plugs or some dedicated 'mastering' plug in suite

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

flipside wrote:


1. lowcut everything that shouldn't have low-end frequencies to it. (Usually that's everything except your bassline and bassdrum, and maybe some percussive sounds). This alone will clean up your mix considerably (it cleaned up mine atleast)


this is a good idea and is useful many times...but i would caution anyone from doing this all the time as a rule...you never know what important musical information might exist in frequencies that 'aren't there'

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opg



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

paul e. wrote:
you never know what important musical information might exist in frequencies that 'aren't there'


Like a message from JESUS!!!

Alien contact? KFC secret recipe? mmmm......chicken-like product....


Seriously, even though I roll off stuff, I don't enjoy it because deep down I know that I'm possibly removing what may give the music a warmer, more analog sound. Like the "muddy" 300 Hz....
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flipside



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

opg wrote:
paul e. wrote:
you never know what important musical information might exist in frequencies that 'aren't there'


Seriously, even though I roll off stuff, I don't enjoy it because deep down I know that I'm possibly removing what may give the music a warmer, more analog sound. Like the "muddy" 300 Hz....


Yes - that's true, but I always have atleast one element that IS in that area, and has lots of free space. Like my basslines, always recorded through a tube eq with boost in the bottom frequencies. 300hz should not -always- be removed, but some times it's appropriate. It's a very subjective view I guess, but I find it helps me to do this on some elements to 'clean up' the mix. All imho of course Smile

Best,
Alex
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

'tis true..very subjective

any habit, that is done 'just because', can get you in to trouble sometimes

i.e. always rolling of 300hz, or always recording your bass lines thru a tweaked tube EQ ;]

it really depends on the mix, and the interaction of the frequencies of that mix

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 4:25 am    Post subject: Re: EQ Compression technique Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Doobah wrote:
I am interested to find out how people get the most out of sounds. I make alot of music, though i have great difficulty in taking the time to eq everything and compress before mixing. I often will eq or compress a sound quite randomly based on what it sounds like to me, though often when i listen back, or listen to professionally mastered pieces i see alot of problems with my techniques. Perhaps it's the standard of equipment i use, or an attention defecit. I want to be able to hear all of my sounds in amix, though they often tend to drown each other out. [organs clashing with bass clashing with drums etc]

Would it be a good idea to find a good eq/compression setting for a specific setting then kill the other frquencies and eq other sounds in reference to the killed sections of the other sounds, or is there a big difference between professional mastering eq's compressors and the amateur ones? I use reason, is this the problem?

I would love to hear how others go about eqing and compressing, with out having to read through a 10. 000 word document writen by an engineer based on the science of sounds rather than their musicality.



Obviously, "cleaning" the various bands and letting each instrument/part some room is a smart thing. There is however no set way to do this.

Check out the "What is bass " thread for more on the bass thingie. Some of that info is relevant here.

Some shit can be solved by working on spatiality. Parts that ordinarily would collide and mess each other up can be spatially tweaked in order to sit well in the mix. I am not talking simply about panning here though.

As for colliding parts, keep in mind that this is touching upon auditory stream theory. Classcial composers have been using this without quite knowing what they did. Tonally and sonically close/related voices will often tend to interact in new ways. This means you can make say 3 synth lines suddenly merge into one and/or at the same time sound like 4 or 5 or 9 individual parts or whatever. This means you can actually "improve" a bass line by adding other complementing voices that will enhance it. Keep in mind that this is not a "theory" that can be learned froim a book. The effect itself is well know but not really understood in a meaningful manner. But you can start messing with this right now. Chances are however that you have been doing this already without knowing what was going on. Very Happy

Keep in mind that this approach will also of course affect rythmical events. This means you can accent existing parts in amazing ways.

Another issue is that using compression blindly on whatever in order to fatten it or lift it into the mix simply won´t work unless you consider all factors involved. A single band compressor will more often than not do the wrong thing if the spectral content of the signal hasn´t been tuned in accordance with what you really want to come out in the other end of the compressor.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 4:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It must be said that some popular genres are clearly showing signs of having been tuned to what actually will work both live and on "tape". How you write the music will in many ways affect how easy your life will be in the studio. Certain genres, like big band brass stuff are all about getting the arrangements right. And some genres are also showing signs of spatiality being a very big part of the sound.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

opg wrote:
paul e. wrote:
you never know what important musical information might exist in frequencies that 'aren't there'


Like a message from JESUS!!!


Indeed.

But then it is "our" business to at least understand these issues even though we won´t have the complete picture. Cutting away too much of the unwanted spectral content can be bad, but then keep in mind that what I said previosly about how stuff interacts will also mean that you can add an additional sparkle to the hihat by throwing some else in there rather than simply cutting something else somewhere or brickwalling the hihat at -1 dB.

Sidechaining stuff in silly ways can help a lot too. Additionally enveloping compressed reverb can help too. To be completely frank, adding reverb washes simpy won´t cut it when the mix gets dense. Unless you use some sort of enveloping you will be in serious trouble. Modular synths are great for just that.

Trivia: It is incredibly weird that we still haven´t seen real products designed to handle reverb envelope shaping. Huge DAWs like Logic Pro and pro plugins can do some of this, but still this is a technique you will have to figure out yourself.

Still, this is about learning what you can do and then go wild. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

http://solomonsmusic.net/insrange.htm

Check out Larry Solomon´s "Instrument Range Chart"

Hot!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
http://solomonsmusic.net/insrange.htm

Check out Larry Solomon´s "Instrument Range Chart"

Hot!


Dude! This is SO how I picture my songs in my head! In fact, if I probably drew it out like that, I could use EQ and compression more efficiently.

Check out the Harp. He thinks he's such a bad-ass with his large range. Actually, that brings up an interesting thought. I think it's the human voice that has the most complex timbre, right? Lots of overtones to freak out about when deciding what to do with EQ and compression...

Do you know of a similar chart that factors in the "density" of the timbre of instruments? Does that make any sense?
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

opg wrote:
Do you know of a similar chart that factors in the "density" of the timbre of instruments? Does that make any sense?


Well, yes I do, but I have no idea if this accessible on the web.
I was once shown a spectral density map made by some german music lab in the mid 80s. It wasn´t really that informative, but I am sure there are people out there who knows a lot about this. There are however many issues to be aware of when trying to understand such a map.

One very obvious issue is that the notes in this chart you are looking at at Solomon´s place are the very playable NOTES, and not what the overtones will add into the picture. In many cases it is in the overtones/harmonics you will have the signature of the instrument.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

opg wrote:
I think it's the human voice that has the most complex timbre, right? Lots of overtones to freak out about when deciding what to do with EQ and compression...


Well, I am not sure about that.

But you are right about it in the sense that the human voice can be quite hard to record well.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I write mostly electronic music made with modular synths or some such stuff. The most important part is making the sound right before it is recorded. As a rule, I think if you have to do eq or compression during the mix or mastering process, you are in trouble.

Now, if you are doing pop music, this of course is not the case because there is a set model of what the music should sound like; heavy compression on the vocals, almost zero dynamics, etc. Like G2IAN says, professionally mastered pop productions make all the lites turn on all the time, but to me these recordings don't sound very good. I get fatigued listening to them. That's ok, Britney Spears won't probably be looking to me to mix and master her music.

My background is more appreciative of classical music. Here, if the performance is good, the recording is good unless it is botched somehow by poor mic placement or such. I used to do a lot of recording of acoustic folk groups and small rock bands. I paid very careful attention to levels and panning, but not too much with eq (mostly used to reduce wolf tones) and hardly ever did I use a compressor. People said they really liked my recordings because it was so transparent and made the music sound more musical. I think the recordings of Creme were made with this same keep it simple philosophy. When you get three guys that play that good, you don't start messing with EQ and compressors. I saw them play in Toronto in 1968. I talked to the sound man. That was pretty much what they were up to. I guess that made a lasting impression on me.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

opg wrote:
I think it's the human voice that has the most complex timbre, right?

what about white noise Question

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hmm. Indeed. White noise.

I've always tried to follow Howard's remark on "if you need to use compression or EQ, you're in trouble." I always thought that was one of the reasons some artists were drawn to minimalist electronica. If you were working with pure sine waves (or any other waveforms, for that matter), you could avoid some of those headaches.

I remember when I first discovered VST plugins, and like most people, I WAY overused them. That caused a lot of problems and essentially sucked the life out of all of the songs.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
I think the recordings of Creme were made with this same keep it simple philosophy. When you get three guys that play that good, you don't start messing with EQ and compressors. I saw them play in Toronto in 1968. I talked to the sound man. That was pretty much what they were up to. I guess that made a lasting impression on me.



live is one thing...

but, i would bet you dollars to donuts that band used quite a bit of dynamic processing when going to tape, in the studio...

classical music has preset dynamics that are played exactly the same way, as directed by the score...but rock bands often apply improvisation/chaos techniques and this can introduce sudden sonic 'anomallies' that compression and eq can mediate...


or, when you are using electric/electronic instruments, and multi tracking in a non-linear fashion, you can accidentally create clashes..or accidentally, or purposely, re-arrange the tonal pallette of the recording after the fact, as a step in the creative process

all of this is an option at least

it's fun, and in the spirit of it all

personally, i would also record classical or jazz music in the way that you stated above

but classical music paradigms do not apply to all music...

earlier, i mentioned that i think the worst thing one can do is get stuck in habits and locked into a paradigm
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btw, mosc, check George Martin for the use of the orchestra AND compression etc..

the cello sound on 'i am the walrus' ? heavily-compressed
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
opg wrote:
I think it's the human voice that has the most complex timbre, right?

what about white noise Question


Strictly speaking White noise has no timbre since it doesn't repeat.

To return to one of my favourite themes; It doesn't matter what sound has the most complex timbre. Our hearing is calibrated for being most sensitive to timbre changes and fluctuations in the human voice. It'll tell you who's lying, Who wants something, who's in love. Quite usefull in hunter-gatherer communities (and we hardly evolved since then).

The same thing hold true for spatialisation (Stein hinted at this). Moving stuff is more dangerous then stationary stuff so moving sound sources get more attention (unless they sound like they are far away).

You can combine those techniques if you wish; you can easily get something that's preceived as way more present then britney spears with hardly any mastering. Doppler shifts are good, animal sounds work well (aspecially carnivorous or even edible ones). Babies in pain or people moaning in exstacy work wonders. Of cource that will quickly get way more fatiguing then ms Spears (and probably (even?) less pleasant as well) so use with care.

Once again; it doesn't matter what the sound is; it matters how it's preceived. (no refunds for sleep missed or mad friends if you start dabbeling in this, you'll likely see both.)

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dynamics processors, filters and the lot are creative tools as well as problem solvers.

Unprocessed isn´t better than processed or whatever. It is easy to demonstrate how an untreated multitrack recording of an acoustic jazz quartet will sound more artificial and less natural than a dynamics processed recording. And it is possible to prove the opposite is true too. The main point is to understand what is going on and have a fairly sensible reason for doing whatever is called for.

There is a mythology related to EQ in the sense of there being some kind of secret code among pros as to what is to be tweaked and what is to be left alone. This is all true. If you need to tweak something you will of course do so. Imagine how the proximity effect of a certain microphone in some cases will be both unwanted and also very vital. How do you solve the various issues in order to get the sound you want?
Imagine running the mikes hot through coloured vintage preamps. The whole gain structure makes it important to sort out bleeding issues between the microphones at an early stage. Yes, you just might have to cut bass on some inputs. You might even reconsider the whole thing and choose to use very transparent pres and sensible levels, and then instead sort out spectral issues on each channel before you run the old vintage console hot as hell at line levels. And it might even be a lot smarter to emulate some of the analogue audio/vintage console shit in the digital domain using stuff like the UAD-1 anyway.

Very Happy

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Joined: Mar 29, 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Man! This is some good shit! It's making my brain smoke, though...

Follow this train of thought and see where I can improve:


I don't know if this is the same for others, but I love that feeling when you say to yourself "Alright, I'm going to start out with a clean slate." I'll think very carefully about what I'm adding; I'll watch a spectrum analyzer as I play whatever instrument I've chosen. Usually, I'll start with drums, as I am more particular about what kind of sound (vintage drum machines!) they should have as opposed to bells or electric piano. As I may have mentioned before, I like drums that are overdriven and bit-crushed (8 bits so you get that hiss and crunch - mmmm... that should be a cereal "Binary Crunch"). I've therefore added some plugins that will make EQ changes (and possibly some compression from the overdrive/distortion). I will continue to view the spectrum analyzer.

ANYWAY, at this point I feel that I have limited my choices for other instruments. Perhaps the synth bass sound I would like to hear clashes with the kick drum (65Hz, 129Hz, 150 Hz, whatever). So, what are my options, then? I could:

A. Make EQ adjustments on one or both clashing instruments
B. Run both through a compressor

If I choose "A," I usually run into the problem where my synth bass is no longer "warm." Perhaps this means I overdid the EQ. I would hesitate to make any more EQ changes because it could lead to more problems with other instruments later.

If I choose "B," I usually run into the problem where the life gets sucked out of my drums (BTW, I usually send all pieces of the drumkit into the same effects channel where they are receiving the same amount of overdrive and bit-reduction. I go with my ears, and I watch the analyzer, and I like what I hear and see so I am comfortable with this decision). What do I mean by "life gets sucked out?" Well, the bass and kick drum sound great, and neither is overpowering the other, but that "hiss and crunch" seems to be lessened on the drums, but more importantly - the drums loose their sense of "closeness." The high end, I guess? So what do I do? Do I boost the EQ on the drums to make up for this? It also should be noted that when I add in the drum samples, I will view each hit through the analyzer and determine if any HP filter/bass roll-off is necessary.

MAN! It's like I need some kind of flowchart or something...
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