It goes without saying that we mix and produce with our ears. But when you can add your eyes into the equation and actually ‘see’ what you're hearing, you can potentially push your work to new levels. That’s exactly what I do when using the Fab Filter Pro Q2, I see and hear my tracks which allows me to make intelligent choices about frequencies and levels. Here are a few real world examples of how I use it.
Seeing Is Believing
Aside from the fact that the FabFilter Pro Q2 EQ/Filter sounds great and has a ton of flexibility, it allows you to see your track(s) on a large interactive real-time frequency analyzer EQ display which can even be resized to full screen. You can tweak with up to 24 EQ bands and a useful variety of filter types (Bell, Notch, High/Low Shelf, High/Low Cut, Band Pass, Tilt Shelf). You can also EQ Mid/Side, view your frequencies on a piano roll, enable auto gain, zoom horizontally, freeze your frequencies, solo them and more. Not to mention how good it all looks while you do it!
There is quite a bit of value in not only hearing your frequencies, but seeing them on the screen in real time. If you hear that there’s too much bass or low mid information on your guitar part for example, but are not totally sure, the screen won't lie. It also helps to see how wide that overextended bass may be (across multiple frequencies/notes or just a few).
Then, if you want to quickly cut that down and clean up the ‘mud’, simply add a new EQ band by clicking on the yellow overall curve and drag that frequency down until you get that bass information under control. You could also choose to enable a filter and cut that bottom out, as well as notch down a few frequencies that are booming. The point is, you not only hear the cuts, you actually see them.
One of the more unique functions in the Pro Q2 is the Tilt EQ option, which you enable simply by creating an EQ band and using the floating band controls display. Using the Shape dropdown menu, you select Tilt Shelf, which tilts the spectrum around the chosen frequency.
In this example, I’ve assigned the Tilt Shelf to a percussive shaker loop. By selecting a single band at around 500 Hz and moving the band marker up or down, it will tilt the high and low EQ at the selected shelf db/oct. For a creative effect, I will automate that frequency and sweep it around in real time during the mix, which creates a unique movement of tone using the high and low frequencies.
Here is a more traditional use of the EQ on a slide guitar part. First, I will solo the track and watch the EQ curve to see what frequencies I want to tweak. Then, I hover above the Pre + Post Analyzer button and select the purple Spectrum Grab, which will freeze the spectrum allowing you to see all the frequencies. From here you can grab any peaks or dips and EQ accordingly. Next to the Spectrum Grab is the blue Analyzer Freeze, which takes the maximum of all measurements and freezes it over time. I’ll also enable the Piano Roll (bottom left) which shows where the EQ bands frequencies are relating to an 88 note keyboard.
In this case, I wanted to pull some bottom down, some 1.5 kHz mids down and boost some clarity, up around 5.5 kHz. I pulled down the blue low shelf around 80 hZ, the green at 147 kHz and the red at 1.6kHz. Then I pushed up the purple frequency at 5.5kHz and widend the Q to get some edge on the guitar. Here are the before and after audio examples.
Another thing I like to use the Pro Q2 for is EQ’ing my reverbs, echos and delays to clean them up and leave room for other elements in the overall mix. In this example with the slide guitar, I've assigned an EQ after the echo. You can see in the image below there is a lot of echo information around 300 Hz, which I want to bring down.
Like the guitar, I also want to brighten up the echo itself, so I added in a sharp peak around 5 kHz and cut down various amounts of bottom. When cleaning up effects, I will often use the useful solo feature on the Pro Q2. By selecting the small headphone icon on the band's frequency information panel, you hear only the part of the frequency that is affected by the band. This lets you drag it left right and raise or lower the level to hone in on the problem and quickly correct it. Once you let go, the entire frequency spectrum of the track comes back. It's amazingly useful and easy to use. These types of adjustments are subtle, but I find them critical to creating overall mix clarity on smaller speakers.
Another way to Use the Pro Q2 is in mid/side mode on my master fader. When working in mid/side, the stereo signal is split into a mono middle and stereo side parts, which can then be processed differently.
To access mid/side, simply hover over the Output button on the bottom right of the GUI, which opens the output options panel. By clicking the Output button once, it will remain on screen until you hide it. Moving the Output Pan knob to the right accesses the left/right channels, and moving the knob to the right accesses the mono center image. My personal approach is to take some bass information out of the left/right while boosting a little top end presence. Then in the middle, I take some of the treble down. This approach gives me a cleaner master production, which also has the benefit of letting me make it louder with a Limiter afterwards.
Like all production techniques, it helps to experiment and find your own methods of what works best for you. However, next time you want to try mixing with your eyes and ears, give the Fab FIlter Pro Q2 a shot.