Logic Pro X Channel EQ – Best Practices
In this article, Eli Krantzberg shows some general “best practices” that he continually finds useful when using Logic Pro X’s Channel EQ in various situations.
Logic Pro Channel EQ – Best Practices
Suggesting to readers what frequencies to boost or cut and by how much for specific instruments is akin to writing an article on what colour to paint your room. In both cases the decisions are completely context and taste-dependent.
To try and suggest specific EQ settings is to negate the unique qualities of each mix and each song. So, let me tell you right up front, this article will not be another article on which frequencies to adjust for your kick or snare, or how to add sparkle to your vocals. Instead, I will list some general “best practices” that I continually find useful when using Logic Pro X’s Channel EQ in various situations.
These same tips for using Channel EQ can apply to other EQs as well; provided of course that the various functions are available.
This first tip is a simple one. I find that many of Logic Pro X’s instrument patches and channel strip settings are programmed to play sounds LOUD. This is not inherently a bad thing of course; it makes them sound big and impressive, particularly when played on their own.
But in the context of a mix, I often find myself needing to pull various Alchemy, ES 2, and Vintage B3 Organ sounds down to the bottom range of the channel strip fader. The resolution at the bottom of the range is much coarser than the top, even with the Mixer display scale preference set to exponential.
For this reason, I prefer having my Channel Strip faders in the upper range of their virtual “throw” when mixing. There are several ways to attenuate the level before it reaches the channel strip fader. Altering the instrument’s preset is usually simple enough, as is inserting a Gain plug-in. But I most often simply double click the EQ thumbnail to bring up a Channel EQ, and adjust the output level there. If I use that EQ for nothing else, that’s fine.
But chances are, I will likely need to use it at some point during the mix. Doing this consolidates two functions into one plug-in and helps declutter my insert slots. And of course the same function can be used in reverse, to boost a quietly recorded audio file, without using a separate plug-in.
Full Mix Filtering
You may or may not be an advocate of applying EQ to the master bus, but I find it very useful. Not just for corrective or sweetening purposes, but also as a general practice when optimizing a mix for playback on iOS devices. By removing the extraneous frequencies, you are optimizing the available headroom. Removing the extreme low and high end leaves more “energy” in the audible frequency range. Why “waste” precious ones and zeros on frequencies that won’t make it through on iPad speakers, cheap earbuds, or reduced quality Youtube playback?
Hi-Pass and Low-Pass Filters
The Channel EQ’s Hi-Pass and Low-Pass filters are perfect for this task. What you actually set the values to is a matter of taste. I find that relatively steep roll-offs work well when accompanied by a subtle resonant peak boost. By emphasizing the areas where the roll-off begins, you are maximizing the level of the low and hi-end where it counts while removing what is below or above.
Faking a Band Pass Filter
One omission form Logic Pro’s very versatile Channel EQ is the absence of a band pass filter. These are used to allow a specific range of frequencies through, while attenuating all others. They are useful not only for special effects, but also for practical purposes helping instruments fit together in a mix.
Recently I was working on a mix that had a funky busy rhythm guitar part, as well as a Rhodes with a wah-wah sound playing chordal rhythms. The two parts worked well together musically, but occupied the same musical “space” in the arrangement. Panning them helped a bit, but it wasn’t enough. Due to the wah-wah effect on the Rhodes, it wasn’t occupying as full a frequency range as an unprocessed Rhodes normally would.
So I set up the Hi-Pass and Low-Pass bands to isolate the most important part of its range that gave it its character, and attenuated everything above and below. With no resonant peaks dialled in, this effectively acted as a band pass filter. On its own, it sounded thin. But combined with the guitar, which I isolated similarly, but in a different range; it was a great blend! Plus, by rolling off the low-end on both, more sonic headroom was left of the bass and kick drum.
A bandpass style EQ setting used here to isolate the important area of a Rhodes part processed with a wah wah effect:
The Rhodes and guitar together, each with unique band pass filter style settings, in overlapping ranges:
The same Rhodes and Guitar parts heard with bass and drums added:
Okay, I lied.
I can’t resist offering one humble specific EQ setting suggestion.
This has worked so consistently for me across so many mixes and styles of music, that I dial it in as a starting point automatically and don’t even think about it anymore. I usually record drums with five or six mics, and sub group them out to an Aux Track. I won’t get into specific EQ settings for the individual kit pieces, but bringing down 500 hz on the drum buss is like magic. It removes all the mud and dull part of the mid range, and makes the hi and low-end sound crisper and feel tighter. If I only had a single band of EQ available to me for an entire multi-tracked drum kit; this is where and how I would use it.
A simple broad cut at 500 hz reduces the dull part of the mid range and lets the hi and low end cut through:
A multi-tracked drum kit with no EQ applied:
A multi-tracked drum kit with only a single 500 hz cut on the drum bus: