A good friend of mine is a radiologist.

One of his responsibilities is to “read” various scans that come in. CT scans, PET scans, MRI’s…all those fancy tests you hear Dr. House order on TV.

I’m fascinated by the medical profession. Almost everyone in my family is in the medical profession. (As if you hadn’t guessed it, I’m the black musical sheep of the family.)

But radiology is particularly fascinating to me.

If I look at a scan, I see colors and blobs.

A radiologist sees a healthy lung, or a blocked artery, or a tumor.

But what if I tried really hard, and I read lots and lots of scans? Would I eventually be able to identify the good and bad stuff on them?

In a word…no.

Why? Because I have no idea what I’m looking for.

Radiologists spend YEARS going through training to learn how to read and interpret these scans.

And it’s the same with recording and mixing music.

(Okay, so you’ll probably never save someone’s life with your mixing skillz, but the concept still applies.)

You can work and work and work, really practicing your mixing technique, but if you don’t know what you’re listening FOR, it can be a really long, drawn-out, frustrating process.

Let’s say I grab an EQ and do the ol’ “boost and drag” techinque on a track (boost a specific frequency by 10+ dB and move the frequency up and down to identify which frequencies need to be cut). To the untrained ear, it might sound like EVERY frequency you boost is problematic.

After all, boosting any frequency by 10 dB is gonna sound odd. The key is being able to hear PAST the oddness and hone in on which frequencies are hurting your mix.

That’s not necessarily something that will be obvious to you, at least not at first. You might boost 500 Hz on a vocal track and think “Ah! That sounds bad!” So you cut 500 Hz.

But what if it was ACTUALLY supposed to be 200 Hz that you cut?

You’ll never know because you weren’t really sure what you were listening for.

I’ve got a two-fold solution for you:

1. Have an open mind when you’re using EQ. If you’re unsure of what to do, take time to listen to different options before you make the final decision on what to cut or boost.

2. Watch my Understanding EQ videos:

www.UnderstandingEQ.com

They will help you.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s an email I got from my customer Jordan:

“Holy bajeezuz man. I’m through the ear-training video [Video #2] and I’m BLOWN AWAY already…This alone has given me weeks of work to enhance my EQ-ing. This is fantastic man, I appreciate the work and knowledge you’re putting out.

I was actually talking with someone today about how institutions (schools and the like) are run for the convenience of the staff, and teachig is a secondary aim. I can definitely tell your aim is to teach, and that’s incredible. I’ve learned so much already, through just the first two videos.”

Click here to get started.

  • CameronN

    Before I boost and  drag, I always know what frequencies I want to cut. If the snare is really resonant, and I want to remove that resonance, I look in the 300 to 500 hz range, not the 200 to 700 range. Know the general area you want to cut, the Q you will use to cut it, and why you are cutting it (the why can help determine the q, for example resonant frequencies will have a high q, while a general low mid cut may be a bit wider) before you start to boost and drag. Also, don’t always kill resonant frequencies, it will take a lot of life out of the sound.

    • Absolutely. That’s the same way I feel about using frequency analyzers. I know a specific range I know I want to cut or boost BEFORE glancing at the analyzer (if that EQ plugin has one). Starting with your ears vs your eyes is always a good practice. 🙂

  • ALEXANDRE LOURENCO

    Hi, Joe! 
    I’m Alexandre (Alex if you preffer) from Brazil. I’m an Understanding Eq costumer and recent VIP member! I’ve sent some questions to ask joe recently too (amp simulation; reverb).
    That text above it’s quite funny because I’m a pathologist. It’s a function very close to that of the radiologist. We interpret glass slides under a microscopy light with tissue sections or disperse cells on them. But we have to stain these slides so it is possible to distinct the different types of cells, tissues or substances. When the staining process is well done, we have a pretty colorful picture under the light of microscopy.
    The slides are still better friends to me than the EQ process, but I’m getting better gradually, even I don’t have a decent room (9.5 x 4.9 feet) and a good placement of my monitors (they’re in the 9.5 feet wall and in an assimetrical distance because it’s the only possibility right now). So, in the “sound field”, I don’t have a good “staining process”. But I’m trying to trick this “blurred image” with my headphones and and getting used to listen to anything on this bad stained sound (until I minimize the bad things in the room or have somewhere else to move my home studio in). But I think I’m getting the sense, in a general way, of what frequencies are undesirable for that sound source (in the very begginig any freq with a 12 db gain were crap to me! Now just 95% sounds like crap… Kidding!!!)
    Thanks for helping!

    Cheers!

    PS.: Sorry for the long text with this possible bad written english.

    • Awesome analogy, Alex. I like the idea of “staining” and how it might apply to audio. 🙂