Better Your iLife (Part 2)

Better Your iLife (Part 2)

Though the best tools for mixing are your ears, GarageBand’s Visual EQ makes pinpointing and adjusting frequencies easier.




Make your songs sing by tweaking the sound with GarageBand’s new Visual EQ.

You’ve probably fiddled around with the bass and treble controls on your home stereo to make music sound better. Whether “better” is feeling the thunk of a kick drum or cutting down wicked hiss on your buddy’s old cassette tape recording, you’re already aware that audio EQ (aka equalization) can work wonders for your ears when you’re listening to music. The question is, how do you use it in your audio mixes?


GarageBand ’08 (4 out of 5 stars) features a new Visual EQ that lets you see and adjust audio frequencies to improve sound. But it’s time to break free of the typical home stereo habit of leaving the bass and treble controls fully cranked - there’s an art to knowing how and when to use EQ. We show you the principles behind two methods: subtractive and additive EQ.


Improving Sound Through Subtractive EQ

When it comes to mixing music, subtractive EQ (reducing frequencies) is your best line of defense against competing frequencies, allowing you to improve sounds, blend tracks better, and let your mixes breathe. For some, the tendency is to key in on what’s lacking and then boost those frequencies. Don’t. Instead, focus on trying to minimize certain frequencies to let others shine.


1. Experience Sound Congestion. For the sake of this demonstration (and so that we’re all on the same page), create a new Magic GarageBand project by choosing File > New and selecting Magic GarageBand. Select the Rock genre, click Audition, and then select the following instruments (from left to right): Big Stack guitar, Skiffle bass, Head Bobbing drums, Electric Piano keyboard, and Ripping guitar for Melody. Then click Create Project; once your new project opens, click the Play button and take a good listen. Notice that while the drums and guitar melody stand out, the rhythm guitar, bass, and electric piano all compete to be heard in the midrange frequencies.


We purposely selected these instruments so you can hear how certain instruments sonically step all over each other.


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2. Analyze the Sound. To distinguish the instruments, minimize the competing frequencies. Start with the bass track (Skiffle): Select it, display Track Info (Command-I), click the Details triangle, select Visual EQ, and open its Edit window (click the pencil icon). Start playback and, in the Visual EQ window, select Analyzer to view the frequency spectrum, a live graph of the selected track’s frequencies and frequency levels. Listening, you might think that the bass could use more bottom end to distinguish itself, but if you look at the spectrum, the low frequency levels are already decent. Instead, cut the low-mid frequencies to let the bass ones stand out. The frequency spectrum shows some instrument strength in the 250Hz-to-300Hz range, so let’s use that as a starting point.


The Visual EQ’s Analyzer displays a selected track’s frequency spectrum, enabling you to eyeball starting points to tweak.






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