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Mixing Hip Hop/Rap Music, Part 1

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The Fundamentals Of Equalization And Other Key Mix Components

By CUS

Mixing is one key element to any form of music that can actually make the song sound different than how it was initially intended when it was produced. This is why the individual who “mixed” songs received so much acclaim. When mixing hip hop/rap music, as opposed to other popular forms of music, there are a number of different approaches that take precedence, and there are also some elements that remain a constant. In this article, I want to discuss several factors that are fundamental to achieving a good mix, especiallyy in hip hop/rap music.

The Importance of Equalization

Equalization transforms the signal of a sound and/or instrument to grow into something else. Some EQ’s can included one to seven different bands that may be modified. The bands indicate the frequencies that are available to tweak. The basics are highs (hi), mids and lows. This pretty much covers the main frequencies of 100 Hz, 1 khz and 10 khz. The range is greater though, as one can tweak as low as 40 to 50 hertz, up to the 10 kilo hertz area.

Filters

These bands sometimes feed several frequencies. It may be the hi to hi-mid, then low-mid to lows. There may also be a straight mid eq in between the hi and low mids. Then there can be a hi pass and lo pass filter. These filters allows one to diminish any of these particular frequencies that happen to be on the same channel as these sounds. The lo pass filter may reduce or attenuate signals that are higher and only allow the lower frequencies to pass. The hi pass filter does the opposite. It allows higher frequency signals to pass and attenuates lower frequencies.

The purpose of these filters is to do away with excess noise. Not in the sense of a gate, but with frequencies. Filters are good to use with vocals. A female vocalist, who more than likely has a higher frequency voice, does not need lower frequencies on her track. So the hi pass filter may be engaged to make sure that NO lower frequencies will pass through. This may be due to any bleeding from other tracks or other signals in the room during the recording. This will hold true with a bass line where the lo pass filter can be engaged where the higher frequencies can be diminished or taken out of the equation altogether.

Gain

The gain of an EQ is the volume of these highs, mids and lows. It may be added or taken away. Adding of the gain is another way of nudging the volume of the signal up a little bit. So if the gain is added on all of the frequencies on a signal, the volume will gradually become louder. This is why I recommend that the input of a plug-in should be turned down by let’s say 2 decibels, before one starts to equalize. Having the input lower allows more headroom as the signal becomes greater through the EQ’ing. (One does not want the signal to “slam” the red on the input of the plug-in. This may either distort the sound or make it unmanageable during further tweaking.)

Frequency

The frequency knob (if it’s available) is next for the EQ, which sets the focus of where the gain is being added or subtracted. The frequency alters the sound greatly when shuffled with turning left and right. It allows one to see the range of the signal, from bright or dull. This points to where on the map the signal resides. The hi eq is set between 5 khz up to the 15 khz area. The mid eq lingers in the area of maybe 700 to 800 hz up to around 3 khz. The low eq varies from maybe 50 hz up to about 200 hz. The points in between are where the low- and hi-mids come into play. So the individual frequency knobs play within these areas, depending upon which gain was either added or subtracted (brought down). One can hear the bending of these frequencies if they jiggled the knob real fast back and forth. This will give an idea of how the frequencies vary, as one tweaks to their taste.

Bandwidth

The bandwidth of an equalizer is the same as the “Q”. Bandwidth is essentially the difference between the frequencies. This refers to the amount of hertz that is changed during the span of a sound. The “Q” can either “round” a sound out or “thin it” out more. It shapes the sound depending on the amount of gain for the particular frequency; whether it is the highs, mids or lows. Upon pulling back the “Q,” one may hear the signal widening a little bit. The more the “Q” knob is raised, the sharper the hit is as the signal punches a bit more, thus making it a smaller bandwidth.


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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual