Last updated on June 18, 2018 by Rob Mayzes

Today you’re going to learn the extremely simple EQ trick that completely changed the way I mix.

Adopt it in your mixes, and you can work faster, with more confidence, and make mixing easier.

 

Today you are going to learn extremely simple EQ trick that completely changed the way I mix. Adopt it in your mixes and you can work faster with more confidence and make mixing easier.

So keep watching to learn the Group Bus EQ trick. And of course don’t forget to grab the free EQ cheat sheet, there’s a link in the bio or on the screen now.

Rob here from Musician on a Mission, hope you are having a great week. Okay, so how does this trick work?

Well, it’s very simple. In many cases, it makes more sense to apply EQ to a whole group of instruments at the same time rather than individual channels.

I want to start this video by showing you what that actually means. In this mix, you can see I’ve got a bunch of channels here at the end, and these are group auxes where I am sending all of the guitar channels, all of the drum channels to each of these respective group auxes or group buses.

In my workflow, group bus processing comes after mix bus processing. So now, I can start to think about the tone of the whole drum kit, the tone of all the guitars, the tone of all the vocals together. And instead of applying EQs to individual channels, let’s say the whole drum kit is sounding a bit muddy. Well, I can just EQ the whole kit.

[Music Being Played 00:01:22]

And let’s say the guitars are sounding a bit harsh as well, there’s only one guitars here but it’s got several mics on one amp, so now we can EQ that.

[Music Being Played 00:01:35]

So what is happening here is when you load up an EQ on a group bus, you’re applying it to several channels at once. And this could be applying EQ to several instruments like multiple guitars or it could be applying EQ to several channels like a snare with two or three mics on it.

This is a very common trick. You might be aware of this already, but I wanted to make a video about it, because it’s so powerful.

In this mix in particular, I am probably going to do very little mixing on individual channels. With the guitar group, I am summing multiple microphones together, so all the processing is going to be here.

With the drums, the overall drum kit sound, I am going to get from here, probably some parallel compression. The snare too, it’s a snare top and snare bottoms, so on that I am doing it on a group bus.

With the kick, there were three mics, I decided to mute a couple of them, so on that I am going to be doing individual channel processing. You can see I’ve already got a bit of EQ on that already.

But then the bass is the same, it’s a blend of the DI and the mics. So in this particular mix, most of my processing is going to be on these last few channels.

The benefits of working in this manner are numerous. First of all, you use less plug-ins, because rather than adding an EQ to every single guitar, mic or every single different backend vocal part, you just use one EQ plug-in on the group, which also means you save time, because you are doing big broad sweeps. Rather than focusing on small details, you are fixing the tone of an entire group of instruments, so a bunch of mics at the same time.

And this means that your mix starts to come together faster and earlier in the process which in turn gives you a big confidence boost and confidence is always a good thing when mixing.

Generally, when you take this approach, it also forces you to consider the context a bit more, because even if you can’t avoid the solo button which you should absolutely try to do, but if you have to solo anything, it’s better to solo a group of instruments than it is to solo just one channel. It forces you to focus on the mix and the track and the vibe as a whole. To me, it just makes mixing easier and I highly recommend you give it a go.

So now I am going to walk you through a step by step process of doing this, how you set up in your DAW, how to actually approach EQ when you are EQing a bunch of instruments at the same time. So keep watching if you want to learn more about this great trick.

Okay, so the first step is to actually set up the group buses. Now, depending on the mix, there’s going to be a different combination of summing instruments together, like summing all the guitars to one channel and then also summing different microphones together like an amp with several microphones on it.

In this particular mix, it’s mostly summing microphones apart from the drum kit because it’s just a small band setup.

Now, in Logic, this is really easy. We can just select the things that we want to put together. So let’s say we want to put the vocals to the same channel, we then go to the output, and we select a bus, that’s going to create a new channel for us and we can change this to vocals. And we’ve got our first group channel.

So the output of these channels have been summed together here. And we can repeat this process for instrument groups like all the guitars, all the backend vocals if there are more of them, or all the keys, that kind of stuff.

So in this track, all that’s left for that approach is the drum kit.

Okay, and now, we can sum similar mics, so on the bass we’ve got a DI and a mic; on the guitar we’ve got two different microphones. So we don’t want to process these individually. Once I’ve balanced them with each other, there’s no point EQing them separately. And this is the whole idea. So instead, we can just bus these together and also bus the bass to one channel.

[Music Being Played 00:05:00]

Okay, so I did a snare one there too because we are mixing a snare top with a snare bottom.

So now the next step is to make sure the actual outputs on your group channels are set correctly. In this mix, I am using a mix bus, whether you use a mix bus or not doesn’t really matter, it just depends on your workflow but I need to make sure that all of my channels go to the mix bus because that’s where I’ve got quite a lot of processing going on already.

Okay, that’s it. So now each of these channels, we could solo [Music Being Played 00:05:28] if we just wanted to listen to an element. But again, I recommend you avoid that button at all costs when you are actually applying EQ.

So now the group buses are set up. I like to give them a quick little balance and now we can move onto EQ.

Now, it’s vital here that you don’t just start loading up EQ on each of these channels for the sake of it. You need to have an intention, something that you are trying to do when you load up that equalizer, before you load it up, because that’s how you know what frequency to go to, how much to boost or cut it by, because you have an intention you are trying to fulfill.

So, what we are going to do now is compare this track to a few references to identify any big issues that need solving. We are also going to switch this to mono to make it easier to make tonal decisions that aren’t being influenced by stereo panning and that sort of stuff.

[Music Being Played 00:06:46]

Okay, so what issues can you hear? What are the major things that are different in our track to those other references? And of course, we don’t want to try and just copy one of these references, we want to be somewhere between them and also consider how this track sounds. But already, I can identify some big issues.

This track sounds pretty muddy. There’s a lot going on in that lower mid range. It’s a live track as well, so it sounds a bit messy, but that muddiness is really adding to that mess and I think we can address that a lot. And once we remove some of that muddiness from the guitars, from the drum kit, I think that’s really going to open up that upper mid range, that’s not really coming out at the moment.

I also think you could use a bit more top end on the drums and the cymbals as well. So there we go, we’ve got a few intentions there. We need to address muddiness on the drums, the guitar, maybe the bass too and also add some top end to the drums.

So let’s start that. We are just going to load up an EQ on the drum kit and let’s start by finding where that muddiness is.

[Music Being Played 00:08:01]

So a bit of a low cut there as well just to tighten up that bottom end, and let’s compare and see what this is actually doing.

[Music Being Played 00:08:15]

Cool. That tightens up that kick a bit as well. So now let’s try adding in some top end.

[Music Being Played 00:08:42]

I like what that’s doing to the cymbals. Again, let’s just check a few references.

[Music Being Played 00:08:58]

So, need to do some work on the kick and the snare individually, but as a whole, this is the power of group bus processing. Because just by adding a bit of EQ to the drum kit we’ve already tightened up that kick, we’ve made the snare sound a bit more aggressive. And we’ve removed a lot of that mud from the whole drum kit, we’ve added some brightness to the cymbals and that took a few seconds with one equalizer. And then when we get to the kick and the snare, it’s going to be much easier to shape them into what we want to hear.

So now let’s move onto the guitars and let’s see if we can fix some of the mud there too.

[Music Being Played 00:10:06]

That’s already removing quite a lot of that messiness. It’s not quite mud, it’s actually a bit above 500 here that is starting to sound a bit messy. But just one cut across the guitar and we could play around with the balance between the dynamic and the condenser as well, but just that one cut has already tidied that out quite a lot. And imagine if you had two guitars going on, again just that one simple cut would have tidied up both guitar parts.

So, there you go, you just [inaudible 00:10:31] an example of treating a whole instrument group like the drum kit and also treating multiple microphones together on that guitar. Of course, there’s still a lot more work that needs doing in this mix, on this group buses. We need to address the bass, the snare, the vocals too. And then once that’s finished, we start to get to the limitations of group processing.

There’s still going to be a lot that you can’t do on the group. You want to do quite a lot of the work on the groups, as much as possible, these big broad sweeps. But, eventually, once you are done here, you have to move onto the individual channels.

So ultimately, we are going to have to start EQing the kick drum. We are going to have to EQ maybe the lead vocal if we don’t want the backend vocal to sound exactly the same. Perhaps, the overheads need a bit of a high pass filter, maybe the [inaudible 00:11:13] needs more presence – all of those things will have to happen on the individual channels.

But by the time you get there, you’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting on the group channels and you are just nudging these in the right direction, and addressing those channels that you can only do individually like the lead vocal. And then other situations where group EQ doesn’t really work is if you want good separation between the parts.

So let’s go back to this idea of guitars, if there were multiple guitars in this mix. Processing them all together like this is going to make them sound more cohesive, because we are applying the same EQ to all of the guitars, and that’s really good if you want a cohesive sound. But what if we want a really separate sound? If we want to have one guitar hard left, one guitar hard right and we want them to sound really different and create the stereo spread?

In that case, we could fix issues under group bus, maybe they all sound muddy. But then to create that separation between the channels, we’d have to go into the individual channels and apply some different EQ curves to each of them.

So those are the limitations of group bus processing, and eventually, once you are done with the group buses you will have to move onto the individual channels.

So, it takes some time to get used to working in this way, it’s difficult at first, but it’s well worth the patience. This really did completely change my mixing workflow and my mixes became so much better because of it. In fact, my whole approach to mixing called slow focus mixing relies heavily on this group bus EQ technique.

So there you go, go and try it in your mixes, follow those steps, give it a go, and I am sure you will love it. Of course, this is just one element of EQ and you need to have a much deeper understanding of the strategy behind EQ to really implement this technique. Because it’s one thing to say hey use an EQ on a group bus but how do you know which frequencies to cut or boost, how much should you cut or boost them by, what is the general strategy behind EQ.

All of those things are covered in my free EQ cheat sheet. Download it. Use it in your mixes and it will help you to make music that sounds way more professional. There’s a link in the bio or a link on the screen now to grab that, and it’s completely free.

So that’s it from me, I will see you same place same time next week. And remember, Create Regardless!

 

Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.

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