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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Concept Of EQing The Mics

Ken Scott placing U87s on the toms image
Ken Scott placing U87s on the toms
We've all been taught that in order to get the most natural sounding recording, we should move the mic first if it doesn't sound right, then change the mic if that doesn't work. Most experienced engineers will only resort to EQ (at least more than a touch) as a last resort. But there is another way and it comes from legendary producer/engineer Ken Scott, one of the 5 original Beatles engineers, who's worked with everyone from David Bowie to Elton John to the Rolling Stones to Supertramp, Kansas, Missing Persons, The Tubes and many, many more.

Ken always uses the exact same mics whenever he records, and he always EQs at exactly the same frequencies. After watching him work it occurred to me that he wasn't EQing the instrument at all; he was EQing the mics.

The reason why I came to this conclusion is that he would get his sound, and often the instrument itself would change, but he'd hardly ever have to touch his EQ. Regardless of the instrument, it sounded great when he put the mic on it.

This is illustrated in Ken's memoir Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust in Chapter 22 when discussing the making of Devo's Duty Now For The Future album. He says:

"I think we used three different drum kits on the album because we were after different drum sounds. We set up one kit, got the sounds for the songs on that, tore that down and put another one up. The thing with me is, because I’m such a creature of habit, I hardly had to change anything from kit to kit. I even used basically the same EQ, which I had to change very, very little for each kit. And as I always use the same frequencies it wasn’t quite as much of a headache as one might have expected. I’m a firm believer that the sound comes from the studio, not from what I do."
I can say that I experienced this exact same feat with Ken when we were doing the most recent SNEW album, What's It To Ya, together. There was one song that required a completely different drum sound on the outro of a song from the other half. When the new drum kit was reset, Ken put the mics up, didn't change a thing, and it sounded wonderful.

Now obviously this method can only be effective if you always use the same mics and are very, very familiar with how they sound. That being said, I've seen it work first-hand, and it's certainly a totally different concept around using the EQ. Dare I say, one that only a master can use.

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Anonymous said...

"And as I always use the same frequencies it wasn’t quite as much of a headache as one might have expected."

It would be very helpful to know what those frequencies are.
Can anyone let us know?
Are they documented anywhere?

Bing said...

I would love to know more about this technique. What frequencies. The thoughts behind it. It fits my thinking process.

I had a darkroom once, and unlike many who were constantly changing developers AND film. I stuck to ONE developer and worked the film until I had a few that did what I wanted. Eliminated all the variables... Seems like this is what Ken is doing...

Great article Bobby

Bobby Owsinski said...

Understand that Ken does this unconsciously. It was only after working with him for a while that I realized what he was doing.

His frequencies are all based around the frequencies of the Trident A Range console he used at Trident way back when. The frequencies that I saw him use most are 80, 100, 250, 2.5k, 5k, and 10k.

Just look at a picture of an A Range module from UA or Trident for more on the frequencies.


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