EQ Ear Training using Max For Live

I love Max for Live, it’s DIY audio in the software domain and it makes trying out ideas and building new audio tools extremely easy.

I built this device to help improve your ability to judge and apply EQ, you will of course need Ableton Live and Max For Live to be able to use it, you can download the device here:

http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/3657/eq-ear-training

The concept is simple; you listen to some source material and the plugin applies random EQ boosts (or cuts) and you have to guess what the frequency band is. If you do this regularly enough your ear will become attuned to the different EQ frequency bands and their effect on the source material. Just as with musical interval training, the more you do the quicker and easier it becomes to identify and apply EQ effectively, ultimately leading to better mixes / masters.

The idea came from Bob Katz book Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science , which I thoroughly recommend if you want some in-depth knowledge on some of the concepts and practices in mastering. In an early chapter he outlines various exercises to improve your ear in the context of mastering, and this is based on one of those.

I’ve put together a video to explain how to use it, it’s pretty straightforward:

 

Main features are:

  • Audition mode to hear the effect of each EQ band
  • training mode to test your ability to identify the frequency band in use
  • Apply EQ cut or boost, 3 or 6 dB and with Q factor of 0.5 (broad) to 1 (narrow)
  • Choose between your own source audio material or pink noise

Building it was relatively straightforward, there are a few quirks with max that I’m still getting used to, for instance, I only just figured out the sequence of execution of objects triggered off the same bang depends on the position of the objects in the patch editor (bottom to top, right to left).

Hope you find it useful, let me know what you think.

 

 

Piano Re-Amping

I recently watched a brilliant online recording masterclass with Sylvia Massey courtesy of Creative Live, very inspiring and it reminded me of something I’d lost sight of, the spirit of experimentation. During the class she records a band live and demonstrates some of the techniques she uses as well as her creative process. What struck me was how playful it was. Among the many things she did (including vocal feedback delay using 2 mobile phones a mic and a monitor speaker,  and passing a guitar signal through a power tool), she re-amped a snare by passing the recorded track back through a speaker with a snare strapped to it. The recorded sound of the re-amp was blended with the original snare to get fatter drum sound. This got me thinking, what else could you apply that too?

I’ve been doing a few tracks recently where we’ve used midi piano, I’ve been using the sampled grand piano in Ableton which isn’t bad at all (to my ears at least), however, it’s still a sampled piano and lacks a little dimension. I had the idea of re-amping the piano by passing the sampled piano track back through a speaker playing into the body of the upright piano I have at home, then micing the piano to get a new piano track. The idea being that this new track contains the string and body resonances of the real piano. The final piano track would then be a blend of the 2.

I set about doing this, it was relatively simple. A spaced pair of AKG C414s aiming inside the top of the piano, close in on the strings, and then a speaker placed at the bottom of the piano aiming into the body (I used my Avantone Mix Cube for the job).I removed the lower panel of the piano so the speaker could play into the body (see photo)

Using a real piano to enhance the sound of a sampled piano
Using a real piano to enhance the sound of a sampled piano

Once all this was set up, it’s just a case of pressing play and record. In the mix, just blend the original with the re-amp track according to your taste.

Here’s the original sampled piano track:

 

Here’s the re-amped track:

 

Here’s a blend of the 2:

 

You can hear how it adds a depth and dimension to the sampled piano without recourse to loads of plugins.

I’ve also tried passing other signals through it, including vocals and guitar tracks,it lends an interesting colour.

I’m liking the natural colouration you get with re-amping, it’s something I’m definitely going to explore more.