In this article, we’ll help you understand how to EQ organ whenever you come across it in a mix.
In short, when you’re EQing organ, you will be applying only changes in low end and midrange to get out the sub-bass frequencies and muddiness. But aside from EQing, you should choose which organ would benefit your mix the most, spend some time recording it properly, and decide whether you need to apply reverb and compression.
How To EQ Organ
When you’re EQing an organ, you should pay more attention to the range of 200-350 Hz as it’s where the body of the organ lives. Also, it’s worth mentioning that you have to pay attention to how other instruments sound within the same frequency ranges where you will enhance or reduce the organ presence.
In the low-end, specifically the sub-bass range, it’s a good idea to use a high-pass filter to get rid of any unwanted frequencies that can be found around 50 Hz. Also, by doing that, you will reserve the place for bass guitars and synths if you have any in your mix.
Next, you might need to boost a bit around 80 Hz to achieve fullness, but you should do it carefully because it’s the range where the meat of bass and kick live alongside with the bottom of guitars and snare. So, it’s possible that you find yourself in a situation where you need to balance between boosting an organ and cutting bass from the said instruments. Whatever your actions would be, there is no way they should result in the mix sounding thin.
The fundamental frequencies of the organ live within the range of 200-350 Hz. If the organ sounds thin and not that pronounced, it’s a good idea to boost it a bit to add more body and warmth.
Low-mids is usually a very busy range, and if not treated properly, you’ll be left with the muddy and boxy mix. The organ tends to sound chubby around 300-500 Hz, so you should proceed with surgical cuts to eliminate the problem. Not only organs but other instruments such as guitars or snare drums will benefit from being tamed within the same range, but while cutting, try not to go over your head and make your track hollow.
As human ears are very sensitive to this range, you should pay attention to your actions while boosting any instruments. Also, it’s worth mentioning that this range is where fundamental frequencies of vocals live, so if you have it in your mix, you might be left with a choice of whether to boost the organ or the vocals. In any case, boosting around 2-5 kHz will result in the organ being more present in the mix. Remember that your aim is not to cause listening exhaustion but to add clarity and presence to your mix.
What else you can do
First and foremost, you should choose between a pipe organ, an electric organ, or organ VST. Recording pipe organs would be the hardest one as you need to find the place, the organist, and position the mics in the right way so that you will capture the organ sound as well as the natural reverberation. You don’t need much if you decide to record an electric organ if it has MIDI connectivity, the task is much easier. The only thing, aside from choosing the mic that you need to do, is to adjust this mic, so it captures the sound that you want. Regarding organ VST, you need to choose the one that will benefit your mix, make sure that it’s of the highest quality, and put it in the mix.
If you use electric or organ plugins, most likely, you will have to add a reverb of your choice. Regarding whether to use a compressor or not, you act based on your musical preferences and the feeling of the mix.
Choosing the right one
When it comes down to choosing the right instrument for you, you’re actually choosing between three options pipe organ, electric organ, and organ VST. All of the options have their advantages and disadvantages, so we’ll talk in detail about each of them.
The pipe organ is known to be the largest musical instrument and can vary in size from cubic meters to 5-floor height and can be found in churches, cathedrals, concert halls, and sometimes homes. These organs consist of many metal pipes which can be easily visible, and some are hidden from the view. One pipe is capable of producing only one sound. Having a range of 56 notes from the lowest to the highest, you need exactly 56 pipes for 1 timbre. And if you need more than 1 timbre, you need more pipes. When the organist plays a note, the wind goes into pipes, causing the air to sway to produce a sound.
Since the possibility of owning a pipe organ wasn’t available for all people, in the 1930’s, the first successful electric organ was released. The Hammond organ used mechanical rotating tonewheels that produced sound waveforms. Its most popular model, B-3, quickly found its way not only in churches but in gospel music, jazz, rock-n-roll, rock, and pop music.
Much later, in the 1980’s, modern digital organs appeared, which are much easier to obtain as they are more portable, smaller, and not that expensive. Moreover, modern digital organs have other characteristics that couldn’t be found in pipe organs, such as percussion and orchestral sounds, advanced console aids, choice of pitch temperaments and standards. These digital organs introduce real-time tone generation that is established on synthesis or sampling technologies and can offer MIDI or Internet connectivity, DSP technology, sampling, and pipe organ simulations.
Despite the appearance of electric organs made possible to obtain a dedicated organ at home, sometimes, when space is of the essence, having an organ that doesn’t require a physical space is much more desirable. Thankfully, nowadays, there is a very big market of various VST instruments that can satisfy even the most whimsical music producer.
Generally, organ VST can be divided into three groups such as universal, church, and specialty organs. Universal organs are suited to a number of genres and musical situations, while church organs work the best in anything that is associated with gospels, church, film scores, and traditional contexts. Specialty organs tend to sound at their absolute best when they are used in the musical situations for which they were designed.
In the majority of cases, organ VSTs have the best sound quality possible. The quality of the samples depends on a number of factors, including where the organ was recorded, how, which microphones were used, and what processing was used. Organ VSTs that sound as authentic as possible are of the highest value as they wouldn’t require that much in the processing stages.
It’s rather obvious that recording a pipe organ and the electric organ would be quite different in terms of choosing mics and mics placement, still, you will be reaching the same goal to capture the best sound possible.
So, to record a pipe organ properly, you have to use either a diaphragm omnidirectional mics or a diaphragm condenser mics with an omnidirectional feature included. As a pipe organ is a huge instrument, it would be better to use several mics that are placed at the same distance from each other and the center of the pipe array.
When you are recording an electric organ, most likely, you will use a guitar amplifier and a dynamic microphone would be the best choice for the job. Regarding the mic position, you should mind the following notions such as if you want to achieve more bass, you should place the mic closer to the speaker. But if it sounds way too boomy, place it further. If you want more mids, place the mic closer to the center of the speaker. If you need a darker sound, place the mic closer to the edge of the speaker.
If you recorded a pipe organ in a church or cathedral, you most definitely don’t need to apply an additional reverb as you captured the natural reverberation of the place. But, if you use an electric organ or VST, you might need to apply some. Which reverb to choose is based solely on your musical idea, most likely, you will be choosing between space and spring reverbs. The general rule with reverbs is that you shouldn’t overdo it, so it will be evident that this sound doesn’t belong. Other than that, the sky is the limit.
If it’s possible, it’s better not to compress an organ as you aim at the most natural and aesthetically pleasant sound. But, if the mix is dictating you to apply compression, it’s better to keep it in the following settings such as from 2:1 to 4:1 ratio, medium attack, medium to fast release, and adjusted gain reduction so that the input level matches the output level. If you hear that the organ started to sound a bit buried and drained from its beauty, it’s better to roll a few steps back.