In this article we hope to help you understand how to EQ trumpets whenever you run across them in your mix.
Before starting equalization, you need to make sure that your instrument is in good condition and you’re recording in a treated room with a proper mic placement based on your initial idea. Also, you should clean your recording from any unwanted noises and then apply a high-pass filter somewhere around 100 Hz to eliminate low frequencies.
If your trumpet sounds too muddy, you can apply a gentle cut somewhere around 200-300 Hz, or if the trumpet sounds too thin, you should add 500-600 Hz. To eliminate any harshness, you should apply a dynamic EQ in the range of 1-3 kHz and to make the trumpet sounds brighter, you should apply a high-shelf boost around 5-8 kHz.
Before You EQ, Quantize and Compress
Generally, compression is applied after equalization, but in some cases, it can be applied first. It’s needed to tame the dynamics and make the sound more detailed.
It’s advised to apply a fast attack, but not too fast so that the transients would be killed and make the sound dull. Then, put the release time from medium to fast, depending on the tempo. Set the ratio to 3:1 and adjust it accordingly to the dynamics of the music, and set the threshold to 10 dB.
If you’re not in favor of your recording and it sounds not exactly as bright as you wanted it to be, the problem might not be in dynamic response or a timbre but in the performance itself. Despite most might argue that applying quantization and automatization isn’t that good of an idea, in some music genres, for example, pop music, it might be just the case.
To quantize your track, you can use a specifically designed tool or do it just by hand. In all other situations, if you don’t want the trumpet in your mix to sound robotic and unnatural, it would be better to leave it to sound natural.
Once you have your trumpet track cleaned from any unwanted sounds and compressed, if necessary, it’s time to apply the EQ.
Before applying, listen carefully to your track and decide what kind of treatment that track requires. Trumpet can be either too bright or present, or on the contrary, too dull or dark, or it can be a combination of the two. Always keep in mind the trumpet’s role in your mix and adjust the equalizer accordingly.
More often than not, the trumpet plays a leading role in the mix, therefore, it’s a good idea to start the equalization process by cutting off any unnecessary low frequencies. In spite of dealing with a dense mix, it’s a good idea to apply a high-pass filter somewhere around 100 Hz without making an impact on the sound of the trumpet. Although it’s quite beneficial as it would distinguish the trumpet from other instruments such as kick drum, bass, or even vocals. But, if your trumpet plays a solo part, then you should think about whether you really need to apply a high-pass filter and then leave the low-end for more warmth.
Dealing with muddy and boomy mixes is a quite common situation not only for beginner audio engineers but for seasoned ones too. Said muddiness occurs when any instrument in the mix intersects with another one. Regarding trumpet, it’s a good idea to apply a gentle cut somewhere around 200-300 Hz but do it carefully since you don’t want to kill the energy of the instrument. On the contrary, if you have a feeling that the trumpet sounds thinner than it should be, you can add something around 500-600 Hz.
If your trumpet recording sounds too harsh, you should look around 1-3 kHz to control your trumpet by using a dynamic EQ to improve the general picture and make some notes present while softening other ones. A trumpet is an instrument with a very distinguishable character, we often want to save it or make it even brighter, as even the finest virtual instruments can sound dull from time to time. That’s why it’s a good idea to apply a high-shelf boost somewhere around 5-8 kHz, but you should do it carefully because the last thing to do is to blow off somebody’s ears with an excessive sound. Also, you can apply a gentle cut using a low-pass filter around 8 kHz and up to eliminate any possible noises from key clicks or any sort of reed vibration.
Other things to Keep in Mind
You already learned that, before you apply the EQ to your track, there were a few important things that needed to be done. We discussed that, first, based on the genre of your recording, you may need to apply quantization and some compression.
However, you should always keep your instrument in a perfect condition that is suitable for playing. By doing so, you’ll not only prolong its lifespan but save you a great deal of time and money when you’re getting rid of various issues.
Then, you should treat your room, choose the right mic and place it accordingly in order to decrease the number of unwanted artifacts to be caught on the recording. Still, be ready that you would have to clean the recording of noise and possible clipping.
Maintain your instrument
It’s not a secret that if you want your instrument to sound natural, you ought to take care of it. If you’re a lucky owner of a trumpet, you’re probably familiar with the daily, weekly, and monthly routine that needs to be done. But in case you’re just a beginner, let us bring you up to speed. If you regularly take care of your trumpet, you would never encounter such problems as corrosion, sticking grime and debris, valves, and slides.
Every day you should do these things such as oiling the valves before playing the trumpet, emptying any condensation after you finish playing, and wiping the instrument down with the fiber cloth before putting it in the case.
Once a week, you have to clean the lead pipe and mouthpiece with the help of warm and soapy water. Then, you should clean the tuning slides by gently removing old grease and applying a layer of a new one. Finally, thoroughly clean the valves with a soft cloth and oil them again.
Once a month, you have to deep clean the valves but only the gray part of the piston, otherwise, you may damage the valve spring or break the plastic valve guide. Clean it with the help of warm soapy water and a toothbrush, then wipe it dry. Afterward, you should give your trumpet a bath in warm water with dish soap.
Treat your room
As the trumpet is known to be a very demanding instrument, surely you don’t want to spend extra hours cleaning your recording from various unwanted sounds. That’s why it’s utterly important to record it in a room that has an acoustic treatment. If you have a trumpet as a VST instrument, the general tone of the room doesn’t matter that much for you, still, you should consider investing in some decent instrument cables that connect your MIDI with your audio interface.
Choose the right mic
When choosing a microphone for recording a trumpet, the first thing you should ask yourself is what result you want to achieve. Each type of microphone will provide you with a slightly different result. Condenser microphones are known for catching very detailed sound, therefore, as a result, you will have an open and clear sound. Ribbon microphones are valued for their smooth sound and rich low end and are said to be a great choice for recording a trumpet. Dynamic microphones are an excellent choice if you’re a gigging musician, as they ignore unwanted noise.
When you’re recording a trumpet in your home studio, it’s utterly important to place the mic properly to get the desired result. If you want to achieve a bright sound, you should use a pop filter on the microphone and place it about 12-16″ away from the bell and slightly off-axis. If you’re after a mellow sound, place the mic 24″ from the bell and start moving it off-axis to one side, till you get the sound you like. If you’re aiming at classical-style recording, you should place the mic as far as possible and about 6 feet off the ground.
Clean the recordings
You may find yourself in a situation when despite regularly taking care of your trumpet, you record in a treated room with a mic of your choice, and still, you hear some clipping and noise. To get rid of clipping, you can add a limiter to the channel and use some plugins that will reconstruct clipped regions. To eliminate noise, you can use a noise reduction plugin and by adjusting the threshold, you can increase or decrease the effect, but try not to overdo it.
It’s very hard to find a musician or audio engineer who doesn’t like the sound of the trumpet. All instruments of the brass section add brightness to the mix, and the trumpet does it the best of all. So in this article we hope you found some value in learning how to EQ your trumpets the next time you come across them in your productions.