How can I find the frequencies that are making my vocal sound harsh?
Project Studio Expo audience question
Mike Senior replies: The classic technique is to grab an EQ peak with a high Q value (maybe about 10) and sweep it around until you hear the offending frequency pop out. To be honest, though, I’ve never found that tremendously useful, because it always seems that anything I boost in this way begins to sound harsh, so I end up over-processing. Personally, I’ve had more success setting up an EQ cut, turning the monitoring volume up until the harshness is abundantly obvious, and then cutting at different frequencies to try to improve it.
Another thing I do a lot is find a particularly harsh-sounding section, loop it, and then examine the frequency balance with a high-resolution spectrum analyser to see if I can correlate what I’m hearing with what I’m seeing. This works particularly well with harsh-sounding vocal resonances or sibilants. Bear in mind, though, that what might seem to be a consistent harshness problem can often actually be a dynamic problem: in other words some consonants and syllables may be much harsher than others, so cutting the frequency of one harsh moment may not solve a different harshness problem elsewhere, and may also overly dull sections that don’t suffer from harshness in the first place.