Cubase for folk instruments

The presets (especially, but not only, EQ settings) that come with Cubase Pro 10 seem to be most useful for drums, guitars, basses, etc. in the roc/pop genres. As a folkie, I’d be glad of some advice about how to get the best out of acoustic folk instruments - fiddles, mandolins, flutes, and the like. Any suggestions?

The main advice I’d offer, and this is independent of musical genre, is for most bread-and-butter audio processing just ignore the presets. I think they create a false sense that there is a “correct” setting that works independent of context. There simply isn’t.

Almost anything you record with a mic is going to have so many variables that potentially impact the sound you are almost always comparing apples & oranges. For example suppose you have an EQ Preset named Big Male Vocal - great, that sounds useful. Most likely whoever made that Preset had a recording of a male vocal and these settings did indeed make it sound BIG!!! However the male vocalist you used is a different person than the one used for the Preset. And the mics are likely different as are the mic positions and the room itself etc… While all these elements will impact how the EQ should be set, no stock Preset is going to take them into account.

That said when you come up some EQ setting that sounds good on your mandolin player’s vocals, when they are singing through a Sure SM58 mic from about 2 feet back - save that as a Preset.

Also a lot of EQing isn’t about fixing or improving the sound of an instrument. Rather it is about getting two instruments to sit well with each other. For example a mandolin & fiddle play in similar frequency ranges and might be masking each other so neither is clear and both are muddy. The classic way to address this uses EQ to carve away a bit of the mandolin for the fiddle to shine through and also remove some fiddle in a different frequency range for the mandolin to peek out through. The EQ settings you’d use to do this are going to be super specific to your recording, including how the instruments are arranged. No stock preset is able to take into account all of the potential variables.

So ignore EQ Presets and instead focus on developing your own listening and EQ skills.

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Here’s a search for some Frequency Charts that are often a good starting point. But keep in mind these are still based on generalities and not the specific audio you are using. Always make your final decisions based on what you hear and not a number on a chart.

https://www.google.com/search?q=common+eq+frequency+chart

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Thanks raino. Sound advice (no pun intended) and very helpful link.

Just to clarify a bit, I’m not saying to ignore presets for everything. For effects that are typically used for more artistic purposes (delays, modulation plugs, distortion, etc) presets can be a great resource. Basically if you are using a tool to make the sounds you currently have play nice together, ignore them; but if you are using a tool to transform a sound into something different - enjoy.

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dude, such excellent tidbits.

All great advice by @raino

The only thing I can add is, I sort of work in the folk blues genres and all ITB. I spend a lot of time trying to get my tracks to sound less digital and more analogue. I find once I work in the digital realm such as Cubase 10 and a DAW, I need to add tape plugins on just about every track to get it to sound less electronic digitally. Look at chow tape and Cubase also has a tape plugin built it.