It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or have been mixing for years, EQ is probably the most overwhelming thing on your mixer.
But turns out, there are actually a few simple EQ techniques that can really improve your sound without having to become an EQ master.
So, let me give you some simple EQ techniques that also turn out to be the most important when it comes to creating a great mix.
The EQ Golden Rule
When you are looking to get more clarity out of a vocal, your first thought might be to boost high frequencies…but, don’t do it. Instead, let your first thought always be,
“What frequency range can I cut to solve this problem.”
In other words, to get more clarity from a vocal you need to remove what is making it unclear, which happens to be the low frequencies. So, you cut this out with a low cut filter at about 120Hz and vualá! You fixed the problem.
EQ Golden Rule: Cut frequencies before you boost.
Of course, there are times when boosting is the answer to your EQ problem, but when it comes to live sound, you’ll cut way more often.
Stay simple with EQ.
One of the most important things I can tell you about EQ is keep it simple.
Just because you have four filters available for each channel does not mean you should use all of them. Every EQ setting should be well thought out and used to solve a specific problem.
If there is not a frequency problem, then no need to use EQ.
Be generous with the Low Cut Filter.
I know I just told you to be stingy with your EQ filters, but there’s actually one place I recommend using EQ every time, and that is to put a low cut filter on vocals.
Start by activating the low cut filter and setting the frequency to 120Hz. If it still lacks clarity, move the frequency up. But you most likely do not want to go higher than 180Hz on a vocal low cut filter.
The goal is to get a nice, clean sound from the vocal that still has plenty of warmth and power.
The frequency placement may be slightly different for each vocal, but it is going to land somewhere between 120Hz and 180Hz.
Low Cut Filter Cheat Sheet
Putting a low cut filter on all of your vocals is going to make a HUGE difference in your mix. It’s also helpful to have low cut filters on your instruments, but the frequency placement is going to be different for each.
I put together a low cut filter cheat sheet with all the recommended settings:
For pretty much every other type of EQ issue you need to solve, there’s one method that will help you solve it every time called frequency sweeping.
For example, let’s say you are having problems with a vocal still lacking clarity after you’ve applied a low cut filter. You may not know which frequency range is causing the problem, but you can easily find it with frequency sweeping.
- Activate a peaking filter (often called PEQ)
- Set the filter’s gain to +9dB
- Set the Q value to 4
- Then, while the vocal is singing, use the Frequency knob to slowly sweep through the full frequency spectrum until the problem area really stands out
- Once you’ve found the annoying frequency range, go ahead and cut it using the EQ filter’s gain control until you achieve the desired result
The Most Important EQ Techniques
- Cut frequencies before you boost.
- Keep EQ simple.
- Use the Low Cut Filter generously.
- Use Frequency Sweeping to solve EQ problems.
I hope this took the overwhelm away for you when it comes to EQ. Because it really can be that simple.
Don’t forget to download the Low Cut Filter Cheat Sheet.