One of the most essential and overlooked tools for mixing your music is the EQ. EQ stands for “equalization.” In the context of audio and music production, equalization refers to the process of altering the tonality of a recording. EQ can make your music sound fuller, up close, distant and fuller (among other things). It’s also good for blending together and or isolating frequencies.
Overuse of EQ can ruin a sound’s clarity and definition or flat-out turn it into a muddy mess.
Typical EQ Layout
A typical EQ is divided into three sections: low, mid, and high. Many are more expandable going into more ranges, such as Mid Highs, Low Mids, etc. Each section controls a different range of frequencies. The mids will be responsible for managing your mid-range frequencies, the lows will manage your bass frequencies, and the highs will manage your higher/upper frequencies.
Here are a few EQ Tips you can use to help improve your mix and the overall quality of your music.
1. Fix Problems and Cleaning Up The Mix
EQ can help to clean up a mix by reducing unwanted frequencies using High pass/Low Pass as well as cutting a frequency band. For example, if there is a ringing sound in a vocal or guitar take, you can find that frequency and cut (turn down) that frequency or range of frequencies where the problem exists.
2. Enhance The Characteristics Of Your Instruments
All instruments have a sweet spot and the goal is to enhance those sweet spots to get the best possible sound from them as possible. Listen to your instrument (or mix), pay attention to the frequencies you like, and give them a slight boost. In practice, you would use a combination of boosting and cutting. Boosting what you like and cutting what doesn’t belong or what doesn’t help the sound/mix. Trimming the unneeded material essentially.
3. Stop Instruments From Clashing Together
To remedy clashing between sounds that play in the same space, use EQ to adjust the levels of their frequencies. For example, if you have strings and brass playing together decide which sound is more important, boost its presence frequency and remove the same frequency from the other instrument. Not completely, just enough so that they complement one another vs fighting.
4. EQ-ing Your Time-based FX
Aside from EQ-ing instruments and removing unwanted frequencies, another thing you can do is EQ your effects, especially your delays, reverbs, and choruses. Oftentimes these can sound very lush and magical but can quickly muddy up a mix if their frequencies aren’t managed.
You don’t want your highs ringing on the sounds, piercing ears and you don’t want your low end swimming around the mix. Place an EQ on your effects, start with a high/low pass filter and dial the settings in slowly.
5. Polishing Your Mix
The idea here is to apply a final EQ on the Master/Mix Bus and make small EQ moves (small boosts/cuts) to enhance the overall mix. Mixing individual sounds is one thing but once all those sounds are brought together some of those frequencies that were managed are then reintroduced because frequencies are stacked up on one another so you want to manage them once everything is together, if needed.
This process is typically done with a musical sounding EQ (analog styled) utilizing small dBs of boosts and cuts just to enhance small details, nothing drastic.
Here are some EQs you might consider
There’s a popular saying in the audio industry that many of us hate and that’s “Fix it in the mix” not ideal, but to an extent, with MAutoDynamicEQ there are many things it can fix in the mix. What makes it good is that it’s flexible and makes processing (and polishing) when mixing, sound designing, and fixing audio-related artifacts.
Features That Make This EQ Incredible
Adjustable Slope Filter: This makes the DynamicEQ’s filters completely free from resonance issues, which makes solving compression, expansion, or sibilance issues a breeze.
Filter Adaption: Allows you to EQ based on freehand draw spectral content or base its EQ moves patterns from another recording, making equalization a breeze.
Saturation: Saturation introduces harmonics that can be used to increase the perceived loudness of an instrument. What’s great is the saturation can be adjusted per band vs being applied to the entire frequency spectrum. This would be good for getting 808s to cut through the mix better.
Mono/Stereo Processing: This is an advanced feature that allows you to process the MID and Sides of music elements. Very beneficial for the mixing and master stages as well as fixing issues in samples and other audio recordings.
Dynamic EQ: Extremely simple to use, select a frequency and adjust the node up or down which controls how much frequency gain or attenuation is done. Literally, two clicks, and you’re done.
MTurboEQ is a one-of-a-kind retro-style equalizer influenced by the most well-known vintage EQs.
You have access to the following
And many more (see image below)
As you can see from the image, all of the EQ models are stored in one plugin which provides quick access to all models. For ease of use, Meldaproduction kept the GUI and features similar. This reduces the learning curve and allows you to focus on the music.
Stepped vs Continuous: In stepped mode, there are two options for dialing in your settings. One is ‘Step Mode’, where everything has a limited value that makes decision-making faster. Or you can use continuous mode, which allows you to cycle through all frequencies for fine-tuning.
Mogwai Audio emulates two American classic EQs, the 550A and the 550B. These EQs have no Q, but instead, use proportional Q technology. In simple terms, the Q is increased as the gain increases, creating a narrow focus band.
EQ Bands Are Divided Into Overlapping Ranges
Low range: 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 Hz
Mid-range: 4, .8, 1.5, 3, 5 kHz
High range: 5, 7, 10, 12.5, 15 kHz
Low range: 30, 40, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 Hz
Low Mid-range: 75, 150, 180, 240, 500, 700, 1000 Hz
Hi Mid range: 0.8, 1.5, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12.5 kHz
High range: 2.5, 5, 7, 10, 12.5, 16, 20 kHz
Low and high bands can be used as typical bell shapes or shelves. The bells and curves help create unique sounding tones and dynamics.
Mid Side Processing
Both EQs are equipped with mid-side processing ability and phase output gang controls. Mid-side processing gives you more creative EQ freedom and the ability to create a wider mix or fix issues separately in the mid and or sides.
There are times when you record or you use a sample and discover that there are too much highs in the stereo field (left/right channels), you can EQ those separately from your mids giving you a more controlled mix.
A/B comparison is useful for swapping between different EQ settings in an effort to find which one fits best in your mix.
This is an iconic Preamp Equalizer Channel strip combination. What I love about it is the ability to add warmth and color when signals are hard-driven through it.
This is an iconic Preamp Equalizer Channel strip combination. What I love about it is the ability to add warmth and color to the emulation when the signal is driven through it.
Simple EQ Breakdown
The Top Band is shelf fixed at 12kHz
Mid-band Frequencies: 36, .7, 1.6, 3.2, 4.8, and 7.2 kHz.
Low band Frequencies: 35, 60, 110, and 220 Hz
Every band can add or remove 16dB of gain and the high-pass filter has a selectable range of 50, 80, 160, or 300 Hz.
Soft Clipping: Push the levels beyond 0db and generates wave shaping (clipping) characteristics. This is used for getting more level out of the music, but chopping the transients and pushing the rest of the audio signals.
The 1073 also has A/B comparison and mid-side processing like its sister EQ emulations listed above.
EQ Tips: Conclusion
Equalizers are very powerful tools and can do some amazing things, especially with the robust features they have today. Start with the ones you have first, and learn the ins and outs thoroughly before moving on to others. When you leave your stock EQ is when things start to change drastically, especially once you start chasing tonal characteristics, but that’s another post all in itself.
I hope you’ve learned something, please leave any comments and questions below.