Using EQ for character, separation, effects and more

Using EQ for character, separation, effects and moreAn equalizer, or EQ, allows you to manipulate the frequency content of the signals in your mix. But why would you want to do this? In this lesson, we’ll look at 6 ways that EQ can benefit your mixes.

1. Controlling the character of an instrument with EQ:

By manipulating an instrument’s frequency response, you can make it sound sharper, clearer, rounder, warmer, or prevent an instrument from sounding dull, weak, hollow etc. Perhaps you want to give the guitar more bite, make the bass less muddy, or give the vocals more presence. Each can be achieved using EQ to give an instrument the kind of character you desire.

2. Increasing separation using an equalizer:

In your mix, it’s not uncommon for different instruments to produce the same frequencies. When multiple instruments are occupying the same parts of the frequency spectrum, it can be hard to perceive each instrument separately. As a result, individual instruments may lack definition. The bass guitar may mask the kick drum or the rhythm guitar may mask the lead guitar, for example. With EQ, you can cut or boost an instrument’s frequency response to allow one instrument to occupy a certain part of the frequency spectrum more than another. This increases the separation between instruments and makes them more distinct and better defined.

3. Removing noise with EQ:

Try as you might, it’s not always possible to capture an entirely clean recording. Mains hum, air conditioner hum, the rumble of nearby traffic, bumps against a mic stand, bursts of air from the singer’s voice onto a vocal mic and even spill from other instruments can make their way onto your recordings. With EQ, you can often attenuate or even filter out entirely these unwanted sounds.

4. Compensate for a less than ideal recording with an equalizer:

In an ideal world, the recordings that you work with would always be high quality recordings using excellent mic placements in perfectly treated spaces. In reality however, there will be times when a recording that you’re working with leaves something to be desired. Perhaps a guitar was recorded too close to the sound hole, resulting in a boomy sound. Perhaps the vocalist stood too close to the mic, resulting in a bass heavy recording due to the proximity effect. Maybe the snare wasn’t tuned and has an unpleasant ring. Many aspects of a less than ideal recording can be compensated for using EQ.

5. Managing the frequency response of the whole mix using EQ:

Generally speaking, you want your mix to have a balanced frequency response overall. You don’t want a mix which has too much high end as it will sound harsh. Nor do you want your mix to have too little high end as it will sound dull. You don’t want a mix that sounds woolly due to too much low end. But too little low end will make it sound thin. In general, you are aiming for a mix which is well-balanced tonally, where no part of the frequency spectrum is over or underrepresented.

6. Creating effects with an EQ:

EQ can also be used to create effects. For example, rolling off both the low and high end on a vocal track can make it sound as if the voice is playing from a radio. This can be used as an effect to add variety to a mix. When creating an effect, you usually alter the frequency spectrum in ways which create extreme or unnatural results. Nevertheless, these moves can keep your mix interesting and engaging when used tastefully, especially when brought in for short periods using automation.

What do you use EQ to achieve in your mixes? Leave a comment below and be sure to download the free EQ Setting Cheat Sheet here.


FREE GUIDES: Get the best results from EQ, compression, and vocals

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