Learning how to EQ and mix your track will greatly improve your project. EQ stands for equalization, a process that allows producers to shape each audio track to their liking. Since there is limited space in the frequency spectrum, each sound has to fit nicely without clashing. This is accomplished by cutting and boosting frequencies while EQing. It is important to balance the volume and panning of the different sounds before you hop on the EQ.
Is EQing Necessary?
EQing can be the sole factor that can transform your song into a professional sounding hit. All music is subjective, but generally, every major hit song has some kind of EQing. If you are an independent artist looking to improve your sound, EQing is the best place to start. The reason why EQing is so important is that it allows every sound to have its own space. You do not want sounds in your mix to overlay or clash each other. Clashing is when sounds are fighting for a frequency thus creating an unpleasant sound.
Parametric EQ is the perfect equalizer for a beginner. Not only is it flexible, but its easier to use and most Parametric EQs have visuals for the frequencies. There are 3 controls for different aspects of the frequency range; Gain, Frequency, and Sharpness (Q). This will in turn give you full control of your sound.
Gain – The gain determines the amount of boost or cut given to each frequency range.
Frequency – This control determines the center point for each frequency range.
Sharpness (Q) – The Q control controls how wide or narrow the frequency range is for that particular filter. This means you can even pinpoint an exact frequency and cut it completely out of the mix.
Key EQ Frequency Ranges
Very often you will find instruments clashing with one another on multiple frequency ranges. Unfortunately you wont be able to emphasize each instrument in that same space, so you will have to make a decision on which instrument will come out on top. Here are some common ranges where issues lie.
50-90Hz: This is a popular area for kicks and kick drums. While there may be other instruments that cover this area as well as other areas in the spectrum, it will be more punchy if you allow the kick and kick drums to full occupy this space. Instruments like bass guitars can afford to lose this range since they cover a wide frequency range.
500-1kHz: A lot of high frequency instruments clash here because this is a common area for most sounds. Usually this is the busiest frequency in the spectrum when it comes to hip hop. You will have to decide which instrument will take over the space. Try experimenting with different instruments for this range.
1-2kHz: This area in the spectrum is mostly reserved for vocals. Try to dedicate this area for your vocals to settle in and cut through the mix. Vocals are a big factor in making a popular song so make sure you are making the right moves in this area.
How Do I Start To EQ?
First, play your mix as is and see what kind of sounds are sounding too soft or too loud. Then notice which sounds are clashing. Once we find a couple of things to work on, lets focus on one section or sound at a time. Remember, not everything has to go through an EQ; just the nicks and nacks of the mix.
Cut Frequencies Before Adding Frequencies
When you are finding the frequencies that clash or sound bad, add your frequency band and narrow the bandwidth to your liking, then turn the gain knob all the way down. This will cut the frequency out of your mix. Start in the lower end of the spectrum then work your way up towards the high frequencies. Cutting frequencies can make mixes sound clearer and can actually boost vocals etc naturally.
Keep Your Mix Low In Volume
When you play your music at a high volume everything will hit harder and everything will sound better. When you play everything in a low volume you will see what is present in your mix. You’ll be able to make drastic changes to your mix by increasing the volume of some instruments while the mix is low. This will help you highlight key sounds in your song. A common tactic is to keep the mix low in volume before a drop. Then when the drop happens, put the mix in a higher volume to give that extra kick and punch to the sound.
This is a good starting point on getting your feet wet with EQing. Again, this is all subjective to what you want to achieve in your mix. But generally these are the first few pointers you need to know before you dive into this space. We have more tutorials that go into detail on what to do while EQing. Comment what you want to learn more of!