How to Approach EQ
Department of Sound Engineering Article Series
How to Approach EQ?
Since we have covered EQ in our Sound Engineering course here are some tips on how to approach EQ. We all know that EQ plays a critical role in getting a great mix, but many people ask me for a perfect settings menu for each instrument or vocals. Personally I feel there is much easier way to approach EQ.
Look for the Problem
Look for the Problem first. Why reach for an EQ if you don’t have a reason? Do you hear something you don’t quite like? Is there some track that is not sitting well with otger track or make the other track sound flat and muddy. For example, if the vocal sounds great in solo, but indistinguishable when the guitars are in the mix, then you have a problem with the guitars and the vocal. EQ can fix that.
This is how you should initially approach EQ, to solve a problem or make a track fit better in the mix. Don’t approach EQ because “you’re supposed to EQ.” Don’t start making EQ moves on a vocal just because you have a menu of frequency settings for a particular instrument or vocal. If the track sounds fine, don’t touch it!
Find your own Solution
Normally I have seen many have no patience to listen to the mix and decide, rather people look for a ready EQ settings chart, this mentality leads to amateur questions like “How should I EQ vocals?” “What frequency should I boost for a drum kit?” etc, since we’re conditioned to look for answers.
In reality, no one can tell you technically how should EQ something. You must discover the answer to your specific track (and mix) in question, yourself. If you’ve noticed that something sounds off or out of place, it’s time to experiment with different frequencies to see if you can clear up the mess. The goal is to tweak and explore until the tracks no longer “rub up against” one another and you have more clarity. Simply put you want to be able to hear and feel every track clearly.
More Uses of EQ
EQ is not only meant for “corrective” procedures, it is also an artistic tool that can help sculpt new sounds and enhance your tracks. So it’s not always about identifying and solving problems. Sometimes it’s about innovating tones and sounds for the sake of the song. Again, this process is aided by a non-technical approach. Does it honestly matter to your listeners what 60hz sounds like? What about 6khz? No way. They just care about music, and so should you. If you want your snare to crack and it’s not cracking, then go on a hunt for whatever makes it crack. This too is a process of discovery, not an equation to solve. It’s more art, and less science. It’s also more fun.
All Sound Engineering and DJ students please read this article and understand that broadly speaking Mixing or any Sound Engineering tasks require a combination of your Musical sense and non technical approach with the technical knowhow. After all how you listen makes you the best or the worst Sound Engineer, and this is again and again mentioned by some of the top Grammy winning Sound Engineers from around the world.
Department of Sound Engineering