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Tips for EQ

I've always thought of EQ as something you feel, and any advice such as, "Boost the midrange around 2.5 kHz to give the snare more bite", is like being a soccer team manager giving the half-time pep-talk by telephone! But there are certain EQ tips that work well in so many situations that they are well worth trying just about any time. Here are a few of my favorites...

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A recent correspondent asked me if I had any tips for EQ.

I've always thought of EQ as something you feel, and any advice such as, "Boost the midrange around 2.5 kHz to give the snare more bite", is like being a soccer team manager giving the half-time pep-talk by telephone!

But there are certain EQ tips that work well in so many situations that they are well worth trying just about any time. Here are a few of my favorites...

  • Most of us like plenty of bass in the mix. But think of the poor little loudspeaker that someone is eventually going to enjoy your recording on. The cone of the woofer can only move so far (it has a 'limited excursion' as we say), and when that is all taken up with bass, there is no more leeway for the midrange. And it's the midrange that makes your music feel loud.

    So just bear in mind - the more bass you lay on, the lower the maximum volume will be on a typical playback system, without distortion.

  • Still on the subject of low frequencies. In a typical multitrack recording consisting of a range of instrumental sounds, only a couple of them will be important in the bass end - the kick drum and the bass line, typically. But all the other instrumental sounds will have significant bass content too - and this will only clutter up your mix.

    Nine times out of ten it's worth cutting the low frequencies on all instruments apart from those that are specifically bass instruments. Your mix will suddenly sparkle with clarity!
     
  • It is often the case that when you record an instrument - could be any instrument, but let's imagine an electric guitar - that there is a certain band of frequencies that is giving the sound excessive harshness. So how do you go about finding which frequency range it is so you can cut it down a little?

    The answer is to realize that the ear is more sensitive to boosted frequencies than cut frequencies. So if you set the EQ gain to say minus 6 dB, and then sweep the frequency control, you may have difficulty deciding which frequency provides the best improvement.

    But if you boost the gain then sweep the frequency, it will become blindingly obvious which frequency band needs attention. And when you cut it, you will know for sure that you have done the right thing.

I do have more EQ tips, but that's my Top 3 for now.

By David Mellor Monday September 18, 2006
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