Hey, this is Jason Moss from BehindTheSpeakers.com, and today we’re gonna talk all about EQ. So if you’re struggling with EQ, if you don’t know how to use it properly, this video is gonna help you approach EQ with clarity and confidence, so you can craft mixes that compete with the pros.
Tip number one is to focus on the big picture.
When a lot of people EQ, they end up zeroing in and only really thinking about the track that they’re EQing. If they’re EQing vocals, their entire attention is just on the vocal alone.
The problem with this is that mixing is all about context. The goal is to make all the tracks in our mix work together as a single unit.
When we’re EQing, we shouldn’t just focus on the track that we’re EQing. We should be thinking about how those decisions influence the mix and affect the mix as a whole. For example, if you add a big top-end boost to a vocal, it might make the rest of your track sound dull.
None of these decisions exist in a vacuum, right? Everything we do in the mixing process has an impact on all the other tracks in the mix too and the mix really as a whole. If you can consider the broader context and really take a step back when you’re EQing and listen to the mix as a whole, it’s gonna help you make better EQ decisions.
Tip number two is to consider where you put it.
Let’s say you’re recording a vocalist, and she’s stomping her feet and kicking the mic stand while she’s recording, really getting into the performance. And so you end up having this vocal recording that has a lot of low-end rumble in it.
There are two ways that you can EQ this out. You could either EQ this before your compressor or after your compressor.
Let’s say you EQ it after your compressor. The compressor doesn’t know the difference between the sound of the vocal and the sound of the rumble itself. If that rumble exceeds the compressor’s threshold, the compressor’s just gonna turn the entire track down.
Let’s say the vocalist is singing a phrase and she kicks the mic stand right in the middle. That entire track is gonna get turned down right in the middle of her performance. This sounds really unmusical. It’s not what you want, right?
So instead of EQing out all that excess low end after the compressor, a better solution would be to EQ it out before the compressor. That way, you’re getting rid of that energy and the compressor’s only gonna react to the sound of the vocal itself, because that’s all it’s gonna hear.
So a good rule of thumb is to fix problems with EQ before your compression, and then boost or enhance the track after the compression. Really thinking about where you’re placing your EQ in relation to the other plugins that you have on your tracks is gonna lead to much better results.
And tip number three is to be intentional.
Now, there should always be a reason for every move you make in the mixing process, and the same advice applies to EQ. Whenever you add an EQ, ask yourself—what’s the reason, what am I trying to do with this EQ? Am I trying to make two tracks fit better together? Am I trying to solve a problem? Am I trying to enhance a track? There should always be a reason, and if you don’t have a reason, you probably don’t need the EQ plugin.
Mixing is not just about how many choices you make. It’s really about making the right choices. Often times, adding EQ for no reason can lead you to make the wrong decisions and often times, you can actually make tracks sound worse. So asking yourself this question—what’s the reason, why am I using this EQ—is gonna help you make more intentional decisions. If you do this, I promise you your mixes are gonna sound a whole lot better.
Tip number four is to be bold.
Now, I see a lot of advice online saying you should never EQ more than 3dB, and this is complete crap. As long as you have an intention for EQing, if you’re doing it for a reason, just focus on getting the results that you’re looking for. Sometimes this means you gotta be bold. Sometimes you gotta add 15 dB of EQ to a kick drum to make it cut through, and that’s okay if that’s what you need to do. If you’re shooting for a goal and you’re really mixing with intention, don’t worry about what the numbers are. Just do whatever it takes to make the track sound good.
And tip number five is to study the spectrum.
If you’re struggling to identify frequencies in your mixes, if you hear problems but you don’t quite know where they are on the spectrum, there are a lot of tools and resources out there that will actually train you to identify frequencies much more easily and much more quickly.
There are a couple of tools that I recommend:
One of them is TrainYourEars EQ Edition. This is a software program that allows you to import references, and it’ll actually quiz you and boost and cut various frequencies. Just spending five or ten minutes a day doing this I think can make a big difference in your ability to EQ just quickly and easily.
The second tool is something that I discovered back in audio school. We actually had a class on ear training, and we used a program called “Golden Ears” by Dave Moulton. It’s a set of CDs, and basically, kind of similarly to TrainYourEars EQ Edition, quizzes you with various boosts and cuts, and it can really help you learn to identify frequencies much more easily.
And the third tool is SoundGym. This is an online platform that’s relatively new. I’m really excited about what these guys are doing. It’s basically a series of games, and these games quiz you on different aspects of mixing, including ear training, so you can learn to identify frequencies. Again, just spending five or ten minutes a day using one of these tools I think can make a big difference in your ability to EQ.
So I hope you found these five tips helpful. Now, if you’re looking to dive deeper, I put together a free EQ cheatsheet with tips and tricks for EQing common instruments, as well as my favorite EQ plugins. This is gonna help you EQ with clarity and confidence in your next mix. Click the link in the description below or in the video and you’ll get free instant access.
For more mixing tips, check out BehindTheSpeakers.com. Thanks so much.