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Mixing Your Sound; Working with EQ

Equalizing is the most important part of mastering the audio tracks that you have recorded. Without it, everything would sound muddy, garbled and lifeless. Each instrument has a range from roughly 20Hz to 20kHz, with the majority of the sound in the 400Hz-16kHz frequencies. When you are recording one instrument, it sounds fine because it used the full spectrum and has clarity, but when you add 4+ instruments, now they all are muddying up the spectrum which gives you a uneven sound with some instruments overpowering others.

To understand EQ and its intricacies you need hands-on experience, but to help you get started, here’s a table of general uses and the different ranges that EQ can affect. As every sound is different, though, these are necessarily very general guidelines…

Kick Drum

Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Try a small boost around 5-7kHz to add some high end.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom to the sound
100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness Area
5-8kHz ~ Adds high end prescence
8-12kHz ~ Adds Hiss

Snare

Try a small boost around 60-120Hz if the sound is a little too wimpy. Try boosting around 6kHz for that ‘snappy’ sound.

100-250Hz ~ Fills out the sound
6-8kHz ~ Adds prescence

Hi hats or cymbals

Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. To add some brightness try a small boost around 3kHz.

250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

Bass

Try boosting around 60Hz to add more body. Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz.If more presence is needed, boost around 6kHz.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom end
100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness Area
800-1kHz ~ Adds beef to small speakers
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8kHz ~ Adds high-end presence
8-12kHz ~ Adds hiss

Vocals

This is a difficult one, as it depends on the mic used to record the vocal. However…Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the mic and song.Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

100-250Hz ~ Adds ‘up-frontness’
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8kHz ~ Adds sibilance and clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

Piano

Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off around 300Hz. Apply a very small boost around 6kHz to add some clarity.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom
100-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
250-1kHz ~ Muddiness area
1-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6-8Khz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds hiss

Electric guitars

Again this depends on the mix and the recording. Apply either cut or boost around 300hz, depending on the song and sound. Try boosting around 3kHz to add some edge to the sound, or cut to add some transparency. Try boosting around 6kHz to add presence. Try boosting around 10kHz to add brightness.

100-250Hz ~ Adds body
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6Khz ~ Cuts through the mix
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8=12kHz ~ Adds hiss

Acoustic guitar

Any apparent muddiness can be rolled off between 100-300Hz. Apply small amounts of cut around 1-3kHz to push the image higher. Apply small amounts of boost around 5kHz to add some presence.

100-250Hz ~ Adds body
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

Strings

These depend entirely on the mix and the sound used.

50-100Hz ~ Adds bottom end
100-250Hz ~ Adds body
250-800Hz ~ Muddiness area
1-6hHz ~ Sounds crunchy
6-8kHz ~ Adds clarity
8-12kHz ~ Adds brightness

A good rule of thumb is to roll off the bass on all tracks, then slowly add to it one by one so that you have the low end power but still have the clarity of the individual instruments.

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