How one chooses to apply EQ depends on a number of factors. The style of music, the instrument, the quality of the recording, the musical arrangement, the production values, and personal taste, all have a role to play. There is no single approach that will guarantee a fantastic mix. Different musical styles require different sounds and so EQ has a role in shaping that. A pop piano will typically be much brighter and harsher sounding than a jazz or classical piano when a more warm rounded tone is required. Certain high tempo dance styles demand an almost punishing bright high hat tone whilst if you’re creating more chilled-out music with old loops and you’re adding a hat, then a more middly EQ will help the hat to sit well with the other sounds. Here are some general pointers for applying EQ to specific instruments.
[box type=”note”]Removing rogue frequencies:
If you want to isolate an unwanted frequency and then remove it, here is a tried and tested technique. Use a parametric EQ and set it to a narrow bandwidth, and a high boost. Move the frequency control around until the unwanted frequency is at its worst. Then change the boost to a cut and adjust the bandwidth so as to achieve maximum removal of the rogue sound with minimal impact to the wanted sound.[/box]
In the low frequency area some vocal recordings can suffer from explosive “pops” from ‘pis and Vs when mic technique and pop shields have failed. Applying a high pass filter can work although it might affect the warmth of the vocal. If the pops are infrequent you could automate when the filter is active so that it only works on the unwanted pops. Alternatively you could isolate the popping frequency and remove it as described above.
Vocals tend to have plenty of mid range presence naturally, but if the vocal is a bit nasally this can be modified in the 1- 3kHz area. Adding a little lift at around 4-5kHz can give a nice airy sound and helps with intelligibility.
7-8kh are good for De-Essing (if you have lot of sibilance in recorded vocal)
A gentle boost around the 12-18kHz area can add crispness and enhance the inherent detail in the recording often people refer to this as adding “air’ to the sound.
When mixing lead and backing vocals, or different BV parts avoid applying identical eq treatments. Try slightly different frequencies as this can thicken the sound and help the two parts to work together. If stacked BV parts are slightly duller than the lead this can help bring the lead vocal to the front of the mix, A slight cut above 10kHz on the BVs with a corresponding boost to the lead in the same area should have this effect.
EQ requirements for acoustic guitar can be particularly dependant on the quality of the recording. They can often sound “boxy” or “boomy” if the mic(s) were too close to the soundboard due to the precedence effect.You can often deal with this by rolling off the very low end or introducing a slight dip between 200 and 500Hz. A more solid, orderly sound can often be achieved by enhancing tones around the IkHz area, whilst you can improve clarity by boosting at points round 2.5kHz, 3.5kHz and 5kHz. Above 5kHz you will probably emphasize string squeaks, fret noise and even player breathing â€” which may or may not be desirable.
A typical bass sound will not contain a huge amount of sub-bass (below about 60Hz) frequencies. That’s why the b parts of a well-mixed track can still be heard in small transistor style radios. A lot of the bass activity actually occurs low mid area around 150-500Hz. So experiment here. A clean DI-ed bass often sounds great on its own but disappeared the mix so adding so low mid can help it to stand out. A touch of distortion or overdrive in a pop or rock mix can bring harmonics in this area and achieve a similar effect.
Sometimes bass can be made more manageable by actually filtering out some of the very extreme low end below 5 this is not an essential element of your music) this seems counter intuitive to the novice but makes sense when you consider that most 4 string electric bass fundamental notes will not be in that frequency range anyway. Most domes playback systems can’t reproduce below 50Hz anyway and these frequencies take up headroom and can place unnecessary stress on your speakers.
The frequencies that correspond to “warmth” and “fullness” are usually considered to be between 80 and 200Hz so adding a little here if this is what your bass is lacking. If your bass has too much of this and the sub frequencies it perceived to be muddy so cutting would be appropriate. If the bass sounds a bit “honky” or “boxy” try to reduce the frequencies around 500 â€” 1Khz, On a bass guitar you can sometimes add sustain and definition by increasing the frequencies around lkhz. You can add clarity by emphasizing attack and string noise at 2.5kHz.
Electric guitar is very difficult to make generalisations about since the range of sounds and playing styles isso huge. Searing solos, heavy distorted chords and riffs, choppy rhythms, funky muted picked parts, and ambient chordal we example, would all have different roles within a mix and therefore all require different approaches. We can say Â in most cases there would be little but noise and hum below the guitar’s fundamental frequency so a low and roll-of can be a good starting point. “Warmth” can usually be added around 125 to 250Hz. Most guitar speaker cabinets tend to have a frequency response that begins to taper off above 4kHz so if you are looking for crispness and attack 3-5kH good area to work on.
More specifically. “Chic” style funky choppy guitars would tend to have the low frequencies taken out, and the middle and top and 3.5 and 5Khz boosted. “Bluesy” guitars sounds tend to have more of the low end. For chunky heavy metal guitars boosting around 350kHz can add weight. Sometimes effects boxes and distortic especially can over brighten the sound and worse still add high frequency hiss so it’s a common technique to use high pass filter and roll off above 7kHz to get rid of this. This is especially true of the modern “metal” shredded sound.
As we mentioned earlier piano sounds are very particular to musical styles. And unlike most other orchestral instruments it covers a very wide range of frequencies. EQ settings are very dependent on the style and the musical arrangement. If an acoustic piano has been well and appropriately recorded it is probably best to try to avoid EQ at all so as to maintain the most natural sound. However if your piano is muddy or not warm enough then look at the 150-300Hz territory, if you’d like a bit more presence then go for 2-4kHz.
Bass or kick drums sounds tend to be made up of a transient click followed by a deep tone that gives character. The weight of the tone tends to lie in the 65-110Hz area. Try boosting here if you require more weight. Below this you’re more likely to feel the difference rather than hear it so be careful not to overdo it, after all, unless you have full range main speakers or a correctly calibrated sub bass you could actually be adding sub bass that’s doing more harm than good. Warmer kick sounds feature more energy in the 200-400Hz department, however, there can be unpleasant “boxy” resonance so often a subtle cut is used here if that is the case with a parametric EQ. This can help the sound to cut through on smaller speakers. The initial transient can be emphasized by boosting in the 2.5-6kHz region. Rock albums since the late 80′s have often had quite an aggressive boost on this region to bring the “click” of the beater impact out.
The weight or “fatness” of a snare drum will tend to lie in the 150-400Hz range. If you want to add or reduce “boxy-ness” go for around 800Hz to 1.2kHz. Depending on the particular drum the ringing resonance of the snare can be found above this up to about 4kHz. Emphasizing the ring may or may not be desirable depending on taste and musical style. Dance and funk styles often have very dead weighty snare sounds whereas rock snares are much more ringing and ‘live’. If you need to remove a nasty resonant ringing sound use the technique above for removing rogue frequencies. Adding a little in the 4-8kHz region will give a more crisp, tight sound.
Floor toms can sound fuller with a boost around 100Hz. The same goes for the rack toms at about 300Hz, if you want to emphasize a toms ring or resonance this would usually be in the 1-3kHz area and the attack can be enhanced between 4-8kHz.
Cymbals and hi-hats often don’t have much competition for the very high frequencies so they tend to stand out very easily. Sometimes it’s a questions of EQ ing them so that the blend more rather than stand out. Its not uncommon on a fully close mic’ed kit to use high pass filters and roll out the sub bass so the spill doesn’t smear the definition of the closeÂ mic’ed Kick/bass drum typically up to 120hz and often as high as 330hz. You can get a more clunky sound with the stick of the hi-hat by going for 100-300Hz, and you can emphasize the ringing over tones of crash and ride cymbals between 1- 6kHz. If the sizzle of the cymbal is most important part for your mix then boosting a little around 8-12kHz will help, but be careful though before boosting these high frequencies, unlike 2 inch tape that saturated and rolled off the extreme higher frequencies digital recordings leave them in do you really need any more?
If you’re working on solo strings they can be fattened up at around 250Hz and boosting 7-10kHz will emphasize the scratching and edginess of the bowing. String pads can cover a very wide range of frequencies so its difficult to make generalisations. But, as with the solo string, warmth can be found at around 250-300Hz, sweetness at around 3-5kHz and sheen around 8kHz and above.
Mellow brass parts can be emphasized around the 100Hz to 300Hz range. Presence can be added between 3 and 5kHz. You can bring out the rasp around 6-8kHz and shrillness from 8-12kHz.