EQ-ing is such a large subject, it’s probably a good idea to break this post down to two: I’ll give you some general tips here and go more practical in the next one.
When it comes to EQ-ing, it always fascinated me how simple the actual tool really is, compared to the struggle of figuring out what to do with it to have a great mix. Realising something like “the lead is too dull” or “that bass sound needs to be a bit bigger“, or “the pad should be less dominant“, etc, can be way more difficult than, say, increasing the high frequencies to get it fixed.
Also, I often see guys throwing a certain type of EQ curve on a sound with no better reason than “I read it somewhere it’s good for your snare/ bass/ kick/ etc“. While in some cases that might work, it should go without saying that if there is no problem to be fixed, then clearly no EQ-ing is necessary.
Hence, my main advice to EQ-ing is: get your diagnosis right. Focus on identifying the problem as accurately as possible. Improve your critical listening skills, they are the most essential to shaping your sound to the desired effect. My tip here is: treat every tune in your music collection as a lesson. Press play, sit down with a pen and a paper, and try to put down as many details as you can hear. Some guides to what to look out for:
- How loud are the sounds compared to each other?
- What bands do they occupy on the frequency range?
- How defined are the instruments?
- How far and how close do sounds appear to be?
Here’s a really handy diagram by mixing engineer Roey Izhaki, taken from his book Mixing Audio.
It shows you that certain bands of the spectrum are associated with specific attributes of a sound. It also tells you how those change when you increase or decrease those frequencies.
Why not create one of your own, print it out and stick it on the wall of your studio, you can always add parameters to it later as you go.
I highly recommend you to read the book by the way, it’s a good read and gives you a great and practical insight to mixing.
One last tip here: A good non-abstract painting has a focus point, and so should your mix. Try setting up a priority list of sounds in your track in a descending order. Try to think of sounds as dominant and as supportive, i.e., sounds that you want your audience to perceive as the leading ones and those that serve as support or foundation for them.
Any questions? Have you found the same? Have you found the opposite?
Let me know in the comments below!