EQ’ing a vocal track can be frustrating. Sometimes it seems to sound like it was stuck on later, and doesn’t flow with the rest of the track.
Below are the five frequency ranges you can start with when you are in trouble and need to figure out how to equalize your vocal so that it sits better with your song.
It goes without saying that no amount of EQ’ing is going to fix a badly recorded vocal. So be sure to have a clean and well recorded vocal before you start mixing it.
1. The Too Low-Range
Usually vocals can be filtered quite severely in the lowest range. Flip on the low-cut filter on the microphone when you’re recording to cut out the low-end rumble. Usually this cuts at 75 or so but during mixing you can filter it out even more.
Obviously this depends on the singer’s voice but I usually go for a little over 100 Hz. Listening is critical here because you don’t want to cut out the singer’s character, especially if he has a good presence there in the lower register. For female singers you can go even higher. But be careful of Barry White and Leonard Cohen type singers, they may need that extra rumble in their voice.
2. The Thick 150 Hz
For rounding out a vocal and making it more thick and full I would search around the 150 Hz area. Some singers sound thin and nasally and can do with a little meat on their vocal chords. Boosting here can give the vocal more punch.
3. Honky-Boxy 4-500 Hz
If your vocal track lacks definition and sounds boxy you can sweep around this area, even going so far as up to 800 Hz. Remember that when cutting you should have your Q pretty narrow because you are trying to repair your recording, and cutting too broadly from the frequency spectrum will severely compromise the natural sound of the vocal.
4. In Your Face Presence of the 5 Khz
If your singer doesn’t seem to be cutting through the mix, he might need to be presented to 5Khz. It will push the track a little more to the front and give the singer a much needed presence.
5. Sibilance Around the 7 Khz.
Some people have more sibilance than others. The s’ sounds have much more energy than other consonants. If your singer has an excess of s’s you can try cutting around 7 Khz. It will make the s’s less pronounced and won’t make them jump out too much. Better yet, inserting a de-esser or a compressor that only compresses the ‘s’ area can work even better. As Randy Coppinger pointed out, “male sibilance is typically 3-7k Hz and female sibilance is typically 5-9k Hz” so there needs to be some experimentation to find that annoying ‘s’ sound.
The Ultimate Guide to EQ
For an in-depth guide into the EQ spectrum, check out The Ultimate Guide to EQ – Your Blueprint to the Frequency Spectrum
- 11 concrete chapters on solving your EQ problems
- A rundown of the complete frequency spectrum, showing you the characteristics of each frequency range
- Dedicated guides to drums, bass, guitar and vocals
- EQ insights from Grammy award-winning engineers
- When to use EQ and when to use compression
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