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“Do I Use the Same EQ Techniques for Recording and Live Sound?”

Got a question from Michael, an EQ Strategies customer about live sound:

My question is whether do I use same EQ technique mentioned in your guideline for both recording and live sound.  Or are there differences in technique when you EQ for recording and live sound.

One difference I can think of is that you can’t scan and cut bad frequencies in a live sound as it will instantly affect the live sound output unlike recording.  So, in a live sound situation, how do I determine and cut bad frequencies?

Great question! Here’s what I know from experience:

Yes, You Use the Same Techniques

In live sound you have the same type of EQ as you would in a recording studio for the most part. If you have an analog mixer you might have less bands to choose from. In a digital mixer you might have almost the exact same type of EQ.

The additional EQ’s you are more likely to see in live sound are graphic equalizers. They’re used for flattening a monitors frequency response for instance, in order to get a better stage sound. The same is done for the front of house speakers. They’re EQ’d so they sound good in the venue you place them in.

But overall you use the same techniques. You do very similar types of cuts and boosts depending on what you’re hearing from the speakers. You cut the muddiness. You filter the lows. You reduce the boxiness of the kick drum. Etc. Etc.

But You Should Be More Subtle

The thing about live sound, as Michael pointed out, is that you will instantly affect what the audience hears. So you don’t want to make crazy changes in the EQ all the time that changes the sound drastically.

Usually, the big changes and drastic EQ’ing happens before the audience gets there in the sound-check. That’s when you make the major decisions, especially if you have the same backline of instruments. Drums don’t need to be re-EQ’d that many times if you’ve gotten a good sound during soundcheck.

However, minor EQ adjustments here and there during the show are normal, but you have to be subtle about it. When I needed to change things back when I did live sound I usually did so gradually. I would slowly boost the frequencies I needed until the instrument I was EQ’ing popped out of the mix.

You needn’t worry as much about cuts because they are less noticeable to the general audience. Your ears react much more quickly to big boosts than big cuts. A big cut usually just cleans up the mix, and if the audience notices they won’t care because (in theory) it will sound better.

The Frequencies are the Same

Doing live sound is much more subtle, but the frequencies are the same. So scanning frequencies shouldn’t be necessary if you recognize how certain frequencies sound and where to find them.

You don’t need to boost and scan the whole spectrum (and ruin the show) when you need to get rid of the boominess from the bass. Just start by cutting slightly in 200 Hz which is usually where the boominess frequency resides.

The same goes for boxiness in your kick drum. Start by cutting around 400 Hz. If that doesn’t work make your EQ flat again and move to 300 Hz or up to 600 Hz and try again. By keeping your sweeps less noticeable the audience won’t hear what you’re doing.

But it all starts by knowing where the frequencies are so you don’t go ruining the audience’s experience with their favorite band. You don’t want dirty looks from some random basic b**** that rolls her eyes as you just because you want to make the singer sound a little less nasally do you?

That’s why EQ Strategies is such a good reference guide. It has an overview over the frequency spectrum that tells you where all these problem areas are so you can quickly eliminate these problems, whether you’re recording or doing live sound.

Here’s where you get your copy:

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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