Some instruments don’t need certain frequency areas.
That’s where your EQ filter comes in handy.
Let’s use guitars as an example.
The guitars don’t need anything below 100 Hz. Especially when there is a bass guitar present. The electric guitars usually end up getting in the way of the bass track, so you’re better off filtering out those frequencies.
Generally, if you have an instrument that takes care of that particular frequency range, make sure it can do so unhindered.
Filter out the low end to make room for the instruments that need it. That’s how you reduce clutter and it’s the first stop to reduce muddiness. It will help with clarity as well as filtering out unneeded energy that is unwanted or inaudible.
Revisiting the electric guitar, we can also filter out some of the high end frequencies of a distorted rock guitar. It works well for rounding out the guitar tone and minimizing the distorted hiss electric guitars have in abundance in the higher frequencies.
Additionally, the kick drum is a place where you can use a low-pass filter effectively. Filter out the high frequencies to get rid of bleed and unneded high-end energy.
Here’s a good rule of thumb when filtering:
- Filter all the frequencies until you start hearing the sound getting weaker.
- Then back off the filter a little bit. If you are still filtering at 500 Hz and you can’t hear a difference then keep going.
- Some instruments have a limited frequency range and it is useless to leave unneeded frequencies in a signal “just because.”
Don’t be afraid, discard unneeded information and your mixes will be better off for it.
When you use EQ, not everything needs to be squeaky clean and filled with high-end sheen.
Sometimes it’s useless to add “air” to certain instruments. You don’t need to, and your mix might suffer for it. In some cases, too much high-end just adds hiss and noise instead of those clean highs you wanted.
The same goes for filtering out the high-end. Even though you want high end “sheen” in your mixes, it doesn’t mean that every instruments can give you that.
Give the Low-Pass Filter Some Love
Some instruments benefit from low-pass filtering. Either there’s something there that you don’t want to interfere with something else, or it just adds noise and unnecessary energy.
Distorted Electric Guitars
Tighten up your thick rock guitar mix by deleting some of the higher frequencies.
If you’ve recorded them with a dynamic microphone, with the distortion to the max, chances are the high-end is really only noise and hiss.
Add a low-pass filter and filter until you start hearing the signal suffer, then back off a little. You might even clean the sound up a little, since you probably added way too much distortion to begin with. 🙂
The beater is basically the highest-end of the kick drum. And the sound of the beater is most prominent around 2-4 kHz.
You can clean up the bass drum quite nicely by low-pass filtering everything above, say, 8 kHz. Especially if the kick drum has a bunch of cymbal and snare drum bleed. You really cut the amount of extraneous drums getting into your bass drum mic if you filter out some of that high-end.
The Bass Guitar
Filter out the high-end on a bass track if you want a smoother sound. If the bass is just a low sounding groove then you don’t need the high-end.
If your bass just acts as a grooving pad-type sound with a bunch of other instruments taking care of the rest of the arrangement you can safely filter out its high-end. It’s also a good way to get rid of the string sound of the bass, for a smoother sound.
Sometimes, reverbs add annoying sibilance to vocals. Some reverbs can also sound just a tad too bright.
If you like the reverb, then EQ it and make it fit better. Either filter out the high-end or cut it with some high shelving. You want the space the reverb gives you, but you don’t need the sibilance or the brightness bouncing off the walls.
Filtering should be the first thing you do when EQ’ing. First you trim the fat and then you focus on sculpting your sounds. If you don’t filter out the unnecessary frequencies they’ll just get in the way when you’re making other, more important EQ decisions.
How to Really Understand EQ
Make no mistake, EQ’ing is a skill you will continue to improve for as long as you keep making music.
It’s pretty frustrating to get into because most people are not born with the ability to “hear” frequencies. That skill develops over time. But once you’ve gotten the hang of it you start getting the instincts for it and reflexively use your EQ without even thinking.
You simply know where those frequencies are.
I used to twiddle my EQ during my live sound days. It took forever to figure out 200 Hz was the “boomy” sound and cutting 300 Hz would make that kick drum better. But I eventually figured it out.
Not that I would recommend that approach.
Instead of months of hard, hands-on training with nobody to help me out, I wish I would’ve had something like Joe Gilder’s Understanding EQ. It’s easier to learn about all those frequencies with a 2 hour video instead of months of long hours and low pay.
Even the bonus video with his go-to frequencies would’ve helped me immensely. I could’ve EQ’d an awesome show from the start!
Understanding EQ is a simple shortcut that you can take to make all of your mixes and EQ’ing decisions better.
Check it out here: www.audioissues.com/understandingeq