7 Alternative EQ Tricks For Better Separation In Your Mixes
If you’ve been reading my ramblings for any length of time you’ve probably noticed that I stretch the power of analogy pretty far.
Here are some examples:
- What Doing the Dishes Can Teach You About Audio Editing
- How Mexican Salsa Holds the Secret to a Great Music Production
- How Your Neighborhood Bar Holds the Secret to Your Next Great Session
I usually come up with these when I least expect it, while I’m doing something normal like making my morning coffee.
The trick is to write these things down as soon as I can because otherwise I’ll forget about them.
Take this morning for instance; I had a great idea about something that kinda sorta tied into how to EQ.
And I thought, “I’ll just finish making this coffee and I’ll write it down.”
Next thing I know I’m driving to the bagel store and it hits me: “Oh $#!t! What was that thing I thought up earlier?!?”
And for the life of me I have no idea. Gone forever. I even tried to recreate the situation of making my coffee to see if it sparked the inspiration again.
So instead of having a vague life lesson about something I can’t remember anymore and then tie it into how to EQ I’m just going to give you some practical EQ tips instead.
1. Put EQ First
Even though the headline says 7 Alternative EQ Tricks this post has 8 actual tricks because this first one is really a no-brainer.
Every track usually starts with an EQ plug-in when I mix. It works like clean-up. If you can get a mix sounding good with just volume and EQ you’re on the right track. Spend time on getting your mix right with EQ and it’ll pay off in the long run.
2. The Filter Goes Both Ways (And has a Boost!)
Don’t underestimate the power of low-pass filtering. High-pass filtering is great for cleaning up the low-end, but high-cuts can tighten up many of your rhythm instruments such as rock guitars and kick-drums.
Also, most visual EQs allow you to boost at the cutoff frequency which can help tighten up guitars while also making them cut through the mix.
3. Don’t Assume Your Mix is Muddy (Even Though It’s Common)
The fear of making your mixes sound muddy is common. I struggle with this a lot because I usually get scared and cut a lot in the low-mids. In the last mix I did I actually made my mix too thin.
After some generous feedback from some great people I went back and EQ’d my low-mids back in and it made my mix much thicker and warmer. Don’t assume your mixes are muddy, make sure they are before your cut all the warmth from them.
4. The War is in the High-Mids
Making each instrument cut through the mix is important. Usually this ends up being a war in the high-mids, where everything is vying for their own territory.
Spend time making sure each boost in the mids helps each instrument cut through without masking anything else. Not everything needs a boost in 3 kHz, maybe that piano can work much better with the vocal if you boost it down in the 600 hZ region instead?
5. Use the Analyzer (And Cross-Reference Your Instruments)
A good way to know how to make peace in the high-mids is to use an analyzer on multiple instruments to see where they’re clashing the most. If you can see where each instrument is fighting in the frequency spectrum you’ll have an easier time separating them.
6. Get Used To a Workflow (And Don’t Copy Others)
Do what works for you, even if others recommend against it. That means if you don’t like putting EQ first, as I said in #1, just ignore me. Who am I to tell you how to EQ if you’re already getting good results.
The trick is to know whether it works better for you by trying it. I can respect people that ignore advice if they know what works for them due to experience instead of laziness.
7. Use a Mixcube
My Behringer Behritone is great for EQ’ing multiple vocal tracks together and smoothing out the harshness in the high-mids. It’s not a EQ trick per say, but just a great tool for finding those frequencies you need to deal with.
8. Reference Other Mixes (Even If They’re Bad)
I’m terrible at this but I’m getting better. The trick is level-matching your mixes so you hear the frequency spectrum of each mix at the same apparent level.
For instance, I referenced a Kings of Leon mix the other day against some other mixes and found that in general their mixes sounded pretty muddy. That’s actually very valuable because you can use those mixes you don’t like the sound of as references for what not to do.
Free EQ Course
Still not sure how to EQ your mixes? No worries, I have you covered. I created this free EQ Course to explain the best 71 EQ hacks to get a clean mix.
Your Ultimate Guide to EQ
If getting better separation in your mixes where you can hear every instrument clearly without masking anything else is important to you (and I know it is…) you will be interested in EQ Strategies – The Ultimate Guide to EQ:
- A frequency-by-frequency rundown of the complete EQ spectrum, with characteristics of each frequency range
- Dedicated guides to drums, bass, guitar and vocals
- Practical and easy EQ tips that you can use to improve your mixes immediately
- Graphical representations of where your instruments lie in the EQ spectrum
- EQ insights from Grammy award winning engineers (you might not like what they have to say…)
- When to use EQ and when to use compression
Click the link below to grab it:
Equalization, Music Mixing