How To Easily EQ ALL Your Tracks Together for a Clean and Powerful Mix
This is an excerpt from chapter 8 of EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ. It talks about how to EQ all the instruments together in your mix.
If you like this excerpt, go grab the full eBook and video tutorial package here.
Chapter 8 – How To EQ Your Mix Together
Knowing where the problematic areas are for each instrument is an invaluable EQ skill to have. However, being able to make one instrument sound great when the track is solo’ed is only half the battle. You also need to know how to make all the instruments fit together with each other in a busy mix. That’s where the true struggle lies.
This chapter focuses on strategies to use when you want to create separation between all the instruments in a mix and how you go about giving each element and track a place to shine.
EQ is all about creating space in the frequency spectrum for all the instruments in the mix.
You give one instrument a bit of this frequency, take a little bit of the same frequency out in another one that’s clashing and that creates separation.
Everybody needs to fit in the playground so you need to find the right frequencies for each instrument so that they all play nicely together.
So here’s what you do to get started.
First things first, take out all the stuff you don’t need.
If you simplify your mix into groups of instruments, like I show you in the Step By Step Mixing book, it’s easy to filter out all of the unnecessary information using only a few EQ plug-ins on the groups.
Here are the general guidelines to get started:
Filter Up to 100 Hz on most instruments except bass and kick drum. Also, if you have a piano or another low-end instrument such as a synth that you consider important in the lows then don’t filter that one as much.
Add a low-pass filter on instruments as well. This is an underutilized trick. Anything that’s just hissy and loud like a rock guitar or even on kick drum to reduce bleed from the rest of the drums can focus your instruments.
Clean and Repair
It’s more fun to mix after you clean up your tracks. The same goes for EQ’ing, but in this case, I mean cutting out the problematic frequencies that cause annoying resonances or add something negative (like boxiness) to the instruments.
Sweep around to find frequencies that pop out and make the instrument sound worse. This can be a weird resonance because you recorded it in a bad room that caused weird comb filtering or reflections to be introduced into the sound. Or it can just be the typical problems inherent in the recording, like boxiness in the kick drum for instance.
Sweep and Cut
When I hunt for problematic frequencies inherent in the sound, as opposed to cutting out frequencies to make room for other instruments, I tend to solo the track. People say you shouldn’t solo and if you’re trying to make things fit together in the context of the mix you need to hear the whole thing playing at once to do so.
If you’re repairing or cutting out stuff that’s making the instrument itself sound bad then it’s easier to do in solo. It’s as simple as sweeping around the frequency spectrum with a bell curve EQ with a high Q and then cutting the annoying frequencies you find along the way.
Then it’s a matter of going back to the mix as a whole and hearing how each instrument relates to the others. For instance, if you do the same sweeping exercise in the bass and all of a sudden the guitars feel really cluttered then you’ve probably found a frequency to cut in the bass to make room for the guitars. Then you just repeat the exercise with other instruments that need more room in the mix.
Deciding Where Sounds Should Go
You usually have some choices as to where you want to accent each instrument. Take the kick drum and the bass guitar in the lows for instance. You might want to do the typical trick of boosting one frequency in the kick and then subtracting the same frequency in the bass. But which frequency should you choose?
That’s really up to your taste as a mixing engineer and also the feel of the song. Is it the type of song where the kick is felt rather than heard? Then maybe a boost at 60 Hz is where the kick sounds the best.
The style of music can really dictate whether you want the bass guitar sitting on top of the kick or underneath the kick in the low-frequency spectrum. And two mixing engineers might do two completely different things but still achieve a great mix. So at that point, it’s up to you, just as long as you still separate them in some way.
Sweeten the Mix With Some Character
Subtractive EQ is pretty boring. Effective, but boring.
Sometimes you still need to add boosts to your instruments to really bring out the character. If a kick drum needs more weight, then boosting the lows is the way to go. If the snare needs more attack, then a boost in the higher mids is where you find it. If the guitars need more thickness you can bring it out in the low-mids (as long as you don’t mask the bass guitar).
Don’t Boost the Same Frequencies in 5 Different Instruments
This is a surefire way to make all the elements of a mix clash together, resulting in a cluttered and unclear mix. Think of it like a division problem. You have a set amount of apples, and you need to divide them among a set amount of people. Similarly, you have a set amount of instruments that you need to divide among the frequency spectrum. The kick drum, bass guitar, acoustic, and vocal can’t all have a 12 dB boost at 4 kHz.
Find different frequencies that complement each instrument individually and spread them around.
If you’re boosting a frequency in a certain instrument, then it’s usually a good idea to cut at the same frequency in an instrument that occupies the same range. Divide the frequencies evenly among instruments and achieve better separation and clarity in your mixes.
Rebalance to Bring Your Static Mix Back
After EQ’ing your whole mix it might be a little bit out of balance from the static mix you had before. At that point it’s time to rebalance to get the mix back to where it was before, except this time, you can hear all the instruments better.
You can do this by rebalancing the faders or adjusting the output gain on your EQ. Depending on whether you used a lot of cuts or boosts you might need to either increase or decrease the output gain. When I use the Fabfilter Pro-Q 2 I tend to turn the automatic make-up gain on the EQ to make it easier on me, but not all plug-ins have that option so you simply need to use your ears and adjust the mix accordingly.
Once your instruments are properly balanced (and rebalanced) in the frequency spectrum you should be able to hear everything much better. However, you might have some dynamics issues with an instrument being too loud in some parts and too quiet in others. You could always tackle that with automation on the fader, but it’s more fun to give the mix extra character with compression.
A Note on Rebalancing
As you move through the mixing process and keep adding processors such as EQ, you will inevitably change the initial balance you made with only volume and panning.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep rebalancing the faders as you move through the mix.
Even if you keep your gain structure of the plug-ins relatively perfect, you will still need to keep adjusting the volume. Mixing isn’t a complete step-by-step process and sometimes it isn’t enough to just EQ your mix once and call it a day. Oftentimes you’ll have to revisit certain tracks and adjust the frequencies you’ve boosted or cut depending on what you’ve done to the rest of the mix.
Instead of a step-by-step process that’s unchanging, it’s more like a set of steps and guidelines you follow while constantly adjusting and reacting to your mix decisions. Think of it like following a style guide while designing or scales and chord charts while performing. You can design many different things within a style guide, and you can play chords and solos several different ways each time.
How to Use the Analyzer to Find Where Your Instruments are Clashing
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.
This sounds backward but you can find where any instrument is clashing with another by simply finding the frequency range where it starts masking the other instrument. We talked about this briefly in the vocal EQ chapter as the Reverse-EQ Method.
For example, I can easily make the acoustic guitar mask the vocals by boosting around the frequency spectrum and listening to when the vocal starts feeling cluttered.
That’s when you know that’s the frequency range you need to cut in order to bring the vocal out in the mix without necessarily adding a bunch of boosts to the vocal track.
How to EQ to Get Your Mix to Translate to Different Speakers
It doesn’t matter how good your mix sounds in your studio. If it sounds bad on normal speakers where most listeners will be hearing it, it’s still a bad mix. That’s why you need to reference your mix on as many speakers as possible throughout the mixing process.
Throughout the process of listening to your mix on different speakers, you should make notes on how you need to fix the mix in the frequency spectrum. EQ is immensely powerful for making your mix translate because it will make you find the best middle ground among all the speakers you’re listening to. That helps you find the best frequency balance for your mix.
Let me elaborate by sharing the step-by-step translation process I take when mixing.
The italicized parts below are excerpts from the final chapter of my best-selling Amazon ebook, Step By Step Mixing: How to Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins.
Personally, my mix process is as follows:
- I mix in mono on my Behringer Behritone mixcube, mostly following the steps I’ve given you in the previous chapters. The Mixcube is a terrible speaker that has no low-end or highs. It has only one driver and sounds pretty terrible. However, if I can make my mix sound halfway decent on this speaker I know I’m getting somewhere.
EQ’ing through this speaker at low volumes is one of the best ways I’ve found to create separation between high-mid instruments such as guitars and vocals. It’s kind of like running with weights. If you run with weights for a while you’ll find it incredibly easy to run once the weights are off. Likewise, mixing quietly on a bad speaker really trains your ears to EQ with balance and separation.
- I flip my mix over to my Yamaha HS-5s and do another round of tweaking. This is usually a rebalancing effort on EQ but I also flip my mix out of mono at this point. Now I can hear the stereo spectrum pretty well. If I get a “Whoa! That mix really opens up even though it wasn’t sounding bad before,” I know I’m on the right track. I’ll spend some time on reverb, delays and other effects.
- Then I listen to my mix on my Focal CMS50s that are coupled with a subwoofer. Now I can really hear all the little things in the mix, as well as all the low-end that’s present. Usually this requires me to tweak the drums, kick, bass, and other low-end instruments.
At this point, I will have EQ’d my mix on three different studio monitors that all give me slightly different information. Going back and forth like this and checking the frequency balance of the entire mix will create a good overall balance to start with.
- Once I feel my mix is done I bounce it and upload it to Dropbox. I take the dog for a walk and listen to my mix multiple times on earbuds, making mental notes of what needs to be changed.
- I either tackle the mix right away, or I sleep on it and come back to it with fresh ears. Throughout this process, I tend to check the mix with a high-end pair of headphones every so often to make sure nothing is screwy with the reverb and effects.
I highly recommend sleeping on the mix if you’ve been mixing for a while. When you mix for too long you’ll risk ruining the mix you started out with – not just because you like tweaking things here and there, but because after a while your ears are shot.
That happened to me one day while I was finishing up a long day of mixing.
As I usually do, I took the dog for a walk and tested my mix through my earbuds to hear how the regular Apple lovin’ amateur would experience it.
I felt the mix lacked some high-end and was sounding a bit too muddy, but it was late, so I thought I would revisit it in the morning.
Well, I just took a listen to the mix again the next morning, and it sounded great! It wasn’t too muddy with low-mids. It was just that I couldn’t hear the high-end at the end of the day.
My ears were simply too tired.
When your ears are tired, the high-end and high-mids will sound duller. And when you can’t hear the entire frequency spectrum accurately you’ll make poor mix decisions.
Make sure you take adequate breaks, don’t listen to everything at an ear-piercing volume, and listen to your ears when they’re telling you they’re tired. Otherwise, you won’t make good decisions when revising your mix.
- Once I’ve done my revisions I usually get feedback from my studio partner before sending it to the client.
- If the client has any feedback I change the mix accordingly and send him the final mix.”
Notice how many different pairs of speakers and individual ears the mix goes through before it’s done?
You don’t want to rely on one single monitor setup – or just one volume level – in one room to make your final mix decisions. You want to make sure your mix translates well everywhere the mix will be listened to.
Conclusion – EQ Should Be Your Best Friend
We’ve covered quite a lot of techniques for using EQ to improve your mixes inside EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ.
- You’ve learned what an equalizer is and how the most common EQ processors work.
- We’ve covered the entire frequency spectrum and you’ve learned the necessary vocabulary and jargon to understand where certain frequency characteristics live. You’ll encounter many different frequency problems along your career, but it’s my hope that I’ve shown you how to tackle the most common problems that will arise again and again.
- Then you learned a step by step process of how to approach EQ’ing in your mixes, we’ve discussed the relationship between EQ and compression as well as talked about how much you should EQ depending on the amount of tracks in your mix.
- We dove deeper into the theory behind filtering, boosting and cutting and how you can use EQ to wipe the amateur sound out of your home recordings.
- You gained in-depth knowledge on how to EQ each instrument in the mix. So whether you’re working with drums, bass, guitar, vocals, keys, synths, orchestral instruments or any other instrument, you’ll have an idea of how to EQ them to make them fit better in the mix.
- Finally, we tied it all together and you learned to EQ your instruments together in the mix, with low-end EQ tricks to tighten up your bass, a reverse EQ trick to find what instruments are clashing and using analyzer tools to help you when you’re lost.
However, as artists, we’re all a little neurotic about whether our art is any good. I hear that from you all the time when I ask what you’re struggling with:
- “I don’t know how to use EQ and how to check if any sounds need to be boosted or vice versa.”
- “…how should I EQ guitars, drums and vocals such that each of them can be heard distinctly with all the details?”
- “To EQ for clarity, I’ve made small progress recently on EQ but still only just starting to get it. But want to get clearer mixes, less muddy than previous but need to learn more”
- “Kick and bass to together go over the spectrum. I want to leave headroom but I don’t want to make it sound too low. I know I can EQ but when I reduce the bass EQ so the kick goes through, the bass loses its strength.”
It’s these problems that I hear from you and thousands of other customers that made me create EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ the first time. The techniques and strategies you’ll learn with Your Ultimate Guide to EQ is an exhaustive list of all the EQ tips I’ve learned throughout the years.
Here’s what a couple people had to say about it recently:
“An immediate and hugely practical understanding of the frequency spectrum and fantastic examples of positive and negative aspects of the key audio frequency bands as related to achieving better mixes. A superbly comprehensive and humorously written book by someone with lots of of a practical experience, that beats many video tutorials on this subject. Plus you can have a comprehensively indexed pdf to hand for quick referencing while mixing without needing to fire up a video tutorial and scrub through the timeline hoping to find what you’re looking for!” -Alan Doyle, Beta reader
“The impression I got from the Course, and from your site in general, is that you are one of the rare few who has both the ability to understand complex technical concepts and the ability to effectively communicate them in common, every day language. A few of the tips I got from the course really did make a noticeable difference in a couple of projects I am working on. The course gave me a good sense of your style and the fact that there so much useful information for free led me to believe that the stuff you have to pay for must be really great (which I later found to be true)…I am very impressed with everything. The quality of the material is fantastic and the publications are beautiful. The graphics, the layout, the videos are all very impressive. It really is a lot for the money and I am really excited about learning. Thank you very much.” – David Cox, EQ Strategies customer
If you want to learn all those things and take your productions to the next level, go grab my EQ Strategies guide here.
Learn How to EQ…from EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ
EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ truly is your ultimate guide to transform your home studio demos into professional, radio-ready productions, frustration-free and by only using EQ.
Now, you may think that’s a bit of an overstatement, but I think it’s one of the most important processors to master to make better sounding mixes.
In fact, that’s exactly what Joe Teresi, an EQ Strategies customer, said after he purchased the new version:
“I want my mixes to sound better. I want my mixes to sound as PRO as possible and learning how to EQ properly is one of the things that will get me there. I really want to learn the art of making all my recorded tracks sound more separated.”
Today, you might be having troubles like getting cleaner mixes or making the distorted guitar tracks stand out in a dense mix. Or maybe your vocal sounds like it’s muffled under the other instruments that already sound like they’re under a blanket.
Instead of aimlessly jumping from one EQ video to another on Youtube where you’ll get contradictory advice that doesn’t help, grab EQ Strategies today and start using my proven EQ Strategies to level up your home recordings. You’ll get actionable advice that you can reference, fast and easy EQ tips to clean up your mixes and in-depth training on how you can improve the entire EQ process to make every instrument shine and stand out in your mix.
Here are a couple of testimonials from customers I thought you might like. You can read more right here.
“So complete that, although have purchased other great resources from other respectable sites, this really is the only one that I need, if I had to choose one. Secondly, while videos are very helpful, I can reference your books quickly while mixing. This may sound tedious, but I printed your EQ/mixing ebooks and had them bound. I don’t like clutter and can’t have training stuff all over the place. The EQ and mixing books are on top of my Yamaha HS7’s and thats it; nothing else. The books are jammed with USEFUL stuff; hands on real mixing pointers…This hobby became so frustrating that I almost quit until I discovered some of the home studio training and now, your e-books which are my reference books. I’ll stay tuned for any more products from you. Buying a bunch of gear is ridiculous, ( as I’ve learned from experience), without first investing in becoming an engineer.”
“I really liked how you explained using octaves on your bass instruments to get the low-end to register on smaller speakers. That has been an issue of mine. Always sounds great on my monitors but when I play back on portable speakers I wouldn’t even be able to hear the low-end.”
“The format helped me solidify the basics very quickly. I sampled a few sessions with the concepts and found an immediate and pronounced improvement. Full of tips that are immediately useful. Like anything you are learning, it takes ‘doing’ and more ‘doing’ before you can start to polish your work. But the initial results are immediate and impressive….thanks.”
It’s very clear to me that if you don’t understand the frequency spectrum your mixes will suffer from it. That’s why I’ve taken all my EQ knowledge and created these shortcuts for you to get cleaner mixes. I just know from personal experience how much better your mixes sound once you learn to understand how the frequency spectrum works and what you can do with it. In short, think of EQ as your best friend who’s there for you every step of the way, helping you fix any problem you encounter.
Here’s exactly what you’ll learn after you go through EQ Strategies:
- The 3 basic principles of greater EQ’ing
- How EQ works and where you can find all the frequency problems you encounter in your mixes
- Whether you should use a paid EQ plug-in or stick to your stock channel EQ
- The EQ Vocabulary you need to know, what all the EQ jargon means and where to find “buzz word frequencies” like muddiness, boxiness, boominess, harshness and the like
- How to use EQ in your mixes
- The difference between EQ’ing or compressing your tracks first
- The difference between subtractive and additive EQ, and how much you can really boost a frequency
- How to master the art of filtering
- When and why to use different filter slopes
- How to use subtractive EQ to fix home recordings
- In-depth EQ techniques to mix killer drums. Learn powerful techniques for thick kick drums, punchy snares, massive toms and smooth cymbals
- How to EQ drum samples and loops when you don’t know if they’re good enough on their own
- How to EQ percussion to fit with the drums in your mix
- How to EQ a bass that’s thick and powerful
- Using little known harmonic secrets to EQ the bass guitar to cut through the mix without cluttering up the low-end
- Two simple tricks to fit the kick drum and the bass guitar together
- How to add weight, body, and presence to guitars using EQ
- How to mix the guitars in the context of the mix, not in solo
- How to EQ the acoustic guitar (and other acoustic string instruments)
- How to get rid of the “cheap-o” sound from acoustic guitars
- How to make your electric guitars cut through the mix without getting in the way of the vocals
- Easy EQ fixes for your electric guitar
- How to make your pianos, keyboards, synths, horns and strings sound great
- How to make your vocals cut through the mix with presence and power
- How to eliminate vocal muddiness with EQ
- 5 need-to-know frequency areas of the vocal
- How to find where the instruments are clashing with the vocals
- How to get rid of that annoying nasal sound
- Why separation in your vocals isn’t always the right move
- How to EQ the mix together and get a good balance of all the instruments without making your mix a muddy mess
- The opposite way you should EQ depending on how many instruments you have
- How to add character and sweetening to the mix with EQ
- How to get clarity in the low-end without losing weight in your mixes
- The only mantra you’ll need for great EQ fixes
- How to use the analyzer to find where your instruments are clashing
- How to use EQ to get your mixes to translate to every speaker system
Even if you were only interested in a fraction of the things that EQ Strategies teaches, you’d still get your money’s worth.
Let me ask you though…If all EQ Strategies did for you was help you create more powerful and punchy mixes, would that be worth it to you?
And if all it did was give you the a proven workflow to create separation between the instruments in your mixes and make your songs radio-ready, wouldn’t that be super helpful?
And what if all it did was help you create mixes that made people go “wow! Did you mix that? It sounds awesome!” wouldn’t you want that?
If that’s the case, it seems like you have two choices:
- Do nothing and stay where you are. Keep creating muddy mixes that sound weak and amateurish…or
- Take action and start mixing awesome sounding songs where you can hear all the different instruments in your mixes.
I think the choice is clear.
So head over here: www.EQStrategies.net, and get started making clearer mixes.
Honestly, this package has so much valuable information I can only offer the Lite and Basic versions for another 24 hours…so it’s probably best if you get it now so you can make your next mix the best one you’ve ever made.
Here’s the link again:
If you’re one of the 1,100+ customers who already got their copy, please leave a comment and let me know what you think about it!