6 Vocal EQ Areas You Need To Know About
Vocal EQ’ing 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 six 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.
The track I’m using in this video is called “Mailbox Money” by the Techsans Roadhouse Band. You can find the full mix walkthrough of the track inside my Audio Issues Insiders area. We open the Insiders membership a few times a year and you can join the waiting list here.
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 cords. 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. Nasalness at 1 kHz
If your vocalist sounds like they have a bit of a cold then cut around the 1 kHz area to get rid of it. Too much of a cut will sound worse than just having a cold so make sure you’re subtle about it.
5. 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.
6. 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.
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.
Your Vocal EQ Won’t Matter If Your Mix is Muddy!
If your mix sounds muddy and full of boominess, it doesn’t matter how great the vocal EQ is.
Creating professional mixes from their home studio demos without making everything sound like a muddy mess is a common problem. Home studio engineers and musicians like yourself want to create professional sounding recordings but still hit their head against a wall of muddy boom in their mixes.
If you want to make clean mixes where you can hear every instrument clearly, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about EQ.
Learning to use equalization (or EQ) is the first step towards great mixing skills. Knowing how frequencies interact and how to fit them all together is a crucial skill all engineers like yourself should have.
Here’s how I learned how important EQ is:
Way back in my teens, I randomly found myself hired as the live sound engineer at this small venue called The Old Library. It was a cool place, but it had a reputation for having bad sound. It was the venue bands were forced to play if there was absolutely nowhere else to go.
Little did they know that they weren’t exactly hiring someone who knew what he was doing. I was extremely intimidated by everything surrounding live sound. All these cables everywhere.
All these speakers everywhere, both the monitors and the P.A. The blinking lights of 24 channels on a mixing board?
In a word, overwhelming.
However, all of those things paled in comparison to figuring out how to use the simple, four-band EQ on the mixer. Learning to EQ by desperately twiddling knobs back and forth in a dimly lit venue isn’t the most glorious way to learn to EQ. I could hardly see what I was doing!
So, because I didn’t really know what I was doing, it was a lot of trial and error and literally fumbling around in the dark. Sure, any time I tweaked the EQ the sound of the mix changed.
Sometimes for the better, most of the time for the worse.
But it wasn’t until I spent hours behind that mixing board and studied what each frequency sounded like and what it does to the mix that I finally got it:
EQ is the most important mixing processor to create separation between the instruments in your mixes.
EQ helped me take that shitty music venue from its reputation for having terrible sound to becoming an in-demand spot where all the coolest bands wanted to play.
But I wouldn’t have been to able to make those shows sound so great if it wasn’t for the EQ. Honestly, I didn’t even have any compressors until a year after I started so limiting myself to mastering EQ wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity.
You can learn everything I’ve learned about EQ since then, in a much more comfortable setting.
You’ll learn that EQ can help you in any audio situation, whether you’re doing live sound or recording your own music in your home studio.
Today, you might be having trouble getting cleaner mixes, or making all the rock guitar tracks to stand out in a dense mix. Maybe your vocal sounds like it’s muffled under the other instruments that already sound like they’re under a blanket.
But after learning to EQ with me, you’ll be making all those instruments jump out of the speakers, with the vocal leading them like it’s the leader of the Avengers.
- You’ll learn to clean up the muddiness in your mixes.
- You’ll discover where to get rid of the boxy cardboard sound in your drums.
- You’ll know exactly which frequencies to boost to make your guitars, bass, and other instruments sound powerful.
And best of all, you’ll finally get your vocals to explode out of your speakers instead of drowning behind your instruments.
Now, instead of wandering around your mix trying to EQ without knowing where to look you can actually learn where your problematic frequencies are when you need to fix them.
EQ doesn’t have to be a mystery so let me show you how to master it with my Ultimate Guide to EQ.
Here’s what Jeff Smith had to say about the Ultimate Guide to EQ:
“The EQ tips that have helped the most have to do with the bass guitar and kick drum. I’m able to get a clean and tight low end on this song I’m working on. I cut some of the mud out of the kick and bass, then I let the kick have a little extra 50 Hz and added a little bit around 800 Hz on the bass guitar. That made the low-end clear and punchy. This song has an acoustic guitar as one of the main instruments and I decided to put a HPF up to 200 Hz and added a little bit around 3 kHz and it sounds good so far. This is a great guide to get things moving in the right direction!!! Thank You!!!!” – Jeff Smith, Mixing Engineer
Here’s what a couple more engineers had to say about it recently:
“Everything was helpful. I used to fiddle with knobs until it sounded right. Now I can just go directly to the frequencies I need to boost or cut. I also learned more about how to use compression. I am enjoying learning and understanding more about mixing. I play out frequently and have a very good live drum sound. Your EQ Strategies has already helped me improve the sound by helping me understand compression better and how to use it on drums.” -Jean F Peters
“The book is 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. The format helped me solidify the basics very quickly. I sampled a few sessions with the concepts and found an immediate and pronounced improvement.” -Dave Michaels
Here’s what you’ll learn when you go through my EQ Strategies – Ultimate Guide to EQ course:
- A frequency-by-frequency rundown of the complete EQ spectrum, with characteristics of each frequency range to teach you how to recognize frequencies on your own.
- 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
- How to EQ kick drums to get rid of muddy resonances while keeping them thick and punchy
- Using filters to reduce bleed on drums to create a tighter drum sound
- EQ’ing overheads and room mics to compliment the overall drum sound
- EQ’ing groups of both acoustic and electric guitars to give each one their own space in the frequency spectrum
- How to use EQ presets on instrument groups to your advantage with some minor tweaking
- Using a bass amp simulator in addition to EQ to make the bass cut through the mix
- Using mid/side EQ on backing vocals to make room for the lead vocals in a dense vocal mix
- The importance of using EQ on reverbs to avoid cluttering up your mix
This course has helped more than a thousand engineers create better-sounding mixes with better EQ skills. Don’t just take my word for it, here’s Kern Ramsdell from Home Recording Weekly who reviewed the course:
“Bjorgvin knows what we need to know, and he shares it all, in easy to understand, easy to digest bites. Bjorgvin explains filtering, boosting, cutting, notch filters, bell curves, and “Q”, how to “sweep” or find frequencies that need cutting, and so much more, and all of it in very good detail, with audio examples. “EQ Strategies for EQ’ing a song”…This important video is an hour of deep EQ teaching, so please do not skip this part! Bjorgvin opens up a real multi track session and goes through the tracks, one at a time, and explains exactly what each EQ is doing. Bjorgvin begins with a quick “before and after” play, without EQ and then with EQ, just to demonstrate how powerful EQ really is. The difference is nothing short of incredible. Bjorgvin is a great teacher, too, and that really lends to the level of training that is unfolding here inside EQ Strategies. If you are trying to wrap your head around EQ, how to apply EQ in order to get way better tracks and much better sounding complete songs, EQ Strategies is what you are looking for.” -Kern Ramsdell
Better Vocal EQ Skills or Your Money Back…Guaranteed!
I’m not interested in keeping your money if you didn’t learn anything.
So, if you have doubts whether EQ Strategies will help you with your productions, don’t worry. I offer a full, no-risk, money back guarantee.
If you are not satisfied with your purchase, let me know and I will happily refund your money, no questions asked. You can even try them for a full year before deciding.
If you’re not happy, I’m not happy.
Click here to grab the Ultimate Guide to EQ and start creating separation between your instruments and clarity in your mixes.
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