Do You Have The Over-EQ’ing Mentality?
During our recent interview, Matt Ross-Spang said something really profound that we all should take to heart:
“When I put an EQ on a track I lose something”
He was talking about mic placement and how important it is to EQ something by moving the mic around, NOT by phase-shifting your tracks with EQ.
Even though he was talking about the recording process, I think part of it is true when it comes to mixing.
Let me confess something. I have a terrible habit of over EQ’ing.
The thing is, I’m not even sure it’s necessarily a wrong thing. I mean, it sounds good in the end so I’m all good there.
But I can’t help but wonder if maybe I’m screwing with the phase too much.
If you’re in the same boat I guess you shouldn’t be too worried either, but if you’re slapping four or five EQ plug-ins on a track maybe you should revisit your first one. See if you can get a good sound from your first EQ before moving on.
Guidelines to Live By
There are three guidelines you can live by that’ll improve your EQ skills immensely.
In that order.
Filter out the stuff you don’t need. Not just the low-end but the high-end as well.
Cut weird resonances and overtones that cloud the character of the sound. Snare rings, muddiness, boxy drums, hissy guitar etc.
Boost what’s needed. Add extra fundamentals and mids to keyboards to cut through. Add presence to vocals. Add air to overheads for example.
In a dense mix you might need to filter and cut more. In a sparse mix you’ll need to add extra thickness or presence to something to make it sparkle. Every mix is different.
Is It Really EQ You’re Looking For?
Notice that boosting is last on the list above.
It’s not because boosting is bad. Sometimes you’ll never get the sound you’re looking for unless you boost certain frequencies, phase shift and all.
But don’t boost if a volume boost is all you need.
We talked about this before in How to Use Subtractive EQ While Still Getting the Punch You Deserve From Your Instruments.
If you’ve filtered and cut a bunch of frequencies already your signal will sound weaker because there’s less gain in those specific frequencies.
Your instincts will be to boost somewhere to get more punch.
But what if I told you that by cutting those frequencies out you’ve subjectively boosted the frequencies that are intact?
All you gotta do is increase the output gain of your EQ to hear it. So instead of adding frequencies your instrument might not need, just add some volume.
Sometimes subtractive EQ and a volume boost is all an instrument needs. -Click to Tweet
Are you Hearing Ghosts?
You can’t boost what isn’t there in the first place.
That’s why it’s so important to use the mic to capture the frequencies you want.
Sure, exciters and sub-bass plug-ins might help to artificially add something in there but isn’t it better to just spend an extra five minutes to get those lows or highs in the first place?
Have a Reason Behind Your EQ’ing
I’m terrible with this myself. I’ve started to ask myself, “Why are you EQ’ing here? What is it exactly that you’re looking for?”
Because if you’re just EQ’ing because you think you should EQ, what you should do is move on.
But if you’re EQ’ing in the dark and are just getting a feel for what all the frequencies sound like I have something a little more efficient.
With an overview of the whole frequency spectrum as well as practical tips for drums, guitar, bass and vocals it’s a great guide to reference whenever you’re stuck looking for a specific frequency.
Find out why they call my guides “some of the best practical advice I’ve encountered.”
Here’s the link to learn more:
Want More Help?
For more mixing tips like these, sign up for my free EQ Course here. Learn over 70 tips to cleaner mixes.
Image by: surroundsound5000