Music production

5 best tips for using the equalizer in music production (2021)

Check out these quick tips on how to properly use the EQ when mixing your tracks.

Equalization (EQ) is the most useful tool a music producer has for mixing. It changes the frequency response of each sound in the track, as desired.

Use equalizers to tune the different frequencies of your instruments, shaping each sound. The main goal when EQ while mixing is usually to get the instruments on your track to mix smoothly, so that there is enough room for each of them.

Here are five tips to keep in mind when starting to play with the EQ for a successfully mixed track.

Blend with your ears, not your eyes

The EQ plugins on most DAWs show you your track’s frequency response, an analysis feature that lets you see the changes you make to your track as you go. But try not to let what you see affect the way you hear music – ultimately, it’s the sound that is vital.

Certain frequencies have particular sound characteristics

The human ear can detect frequencies from around 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz) – the frequency spectrum. Certain frequencies in the spectrum generally have specific sound characteristics:

Be radical

It doesn’t matter what anyone says – do whatever it takes to make your mix sound great, even if that means cuts or boosts of up to 12dB. You want to make sure that all the tracks blend together as best as possible.

And in contrast, push boosts, cuts, and filters further to use them as sound design tools, to sculpt your sounds in exciting colorful ways.

Try using the two-step equalizer when mixing

Divide the process – first shape the EQ, with boosts and cuts, then the corrective EQ, which usually consists of cuts to make room for other sounds. By placing these movements in two separate EQs, you will not lose any shape created before the corrective EQ.

Take for example if you had equalized a keyboard to make it sound brighter, only to find that your voice and keyboard now sound similar in the mix. Open up a new EQ to make a pocket for the vocals by freeing up some keyboard space, and you won’t lose the keyboard shape you perfected in your first EQ.

Don’t get carried away by EQ while recording

If you’re recording instruments live to your track, don’t worry too much about perfecting the EQ. Use the EQ at this initial stage to get rid of any obvious unwanted frequencies picked up by a mic – but generally, as long as there is a good clean sound, keep the EQ for your mix.

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