Mixer with EQ

Where to start with EQ

November 11, 2015

Patience and Practice, if you want to learn to use EQ and adjust EQ in a venue for a live concert or a recording, are the two attributes you absolutely need. If you lack these, we suggest you develop them in a hurry otherwise your sound will be an earful. Anyone working in audio absolutely needs to develop this fundamental skill, yet many people struggle with EQ. We have put together a few general tips to get you started or to fine-tune your EQing abilities.

Mixer with EQ

Frequency Search

An experienced audio person has a knack when it comes to finding the correct frequencies to fiddle with in a room, which is the basis of EQing. Discovering the right frequency to fix, however, can get complicated for a beginner or if you have to deal with new or unusual sounds.

To start, you need to find an EQ permitting you to manage the targeted frequency. To find it, increase one band to its highest level. Afterwards, play a sound and carefully check the frequency from top to bottom till you locate the spot where the tone you want sounds the loudest. Record the frequency and go back down to zero on your EQ. You are now aware of the frequency where your intended tone strikes; therefore you can boost or cut as required.

More Cuts, Less Boosts

Without getting overly technical, cuts are more desirable than boosts when you want to EQ a room or venue. Extreme boosts in a mix will likely cause muddiness and harm sound clarity. Boosting can bring about a phasing issue, another reason why you would want to keep boosts to a minimum when you EQ a room. Phasing issues are encountered when sound waves are not aligned properly, resulting in undesirable effects on your tones.

Where to Cut and Boost

An unwritten rule when it comes to EQing is it’s better to utilize a high (narrow) Q when cutting and a low (wide) Q when boosting. This will allow you to maintain the subtleness of your sound.

Think it Through

Before you begin playing or recording you have to analyze what you want to accomplish with your instrument and exactly how it will react with the sounds around it. For instance, an acoustic guitar with a full sound will be masked in a 10-instrument band and cause the overall sound to be muddy, but will sound rich in a two-instrument setup. The two situations will require different setups. Ensure you plan your tones appropriately before your start playing by taking into account all the sound variables.

Remember the Purpose

If you are trying to EQ a band, remember individual instruments don’t need to sound fantastic on their own (unless there’s a solo planned in the song). The characteristics ensuring an instrument sounds tremendous on its own are frequently the ones making the instrument’s music problematic in a band set-up. Don’t waste your efforts finding the perfect sound of an instrument when played solo, but rather find the right setup for the mix.

These are a few little tips to guide you when you want to work with EQ for a live concert or for a recording. Your best training technique though is experience. Don’t be afraid to delve into EQing even if you feel completely overwhelmed at first. It is quite normal and it is more of an art than a science (although science does play an important part). Making mistakes will help you identify what works and what does not. Try different strategies to find the ones you are comfortable with and which help you get the best results. There is not a single right method to EQ, therefore, find a technique which works for you as long as the results sound excellent.

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