SOME QUICK AND DIRTY EQ TIPS
The human hearing system notices EQ boosts much more than dips, especially if the region being treated is very narrow (high Q or low bandwidth). A narrow mid range boost, for example, may sound like a wah wah pedal stuck mid-way whereas a cut at the same frequency and of the same width may be almost inaudible. This gives us the first general rule of EQ which is, when you want a sound to stay sounding natural, don’t boost any region of the spectrum more than you have to and keep any parametric boost fairly wide. If you need to add a gloss to the high end, just use a shelving filter set to between 8 and 12kHz and then dial in a little boost. That adds what engineers refer to as ‘air’ without pulling the sound out of shape. Alternatively, if you think something needs to be made brighter, first try cutting the lows instead of boosting the highs as that can have a similar effect.
Instruments can sometimes be made to sit better in a busy mix if you use the high and low cut filters to ‘bracket’ individual sounds, removing unnecessary highs and lows. A common problem is to have too much low end in instruments other than the kick drum and bass guitar/synth so low-cut filters are invaluable in cleaning these up. Your mix will sound cleaner for it. Always judge your final EQ settings with the whole track playing though, otherwise you can’t know how the various sounds will work together.
And finally, try not to rely on EQ as a tool to repair substandard recordings. If you pay a little attention to the acoustics of the space you’re recording in (hang up a few blankets if it sounds too live or boxy) and then take the time to find the best place for the microphone, you shouldn’t need a lot of EQ. It is always better to get the best possible sound at source rather than trying to ‘fix it in the mix’.
This article is from issue 2 of PowerOn, Roland’s music magazine for the iPad and iPhone. PowerON is available from the App Store and includes the latest gear, artist interviews and articles about recording technique and the business of music