ITB Mixing - When to Use an Equalizer - Article 2 on Equalizers
Welcome to the second article in the Equalizer series of ITB Mixing. This article will help you understand when to use and when not to use your equalizer.
When should you use an Equalizer?
The following are not in any particular order you should use them, but for the sake of reading the article.
1. To Create Clarity
You can use your equalizer to increase clarity by using subtractive and additive EQ. The idea is to cut out the bad sounds in order to clean up the mix rather than just boosting the good ones, which could muddy up your mix more.
- Make your Q small (lowest amount of frequencies selected) and boost maybe 8 or more dB however much is necessary to hear the rough or gross frequencies that stand out to you. Then sweep around the frequency spectrum until you hear gross or busy sounds and then cut those sounds by 1-3dB with that same smaller bandwidth. Cut small and boost wider. Be careful when doing this because some equalizers make distorted noises when you boost too high when sweeping and could cause you to think they are bad frequencies when it is just your EQ being driven too hard.
When sweeping if you find frequencies that pierce or hurt your ears it is often a good sign that you should cut that frequency. This is one of the important things to do to keep your mixes from being fatiguing.
2. Removing Unwanted Noise
EQ can be used to remove unwanted noise like hums, buzz, or fret buzz from a guitar.
It can also be used to remove the nasally sound of a person's voice or to at least improve it a little bit.
3. Creating Separation or Reducing Masking
If you have two instruments that occupy the same frequencies and one is louder than the other. The louder one masks the sound of the quieter one. We often want our mixes to be separated and with as little masking as possible. We often use panning and different effects to help with this but EQ is also a way to help with this!
Let us say you have two distorted guitar tracks both at the same volume and panned to the left and occupy the same frequencies.
A way to separate these two or to fit them together better so there are two distinct guitars would be to use what is called complementary EQ.
Complementary EQ is when you cut from one track and boost those frequencies on the other track. If you can find the distinguishing parts of both tracks and boost those and then cut the non-distinguishing parts if they are different frequency ranges this works well. You can then hear both guitar parts while keeping them panned to one side. This can be used in many other instances so be creative!
4. Changing The Mood
Remember that making all these small changes on each track will affect the mood and tone of your entire song. If you want something to be brighter or darker keep in mind that cutting everything in every track above 5k or even a little bit here and there could make your track darker.
EQ can be used not only to correct problems you have with audio, but it can also be used to change the sound creatively. Usually for EQ correction you would cut out bad sounds with a thin bandwidth. For changing the sound or adding color you want a wider bandwidth. Analog EQ or compressors can be used to change the sound or add "color" or "warmth" as some call it.
There is so much more to mixing with EQ than I can post in an article. Keep researching, reading, and practicing equalizers and you will start to figure it out slowly but surely.
If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to assist you.
As always, working with audio is a science, but it is also an art. This allows for you to take or leave any information I give you or to make it your own.
Thanks for reading and get out there and make good music. As always there is opinion infused in these articles. Don't believe me until you try it for yourself.