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A Rule Of

Thumb
Guide to
Professional
EQ

By Neil Charles
Hi and welcome to 'A Rule Of Thumb Guide to Professional EQ'. I wrote
this ebook because it seemed to me there was plenty of information on
the web regarding the correct use of EQ but much of it isn't concise, is
overcomplicated and hard for the beginner to understand. This ebook
features simple and go to EQ methods on all the most popular
instruments

These EQ tips were lovingly put together so even if you're just


beginning to Sound Engineer or Design you are now equipped with the
basics to successfully EQ your tracks and get all your instruments
sitting in the mix as they should

Please note these tips are only meant as guides, you should use these
as a start point for your Eqing. Every instrument is different as is every
mix so on't just dial in these Eqs and expect your mix to sound great, it
doesn't work like that!

Use this guide as a starting point, it is designed as a correlation of all


the information needed for basic Eqing. I have put it all together for you
in one place so you don't have to spend valuable mixing time searching
the web

I hope you find it useful and keep checking in via my blog for more
tutorials, posts and lots more! www.aaasounddesign.com

Many Thanks
Neil Charles
Vocal Eqing

Top Tip 1 : Remove the Low end - I try to minimise this at the recording stage by using a High
Pass Filter. When you get to the mix stage remove any low end frequecies that occur around
100HZ or below (60HZ to be safe but generally I don't find much of use below 100). Ideally use
a spectrum analyser so you can see where the "noise" is and eliminate it.
Top Tip 2 : Sweep the EQ around the 1 - 2 KHZ range to find the area where the vocal becomes
nasal. Use a narrow bandwidth and put the gain right up to find the area that needs treatment.
Then apply a cut at this point, not to drastic that you lose the characteristic of the vocal though

Top Tip 3 : Experiment with a High Shelf between 12 - 16KHZ to give the vocal some "Air", not
too much though, always in moderation
Top Tip 4 : Add a bit of warmth to the vocal by adding some EQ sweeping the EQ through the
80 - 200 HZ range with plenty of gain until you find the warmth of the vocal, then apply a fairly
wide bandwith 'Bell' EQ
Top Tip 5 : If you want the vocal to really jump out in the mix particularly if it is a lead vocal
sweep between the 2 - 5 KHZ range and apply a 'Bell' EQ with a wide bandwith (Q)
With all EQing I tend to raise or cut by 3dB increments and always listen to the vocal in the mix
aswell as on its own, it has to sit right
These are the fundementals I'd always use before using some more advanced eqing techniques
but these will certainly improve the overall sound of the vocal
Eqing Acoustic Guitars

As with all of my tips it is important you understand every instrument is different and
recordings will vary due to a number of factors including the room, mic, proximity etc. It is
important therefore to use these tips as a guide but you must listen to the track you are EQing
and use these only as a guide
Top Tip 1 : Remove the Low end - You don't want an acoustic guitar cluttering up the bottom
end so make space for the Kick and Bass by adding a High Pass (Low cut) filter below 90HZ. I
usually go for a steep 48dB slope. If it is solely an acoustic guitar and a vocal I may make this
cut between 50 and 90HZ if there is any of the guitar in this frequency
Top Tip 2 : Around 100 - 250 HZ you will find the body, fullness and warmth of the guitar. This
is where the sound hole usually lives so subtle increases or decreases in this range can be
benificial. When the strings are really boomy cutting here will benefit your mix

Top Tip 3 : If the guitar is a bit "twangy" try to cut some frequencies around 1.5KHZ
Top Tip 4 : The clarity of the guitar can be found between the frequencies of or around 3-4KHZ.
Small increaces in EQ gain here can improve the guitars presence in the mix. Be careful though
because this is also where the vocal lives . As with the vocal I tend to cut / boost frequencies by
3dB increments at a time untill I have what I am looking for or rather listening for
Top Tip 5 : Add a bit of air and "sparkle" to the guitar by adding a high shelf EQ from 10KHZ
upwards but don't go crazy
Acoustic guitars vary in shapes and sizes, woods and textures so as with all EQing listen to the
guitar in the mix, give it its own space and make sure it is not conflicting with any of the other
instruments. Above is an example of how the acoustic guitar might be EQd using the advice in
this tutorial
Electric Guitar Eqing

For this tutorial I will be looking at how to EQ an electric guitar. This is very different to EQing an
acoustic guitar so there are different 'rules of thumb' that apply. Electric guitar recordings are
dependent on a number of factors amplifier, microphone and even player will come into play
Top Tip 1 : Remove the Low end - As with an acoustic guitar you don't want to muddy the low
end of the mix. There is nothing of any use for me under 70Hz. I would make my cut here and
add a High Pass filter with a steep (48dB slope)
Top Tip 2 : Often around the 3ooHz (Lower Mid) range you will find unwanted frequencies that
you don't want in the mix. Use a bell curve and sweep the filter around these frequencies with
6dB of gain until you find the offending frequencies and make a cutwith a fairly narrow
bandwidth to get rid of these frequencies

Top Tip 3 : The "warmth" of the guitar lives around the 150 - 200Hz range so a slight boost
here can be beneficial
Top Tip 4 : Between the frequencies of around 300Hz and 800Hz is where the character of the
guitar can be found. Whilst it can be tempting to boost these frequencies I often find by
bringing them down slightly the guitar will fit better in the mix otherwise these frequencies
become dominated by the guitar
Top Tip 5 : Add abit of bite, attack or punch to the guitar by boosting the frequencies around
the 2 - 4KHz range
Top Tip 6 : I personally find little of any use above 8KHz so this is where I would usually apply a
steep slope High cut
Often in tracks there are many electric guitars competing for space not only with the other
instruments but also with each other. That is why it is so important to EQ the guitar in the mix
as well as on its own. The mix is the most important thing so if some of the character of the
guitar has to be compromised for the sake of the overall mix don't be afraid to do so
Eqing Bass Guitar

Lets look at how to fit the Bass Guitar into your mix. I will stress now that it is important to EQ
the Kick Drum with the Bass guitar so they work together in the mix. Always check your Bass
against the Kick when you make any changes
Top Tip 1 : Remove the low end - What? Remove the low end on a Bass Guitar?? Ok, don't
remove the low end but I tend to put a HIgh Pass Filter on frequencies below 40Hz. I use a
spectrum analyser to make sure I am not getting rid of any of the bass tone but if you're not
using one you'll have to trust your ears
Top Tip 2 : Add a Low pass Filter arund the 6-700Hz frequency range. I rarely find anything of
much use above this range You want the bass controlling the bottom end of your track not
messing with the highs

Top Tip 3 : Make room for the Kick. Thats why I say EQ the Kick and Bass together checking one
against the other. I like to have my Kick pushing the Bass so I tend to cut frequencies on my
bass' low end where the kick lives so it can slot in. I usually find this around the 60-70Hz range
Top Tip 4 : Between 100-500Hz is where the body of the bass lives. As with other instruments I
would use a Bell Curve EQ and sweep around this area with a 6dB gain and a fairly low
bandwidth. When I find the body of the bass I will widen out the bandwidth and bring the dB
down
Top Tip 5 : If you really want the plucking sound of the Bass this can be found around the
1.5KHz range but obviously then you'd need to pen up your Low Pass filter ich may result in a
conflict with the guitars in the mix. This is a mixing decision you will need to make
I find the bass one of the most tricky instruments to EQ. Although there are fewer parameters
to concentrate on in some respects Eqing a Bass incorrectly can really "muddy" the mix. You
want the Kick and Bass to drive the track but you don't want to fill the low end with rumble by
boosting all the low frequencies. Spend time Eqing the Kick and Bass and your mix will benefit
greatly
Eqing The Kick Drum

The Kick Drum is what drives the track so it is important to get the Eqing right. It is often the
first instrument that is EQd along with the Bass so getting this right is a really good starting
block. Again this is subjective, not all producers or engineers will do this, this is the way I like to
work
Top Tip 1 : Boost the Low End - If theres one element you want occupying the low end its the
Kick drum. I like to add a low shelf boost between 50 and 100Hz as this is where the "Boom" of
the Kick lives. Again I'd sweep and boost in 3dB increments with a fairly large bandwith (Q) to
bring up the whole bottom end. Be careful though as increases in these frequencies will
dramatically change the mix
Top Tip 2 : Around the 3 - 5 KHz range I like to add a low bandwidth ost as this is where the
"Attack" of the kick can be found. Some Mics automatically have a built in boost around these
frequencies

Top Tip 3 : I like to apply a cut with a wide bandwidth around the 250 - 350Hz frequency range.
This is where the Kick can "Muddy" up yur mix so cutting frequencies here will make the kick
sound cleaner and will slot it in the mix much better
Top Tip 4 : Around the 6 - 8 KHz range you will find the click of the Kick. This is where the
Peddle meets the Skin and produces the "Click" sound. A boost here will bring this element of
the kick drum out
Top Tip 5 : In terms of cutting high frequencies once you've boosted the click anything above
these frequencies won't add anything to the mix so can be cut
As with all the other elements check your kick in the mix. I tend to EQ the kick first and then
when the mix is fuller I will check it again, if adjustments need to be made then thats what I do.
The Kick has to fit with the rest of the kit, the bass and the mix as a whole so constantly
checking it in the mix is the way to go for me
Eqing The Snare Drum

The Snare Drum for me provides the Punch to the Kicks Boom. I like it to sound clean and crisp
obviously the sound will vary Snare on Snare track on track but in general this is the sound I
want particularly when EQing a Snare from an actual kit
Top Tip 1 : Cut the really low end - I find little of any use on a Snare below the frequency of
around 70Hz so apply a High Pass filter around this range
Top Tip 2 : I generally apply a Low Pass filter around the 10KHz range. Many will disagree and
say that Snares need the "air" in the high frequency range. I tend to go with what I know to
work and personally cutting these high frequencies on the snare generally make for a better
overall mix

Top Tip 3 : Boom! - Increase the frequencies around the 120Hz range. This is where the body of
the snare lives and where the boom of the Snare can be enhanced. Be careful not to increase
the volume of these frequencies too much, remember small increments
Top Tip 4 : Crack! - The crack of the Snare lives around the 1.5 - 2.5KHz range so apply a Bell
Curve EQ here and sweep to find the sweet spot then add a boost to accentuate the crack.
Again be sparing with this boost
Top Tip 5 : I tend to cut frequencies around 450 - 750 Hz. I don't want the Snare occupying too
much of the mix so I use a Bell EQ with a fairly wide bandwidth to cut some of these frequencies
and make room for other instruments in the mix
What I would generally do at this stage is listen to the Kick & Snare together and make sure
they are not conflicting and are complimenting each other. I would then add the Bass to check
all these elements together and tweek accordingly. Getting the Rhythm section of a mix right is
vital
Eqing Toms

The Toms are often overlooked when Eqing but it is important to get the Eqing right for those
intricate drum fills and to give the kit presence in the mix. As with the rest of the kit EQ on their
own and then as part of the whole kit
Top Tip 1 : Cut the really low end - Although you want the "Boom of the Toms you don't want
ny muddiness so apply a Low Cut Filter around the 50HZ mark, maybe a bit lower
Top Tip 2 : You'll generally find the "Boom" of Toms between the 70HZ - 150HZ range. Use a
Bell EQ to sweep these frequencies with a fairly narrow bandwidth and a 6dB gain untill you find
the sweet spot and then decrease the gain to 3dB and widen the bandwidth

Top Tip 3 : You'll find that the "Thwack" of the Toms lives around the 8KHZ range. Sweep with a
Bell EQ untill you find the best place to accentuate the hit of the Tom
Top Tip 4 : Apply a High Cut Filter around the 16KHZ range. Some would argue there are parts
of the Tom here but I find little that would benefit a mix
Top Tip 5 : You can generally cut most of the frequencies between the 300HZ and 5KHZ range.
These frequencies add little to the character of the Toms and will get in the way of some of the
other instruments
As with all EQing use this as a guide. All Toms are different and within the Tom family you
obviously have Floor, Rack etc. They will all operate at slightly different frequencies so take the
time to make sure they are EQ'd correctly
Eqing Percussion

As well as the Drums you may have some percussion in your track. Its important that these
don't get in the way of the rest of the mix. EQing them the correct way is a great start. Even by
my tutorials standards this one is fairly short. I'm giving you the basics and then you can go and
try it out for yourselves.
Top Tip 1 : Cut the really low end - All of it! Percussion is very much about the sparkle in the
high frequencies, ear candy if you like. Anything below 3KHZ is generally of no good to me. The
percussion will get in the way of other instruments in the track and thats what you don't want.
Aply a Low Cut Filter around the 3KHZ range to get rid of all the lower frequencies.
Top Tip 2 : Between 6 and 10KHZ you'll more than likely find the tambourine so sweep with a
Bell EQ, narrow bandwidth 6dB gain untill you find the tambourine and bring down to a 3dB gain
with a fairly wide bandwidth

Top Tip 3 : Increase the Highs. This is where the percussion lives in the mix so use a high shelf
filter above 10-12KHZ to bring out the percussive parts
That really is it for me on this one. I'm not being lazy but this is how I'd EQ percussion. You don't
always want to overcomplicate things, these are the fundementals of EQing these instruments
so use this as a guide and energise those high frequencies!
Eqing Piano

If you have a piano in your track this is probably going to be one of the hardest things to EQ. It
has a very wide frequency range and the trick is to have the Piano present without interfeering
with the other instruments
Top Tip 1 : Cut the really low end - Anything below 100HZ can generally be cut, there is little of
any use below these frequenies. Use a Low Cut Filter
Top Tip 2 : If your Piano is lacking bottom end an increase in the 100-250HZ range may fix this.
Use a Bell EQ to sweep the frequencies around this area. Use a narrow bandwidth with a 6dB
gain and when you find the right spot decrease to around 3dB

Top Tip 3 : If you want to add presence in the mix use a Bell EQ to sweep around the 1-6KHZ
range and add a bit of an EQ increase here
Top Tip 4 : Add a bit of clarity to your Piano tones by boosting around the 6-8KHZ range
Top Tip 5 : The muddiness of the piano will live around the 250HZ - 1KHZ range so cut the
frequencies in this area using a wide bandwidth Bell Curve EQ
As I said earlier the piano will often take up a lot of space in the mix so some of my advice for
boosting frequencies may work better if you oppositely cut the frequencies around these areas.
EQ in the mix to see what sounds best, the key is to give the piano its own space and presence
without getting in the way of the other components of the mix
Eqing Brass & Woodwind

Brass and Woodwind instruments dominate the mid range section of the frequency range. It is
important to EQ these, as any instruments, in the mix. You don't want the Brass section
piercing through the mix too much so some careful EQing can really help the mix
Top Tip 1 : Cut the really low end - Get rid of all the unwanted rumble below 100HZ there is
nothing here of any use
Top Tip 2 : Around 120HZ - 250HZ you will find the body of the instruments. Use a Bell curve
with a 6dB gain and a fairly narrow bandwidth to sweep these frequencies until you find where
the instrument/s live, you'll know when you find it. Depending on the mix apply a 3dB increase
here to boost the frequencies or if needed take a bit of these frequencies out if the brass is
overpowering eveything else

Top Tip 3 : The Brightness of these instruments can be found around the 5KHZ range so using a
Bell curve and a gain increase / narrow bandwidth sweep these frequencies. Again depending on
the mix you may want to add a bit of brightness or the brass may be a little piercing so you may
want to cut some frequencies. Make the required boosts or cuts around this area
Top Tip 4 : Often around the 1-2KHZ range you may find some unwanted tones. Sweep this area
and you'll know when you find them, they're quite uncomfortable to the ear. Apply a cut here if
necessary
Eqing the Brass / Woodwind section can be tricky but essential if they are in the mix. Boosting
and cutting in certain frequency ranges will really help the instruments sit in the mix
Eqing Strings

Strings can make your track sound lush and thier haunting tones can bring real emotion but get
the EQing wrong and strings can be depremental to your mix. Careful EQing here can sit your
Strings in the mix and give your track real character
Top Tip 1 : Cut the really low end - Get rid of all the unwanted rumble below 100HZ there is
nothing here of any use
Top Tip 2 : Between 200HZ and 300HZ you will find the body of the string section. This is
usually where the sounds around the sound hole emulate. Use a Bell curve with a 6dB gain and a
fairly narrow bandwidth to sweep these frequencies until you find where the instrument/s live,
you'll know when you find it. Depending on the mix apply a 3dB increase here to boost the
frequencies. The strings may already be quite present in the mix so some cutting here may also
benefit the mix. EQ in the mix and see which works best

Top Tip 3 : The Bow and the String sounds live around the 7-10KHZ range so using a Bell curve
and a gain increase / narrow bandwidth sweep these frequencies. Again depending on the mix
you may want to add ome of the bow sounds to the mix or alternatively this may not be what
you are after at all. You may just want the rich body sound without the Bowing in which case
apply a cut here
Although this may seem like a fairly basic instrument to EQ from these tips it is far from it.
Every stringed instrument has its own characteristic and getting them to sit in the mix whilst
maintaining the character takes care and attention. EQ yourself a great sounding string section
and your mix will really benefit. Strings and Brass? You'll need to sit these in the mix with each
other as well as in the mix as a whole