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Equalizer Techniques

 The process of using an equalizer is all in the ears and relys to some extent on personal taste. Adjusting the EQ on your home stereo to personal taste is one thing, injecting your personal taste into a studio project could result in horrific results. That is why having a reference that is reflective of the currently accepted "norm" is a good idea. Occasionally listening to a well produced CD from your collection can help you to keep your own mix under some control. Having a good understanding of the frequenciy ranges of the instruments and vocals will also help you make informed decisions in the mix. For convenience the audio spectrum can be divided up into four frequency bands: a Low Range (20-200Hz), a Mid Range consiting of Low-Middle (200-1000Hz), High Middle (1000-5000Hz) and a High Range(5000-20,000Hz).

 During the initial recording process, everyhing should be recorded flat, (Eq controls centered), this allow the maximun range of adjustment during mixdown. If you tweaked something during recording you may not be able to un-tweak later if it sounds wrong. Listening through you headset to fine tune is a good practice , but "ALWAYS" check the sound through the studio monitors, and preferably more than one set of monitors, as this is how most people will hear the finished project.

 If you are working a live performance, (in the studio), and you miced properly, you will in essence be dealing with the individual sound/instrument from each input, if you are working from a studio the isolation will be better, and if you are working from a multitrack where everyting was recorded one track at a time, even better. The more isolation between the tracks the easier your job will be. From a live recording you will be trying to EQ out the unwanted crosstalk while enhancing the instrument assigned to that track. The essence of this article is mainly directed to final mixdown from recording done in a studio.

 The EQ on most systems will most likely be a Parametric Equalizer, which will consist of a series of dials that will gradually span the frequency spectrum. The flat response position or 0, will most likely be at the 12 o'clock position allowing the user to add or subtract from the signal. A graphic equalizer is what most people are familiar with, and probably have one on their home stereo. The sliders on the graphic EQ are designed to give a graphic picture of the frequency response curve.


Frequency Chart



 The frequency of instruments and vocals shown in this chart will give you a better understanding of the range, and overlapping of the frequencies that you will be working with during the EQ process.

 The more prominent notes of most instruments fall within the 200 to 1000 Hz range. Changes made in this range often have the most dramatic  effect on the overall sound.
  Due to the ear being most sensitive in the vocal range of the spectrum, even minor change in the levels of this range can result in a major audible effect.

 20 to 200Hz -  changes here effect the lower bass, and the harmonics in the lower 20 to 40 Hz range that are more felt than heard. Listen for any unwanted noises that may show up in this range like footsteps. For guitars and bass, the 100 Hz range tends to add body and fullness. The 200 Hz range can add fullness to the male vocals.

 200 Hz to 1000 Hz  - range creates a warm feeling in the music and adds clarity to the bass and lower-string instruments.Too much emphasis creates a boomy, overwhelming sound, while too little leaves the sound thin and lifeless. The bottom half of this range can add a crisp sound to the bass and the lower register of the keyboards, and add fullness to the female voice. The upper end of this range can be tweaked to give separation to the instruments in the rythym section, guitar, piano, etc.

 1000 Hz to 5000 Hz - range can add clarity to your sound, too much and it starts to sound tinny as if being played through a telephone reciever.

 5000 Hz to 20000 Hz - range will add brilliance or sparkle to your mix, too much and you will emphasize any Ess sounds, way too much and it will be like fingernails on a blackboard.

The Yellow frequency range of the instruments in the chart are in the harmonic range. Harmonics can move all the way into the inaudible range and become more sensation than sound. These are an important part of the music spectrum as they add an intangible feeling to the music.These harmonics are what separate a Stradavrius from a fiddle.

 Regardless of the range you are working in, the important thing is to make small moves. It is usually better to de-emphasize, than to emphasize most aspects of the music. Every change you make with the EQ will affect all the other parts of the music, usually requiring more adjustments in those ranges which will in turn affect the entire structure, etc. etc.


 Try to confine your actions to one individual track at a time, bringing out the best parts of the individual instrument while loosing the rest. Move from track to track with the intention of making each and every individual track as near perfect as you can. When you feel each track is as good as you can make it, then start submixing you the separate tracks. Bring the drum tracks together and tweak as needed, taking care to place each part in it's proper spot in the stereo plane. Add the rest of the rythym section, guitars, keyboard, etc. until all the pieces come together as a whole.

Think of the Equalizer as an instrument, if you were not a guitarist and someone handed you a guitar, explained all the parts on the guitar, you would still not be able to play it, so it is with the EQ, shown the parts, and given the frequency ranges of the instruments and vocals, you will still have to practice how to use it properly. There is no definitive text that will instantly give you mastery of the techniques, only explanations and suggestions on the general procedure of equalizing your mix, the majority of the work rests on you, and your ears.


Studio Setup | Studio Gear | Microphones | Mic Techniques | Mixers | Mixing
Multitracks | Common Effects | EQ Techniques | PC | Terminology

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