Use These 6 Steps for Better EQ'ing

Original Post by: Bjorgvin Benediktsson from

1. Know your frequencies

Now, this might be a little confusing but here's what I mean.

Take these two plug-ins: CLA Vocals from Waves and a normal channel EQ, and compare the EQ settings on them.

Now, the CLA line isn't just an EQ but it HAS an EQ.

But it doesn't have frequencies to tweak. It just has names like "bite" and "top" which aren't very helpful when you're trying to understand where specific frequencies are.

So if you're still trying to figure out where boominess, boxiness and all those areas are I recommend using an actual EQ and not a fancy plug-in like this.

It'll teach you where to look when you just need to add or subtract a little EQ in any of your session.

Think about it this way, it's great to save time and order someone else to make you your fancy coffee drink, but knowing how to make coffee yourself is a valuable skill to have.

OK, on to the next one.

2. Get rid of annoying sounds

Take boxiness for instance, because that seems to be a common problem with multiple instruments but none so much as the kick drum.

Boxiness can be reeled in by cutting in the mids around 3-400 Hz and sometimes in the 600 Hz region. You can do this with either two narrow cuts or one big one. Sometimes it depends on the genre which method works better.

If you're looking for different annoying frequencies, the same technique applies of just boosting around until you pinpoint the frequency you want to cut, then simply bring your EQ cut down until it's gone.

3. Make your instruments mask the vocal to help you get a clean vocal sound

This sounds backwards but you can find where any instrument is clashing with another by simply finding the frequency range where it starts masking the other instrument.

For example, I can easily make the acoustic guitar mask the vocals by boosting around the frequency spectrum and listening to when the vocal starts feeling cluttered.

That's when you know that's the frequency range you need to cut to bring the vocal out in the mix without necessarily adding a bunch of boosts to the vocal track.

4. Filter, Cut & Boost should be your mantra

Let's think about a hypothetical situation where you need to EQ your acoustic guitar.

A good workflow for easy EQ'ing is this:

Start by filtering up the lows to get rid of the boominess, maybe from from the mic being too close to the acoustic guitar for example.

Then cut the jangly mids in about 6-800 Hz to smooth the guitar out a little bit.

Then boost in the 250 Hz range for warmth and then maybe a little bit at 500 Hz and/or 8 khz for brilliance.

5. Boost harmonics to get things to cut through

Let's jump around a bit and talk about the bass guitar and how you use harmonics to make EQ'ing easier.

The bass guitar is a low-end instrument and needs to carry weight down there. But you shouldn't neglect the higher harmonics of the bass guitar to get it to cut through the mix.

Say one of the fundamental note of a bass is around 100 Hz. Then you can boost at multiples of that harmonic, such as 200 Hz, 300 Hz, 400 Hz etc...

Many small boosts at regular intervals (some argue that even numbered harmonics sound better) can help add richness to the guitar.

So in this case boosting at 100 Hz, then again at 200 Hz (the second interval), and then at 400 Hz and 800 Hz can give some additional higher harmonics to help it cut through.

The same will work with other instruments. Try it on keyboards to get them to cut through in the mids without needing to boost them where it clashes with the vocal for instance.

6. Use your training wheels

EQ'ing needs practice and it's not always easy to figure out where a specific problem lies.

That's where you can use your analyzer to help you spot an unnatural buildup of frequencies. I use the Voxengo Span analyzer on my master bus and then I always keep the analyzer on the EQ plug-in for whenever I run into problems I can't find.

Finally, Don't Engineye, enginear!

Ash Matthews