Why You Should Not Use an EQ Cheat Sheet when Mixing

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7 Responses

  1. Floyd Kelly says:

    Thanks for the bold article and statement :) I can only speak for myself; I’m just a beginner so I use the Interactive Frequency Chart big time to learn the harmonics of different instruments. I also hear what you are saying in mixing. I use mine as a general starting point. I listen repetitively and repeat EQ many times to hone in on muddiness, sharpness, treble etc. Many times I deviate from the chart to allow certain instruments close together in a frequency range to spread out if I can. — i once met a happy sound-mixer who’s sole task it seemed was to overwhelm the listener by boosting the snare drum to the point where there was no musicality – just drum – it was dreadful. Why? He did not take into account any instrument or sound and was adhering to a technique he learned and thought that equated to making a commercially-relevant dance groove/beat – even though there were 10 other instruments in the mix – you didn’t hear much. If he had opened his ears and creative self and turned the tape off playing in his head, he could have had a good mix. It’s all learning though. I learn. I’m still a newbie and I find the charts useful but just as a starting point only – each musical piece is unique, and so is each EQ. Thanks again. :)

  2. Chongor Goncz says:

    You should revise point number 3 as there are very successful mixing engineers that boost first, and very successful one’s that cut first. In the end both types understand that you need to cut and boost, and using a blanket statement as, “I’m not going to go into why you should cut frequencies rather than boost them. Go read this article instead. It’ll be a real eye-opener.” will only lead the unexperienced down a rabbit hole of mis-information.

    • Kevin Decock says:

      Yeah I can see how I might have been a little bit too short on that point. I’m talking to beginners in this article and what I really want to say is that in my opinion if you’re just starting out it’s better to first learn how you can make more room in your mix rather than filling it out with sometimes unnecessary boosts.

      But you are right, of course boosting EQ is okay – IF you know what you’re doing. For example, it’s crucial that you understand the phase shift implications of an EQ move. I might have to elaborate on that in a further article but the gist of it is that (as you’ll probably know) when you run a signal through an EQ and filter out certain frequencies (or boost them), a phase shift will occur.

      If you’ve got everything phase aligned the way you want it – this phase shift can be something you want to watch out for.

      In this case, cuts can sound better: there’ll be some phase shift in the frequencies you’re affecting – but you’re lowering them in volume anyway relative to unchanged freqs.

      Now obviously phase can work to your advantage and it’s here you’ll be able to get interesting effects with boosts. Imo, however… that’s a little bit too advanced for a beginner to begin worrying about. Better to first understand what the hell it is they’re doing with that equaliser when cutting away problem frequencies :-).

      Thanks for pointing that out though – I think I’ll have to elaborate on that point a little bit more in the article. I’ll do the necessary edits!

  3. Paul says:

    A really good article for me personally. I’ve read and watched so much content and this gives me a great summary of the stuff that’s stood out as, the least dangerous approach to shaping that perfect beginners song mix. This also reminds me to not get caught up, mimicking an engineer or semi knowledgable YouTube video tutorial because I have the plugin and a guitar track for instance.

  4. John Graham says:

    I really appreciate your comments here. I just spent the better part of three days learning about frequency ranges, EQ guidelines, and built my own “cheat sheet” to help me better understand what’s where on the spectrum. I’m a home studio musician and have done a couple of CDs, and am interested in improving my mixing skills, which I’ve been learning over the past 18 months. After reading all the EQ forums, guides, and cheat sheets – the basic thing I still don’t fully understand is whether I should be focusing my use of EQ on individual tracks, groups of tracks, the sub-mix, the rendered file for mastering, or all of the above. I’m getting the why, what, and how, but not the when… Can you comment on this?

    • Kevin Decock says:

      What usually works well for me is to start your EQing on separate tracks, to clean it all up (hi-pass, e.g.); then do another pass with a different EQ to blend all the tracks together.

      Then, on groups such as drums, if it’s not all sounding the way I like it, I might also EQ some of that.

      A mastering engineer will definitely apply some final EQ over the whole of your rendered track.

      Sooo.. the answer is definitely “you can do it everywhere” :-)

      hope that helps!

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