47 EQ Tips from the Experts

47 EQ Tips from the Experts

June 14, 2017 — We surveyed 55 mixing experts to get their very best mixing tips… and the result was awesome!

The experts gave us over 300 tips and techniques… so many that we couldn’t fit all the equalization tips into the original article. So we’re publishing them here!

Here are 47 EQ tips from the experts… including little known DAW shortcuts… common mistakes to avoid… and several highly effective techniques that may surprise you!

Cheers!
Scott Hawksworth's signature
Scott Hawksworth
Founder, AudioSkills

Click here to view the entire list of our expert contributors, including links to their social media profiles.

Table of Contents

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EQ Philosophies

  1. If you’re working the EQ too hard… there’s probably something else wrong. — Matt Salazar, IndieRockInc
  2. Remember Ying-Yang effect: a low dip can amplify the highs and vice versa. — Soops, MixedBySoops
  3. EQ in solo only to find any problem areas. Perform the rest of the EQing in context of the mix. What may sound horrible in solo could be just what the track needs to cut through the mix. — Scott Horton, Virtual Mix Engineer
  4. Know why you’re EQing and do it on purpose! — Hubi Hofmann, Slash Zero Records
  5. Filter. I prefer to use EQ subtractively during the mix process. — Catharine Wood, Planetwood Studios LLC
  6. Subtractive EQ is majority of your mix. At the end of the day, mixing is balancing frequencies and giving every element/instrument its own space across the stereo image. — Dacota Fresilli, Parhelion Recording Studios
  7. Not every source needs to be EQ’d. Similar to using a compressor, don’t just put an EQ on everything. — Stephen Michael Babula, SMB Recordings
  8. Follow Alpha Pup’s @daddykev on Twitter. Every once in a while he’ll drop some amazing mixdown knowledge. Screen shot that and keep them in a folder for whenever you’re stuck on a mix — Them Jeans, Tall Tales Podcast
  9. Attenuating frequencies is just as important and amplifying frequencies. — James Alire, 5J Media LLC

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Boosting & Cutting

  1. If you are applying small amounts of EQ cut and boost consider turning the EQ off as you might be wasting energy and time on something totally trivial. — Larry Crane, Tape Op Magazine
  2. Try subtracting frequencies before adding them. — Jared Kvitka, Jared K Recording
  3. The EQ gain knob works both ways! Often cutting frequencies is better than boosting. Also, your ears are easily fooled by anything louder sounding better, and boosting frequencies with EQ is also making it louder, so it’s easy to get carried away with lots of unnecessary EQ boosts on everything. — Stephen Sherrard, Stephen Sherrard Mixing
  4. If you find yourself boosting a lot… first see if the track’s volume just doesn’t need to be raised or identify what other tracks have competing frequencies that aren’t as important. Possibly cut out a few decibels on those tracks to create more space for the track lacking enough spot light. — Cole Mize, Cole Mize Studios
  5. Cut before you boost. Simple as that! — Scott Hawksworth, AudioSkills
  6. Instead of boosting the high end using a shelf, use a peaking band with the peak set high (above 16k) and add a little more than you might otherwise. It means the “air” frequencies are boosted more than the sibilant frequencies, and can make things brighter without getting harsh. — Adrian Breakspear

EQ

  1. Start with cutting out problems. Then boost with a “analog” type EQ. — Joe Vegna
  2. See what you can cut before you do too many boosts — AJ
  3. In general “cut narrow, boost wide” is a great rule of thumb to follow for EQ’ing.— Scott Hawksworth, AudioSkills
  4. Don’t always approach the EQ with the intention of boosting frequencies. You may have to just reduce some frequencies to get the sound you want. — John Myers
  5. EQ is your best friend. It can be used to bring out the good and pull out the bad. A good trick for finding harsh or muddy frequencies is to create a narrow EQ and sweep around to find the what you like to boost and what you don’t like to pull back. — Jeremiah, Undergunned Productions
  6. In general, cut frequencies rather than adding them. Normally, I cut the lows off of almost every track except for kick and bass. This makes sure that the low end of my mix stays clean. Sometimes I’ll cut the extreme highs of some instruments too. Then in the middle I’ll often use gentler curves in order to subtly shape the sound. — David Das, Academy of Scoring Arts
  7. Start with frequency reduction instead of addition. — Aaron Ahmad
  8. Do EQ boost sweeps (say 18 dB of boost, narrow Q) around 120–130 Hz on your master. More often than not, you’ll find resonances there that you’ll want to cut out. Good for drums and vox, too. — Fanu, Fanu Music

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High-Pass Filters

  1. High pass is your friend. Use it whenever possible to carve out space for the elements in a mix. — Danny Ozment, Emerald City Productions
  2. Create space for all the frequencies to ring. To quote pureMix, “High pass everything!” — Mike Glaser, pureMix

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  1. Use a high pass filter to roll off the low range frequencies on all tracks except the kick and bass. At least around 50-80 Hz. Cleans up muddiness and allows the kick and bass to shine through. — Anthony Clint Jr., Clint Productions
  2. High pass filters. Use them EVERYWHERE. There is no need for 50 Hz on a vocal or a distorted guitar or a snare. I high pass just about everything to varying degrees. A quick and painless way to cut some of the mud from your mixes. — Jeffro Lackscheide, Make Your Mixes Not Suck
  3. Use a high-pass filter on instruments that don’t have low frequency information that benefits the mix. This will help clean up mud and unwanted low end rumble. — Stephen Freeman, Stephen Freeman Audio
  4. Use a high pass filter at 4 kHz on the input to a reverb. Adds a splash or sparkle to vocals or acoustic instruments and drums. Sparkleverb technique. — Joe Arsenault

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EQ Techniques & Tricks

  1. EQ before you compress to remove unwanted frequencies so the compressor can focus on a more natural sound that you’re going for. — Chris Blaney (Inner Creative Sound)
  2. Make your reverb transparent by adding EQ after the reverb and filter out the low and high frequencies. You can even add your EQ before the reverb for a different approach. — Chris Selim, Mixdown Online
  3. Take out frequencies that are not needed within a single track. — Keshia McArthur, Keshia Mc.
  4. Adjust the output gain to offset gain added/removed by EQ changes if you can. Does it really sound better? Or just louder? — Dave S-B, Creative Mixing
  5. When mixing synth pads I tend to roll off some of the bass — Law Wood, LW Music Services

EQ

  1. If you’re struggling to get two instruments occupying similar frequencies to sound distinct from one another… Make EQ curves that are the exact opposite of one another for each instrument (focused around key tonal areas). This is called “EQ Flipping” or “EQ Swapping” and will help them stand apart! — Scott Hawksworth, AudioSkills
  2. Mix in mono while EQing! It will really force you to work to achieve separation and clarity… which is a good thing! — Rick Elliott, Reiver Records
  3. Using an EQ with a built-in analyzer makes it much easier to find problem frequencies and resonances. — James Aparicio
  4. ALWAYS try to match volume levels when comparing the sound of EQ active versus bypassed. Most equalizers include both a volume control and a bypass switch, making such comparisons easier. — Philip Dust, Philip Dust Mixing and Mastering
  5. Pick a preset and stop to listen if it’s actually making something better or worse. I usually start out with subtractive EQ and try to take away or minimize any frequencies that are muddy or getting in the way of other instruments that are in the same range. Any additive EQ I do is for more subtle enhancements of trying to bring out what’s already there. — Stephen Michael Babula, SMB Recordings
  6. I like using the same, high quality EQ for nearly every track on my mixes. I’ll reach for another one when it’s absolutely needed, but otherwise, using the same one always keeps the whole mix sounding glued better than if I use a lot of different ones — things just don’t sit together as well at the end. — Matt Russell, Gain Structure
  7. My #1 EQ tip is use notch filters to cut & clean up your sound sources and vocals!!! — J-rum, J-rum Beats

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EQ’ing Vocals, Drums, Guitar, & Bass

  1. I use this EQ tip on the kick drum… Create a parallel track and send the kick to it. Then use the Pultec Pro EQ from UAD or Waves and make a 6-7 dB deep on 200 or 300 Hz, boost the 3k (3-4 dB and use your ears), 6-7 dB boost at 60 Hz and 5 dB attenuation at 60 Hz. Then add some light compression, 2-3 dB with a medium attack and fast release, 4:1 ratio with the 1176, or also tube compressor emulator (Fairchild or Manley Vari Mu is good. If you want you can add some light tape saturation and blend the track to the mix. This helps to get more focus and power on the kick without making it sound boomy or muddy. You can use this trick only with the EQ, with less dB boost and cut on the original track. — Mattia Magi, Blue House Studio
  2. Don’t cut too much out of the drums. You always hear, “Cut the low mids,” or, “High pass the overheads/hi-hat,” but that can cause the drums to sound really lifeless and artificial. Of course I do cut on occasion, but I usually do it to fix a problem. Usually I will boost the frequencies that compliment the drums. This helps keep the character of the drum set in tact, but it adds the pleasing qualities of each drum to the mix. — Tyler Spratt, Thresh Mixing
  3. High-pass filters are popular for clearing space for other instruments in a mix in the low end. However, there can be some added timbre from each track in those frequencies that make up one overall sound from a group of tracks. Try using shelving EQ’s sometimes for lowering the volume of portions of the low frequencies from sounds, sometimes in addition to less aggressive high-pass filtering. One sound may have some added grit or texture that a high-pass filter may remove altogether. Listen to see if the overall sound is more interesting with those frequencies simply lowered in volume using a dip from a shelving EQ. — McKay Garner, McKay Mixing
  4. If you’re struggling with giving a vocal that pristine pop sheen, try a high shelf boost around 14 to 16kHz. It can add a nice airy presence and help your vocal sit more forward and in your face. — Bobby Phillipps, HomeStudioMixTips
  5. People often overlook “Complimentary EQ” techniques or they just do not understand it. This technique is used widely by myself and every other professional mixing engineer. In short, you need to have each instrument in its own frequency field, as this will make each instrument sound clear and have its own space in the mix. For example, there are many instruments that take up the same frequency fields, like Kick Drum and Bass Guitar and Vocals and Guitars do. So if you boost the bass guitar at 250 Hz on your EQ, then you should cut the kick drum at 250 Hz. this will make the mix less muddy and you will be able to hear those 2 instruments more clearly in the mix. — CJ Jacobson, Audio Mastering And Mixing
  6. Be careful of boosting all instruments in the same range or EQ band. For instance, if you have multiple guitar tracks, don’t boost exactly the same frequencies on all the tracks. Maybe one needs a bump at 400 Hz and the other track, cut a little at 400 Hz, but boost a little at 5 kHz. This will create better separation and avoid too much buildup in any one frequency range. — Stephen Michael Babula, SMB Recordings

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Ready for Some Compression Tips?

Now that you’ve finished reading the EQ tips, dive into some compression techniques! Click Here for 47 Compression Tips from the Experts

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