Why use EQ?
Do you ever find yourself a bit lost when working with EQ’s, wondering if you are using “the right” approach, or are missing some important steps or knowledge? Do you sometimes feel that your mixes don’t come out sounding as open and smooth, as you would like?
Also, perhaps there are situations where you normally use an EQ, but where another method would have given even better results.
This guide aims to give clarity to the art of equalization, introduce some advanced concepts and to share some useful tips and secrets. However, this book also aims to be easy to read and present complex subjects in a very simple and straightforward manner. Having said that, the reader is expected to know at least the basics of equalization, and knowing what an EQ does.
I will also share my own personal views and try to explain how I think before and while applying EQ. By doing so, I hope to be able to help you to feel more confident when working on future mixes.
So what is the purpose of working with EQ’s in the first place? What should be the aim and the reason for inserting an EQ while mixing or recording?
As I see it, an equalizer can have two main uses:
- To creatively shape the tone of a sound.This means tweaking a sound in order to achieve a totally different timbre from the original sound. This also refers to being a bit bolder than normal, and not being too worried about staying true to the original sound.
- To alter and correct the frequency content of a sound. This refers to attenuating or boosting frequencies, in order to get rid of unwanted harmonics, or to even out the sound, or simply to boost the more desired parts.
In order to achieve this, there are two main approaches:
1. Subtractive EQ
2. Additive EQ
Subtractive vs. Additive EQ
Whether I am working with ‘subtractive equalization’ (dipping frequencies) or ‘additive equalization’ (boosting frequencies), I will always ask myself a set of questions before applying any type of EQ (in the same way as described in “The Art of Compression”). However, when it comes to EQ:ing I am usually less concerned about which specific EQ to use, and more focused on what needs to be done with it.
This is not saying that the choice of EQ is irrelevant, but personally, if I’m left with little choice, most high- end EQ’s (NEVE, API, etc.) will do the job for me. There was a period when I only had access to one Hardware EQ, an API 550A, and it worked fine for all my additive EQ work (while working at Kensaltown Studios). These days I mainly use two different types of Hardware EQ’s, two EQ’s that complement each other really well.
Going back to the questions I always ask myself when mixing, they are:
Is the sound or the overall mix…
Too heavy in the low end?
Too hyped in the high-end (too sibilant)?
These five issues will normally be treated with subtractive EQ, by dipping in the right areas..
I will also ask myself:
Does the individual sounds or the mix I am working on have…
Enough top and air?
These three issues, on the other hand, will often be treated with additive EQ, by boosting in the right areas.
However, as a rule I always apply subtractive EQ first, and 70% of my EQ:ing will be of the subtractive kind. Let’s have a closer look at the two concepts.
TO READ MORE ABOUT EQUALIZATION, CHECK OUT MY AMAZON E-BOOK, THE ART OF EQUALIZATION
Note: You don’t need a Kindle to read it, as it can be read on any device.
ALTERNATIVELY, YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE ART OF MIXING FROM APPLE iBOOKS, WHICH CONTAINS ALL OF MY E-BOOKS IN ONE.