The Art of the EQ :: Which EQ Bands do What?

The EQ 8 in Ableton is massive, especially now that it has the spectrum analyzer built into it.

Let’s take a look at how to properly use this beast.

This blog post is designed to give you some quick tips and information about different frequency bands of audio and what boosting, dipping, cutting, and adding too much will do to your sound.

I have recently been releasing more and more tutorials on mastering as well as offering a mastering service myself do to demand. It seems to be the most sought after tutorial. How to make your mix loud and phat. While throwing a compressor, some stereo imaging, and a quick EQ on the mixdown can work quite nicely on some tracks it is not going to turn a shitty mix into gold.

First things first, go here to download the EQ preset pack for Ableton’s EQ 8.

Now, that you have those as a starting point and as a reference let’s look at some specific frequency ranges of the audio spectrum and see what we can and should do with them. I have complied a fairly decent starting framework, but I will also include links to various other websites which are definitely worth taken a peak at. Look for those below.

50Hz – 60Hz

  1. Increase to add more fullness to lowest frequency instruments like foot, floor tom, and the bass.
  2. Reduce to decrease the “boom” of the bass and will increase overtones and the recognition of bass line in the mix. This is most often used on loud bass lines like rock.
  3. Too much and you’ll have flapping speakers and a flabby mix
  4. Too little, and the mix will never have enough weight or depth

100Hz

  1. Increase to add a harder bass sound to lowest frequency instruments.
  2. Increase to add fullness to guitars, snare.
  3. Increase to add warmth to piano and horns.
  4. Reduce to remove boom on guitars & increase clarity.
  5. Too much makes things boomy or woolly
  6. Too little sounds thin and cold

200Hz – 500Hz

  • Crucial for warmth and weight in guitars, piano and vocals
  • Too much makes things sound muddy or congested
  • Too little makes them thin and weak

200Hz

  • Increase to add fullness to vocals.
  • Increase to add fullness to snare and guitar ( harder sound ).
  • Reduce to decrease muddiness of vocals or mid-range instruments.
  • Reduce to decrease gong sound of cymbals.
  • Too much makes things boomy or woolly
  • Too little sounds thin and cold

400Hz

  • Increase to add clarity to bass lines especially when speakers are at low volume.
  • Reduce to decrease “cardboard” sound of lower drums (foot and toms).
  • Reduce to decrease ambiance on cymbals.

500Hz – 1000Hz (1KHz)

  • One of the trickiest areas
  • Gives body and tone to many instruments
  • Too much sounds hollow, nasal or honky
  • Too little sounds thin and harsh

800Hz

  • Increase for clarity and “punch” of bass.
  • Reduce to remove “cheap” sound of guitars.

1.5KHz

  • Increase for “clarity” and “pluck” of bass.
  • Reduce to remove dullness of guitars.

2KHz

  • Gives edge and bite to guitars and vocals
  • Adds aggression and clarity
  • Too much is painful!
  • Too little will sound soft or muted

3KHz

  • Increase for more “pluck” of bass.
  • Increase for more attack of electric / acoustic guitar.
  • Increase for more attack on low piano parts.
  • Increase for more clarity / hardness on voice.
  • Reduce to increase breathy, soft sound on background vocals.
  • Reduce to disguise out-of-tune vocals / guitars.

5KHz – 10Khz

  • Adds clarity, open-ness and life
  • Important for the top end of drums, especially snare
  • Too much sounds gritty or scratchy
  • Too little will lack presence and energy

5KHz

  • Increase for vocal presence.
  • Increase low frequency drum attack ( foot / toms).
  • Increase for more “finger sound” on bass.
  • Increase attack of piano, acoustic guitar and brightness on guitars (especially rock guitars).
  • Reduce to make background parts more distant.
  • Reduce to soften “thin” guitar.

7KHz

  • Increase to add attack on low frequency drums ( more metallic sound ).
  • Increase to add attack to percussion instruments.
  • Increase on dull singer.
  • Increase for more “finger sound” on acoustic bass.
  • Reduce to decrease “s” sound on singers.
  • Increase to add sharpness to synthesizers, rock guitars, acoustic guitar and piano.

10KHz

  • Increase to brighten vocals.
  • Increase for “light brightness” in acoustic guitar and piano.
  • Increase for hardness on cymbals.
  • Reduce to decrease “s” sound on singers.

15KHz

  • Increase to brighten vocals (breath sound).
  • Increase to brighten cymbals, string instruments and flutes.
  • Increase to make sampled synthesizer sound more real.

16KHz

  • Can add air, space or sparkle
  • Almost too high to hear
  • Too much will sound artificial, hyped or fizzy
  • Too little will sound dull and stifled

On top of the above I have also found some great articles about how to EQ a bass and Vocals over at behindthemixer.com.

Also, musicradar.com had a decent guide to adding vintage analog warmth EQ settings to your mix.

Author: Joshua Casper

Joshua Casper is an Artist, Musician, and Blogger.

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7 Comments

  1. My rule of thumb is to always cut,not boost.

    Post a Reply
    • True, you sometimes need to boost a little anywhere between from 4-8k, just to get a little brightness

      Post a Reply
  2. This is great, thank you so much!
    Perfect article, I needed this.

    Post a Reply
  3. Awesome Tips Bro ;) Def. Trying those out !!!

    Post a Reply
  4. This is so helpful man, such a relief just to seen it all laid out like that

    Post a Reply

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