Balance is key – EQ’s magic frequencies

By August 29, 2014Mixing, Tips & Tricks
As Mr Miyagi said

As Mr Miyagi said “Better learn balance. Balance is key.”

If you’ve been following Heavyweight Bass for the past couple of weeks, you would have seen the word Balancefeature a lot when discussing EQ in mixing. If there ever was to be a mantra for EQ’ing , it would have to be, Balance Is Everything

One of the first things you need to remember – Each EQ band influences different qualities of a mix or instrument. You can’t just dial in a load of 100Hz and expect everything to be ok – you need to sculpt each area so that all the instruments are balanced and work with each other.

For example, you can have a huge bass sound, but sticking in a huge kick as well, sitting around the same frequencies and your going to have trouble getting them both to fit. The best answer is to find the key frequency for each instrument and try to find the space it needs using the tools of the trade i.e EQ, panning, compression and FX. This may involve cutting out some frequencies to stop them clashing with each other. Just make gentle cuts until it starts to sound natural. You can try the Notch style EQ that we spoke about last week.

The human ear is most sensitive around the 2kHz area, so balancing the mids (200Hz to 2kHz) and getting that area right is very important. It’s essential if you want to get things sounding warm, big and with character. 

Every musical note has a corresponding frequency  

Example: You’ve written your bass line it’s wicked. But one note on the bass keeps poking out seemingly jumping up in level even after compression. Find out what the offending note’s frequency is and use a tight notch EQ to do a little cut on the bass at the offending frequency and notice the difference

The Below chart has note to frequency information

Click to enlarge - Sound on sounds handy frequency chart

Click to enlarge – Sound on sounds handy frequency chart

 

Click to enlarge - Future Music's handy chart

Click to enlarge – Future Music’s handy chart

Some EQ bands that will help with your mixing – IMPORTANT, these are just guides, not written in stone. Every track will be different.  The image on the right is another handy frequency map focused on dance music from Future Music. Click on it to enlarge

 

 

 

50 – 60 Hz 

Adds fullness to bass. Cut in the 50 – 100Hz area if it’s getting too thick and interfering with clarity. It’s an important area for dance stuff as it adds the dimension of “feeling” bass instead of hearing.

  • Thump in the kick
  • Boom on the bass
  • Essential in all bass music !
  • Too much, your speakers will be flapping like made or your on the way to buy new cones for them
  • Too little, the mix will lack any weight or depth 

100 – 200 Hz

A good area to work on to add fullness to snares/claps. ‘Muddiness’ can be a problem down here, so during the mixing stage subtle cuts with a good EQ on the Stereo Output can help if it’s still a problem

  •  Adds punch and weight to a snare
  • Gives richness and vigour to almost anything
  • Too much makes things boomy 
  • Too little makes sounds become thin and cold

200 – 500 Hz

Sometimes cuts in the area can increase punch to kicks. Boosting in the 400Hz area can add clarity to bass lines

  • Adds warmth and weight into synths, strings, piano’s and vocals
  • Too much makes things sound woolly 
  • Too little makes them sound thin and lacking depth

500 – 1000 Hz

By targeting the upper harmonics at 700 – 900Hz it can bring out bass lines without cluttering up the low end.

  • Gives body and tone to many instruments
  • Too much and instruments sound hollow or honky
  • Too little and instrument sound thin and harsh

2 kHz – 4kHz

Brings out presence to synths. 3kHz adds attack to almost anything

  • Adds bite to synths 
  • Adds clarity and aggression if needed
  • Too much is hurts the ears!
  • Too little will sound soft and parts will feel further back in the mix

5 – 10 kHz

5kHz can add presence to vocals. Cuts in this area can make sounds more distant, so cut here if you need to pull something back without using volume. Use a DeEsser targeting the frequency range between 6-8 kHz to reduce sibilance on vocals. Exact frequency range depends on the singer. Boosting can add extra life to dull vocals

  • Adds clarity, open-ness and bounce
  • Brings ‘life’ to vocals
  • Sharpness to synths
  • Important for the top end on claps and snare’s 
  • Too much sounds gritty 
  • Too little will lack presence and energy

16 kHz

Most everything above 10 kHz adds air and high-end ‘sheen’ to instruments. Take it easy, It can quickly result in a mess. But when done right it can add ‘air’ and open a track up

  • Adds air, sparkle and shine
  • Too much sounds hyped
  • Too little and parts sound dull and lifeless