Practical Tips for Working With EQ

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When it comes to recording audio, perhaps one of the fundamental elements is properly mixing and setting EQ levels for vocal tracks. For mixing voices, it is important remember one key idea: every voice is different, and every song is different. For mixing audio with vocals, this is the most critical element to keep in mind. Remember, just because levels worked one way for one song, does not mean they should never change. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Making adjustments as needed are crucial to getting the perfect mix.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 3 primary reason for filtering voices with EQ.

  1. Help the voice sit better in the mix
  2. Correct a specific problem
  3. Create a deliberate effect

Most importantly, no matter what the reason for making a vocal track EQ’d, make sure the end result is to improve the quality of the mix.

Here are a few things to be looking for when you are putting an EQ to vocal tracks.

The Gentle Boost cut narrow and boost wide method can sometimes apply more to vocals than any other instrument. This is because our ears have evolved remarkable sensitivity to the sound of human speech. Therefore, we are in tune and even more aware when a voice has been processed unnaturally.

Using a high-pass filter can be incredibly beneficial many vocals. In fact, the average fundamental frequency in an adult male voice is 125Hz, and often you can move up to 180Hz without affecting the sound. As a hint, if your mic or preamp has a low-cut filter, consider engaging it when recording vocals. This is because much of subsonic audio in a vocal track consists of mic-stand noise, breath rumble, popping and other undesirable sounds. High-pass filters can also be used in conjunction with a low-pass filter to produce a bandpass filter.

When working with high-pass filters, it can become easy to remove too much body from a vocal, especially as the ears begin to adjust. Check and see if your EQ has a bypass option, and if so be sure to use it periodically to ensure you have not gone too far with an adjustment.

As a bonus, here are some quick fixes you can make to ensure the best sound while using EQ.

  • To reduce a nasal sound, try dipping a few dB around 1kHz, and moving the center frequency slightly up or down to find the most effective point.
  • To treat popping P’s and T’s, cut everything below 80 Hz.
  • For a little extra clarity and presence, try gently boosting the “vocal presence range” between 4kHz and 6kHz.
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