How to EQ a Track

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EQ is capable of improving the quality of tracks in very subtle ways that make a huge difference in the end results. EQ has two primary functions. It is used to make sure that there is adequate room for each of the individual elements that make up a track to sound their best. It also allows each of these individual elements to be shaped so that, when played alone, each has its best possible sound quality.

When EQ is done properly, everything in a track meshes cleanly and functions better together.

The Process

Start working on the lowest frequencies in the track first. Isolate the kick, including the range that likely falls below what human beings can hear. The inaudible portions of the kick’s spectrum can be cut to create headroom for other elements.

After the kick is refined, start working on the bass line, with and without the kick. The bass line should be listened to with the kick to give context. EQ the bass line and play the equalized bass line along with the kick to hear the end result.

Clean Up the High Frequencies

Clean up room in the mid and higher ranges and repeat the process with the snare, pads, synths and other elements of the track. When you’re trying to eliminate an undesired frequency, use a wide boost to start with and sweep it up and down. Keep narrowing the width of the boost until you find the exact frequencies that you want to cut, and then reduce the gain for those frequencies.

Where EQ is concerned, it’s generally preferable to cut from undesired frequencies than it is to boost desired ones.

Adding the Top End

Remember that it’s better to take away from the low end to emphasize the highest frequencies in a track than it is to boost those high frequencies. As you’re bringing out the hi-hats and other elements that float on top of the mix, don’t default to boosting anything that you want to emphasize and, instead, look at where you could reduce.

Where It Fits

When you’re getting ready to mix a track down, EQ is the first step. It ensures that you’ve got the most room to work with and that each different element of the track is fine-tuned to its optimal sound. While EQ might be the first step, it oftentimes creates some of the most dramatic improvements in a track.