A Quick EQ Checklist To Help You Mix Like A Pro

Guest post by Soundfly

Want some more sizzle on a cymbal, or maybe a little less boominess on that acoustic guitar? By using equalizers (or EQs, for short) to manipulate the frequency content of a signal, you can gain more control over how your tracks sound.

How the Pros Use EQ

If you’re relatively new to mixing, it’s helpful to understand how professional sound engineers use EQ so you know what you should be working towards — and the rookie mistakes you should avoid.

Here’s some valuable insight from a few of the top engineers featured in Soundfly’s online course, Faders Up: Modern Mix Techniques:

A Quick EQ Checklist

EQing can quickly become overwhelming, but as long as you keep these five tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making better EQ decisions.

1. Use a reference track as a sonic target

Referencing is the process of identifying a recording that has a similar vibe, sound, and instrumentation to the song you’re working on. By using a reference as a sonic target, you can make more informed EQ decisions and learn a ton about your mix environment.

2. Make cuts before boosts

Try to resist the temptation of immediately boosting something that you want to emphasize. More often than not, you’ll just end up cluttering your mix more than cleaning it. Instead, see what you can carve away before you start boosting frequencies.

3. Use high-pass filters as much as possible

Most instruments simply don’t contain any necessary low end, especially below 80 Hz. Unless the instrument is a bass or kick, it probably won’t need anything in this range.

4. Whatever you think you need, cut it in half

It’s easy to get carried away with cuts and boosts early on in the mixing process. The remedy? Cut the amount of each move in half, and see if you still get your desired result. Remember, a little goes a long way!

5. Don’t limit your listening

Remind yourself regularly that you’re mixing a song, not just a snare drum. Soloing is great for quickly identifying problem frequencies, but be sure to make comparisons with the whole track playing as well, because that’s where those sounds will end up. It’s also a great idea to listen to your mix on a second sound source (car stereos and earbuds will be brutally honest with you), so you don’t miss anything or trick yourself into thinking something is there that actually isn’t.

Want to go deeper and learn techniques from sound engineers who’ve worked with top selling recording artists? Faders Up: Modern Mix Techniques covers all the fundamentals of mixing, from referencing and levels to automation and compression. With six weeks of detailed feedback on your mixes from an expert Soundfly Mentor who works in the field, you’re guaranteed to actually get the support you need to meet your goals.