What is EQ in music production?
EQ (or equalisation) is a really important part of both the mixing & mastering process. Applying EQ to something, such as a single instrument, instrument group, entire mix etc. allows you to control the way its frequency response is reproduced. In this article, we’ll address in simple terms exactly what EQ is, and what it does to your mixes and masters. This is your beginner’s guide to EQ.
What is EQ in music production? Mixing:
In mixing, the goal is generally to create a song in which each instrument is given its own space in the song’s frequency spectrum to be heard clearly. Even if all of the instruments in your recording session have been tracked to a very high standard, its likely that not all of the components of a mix will sit perfectly along side each other when combined. The bass guitar may compete with the kick drum. Or the guitar may overshadow the keys.
Its likely that it will be necessary to accentuate certain frequencies to make an instrument cut through the mix. Alternatively, it may be better to lessen certain frequencies to make sure they’re not overpowering other instruments. Often, a combination of the two is necessary to allow each instrument to have its own space in the mix.
Elsewhere in a mix, there may be instances in which equalisation is necessary to try and improve a less than perfect sound. An overly bright snare drum can be equalised to sound darker. Or a harsh sounding acoustic guitar may be made to sound softer. What ever the problem, EQ can often be used to make instruments more pleasant or more suitable to the overall mix.
There may also be instances in which you want to enhance a really good sounding aspect of an instrument to highlight it and make it stand out. This too can be achieved with equalisation.
What is EQ in music production? Mastering:
In mastering, equalisation is applied to an entire song. This could be carried out to ensure that each song on an album has a similar over all sound for instance. Or it could be used to alter a song’s characteristic to make it fuller, warmer, brighter etc.
What is EQ in music production? The frequency spectrum:
It’s important to know that in music production, you are able to be very specific about which frequencies you are altering and what you are doing to them. Most of us are probably familiar with the low, mid and high controls on a home HiFi system or car stereo. In music production however, you have a great deal more control.
With the most advanced equalisers, you have the ability to be very specific about which frequencies you are working on. You can also control the decibel level by which you want to alter them. Furthermore, you also determine how much of the selected frequencies’ neighboring frequencies are also affected. That’s not to mention the ability to filter bands of frequencies out entirely should you wish. Taking control of the frequencies of your instruments or entire mix is a key factor in creating great sounding tracks.
What is EQ in music production? Conclusion:
When we ask our selves, what is EQ in music production, the answer is simple. Its a tool used to take control of the frequency response of an instrument, instrument group, entire mix etc. Doing this enables you to make sure that all of the instruments in your mix sit nicely along side each other. It allows you the opportunity to repair less than perfect sounds or accentuate really good sounds. It ensures that all of the tracks on an album sound consistent or that a song has a particular characteristic.
So, tell me, have you recorded instruments in the past that you think have really benefited from EQ? Share your experiences below.