1. Reset the Board :
Seriously, this should go without saying, but in the rush of setting up for live sound, engineers often forget to reset the board between shows. As a result, many soundchecks and performances start off with serious frequency imbalances that could have been avoided if the engineer had just started with flat EQs.
2. Focus on the Mix :
While equalization can do wonders for individual tracks, it’s important to consider the bigger picture every time you reach for the EQ. As a strategy, you’re far better off EQing your channels so that every instrument has its own place in the mix, rather than trying to make each instrument sound good in isolation. While few sound-reinforcement engineers are tempted to EQ channels in isolation, if you focus on the overall mix rather than just the sound you’re adjusting, you’ll find yourself creating cleaner, clearer, and overall better-sounding mixes.
3. Adjusting Filter :
One of the easiest ways you can clear up your mix and reclaim a large amount of wasted headroom is by applying your mixer’s highpass (low-cut) filters on any channel that doesn’t benefit from extremely low frequencies — which is most of them. What’s more, this will give bass-heavy sounds, such as bass guitars and kick drums, breathing room in the mix, allowing key rhythmical elements to stand out. And it keeps unwanted low frequency “mud” out of your subwoofer. “Lowering the ‘Low’ or ‘Bass’ knob”.
4. Boost with Care :
As you adjust the EQ, you will notice that frequency boosts are significantly easier to hear than cuts. This phenomenon causes many live sound engineers to boost frequencies they want to bring out, rather than to cut problem frequencies. There are two major issues associated with doing this. First, if you boost every track at 4kHz to give it presence, nothing will actually have presence, but the whole mix will become harsh and cutting. The other problem is that if you boost all of the frequencies around a problem frequency rather than simply cutting the problem frequency (like boosting the extreme lows, upper midrange, and high end instead of just cutting the lower-mid which is really the issue), you can easily overload the EQ gain stage and introduce distortion that you may not notice right away.
5. Cut First, Boost Second :
Before you boost what you want to hear, cut out what you don’t want to hear. The biggest reason for this is that if you cut out problem frequencies, then you’ll find you often don’t need to boost anything. However, if you’re using a mixing board with simple channel equalizers, and you have to choose between fixing a problem and boosting a desirable characteristic, you’ll almost always want to fix the problem.
6. Vocals Take Precedence :
Whether you’re mixing vocal-driven modern pop or a jazz band with occasional singing, your vocal tone needs to be as perfect as possible. That’s because as humans, we can’t help but tune in to vocals and scrutinize what we hear in an extremely critical manner. In other words, a slightly off guitar tone or tuning will go unnoticed by most people, but unpolished or harsh vocals will annoy and distract most of your audience. Here are suggestions for EQing vocals:
This frequency range is where muddiness lives, but it’s also where warmth comes from. If your vocals sound mushy, try cutting low frequencies in this range. If your vocals are clear but lacking warmth, try boosting in this range.
Almost universally, 1-3kHz is where the nasal frequencies lie. If your singer sounds like a cartoon nerd, then try cutting this frequency. Don’t go overboard though, or you’ll go from cartoon nerd to serious head cold.
When it comes to intelligibility, presence is absolutely critical. In general, it’s a good idea not to clutter up the 4kHz with guitars and other instruments, simply so that your vocals will come through clearly. Be careful boosting too much at 4kHz though, as this can render your vocals harsh and jarring.
One of the greatest vocal offenders is sibilance, which is obnoxious in singing and devastating in speech. While a de-esser is the best tool for the job, a prudent cut between 5kHz and 8kHz can be a show-saving bandage when you need it.
7. EQ with Your Ears
Now that we have presented a bunch of numbers and frequency ranges, it’s important to point out that the best tools you have for EQing are your ears. You can memorize tables of important frequencies for all kinds of instruments and applications, but the most important thing is that your mix sounds great. So even if you start by dialing in a known target frequency, try not to look at the board as you tweak the EQ, but focus instead on the sound.
There are many things an EQ can do. It can fix the flab in your bass, cut the cardboard from your kick, bring out vibrance in your vocals, and add girth to your guitar. What it can’t do is fix bad sound. So before you reach for the EQ, really listen to the sound you’re trying to dial in. If it’s not already pretty good, then it may be time to talk to the guitar player about his amp settings, or the keyboard player about his synth patch, or the drummer about his choice of snare or cymbals. Stop the soundcheck, make some suggestions, move the mic, tweak the tone onstage, and try again, because if you wait for the show to start, you may be out of luck.
For more updates catch us on Facebook.