When mixing, many times we face problems like the bass guitar masking the kick, or some rock guitars messing with the lead vocal even though they are hard-panned and the vocal is right in the center. The common mistake: go to the faders and start moving them up and down, or grab our compressors, just in case they can fix our problem, but, we frequently overlook the best tool to set every instrument in its own place in the mix: the EQ. So, here, I’m gonna show you some tips and tricks about EQing when mixing.
One of the most usual mistakes is to EQ a soloed track. Let’s pretend we are EQing a piano: we know as a fact that pianos have a really wide frequency range, they can go lower than bass guitars and higher than vocals, but, when we have a piano in our mix, do we want to hear all of its spectrum? Well, normally, in a pop/rock/EDM/folk arrangement, the piano is just taking some part of the mid-range, so, maybe, when EQing in solo, we try to emphasize the low end and the high end of it in order to hear a full sounding, really beautiful piano… then, when we bring back all of the other instruments, we find out that something is not working.
Why? If it sounded big and bright when soloed! Yeah… but, unfortunately in most mixes, one instrument has to live with many more, and there’s not that much space for all, so the best way to EQ something is in context and get rid of the things we don’t need, in order to make room for the others.
Let’s keep with this piano example: the lowest A on piano, has a frequency of about 27,5 Hz, and the middle C (C4) has a frequency of about 261,6 Hz. The frequency of the highest C on piano is 4186 Hz. So, probably a piano arrangement for a pop/rock/edm song will cover the C4 octave, the octave above, and the octave below that. Maybe some additional higher or lower notes here and there, but, that’s all, so, a good way to make some room is to use High pass and Low pass filters to attenuate frequencies below 130 Hz (C3) and above 10 kHz (harmonics). This way, we cover pretty much all of the arrangements spectrum and get rid of what we won’t hear.
Maybe you wanna have a punchy 80s piano, boosting between 3 kHz and 5 kHz, will do the trick, or boosting at 2,5 kHz will give it a “honky-tonk” feeling. If you have a part where it’s just piano, you may wanna boost somewhere between 80 Hz and 100 Hz to give a sense of fullness to the sound.
Synths or electric pianos, may sometimes fight with electric guitars in the mids, so, try to attenuate on one what you have emphasized on the other. A good idea here is to use a high pass filter at 100 Hz or 200 Hz, depending on the case. For lead synths, sometimes, it’s good to boost around 2 kHz to give them some clarity.