EQ Tips To Sweeten Up Your Sound
The humble EQ is the most important audio effect you’ll ever use.
It’s so common that we often forget to think of it as an effect at all, but it is critical to our mix. I like to think of EQ as salt and pepper for my sound.
Other effects (like reverb) can add texture and context, but EQ will make your sound sizzle and pop. It can also make your sound bright or dark, muddy or thin, intelligible or unintelligible (that’s the worst!).
The cool thing about basic instrument or vocal EQ for most live sound needs is that you typically don’t need a lot of elaborate gear to quickly dial in great sound.
Granted, some of the digital consoles out there can have pretty fancy parametric EQs that allow you to get extremely precise with your frequency manipulation. And that’s great, but you can get perfectly amazing sounding audio by using some basic EQ tricks on your analog board as well.
Even a basic High/Mid/Low EQ with sweepable mids on an analog console can be a huge asset for clearing up your mix (and stopping feedback).
Here is a basic technique I like to use when working with individual audio sources:
“Sweet Spot” tips for Parametric and Sweepable Mid EQ
- Set the level knob of the sweepable or parametric EQ to about -6 dB.
- Sweep the associated frequency knob slowly across the entire frequency spectrum available.
- Listen for changes in the tone of the source you are monitoring and note when it starts to sound better or worse.
- Once you find the sweet spot, adjust the frequency level control back to about -3 dB if possible to ensure that maximum tone quality is available from the source in the main mix.
- Repeat as needed for multiple EQ filters (on a parametric EQ) and go through the rest of your instrument and vocal channels.
Another cool tip that I recently learned about dialing in your tone is to first boost the EQ level, then sweep. What you’re listening for is what sounds bad. When you find it, cut the level. The concept here is that we can pinpoint what sounds “bad” better than we can determine what sounds “good”.
EQ can be a great tool, but be careful. Try to make incremental and modest adjustments to your channel EQ when using it for finding the sweet spot or fighting feedback. A little bit can go a long way, and it will definitely impact the overall tonal quality of the audio source you are adjusting.
The humble EQ is the most important audio effect you’ll ever use. @James_Wasem Click To Tweet
Also, you should always be in the habit of cutting your EQ levels. You can’t really add more frequencies to a signal than what is already provided by the source. Sometimes a small boost can help give emphasis to a certain frequency range relative to the other frequencies around it, but you’re not really “adding” anything when you do that, except maybe some electronic system noise.
I’ll leave you here to practice with a few general frequency ranges and sonic characteristics associated with them.
Tone & Frequency Characteristics
Keep listening and practicing. And practice listening! Do this, and you’ll continue to get better at EQ, I promise.
Make modest adjustments to your channel EQ when finding the sweet spot or fighting feedback @James_Wasem Click To Tweet
Author / Audio Engineer
Great Church Sound | Missoula, MT
James Wasem has been fascinated by sound and electricity from an early age. His love of music and technical gear made sound engineering and systems integration a natural pursuit. James has spent the last 20 years performing and touring in bands as a drummer, mixing live sound for churches, schools and theatres, and working as an audio systems installer and designer.
Though involved in highly technical fields, James has a passion for making things simple to understand and easy to use. It was from this passion that the book Great Church Sound – a guide for the volunteer was born. James believes that technical ministry volunteers provide a critical service for their congregations and should be well equipped with quality tools to help them grow in craft, skill, and spirit.
James and his wife Kate (who also provided the illustrations for Great Church Sound) live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Missoula, Montana.