Why Do We Use EQs When Mixing?


It’s no secret that we “should be using” an EQ when were mixing.  We look at all the pros using them in articles and videos.  The come with our digital audio workstations and mixing consoles.  It’s clear that EQ is a tool made for the modern engineer.  But How Come?  Why and how should we be using it during the mix process?

Sound Balancing

To start, EQ is a short form for equalizer so we can start with the idea of what it is meant for.  Thus the EQ lives to equal out the tone and balance of the instruments in a track.  Basically the term “balance” is going to be a common thing on this blog.

So at the root, an EQ is simply something you have at your disposal to bring your tracks in balance with one another so that all the sounds are heard in your mix.  Similar to a guitar amp, which has controls to alter tone, we use an EQ in a similar fashion to bring out the best balance in our mix.

Clearing Up Frequency Space

One thing I noticed early on when I was learning how to mix, was that my tracks sounded great when solo’d but not so great when they were played together.  And actually the more tracks I added, the cloudier my mix was soudning.  I was having a problem called “masking”.

There tends to be a lot of frequency overlap when mixing instruments together.  One thing that EQ is great for, is carving out spaces where elements in a mix tend to overlap and mask each other.   One of the most common forms of masking is a kick drum and bass guitar.  With a little EQing tweaking you can get them both to live together.

This is why I am huge user of subtractive equalization because it allows you to clear up space for everything.

Control Over Your Mix

The last reason you would want to use an EQ is for control over your mix.  So Am I talking about?  It’s simple – audio can be wildly untamed.  Frequencies can stand out at any moment and be much louder then any other sound.  It’s like how a bass guitar can sound really good and then all of a sudden one note just sound A LOT louder than everything else.

Equalization can help with these bursts of sound to give you a much more controlled track.  It might be some harshness in the guitar tracks, some muddyness in the vocals, or an unrulely bass guitar like I just talked about.  You can find the frequencies that are out of control and then dial them back to give you a smoother and more polished mix.

They Shouldn’t Hear It

If you excute your EQ techniques corretly, then the listener should never be able ot hear it.  No one will ever notice your hard work.  Ultimately it’s what the listener doesn’t hear that will make or break the mix and not what they do hear.  So once you can grasp this subtle EQ technique, you’ll be much more effective with it.