How to EQ

EQ is one of the fundamental processes in creating a good mix. You can use a great mic in a great room, with a perfectly tuned instrument, and still have a poor sounding mix due to a lack of attention to EQ. Understanding which frequencies to cut and which frequencies to boost will allow you to clean up your mix in no time and produce a neat, balanced track that’s easy on the ears.
Cutting is the first process when equalising. You are trying to get rid of frequencies you either don’t need or don’t want in the mix. For example, if I were equalising a female vocal recording, I would cut everything below the 250hz…ish mark by using a hi-pass filter because there’s nothing useful below that frequency. I would also remove a small section of frequency from a snare drum track around the 400hz mark to get rid of an unpleasant ‘boxy’ kind of sound that lives in that general area.
Boosting is generally for effect. If I wanted to add more sparkle to a sound, or more body to a guitar, I would boost frequencies.
The idea is to cut in order to retain the natural sound of the instrument without any unpleasant frequencies, and boost in order to make the instrument sound fuller or brighter.
Some (rough) frequency ranges
Electric bass: 40Hz to 1kHz (fundamental) – 1kHz to 4kHz (harmonic)
Electric guitar: 80Hz to 1.5kHz (fundamental) – 1.5kHz to 5kHz (harmonic)
Acoustic guitar80Hz to 1.5kHz (fundamental) – 1.5kHz to 5kHz (harmonic)
Male Vocal: 100Hz to 800Hz (fundamental) – 800Hz to 8kHz (harmonic)
Female Vocal: 250Hz to 1kHz (fundamental) – 1kHz to 8kHz (harmonic)
Where the wild things are
Kick Drum 
‘Bottom’ or ‘depth’ is usually in the 60-80Hz region; ‘slap’ around 2.5kHz
Snare Drum
‘Fatness’ or ‘body’ at around 240Hz; ‘bite’ around 2kHz; ‘crispness’ around 4-8kHz
‘Gong’ around 200Hz; ‘shimmer’ around 7.5-12kHz
‘Clunk’ from 100-300Hz; ‘ringing’ around 1-6kHz; ‘sizzle’ around 8-12kHz
Rack Toms
‘Fullness’ around 240Hz; attack around 5kHz
Floor Toms
‘Fullness’ around 80-120Hz; attack around 5kHz
Bass Guitar
‘Bottom’ around 60-80Hz; attack or ‘pluck’ around 700Hz to 1kHz; ‘pop’ around 2.5kHz
Electric Guitar
‘Fullness’ around 240Hz; ‘bite’ around 2.5kHz
Acoustic Guitar
‘Bottom’ or ‘weight’ around 80-100Hz; ‘body’ around 240Hz; clarity from 2-2.5kHz
Acoustic Piano
‘Bottom’ from 80-120Hz; presence between 2.5 and 5kHz; attack around 10kHz
‘Fullness’ around 120Hz; ‘boom’ around 200-240Hz; presence at 5kHz; sibilance at 7.5-10kHz
Now that you know where to find the good, the bad, and the ugly, you should be on your way to producing some pretty good mixes. As mentioned in an earlier post, selecting a medium ‘Q’  and sweeping around at +12dB is a good way to find frequencies you like and frequencies you don’t like. Then you can narrow the ‘Q’ to select a more precise range to cut or a medium to wide ‘Q’ to boost.

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