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What exactly do you try to do when you EQ your tracks during the mixing stage.

I tried EQing the bass line on one of my recordings and well, it helped, I guess, then again I didn't really know what I was doing. I use reaper and loaded up the fx reaEQ and I just selected a low pass band and moved it up to 200hz or so. It sounded nice and it got rid of the fret noise (when I would pluck to hard or something) but all in all I had no idea what I was doing.

What exactly am I supposed to be achieving when I EQ the tracks? I only ended up EQing the bass line because I didn't know what to look for on the guitar tracks.

Anyone want to shed some light?
Last edited by bboyjon at Jul 23, 2009,
This question might be beyond the scope of a web forum, but here's the fairly short answer.

EQ will help the instruments and sounds in your song to fit together in one cohesive mix where each instrument has it's own space and sound and room to breathe, and help balance the overall mix. Volume levels and pan position also play heavily into that equation, as well as other things like FX which I won't get into.

You can do subractive EQ, basically where you take away the volume of certain frequencies, and additive EQ, basically where you add to the volume of certain frequencies. You'll probably want to do more subtractive EQing than additive EQing.

A rough example would be, high-passing a guitar to eliminate rumble and low bass, scooping out some boxy low-mids, boosting some high-mids, low-passing out hiss and fizz. The same kind of thing can be done to any track. The idea is to make the track sound the best in the context of the mix and coexist with the other instruments.

Beware of trying to make something sound big and cool by itself, because once the other instruments come into play, the mix will be out of balance and there will be no room for the rest the instruments, which may lead you to solo the one of the other instruments to make it sound big in order to compete with the first one, then you'll keep chasing your tail down that path until your mix sounds like a big, muddy, clipping, unlistenable mess.

What to cut and boost will depend on your type of music, the choice of instruments, how they sound and how they were recorded, the vibe you're going for, etc... And all this will come with time and trial and error, and reading some reference material never hurts. There's a ton online, and there are many good books out there. Take all the info with a grain of salt because there are no hard and fast rules.

I hope this was helpful.
Are you supposed to compress or EQ first? Do you usually compress each track seperately or just compress the final master track?
You can compress before EQ or after, it's down to personal choice and what the track needs. When I'm processing snares, I usually end up making a BIIIIG boost at 200hz (anywhere from 4db to 9db, **** the "no more than 6db" rule.) Then I use compression to smush that back down and keep the sound "even."
Certain instruments need compression, and some don't.

Here's a list of the only tracks i DON'T compress:
Room Mics
Hi-Hats (although sometimes i DO compress them, not often though)
Distorted Guitars
Sometimes clean guitars, depends on whether it's ULTRA clean, or whether it's chimey or slightly dirty (in which case there's usually a little bit of distortion, and thus: natural compression.)

Everything else usually sees some amount of compression

But to be honest, it's best to just NOT use compression if you're not sure how to use it. Do some reading and figure out what all the knobs do, how much compression certain instruments need, what instruments need compression more than others, when it's the right and wrong times to use compression etc.
Like Dreampin said, you can do EQ before, or after compression. It usually depends on what you're trying to accomplish with the compression. If you're trying to squish the track, or just reduce the dynamics, you'll probably want to EQ before the compression. If you're trying to retain transients and not kill the dynamics with the comp, then EQing after it would probably be ok. If in doubt, try both ways, check how it sounds, and what it's doing to your levels.

For what it's worth, I can use compression pretty competently, but I choose not to use it on anything, even the things that most people always compress. Out of 45-50 completed pieces of music, I used a compressor to control the levels on one piccolo snare that was peaking the hell out of my mix. That's it.

That's just a personal preference of mine though, and not necessarily what you should do. I'm just sick of the trend in music of overcompressed sound, clipped peaks, distortion, etc... My stuff is quieter than a lot of other stuff out there because I don't use compression in mixing or in mastering, but I'm ok with that. I think it sounds better that way.

Anyway, sermon over. Long story short, you can EQ before compression, or after. It just depends on the circumstance. The sound and your goal will determine which you do.
If you can't find a happy middle ground between no compression or too much, then you need to re-think your approach to compression ^_^
MAtthias is spot on. Too many engineers these days reach for a compressor as a quick fix.

Something I will say about E.Q though. If your going crazy with your E.Q, once an instrument has been tracked, you havent recorded it correctly. Get whatever instrument sounding as sweet as possible, before it hits the track. This eliminates a big need for E.Q, apart from surgically pulling rogue frequencies out. ie. my acoustic, no matter how its been recorded, always needs 1.1k and 11k pulled out. After that its a purely sweet sounding guitar for rhythm bed work.
Quote by Dream Pin
If you can't find a happy middle ground between no compression or too much, then you need to re-think your approach to compression ^_^

I disagree. I've been able to mix every one of my projects without using a bit of compression, except for that one wild piccolo snare I mentioned.

Honestly, I COULD use compression. It was a conscious choice I made not to use it. And if I can achieve what I want without using it, then what's the point of going ahead and using it anyway? Because other people use it? Because it's mandatory? You have to use it whether you need to or not?

In response to what you said, I might pose a similar statement to you and say if you can't do a project without compression, then you need to re-think your approach to mixing.
Compression I understand a lot more than EQ. I use it to level out some tracks that ended up being too loud after I kick on the distortion (it would be better to just record it better but meh lol)

What EQ fx should I be using though? In reaper that is. There are so many different ones, ReaEQ, 3 band EQ all that. I dont really know which ones to use and what frequencies I should cut and boost

Also, I record the drum tracks using my Yamaha DD-65 and well, sometimes the cymbals sound too loud and the toms and kick are really low...actually, its most of the time. The problem is, It is all recorded into one track so I cant really raise/lower volumes of specific parts (cymbals, kick, snare and what not) So What I have been doing is just making 2 tracks and EQing a track for cymbals and then one for the toms and the kick and what not, by cutting the low frequencies and cutting the highs respectively. Is there a better way to do it though?
Spot on mathias. Way too many engineers look at me like I have two heads when I tell them you dont need compression to pull a good mix. Even live, I have had people tell me If im not compressing, I'm doing it wrong. My first response is, if they need compression, live, they arent running there P.A correctly. Compression is never a must. In most scenario's if im running compression on a live mix, its there as a safety. However, you will find as you work with higher level performers, they have great ears, and most of the time will tell you to get rid of the compression anyway.

My main use of compression is live, and is a safety, in case someone does something stupid. I will usually set the compressor to kick in about 5db lower than hte upper limit of the head room, and when it kicks in it uses maximum compression. This way its acting as a safety, not to wreck the gear. Other than this i would never use compression.
BBoyjon> Here i would be looking at lowering the volume of your track instead of using compression. Compression is typically used to kill the dynamics in a track. Aka you find your clean passages to low and your distorted passages to loud. I would use compression then to even the things out, but that would only be live. In a studio id be chopping the wave and boosting the low section or reducing the volume. Remember compression is more stuff in the line. The least u can get away with the better. Dont use effects if you dont have a reason too. Just because you have a million studio tools, doesnt mean you will use every one to pull a great mix.

So i would ask why are you using E.Q. whats the reason? With the drums, that seems a workable option, however, what you have described almost makes me want to use some compression. Try both and see what sounds best.

Remember, if the things sounds fine, you dont need to use E.Q just because it is there. Also id be tempted to E.Q after compression, as if your inserting a compressor over a live mix, the insert stage is before the E.Q stage. However, if your pulling a great sound with an E.Q pre compressor, who am i to argue with you?
Quote by Matthias King
I disagree. I've been able to mix every one of my projects without using a bit of compression, except for that one wild piccolo snare I mentioned.

Honestly, I COULD use compression. It was a conscious choice I made not to use it. And if I can achieve what I want without using it, then what's the point of going ahead and using it anyway? Because other people use it? Because it's mandatory? You have to use it whether you need to or not?

In response to what you said, I might pose a similar statement to you and say if you can't do a project without compression, then you need to re-think your approach to mixing.

Bull**** on your final point. I work primarily on metal. To be able to achieve that professional sound where everything is all totally controlled, compression is a must.
That isn't to say that I wouldn't want to be using less compression though to be fair.
Last edited by Dream Pin at Jul 24, 2009,
Nah i beg to call bull**** on you Dream Pin. Yes your doing something that the style of engineering calls for. But it still is bad engineering. All this brickwall compression these days, is really just from people who cant get the track sounding right. Its a loudness war. Anbd to be honest, it doesnt sound all that great. No headroom, no loss of dynamics when there arent vocals. Go listen to how older bands that had a similar sound went on vinyl, notice they still have dynamics?

To achieve professional sound, where eveyrthing is controlled, starts at the player. If his solo's are screaming more than 6 db above the rhythm, he is doing it wrong. He isnt setting his levels correctly, and your job as an engineer in the studio is to explain to him how this benefits his track. If your compressing in the post record, are you asking why arent ur recording levels sitting ok?
What im getting at is dont use compression for compression's sake. Why are you using compression? To get the guitar sounding even, so my next question is, why isnt the guitar sounding even at the mic? Why is their such a level discrepancy you feel the need to compress? Remember good sound starts at the source, which is the players fingers. Then to the guitar, then to the effects he is using, then to his amp. Then to the mic. If the sound isnt what you want on track, or you need to compress it after its down, why wasnt this taken care of at the source?

Why cant you just use volume to keep control....i do realise that there is a need for compression, but its not something that is needed on absolutely every single track out there, even in metal. To say you need compression, id be having a looking at the bigger issue, why am i using compression to control the gain structure of the mix? This tells me u have an issue in how ur structuring your gain, and your using compression as a quick fix.

As an engineer, you will be blamed for anything sounding bad on a record. If i were in that position, i would be explaining to the people who have hired me and the studio, how to get the best track they can. This often involves teaching players just how to pull the sound they want, or are hearing in their head.
Last edited by countrychris01 at Jul 24, 2009,
Okay lets take for a second to think IN METAL MUSIC THERE IS A LOUD MORE **** GOING ON AND A **** LOAD MORE FREQUENCIES YOU USE COMPRESSION TO MAKE SURE THAT THE FREQUENCIES ARE FIGHTING EACHOTHER IE THE KICK AND THE BASS. like mutliband comps are used to make sure you get the massive low end, then you squeze the low end so its ridiclously tight and then level out the highs

i am calling bull**** on you dude
Catharsis> im gonna say that you shouldnt be compressing kick or bass if its E'q correctly from the start. A kick operates on what frequency? and where does a bass operate? the e.q curve off a bass should be roll off at 500, and should be rolling in just above 200...a kick does not operate in thos frequencies. a kick should have 63 hertz and 630 boosted and thats it. How is that interfering with the bass? If you running loud enough to need compression, ur tracking way too loud. -12 db is the loudest you wanna be when tracking.

I respect your opninion guys, but it seems we are just using quick fix tools here to fix an underlying gain structure problem. The kick drum and bass guitar should match each other. The rhythm guitar should be sitting in the vicinity of the high hat. Every instrument has a place to sit in the mix, and should be able to do so comfortably. a 5 piece metal band has no more or less frequencies clashing than that of a country 5 piece, or a jazz five piece. So to tell me its just the style is complete B.S.

And if its so loud u need compression, again, ur tracking way to loud...reduce the volume, and let the final hard limit to its job. Everyone tries to pull really hot mixes, and dont realise that this causes so many more issues for a mastering engineer.
Last edited by countrychris01 at Jul 24, 2009,
And I am going to say that if you are to make it in the industry, you sit the **** down, you shut the **** up and accept that you have to compress the **** out of things because that is what people want.

And compression is used on kick drums in metal because drummers suck too much to play their **** consistently.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't need compression, but the fact of the matter is, we do because humans aren't as perfect as metal records would have us believe, so we have to make **** sound even.
And as well as that, you know what? **** you. I just like how ****ing punchy snares sound with some mild compression.

I'm curious Chris. Do you actually ever work with any bands? Do you ever record any? Ever been payed to record a band? Ever been paid to mix one? Got any mixes you can show us? I'd LOVE to hear how they sound, I really would.
Yes, when I'm a FOH engineer, hired every year for some big name acts in australias biggest music festival. Yes i no **** all about what I'm talking about. I not only have the piece of paper to prove it, but I've done a 3 year internship at a studio, and was kept on as a mixing engineer.

Here is a link to some of my work:
Last edited by countrychris01 at Jul 24, 2009,
Ok then, tell me why its wrong...tell me why i shouldnt be rolling off at 500? what the actual operational frequency of a bass, if it goes over 500, it will intrude into the space of the rhythm guitar, and u will find you get that typically muddy sound.

Every high level artist ive worked with, wont want compression. The emmanuels, shannon noll, guy sebastian, john rowles, they have all asked me to remove compression from their vocals and/or guitar. So tell me, if im gonna make it, and accept what people want, how come these high level artists dont want compression?
Last edited by countrychris01 at Jul 24, 2009,
well this is just a matter of what genre if we are talking metal, i'd scoop at about 300-400 to let the snare and guitar breathe and just boost everything else haha but i mean. you really don't use compressors. or are you talking about vst comps? cause if you get to record through those epic ssl boards i could totally understand
A piece of paper doesn't mean **** ^_^
Your kick's getting buried on the "Murder At Mercy" stuff.
Everything sounds generally weak, where's the punch?

Still I suppose you get what you pay for when you go to a guy who high passes bass at 500.

Here's some of my mixes.
And the bass guitar is named the BASS guitar for a reason. 500hz is mids, not ****ing bass. Hell, even if the roll off is starting around 200hz it's still low mids.
There isn't a single genre of music that I'd cut bass above 60hz.
Of course his raw tracks are good. I respect the fact that he subscribes to the philosophy of getting it right during tracking, but a bit of tasteful compression will bring out the punch in those drums a bit and make them more audible.
although now that ive seen some of the stuff you're involved with, ill respect it's good for what it is, but the fact of the matter is, compression is sometimes NEEDED in certain genres. metal fans expect clinical perfection, volume, punch, blah blah, which sucks ass, because i'd love to just mic some **** up, set some levels and be done with it, but I can't.
If I could bear to record jesus jazz, I'd probably do that just so I could have an easier time haha, but nah.
Hey thats cool. To me you shouldnt be recording the room at all. And yeah while im not saying i dont use compression. The vibeke vocals did have compression, she was adamant she needed it so i gave her what i wanted. I just find that if your using it all the time, its hiding problematic areas.

I dont over process. I put as little as possible in the signal chain. Every piece of equipment, every join, is something that will affect the sound in some way. And im just checking the frequency of the bass now, ive just pulled out my recording bass....If im wrong ill pull my head in.
Check the new Underoath album for some gorgeous drum compression.
It can be used for artistic/creative reasons as well. I personally just love the sound of compression on stuff, as long as it's not cymbal pumping or overly unpleasant kick drum pumping. here's my attempt at the drum sound.
Just jumped on my bass, played some stuff guys and did a frequency analyse. this is no e.q, striaght into a desk, straight to DAW. while there are other frequency, the bass is affectin a region starting around 60 and rolls off around 600. My playing was peaking at -12 db, and the frequency analyzer shows at 645 hertz my bass is only putting out -32 db. The bass is peaking around 125-150 hertz. Just tried the low E thing. I have had major spikes around 80 and 215. When i hit the low E, i notice that at 500 hertz my sound is at the equivalent level of line noise for my system.
Last edited by countrychris01 at Jul 24, 2009,
Exactly. Bass guitar = bass frequencies.
Listen to some dub or some drone or something, you will fall so in love with 60hz.
Ill put my ears over it. To me, 60 is starting to get into the kick drums area.

But by the way, i totally agree on the dont scoop mid things. Drives me nuts, ever since high school(8 years ago for me).

Just listening to those drums. Love the gating on the snare. These sound like paiste symbals?

Also the floor tom, to me is resonating just a little to much. Makes me wanna reach for the gaff and the bottom skin.

Catharsis> Nah u cant just slap it on, but if your majorly e'qing, your muso's havent got it right. As we do get a lot of beginners for one night sessions in our studio, i try to explain to them the importance of having something exactly right before its recorded. I realise all mixes do require some post processing on my behalf, but ive found 90 percent of this is avoided by getting it right first. Makes my job a hell of a lot easier.

Nah what i was meaning was the operation range of a bass. I just came up with a new rule for bass..60 to 600. That seems to get the best range of the bass, while not intruding too much on anyone else(altho i worry about the kick at 63 hertz).

I think the issue also comes down to what we listen to today. We listen to files that have the **** compressed out of them. Thats why i wont listen to mp3's. Everything i listen to is 16 bit wave, 44,000, through reference headphones. Do this for a week. I opted to do this after working in a control room all day, then coming home to mp3's, and lets face it, its compressing a 60 meg mix to a 3 meg file. Thats a ****load of compression, say goodbye to dynamics, lows and highs, as well as it makes eveyrthing sound flat. Dont you guys get this too?

After an entire day of working on tracks, I dont want to come home and listen to **** u know.

Just listened to your tracks mate, very very nice. I still have to make the claim tho, with correct playing, i reckon i could nail sounds very similar without a whole heap of compression.

Brickwall mastering i notice? See im not a fan of this at all. Give the song some dynamics. I realise it is the done thing in recording these days, and it is a specific sound, but i just dont get brickwalling the track. IF any instruments sotp in my tracks, you will notice about a 3 db drop in levels, and i put the vocals around 3 db to 6 db on top.
Last edited by countrychris01 at Jul 24, 2009,
How do you all go about properly setting volume levels? For effects pedals that is. With distortion or overdrive, I can turn the drive down all the way and it still sounds like poo and I cant match it with the clean volume. People have told me to keep the distortion or gain to a minimum, but one of my pedals has a gain, volume level and distortion knob, do I just leave the gain all the way down or do I leave the "distortion" down and turn the gain up a little?
Okay, you really want to match your volume levels of an effects pedal to your clean signal. Maybe a little bit more voume, but not much at all.

Firstly id check my clean sound volume, and play with the distortion pedal until you have a nice distortion at a similar volume.

I wrote an article about this for another website a few years back. Ill post it here 2moro if i get the chance.
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