Since becoming an instructor at an audio school (SAE Institute),
I’ve seen many producers struggle with using EQ to make their tracks sound Polished.
After producing and mixing hundreds of for myself and others, people have started to seek me out for mixing advice almost daily.
However, that wasn’t always the case.
When I started learning how to mix about 5 years ago, I thought mixing was such a tedious and challenging part of producing and I had no idea where to even start.
I would toss an EQ on tracks, turn some knobs until I thought things sounded good.
And when I listened to my track in my car or on other speakers, I would get frustrated because my tracks didn’t sound as crisp or clear as I thought they should.
Then I discovered this often overlooked tool used by Grammy winning Mixing Engineers.
Before I share what that tool is though,
There are 3 critical factors to consider that, if ignored, can lead us into the endless cycle of turning knobs and feeling like the mix never sounds right.
The 3 Critical Factors that can affect how we EQ our tracks are:
- The speakers we use (headphones included).
- The room we are listening in (if we’re not using headphones).
- Our own hearing.
We make EQ choices based on what we hear, don’t we?
So naturally it makes sense that anything that these 3 factors would affect the EQ choices we ultimately make.
Once we understand how these three critical factors play a roll in what we are hearing, using EQ becomes much easier and possibly even unnecessary in some cases.
All speakers affect the sounds they produce because of the different materials and design methods used to create the speakers, the wires and the speaker cabinets.
The room our speakers are in affect the sound because of things such as Bass buildup, Room Modes, Early Reflections, Flutter Echos, and other factors.
For Example: Having too many reflective surfaces makes it difficult to hear minor EQ changes, as well as when we over use effects such as reverbs and delays.
Having parallel walls can cause what’s known as “standing waves” where frequencies add up to either sound louder in certain areas of the room, or sound quieter causing what I call “quiet pockets” in your room.
Imagine you’re sitting in front of your speakers and it sounds like the kick doesn’t have enough bass because you’re sitting in one of those “quiet pockets.”
Our tendency would be to turn up things we don’t hear, so the bass will most likely get turned up on the kick, don’t you agree?
Using headphones can help to eliminate the room problems, however it’s easy to add too much reverb and delay when mixing in headphones.
The trick for mixing reverb in headphones is to turn up the reverb until you hear it and then turn it down until it gets to the point where you almost don’t hear it anymore.
Then you can turn the reverb off and on a few times to compare the difference.
Now about our hearing…
Scientific research has proven that our own hearing is not perfect.
The Equal-Loudness Contours, developed from tests conducted around the world, show our ears have trouble perceiving low frequencies at low volumes.
With all of these obstacles, how the hell do we make a great mix?
There’s a special tool that became my new best friend, once I discovered it!
It’s called a Frequency Analyzer!
Quite a few Equalizer Plugins now have a frequency analyzer built into the EQ which can take the guess work out of mixing.
I use this one tool RELIGIOUSLY when I’m mixing my own music or music for other people.
The Frequency Analyzer helps me to know what frequencies should stay, which should go and how much to add or take away.
If you’d like to know how you can put a Frequency Analyzer to use for your own mixes, I’m hosting a FREE 5 Day EQ Challenge where you’ll discover little known EQ techniques used by Grammy Winning Mix Engineers such as Mixed By Ali, Dave Pensado, and more.
You’ll discover how to get pro mix downs with YOUR plugins using my A.D.E.M EQ Method.
Know someone else who might benefit from this EQ Challenge? Share this post with them!
GroovePool Records Founder, Producer, & Engineer
With A Tendency To Whip And Nay-Nay