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EQ Cheat Sheet (Settings and Frequencies Explained)

This free downloadable EQ Cheat Sheet will help you understand the basic frequencies and settings for applying EQ to your mix! Feel free to bookmark this page or print your own copy to reference any time you’re working on a song! Below, there are also video examples and more in depth written instructions for using an EQ plugin!

For audio and visual examples, check out this video:

EQ Frequencies and Settings Explained!

EQ, or equalization, is a fundamental tool in audio production that allows you to adjust the frequencies in your sound. While it may seem simple at first glance, mastering EQ is a challenging task that requires practice and expertise. In this blog post, we will walk you through the various settings on an EQ plugin and provide insights on when and how to boost or cut frequencies depending on the situation and source material.

RUMBLE – 0-60HZ: The frequencies in this range represent sound that is below human hearing, or are perceived as low-end rumble. You typically would not boost these frequencies, but you can cut them with a high pass filter if you need to reduce low-end rumble on any given track.

LOW END – 60-250HZ: These frequencies are primarily where your kick drum, bass, and the low end of instruments will live. If a track needs more thump, you can boost this range. If you need to reduce muddiness, cut out some of this range.

LOW MIDS – 250-500HZ: Low mids provide warmth and body to instruments and vocals. Boosting in this range can add thickness, while cutting can reduce boxiness or muddiness.

MIDS – 500-2KHZ: The midrange is where most of the musical content resides. Vocals, guitars, and many other instruments are prominent here. Boost for clarity and presence, cut to reduce harshness or to make room for other elements.

HIGH MIDS – 2-6KHZ: High mids add definition and attack to instruments and vocals. Boost to make elements cut through the mix, cut to reduce sharpness or to create space for other sounds.

HIGHS – 6-8KHZ: The high frequencies provide brilliance and sparkle. Boosting in this range can add airiness and detail to vocals and instruments. Cutting can reduce sibilance or excessive brightness.

AIR – 8KHZ AND ABOVE: Air frequencies are the highest range of audible frequencies. Boosting here can add a sense of openness and sheen to your mix, especially on vocals and cymbals. Be subtle with boosts in this range to avoid harshness.

Remember, EQ is a powerful tool, but use it judiciously. Always trust your ears and the context of the mix when making EQ decisions, and make incremental adjustments to achieve the desired tonal balance.

To begin, consider using a low cut filter as a starting point. This filter lets high frequencies pass through while eliminating low-frequency rumble or unwanted noise. By gradually increasing the filter, you can observe a significant reduction in low frequencies, whereas returning it to its original position restores the sound to normal.

Moving on, frequencies ranging from 60Hz to 250Hz represent the low end, also known as the bass range. Boosting this range enhances the bassiness in your sound, while cutting it reduces the bass response. This technique can be used to compensate for any deficient or excessive low-end qualities in a track.

Next, we have the low mids, extending from 250Hz to around 6800Hz. Boosting this range excessively can lead to a “boxy” sound, akin to being inside a cardboard box. Conversely, cutting it too much can result in a loss of warmth and body. If your mix lacks depth and warmth, consider bumping up the low mids. However, be cautious not to overdo it, as this may cause an undesirable cardboard-like effect.

The range between 7800Hz and 2KHz is referred to as the midrange. Reducing these frequencies significantly can result in a loss of definition, while excessive boosting can introduce an unpleasant, honky sound. Striking a balance between clarity and avoiding the honky attribute is key here. A useful trick is to cut some of these frequencies in instruments to enhance the brightness of the vocals without pushing them to extreme levels.

Moving higher up the frequency spectrum, we encounter the high mids, spanning from 2KHz to around 6-8KHz. An inadequate presence in this range can make your sound dull, while excessively boosting it can introduce hissing and buzzy mouth noises. It is advisable to exercise caution when pushing these frequencies too high, as the vocals can become strange, whispery, and unpleasant. A conservative approach is often best when dealing with the high mids.

Finally, the region above 8KHz, including frequencies up to 16KHz and beyond, is known as the “air” range. While it can be tempting to crank up this range to achieve sparkling and breathy vocals, it’s important to find the right balance. Pushing these frequencies too high can result in a sizzling, harsh, and annoying sound that is unpleasant to listen to for extended periods. Incremental adjustments are recommended to ensure a pleasant listening experience.

When boosting frequencies, it’s generally beneficial to keep the Q in a more sloped position to affect a wider range of frequencies smoothly. However, if you encounter a specific unpleasant frequency, making the Q narrower allows you to pinpoint and cut it out while preserving the surrounding frequencies.

Now that you have a solid understanding of EQ, we encourage you to explore other important audio effects. Make sure to subscribe to our channel, where we will delve into topics like compression and provide valuable insights for maximizing your sound.

Remember, mastering EQ takes time, practice, and a keen ear. With dedication and experimentation, you’ll unlock the potential to shape your audio in unique and exciting ways.

If you found this article helpful, check out our guide to using compression next!

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About the Author: Adam Sliger

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I'm the founder of makethatlouder.com, and a producer, musician, and songwriter based out of Orlando, FL. I have 10 years experience producing and owning a commercial recording studio. I write and produce music for artists, TV, and for my solo project, Night Winds. When I'm not writing and recording, I'm into food, coffee, and riding rollercoasters!

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