EQ is one of the most important tools we have in music production, and especially in mixing (second only to volume)! But after working with 500+ students in our bootcamp, there are some common mistakes we’ve seen many producers fall victim to.
Today, we want to help you avoid these pitfalls! Let’s jump into the top 5 most common EQ mistakes, and how to avoid them!
1. Processing Chain Placement
We see this one a lot with the students we work with in our bootcamp. Long story short: the order of the plugins in your processing chain really matters! Each plugin in your chain can only affect the sound up to the point that it is in the chain–it has no effect on any processing that follows.
For example, you may use an EQ to take the low end out of a sound. But, if you then follow that low cut with a saturation or distortion plugin, ...that distortion is likely to introduce low end back into your sound, and the original low cut that came before it has no effect on these new frequencies generated by the saturation.
So, you can see how the order in which you place your EQ plugin really matters. In the case of saturation, for example, we suggest that you use a “pre-EQ” to clean up the sound going into the saturation plugin, then also use a “post-EQ” to clean up the sound afterward as well for the reasons described above!
2. EQing in Solo Mode
Listening to a sound in solo and making EQ decisions with the sound solo’d is okay for shaping the design of that one sound.
However, when you’re using EQ on a sound in a mixing context—meaning, EQing it so that it fits with the rest of the sounds in your whole mix—we shouldn’t have the sound in solo! In this instance, we should listen to the sound with the whole song playing and make EQing decisions on that basis since that’s how the listener will actually hear the sound: in context. They’ll never hear that sound in solo like you’re able to in your DAW!
3. Fixing on the Group or the Master
This is a big one! And we know it can be tempting, but we need to fix the EQ problems we hear on the individual sounds and not on our groups or on our master channel!
We still use group EQing—that process does have a valid use case. But not to fix problems that can be fixed on an individual basis.
For example: you may hear a ton of resonance at 800 hz and make the cut on the group. But what if it’s not the entire group, but instead only one layer is responsible for that resonance problem? Do all the others need to be cut at 800 as well? Of course not! Fix what you can fix on an individual basis, then polish, sculpt, shape the group as a whole.
4. Not Having a Purpose
This is another big one, and another that we see with a lot of the students we work with at Cosmic Academy…
Stop trusting those charts that tell you to EQ every snare a certain way! LOL. We’re going to be real with you on this one: those charts are all BS. There is absolutely no “one size fits all” solution, and any resource or tutorial that attempts to say differently is wrong (for real)!
Every sound is different, every mix is different. Do what’s best for YOUR mix and the individual sounds you’re working with. If you hear something wrong, fix it. If you want more high end, add it.
Always have a purpose to your mix decisions and watch your mixes start to sound better.
5. “Afraid to Push It”
Our response? Don’t be!
We see this with some of our students, and we get it—especially when you’re mixing, it’s often better to keep your EQ moves minimal and subtle to get more musical results.
However, when using EQ to shape your sound in the sound design context, don’t be afraid to do what you need to do to get the sound you need! This is an extension to further shape and color your sound; subtle EQing will come at a later stage while you’re mixing the sound with the rest of your instruments. While shaping the individual sound, boosts, cuts, filters, etc...they're all fair game!
We hope these tips were helpful, and if you saw something in this post that you might be doing, see if you can get better results by making an adjustment! If these posts have been helpful, feel free to apply to our program to work with us directly!