EQ’s and Separation

EQ’s and separation

I wanted to talk a little bit about EQ’s and the approach to a better sounding, more professional mix. A properly EQ’d mix should have some or all of these qualities, depending on what you are going for with your song.


Many amateurs tend to over EQ things without proper perspective of the whole mix. This is much like a guitar player mixing a song with his/her focus only on that instrument. The downfall of this is overlooking the balance needed to make sure each instrument has it’s proper place. Without a proper perspective of the whole mix, there is no point attempting to mix or EQ your song because your head is in the wrong place. It’s a very good idea to not mix the same day as recording. It’s important to get out of musician mode and into mixing engineer mode.

Here are a few things to consider when working out the EQ balance of your mix:.

EQ’ing is not a necessity in every situation. Many engineers do little or no EQ’ing and instead rely on excellent samples and recording techniques.

Proper panning can improve an instruments clarity. Having too many instruments in the same panning location can create conflicting frequencies. By moving instruments to their own space much clarity and separation can be accomplished with little or no EQ.

If you still have conflicting frequencies, make sure you accent different frequencies on the conflicting instruments.don’t be tempted to use the same EQ preset on similar instruments.

Avoid the temptation to push the same frequencies on every instrument. Although this might make each separate instrument sound better to your ear individuality, when it is all played together you will have a thin sounding mix with very little separation.

Always do your final EQ’ing with all the instruments playing. Use the solo button sparingly.

It is best to decrease or eliminate unwanted frequencies in each instrument before attempting to further EQ your mix. You will usually create a warmer, more natural mix by attentuating (lowering) EQ frequencies,while increasing frequencies upward will tend to create a more sharp and thinner sound.

In most cases, extreme EQ’ing (7 or more db) is a sign that you haven’t recorded your instrument very well, or you have used questionable samples. There are however, times when using extreme settings can create some interesting results. If you want a warm natural sound you will want your EQ’ing to be more subtle, while if you are trying to create an unusual sound, extreme settings might be just what the doctor ordered.

Get a second opinion on your mixing and EQ’ing from someone that isn’t too close to the project. You may find, for example, that in the attempt to perfectly mix your guitar, you may have buried the snare drum.

Here are a couple EQ suggestions that should improve the sound of your mixes quite a bit:

Use a highpass Filter (cut the lows) at around 120hz on every instrument besides the kick and bass sounds. This will greatly improve the clarity in the lower frequencies.

Cut frequencies between 350hz-550hz on any instruments that sound a bit muddy

Selectively use a lowpass filter (cut the highs) at around 10khz to leave room for clarity in the cymbals.

A little boost at 11.1khz can add nice clarity to your hi-hats

Here are a few tips for creating separation in your mix:

Use different microphones when recording different instruments. It will give each instrument it’s own unique personality.

Use different reverb and compression plugin’s (or hardware) on instruments that might conflict.

Using the same reverb and compression on your drums can be a good thing though to help the “gel” together..

Use different delay and reverb setting to create a more 3 dimensional sound in your mix.

I hope this has helped you a little bit on your path to a better sounding mix.

Next check out my 101 Music Production Tips for Computer Musicians ebook.

Happy music making,



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8 Responses to “EQ’s and Separation”

  1. October 6th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Mark Turnham says:

    Useful tips. Thanks

  2. October 26th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    HarrisW says:

    Good thinking , good product. Thanks for the tips . Incredibly useful tips to Eq’s and separation.
    i enjoy your hardwork .

  3. February 2nd, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Los 10 principales errores del principiante con Ableton Live | DJLogic says:

    […] También podemos leer este post: http://www.musicsoftwaretraining.com/blog/?p=38 […]

  4. January 20th, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Matt says:

    Jason dos it again with another great and helpful article on EQing!!!

  5. January 20th, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Matt says:

    Jason does it again with another great and helpful article on EQing!!!

  6. March 12th, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Andres says:

    Useful. I’ve found that using Eq is somehow an art.

  7. August 29th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    john says:

    All well and good.

    HOWEVER: All your suggestions are geared towards the rock band. You’re saying (quoted liberally) that one shouldn’t have many instruments in the same panned angle. He, he, try to do that when you have 110 instruments such as in a Mahler type orchestral setting.

    Can you give me a better solution?

    Thanks, John.

  8. September 8th, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Jason Timothy says:

    For each panning location when you have a massive amount of instruments, you’ll want to keep the sounds in the same panning location form masking eachother by cutting unnecessary EQ’s and giving each sounds it’s own EQ space. You can also bring something forward and backward in the mix with proper use of reverb. Finally moving the timing of an instrument by a few milliseconds can also assist in helping a sounds poke through the mix better. Also remember that in and arrangement, there are sounds that are star players & sounds that play a supporting role. Make sure you define this.

    I hope this helps :-)

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