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  • Writer's pictureTina Van

What Is EQ?

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

EQ is an important and huge tool in music production. It is important to know because it can help with clearing things up in a mix but it can also be used as a creative tool to change the sonic characteristics of certain things as well.

Let’s dive in further…


WHAT IS EQ?


Every type of sound you can imagine in this world has its place on a frequency spectrum. Different sounds will have different frequencies and this is how we can distinguish them from one another but it also is what makes those sounds unique. For example, a kick drum will have a lot of lower end frequencies while a female vocal on the other hand, will have frequencies that live in the middle and higher end of the spectrum.

The standard frequency range for sound ranges from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. The lower you get on the frequency range the harder it is to hear those sounds. Lower frequencies are usually felt more rather than heard. It also gets harder to hear frequencies that are extremely high as well.

*If you’d like to hear what different frequencies sound like yourself and test out your ears at the same time, Logic Pro has a built-in Oscillator plugin under Utilities that lets you sweep through frequencies. This is also a good tool if interested in training your ear BUT that is best left for another post.*

So where does EQ come in? We use EQ in music because there may be instances where you have different instruments that are similar in frequencies fighting with one another, or there is some unwanted ringing on a snare, or maybe a vocal needs to be brightened up. So in essence, the goal of an EQ is to either take away unwanted frequencies or boost favorable ones. These are only a few examples of what EQ can help with. So let’s get into the different types of EQ and how they work.


Types of EQ


Graphic EQ

Let’s start with the graphic EQ. This EQ is used when you want to make fine adjustments over a set of specific frequencies. You’ll see graphic EQ’s laid out by bands. The more bands within the EQ the more precise you can get with the EQ. They are very simple and straightforward EQ’s that are used mostly in mastering and live use due to limited controls over the bandwidth but are great for knocking out problem frequencies.


Parametric EQ

This EQ is the most popular because of its versatility. It can be as precise as a surgeon when needing to take out harsh or unwanted frequencies but can also shape the tone of a sound as well. When opening the EQ you’ll see the frequencies laid out from 20Hz to 20kHz, the gain for either boosting or subtracting the frequency you’re on, the “Q” (which affects the size of the band you are using), and then you’ll have a low and high pass filter which I will get into in a bit. So as you can see, the fact that this type of EQ has all these parameters shows how much it can do. Every DAW usually has some form of Parametric EQ as part of their stock plugins.


Semi-Parametric EQ

These EQ’s are very similar to parametric EQ’s with the exception that you usually have limited to no control over the bandwidth size or “Q”. For this reason, these types of EQ’s are often used for tone shaping usually due to the characteristics of the EQ itself.


Dynamic EQ

These EQ’s are also favorable in mastering but are also good for applying on a mix bus for groups of instruments and even the whole mix itself. The reason for this is that these EQ’s are basically combining the functions of an EQ and compressor all together. They are useful for affecting certain frequencies by taming or boosting them once it passes a threshold. This is how it functions much as a compressor would.


HIGH PASS VS. LOW PASS FILTERS

When using EQ (especially parametric EQ), there will usually be high pass and low pass filters. Let’s go through what these do..


High Pass Filter

A high pass filter in its simplest terms is a filter that allows the higher frequencies in a sound to pass through and attenuates the lower frequencies. High pass filters are primarily used to get rid of unwanted low rumble that might occur in a recording (especially frequencies below 30Hz).


Using this filter also helps clear up instruments in a mix by filtering frequencies that aren’t necessary. An example of this would be filtering everything below 120Hz for an acoustic guitar. Since the dominant frequencies for an acoustic guitar sit above that, everything below it can usually be taken out to prevent any mud in a mix.

Screen Capture from Logic Pro X

Low Pass Filters

A low pass filter works like the exact opposite of a high pass filter. It allows the mid and lower frequencies to pass through and the higher frequencies get attenuated.

Using this filter can be effective for things like bass, an acoustic kick drum, and other low end instruments to filter some of the highs that are best taken up by other instruments.

Screen Capture From Logic Pro X

CONCLUSION

EQ is an amazing tool when used properly. It is essential in music production because it not only helps with taking unwanted frequencies out but it gives things their place to shine within a mix.

Different types of EQ help with certain things so it is best to choose one based off of what goal you are trying to accomplish. For example, if you are trying to do some surgery and cut some harsh frequencies out, then you might want to reach for a Parametric EQ. If you are looking to use EQ for tone shaping, then maybe a Semi-Parametric or Dynamic EQ is what you need.

High pass filters get rid of lower frequencies while low pass filters get rid of higher frequencies.

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That’s it for now! I hope this was helpful. If you already use EQ in your mixes, which EQ is your favorite? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to know!


Thank you so much for stopping by & have fun recording. Until next time – Cheers!

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