5 EQ mistakes you had no idea you were makingMark Ellis
EQ is probably the most important tool within a sound engineer’s arsenal.
It glues together the sound and can bring otherwise dull, lifeless elements of a mix to life (naming no names or particular musical instruments, of course…).
Unfortunately, it can also destroy a mix if you get it wrong.
With that in mind, we’ve put together what we believe to be the five most common EQ mistakes made by live sound engineers, no matter their level of experience:
1. You’re not being bold enough
If your hand regularly hovers nervously over the EQ section of your mixing desk, you need to relax a little.
Equally, if someone has told you never to EQ more than 3-4dB, you’ve listened to the wrong person.
Sometimes, you need to be bold with a mix and push the boundaries a little. Do whatever it takes to find that sound you’re searching for.
2. You’ve forgotten about the midrange
As mix engineers, we often spend far too much time obsessing over the bottom and top end of the frequency spectrum. In turn, that means we give the middle little (or zero) attention.
This is bad. The midrange demands just as much attention from you as the frequencies that saddle it.
Unfortunately, it’s ironic, too, because most of the instruments you’ll be dealing with sit in the mid range!
3. You assume the band knows nothing
Granted – some bands can be rather over-enthusiastic, shall we say, with their feedback on your performance as a sound engineer.
Sometimes, however, they have a point.
Take every EQ request from the stage seriously and investigate thoroughly to see if they’re right. Given their location, they might be hearing something you’re not.
4. You’re EQ’ing for level
A common mistake, this; too many sound engineers inadvertently EQ for level, rather than the shape of the mix.
It’s an easy trap to fall into during a busy gig where you’re under pressure to deliver the best and most room-filling sound possible, but if you can train yourself to reach for the faders rather than the EQ section when you find yourself hunting for more volume, you won’t destroy the mix.
5. You forgot about the polarity-flip trick
Let’s say a particular tom on the drum kit is sounding rather ineffectual. In the hunt for a bigger sound, you boost its bottom end – but nothing happens.
Eh? How’s that possible?
It’s quite simple; the mic on the tom in question is probably out of phase with another drum mic. The fix? Simply flip the polarity on the tom track and EQ again. Sorted!
The takeaway today is simple: use your ear. If something sounds wrong, that’s because it probably is, and if you appear to be tweaking beyond the boundaries of what many would consider acceptable, that’s fine; it’s the end result that counts.