Not using EQ in the right way can quickly turn your mix into something ugly. In our next tutorial, we will focus on five common mistakes that can happen when using an EQ. As a result of these, a track’s quality and the separation of its instruments can be ruined, making the overall mix sound small, cluttered, or unprofessional.

Not addressing problematic frequencies

Different instruments have different problematic frequencies and resonances. That can be the result of an improper recording, or the nature of the instrument itself. For instance, a kick drum can often sound “boxy”. This means that it probably has too much energy between 300 and 500 Hz. Carving out these frequencies will take away that boxy sound, resulting in a more pleasing kick drum. It will also allow other instruments to sit better in this range. Likewise, vocals tend to have a certain “harshness”, which can be piercing to the ears at high volumes. This happens somewhere between 2 kHz and 5 kHz. Carving this out will solve the issue and also allow them to sit better in the mix. Be on the lookout for these problematic frequencies.

Filtering everything

Many producers engage high-pass filters on almost every channel by default. This comes from the logic that taking out the low end on instruments other than the kick and bass can be useful to create more space for them to come out. However, when this is overdone you can end up sacrificing the fullness heard in well-produced tracks. Instruments like pads and conga drums got to have some energy in the low end to sound thick and full. Mind not to take too much of this away.

Excessive use of narrow curves

The most justifiable reason to use narrow curves, or a narrow Q, is when working on surgical fixes of specific frequencies or resonances, like the ones described above. However, for any other purpose, most EQs and instruments respond better to broader curves and more gentle slopes, which result in more natural-sounding processing. Always using narrow curves can create unwanted harshness, coloring, and resonances when boosting and cutting.

Using EQ in solo

It’s not possible to achieve a great mix while you actually ignore the full context of the mix. Working in solo mode to hear clearly every aspect of an instrument can be tempting. However, it will not help you hear how the EQ moves are working in the context of the full mix. Try to listen in solo only when fixing specific issues like resonances and noises. Otherwise, strive to mix in context.

Using EQ for the sake of using it

It’s easy to waste a lot of time with EQ if you don’t have a clear goal in mind. Don’t just throw an EQ to any channel. Consider what you’re trying to accomplish and why you’ll need an EQ. Often, you might find that you don’t need it as frequently as you believe, or that it’s a different process that would better fit the situation.