Proper editing, compression, and send effects are essential for a good vocal sound. Moreover, many beginning and intermediate engineers need help understanding how to properly EQ vocals to sound their best in the overall mix. No single set of equalization settings will work for all vocal recordings. However, there are a few fundamental procedures that help if you are unsure how to use an EQ on your vocals, and in the following tutorial, I will guide you through these steps.
As usual, I have prepared a short sequence in SoundBridge: DAW containing most of the elements of the whole mix, including the vocal arrangement. Let us listen to it.
~Full Mix – Vocal (Unprocessed)
Use a Graphical EQ for Your Vocals
Let us once again listen to the unprocessed vocal but this time solo. As we can hear in the audio example above, the voice is probably loud enough. However, it requires some tonal work, which we can accomplish with good EQ use. I recommend using a graphical EQ to view better what you’re doing and the frequency areas you need to work on. In this case, I chose TDR Nova by Tokyo Dawn.
~Vocal – Solo (Unprocessed)
Apply a High Pass Filter
Use a high-pass filter to minimize low frequencies before EQ-processing your vocals in the TDR Nova interface. Low-frequency build-up may occur depending on the microphone’s polar pattern. This effect deepens, warms, and amplifies the voice. Yet, too much low end can cause Muddiness and dullness that gets lost in a mix. Depending on the vocal recording, eliminate 40–85 Hz frequencies.
~Vocal – Solo (Hi-Pass Filter)
Remove the Muddiness Around 200-500Hz
The next step is to remove Muddiness. No matter how good your space’s acoustics are, you’ll experience “mud” around 200–500 Hz. It’s hard to hear this in solo mode, but it’s obvious with 5–30 tracks. We’ll lower the volume in this range but use broad Q settings. Don’t increase or decrease by more than 6 dB.
~Vocal – Solo (230 Hz Cut)
Boost the Highs With a High Shelf
The high end of modern vocal production has to rise above the mix. This is a tricky process since raising the highs might create harshness if you’re not careful. I chose a smooth EQ like TDR Nova before experimenting with boosts between 8 and 15 kHz.
~Vocal – Solo (5 KHz Boost)
You may occasionally need to increase (or decrease) the core frequencies to improve the vocal quality. The range will vary depending on whether a female or male voice take is used. Discovering this core frequency in the 1- to 2 kHz frequency region would be best. Boosting this frequency range should improve the clarity of the spoken words, making it more straightforward for the listener’s ear to catch and retain the voices.
~Vocal – Solo (1.3 KHz Boost)
Use a De-esser/EQ to Tame Harsh Sibilances on Your Vocals
The next phase in our voice processing would be to tame harsh vocal sounds, such as letters like S or H. In this instance, we can hear it at roughly 3.5 kHz. This procedure can be fine-tuned later using the De-Esser effect, but for now, we’ll control the harsh sounds with an EQ.
~Vocal – Solo (3.4 KHz Cut)
Once we are done processing our vocal with an EQ, let us hear it in the whole mix.
~Full Mix – Vocal (Processed)
If you liked this article about audio processing, here is some more on the same subject: