How to Use EQ to Give Each Instrument Space in the Mix

You’ve probably heard the phrase “carve out a space in the mix for each instrument” before.

It’s kind of a vague phrase, and I’ll admit I’ve used it quite a bit here on Home Studio Corner. So today, I want to explain it in a bit more detail, and give you three steps to actually use an EQ to carve out space in the mix for your instrument.

But first lets talk briefly about why that’s important.

If you have a song with 24 tracks of maybe 12 different instruments, there are a lot of sounds competing for your ear’s attention. If you don’t use any EQ, then there’s a good chance that there will be a lot of build-up, especially in the low mid frequencies.

Each instrument has it’s own range that it likes to “live” in, and by using EQ effectively, you can give each instrument it’s own space in the frequency range.

How do we do that? Well, let me share with you three steps to use an EQ to give each instrument it’s own space.

1. Wide boost, sweep across the entire range.

The first thing you need to do is pull up an EQ on a particular track. Next, use one of the frequency bands, and do a nice, wide boost. Something like six to ten DB should work.

Now sweep that boost across the entire range of the instrument, and listen to what it sounds like at the different frequencies.

2. Identify important AND unimportant frequencies.

As you’re sweeping the EQ across the range, identify which frequencies are the most important to this instrument, and also which frequencies are the least important or the most harmful to your mix. A word of advice: don’t trust your first instinct.

Sometimes, it may seem correct to boost 250 Hz on a particular instrument, when in fact, it was actually 500 Hz that you needed to boost.

3. Combine HPF with EQ cuts.

Aside from cutting problem frequencies, it’s also a good idea to remove excess low end from most of your tracks. These simple steps can help you get a nice, clean mix with all of the instruments working together.

Removing excess low end plus removing certain problem frequencies are the keys to getting a nice, balanced mix.

How do you carve out space in your mixes with EQ?

[Photo Credit]

  • Bob

    Great advice, thanks for sharing! Ummm, who is Ethan, article says Joe Gilder?

  • Pingback: Beat Making Software Tutorial - Space Between Your Instruments

  • Jesse B

    Yes Ethan, I have the same problem! its always the distorted guitars and the snare that clash a lot. The snare usually gets covered by the guitars.

  • felipenoris

    For me, EQ is difficult. After some searching on the net and a lot of practice I do follow those steps mentioned on this post. But, sometimes I’m afraid I don’t like any frequency range! If I cut a lot of frequencies, sometimes it sounds like a telephone. Voice, acoustic guitars and distortion guitars are difficult to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Downtothewire.matt Matt Howard.

    OH BOY! 
    yess! this is all i do when i mix, everything after this point is easyy (if you do it right)
    i ususally use logics eq to find the gnarly frequencies ( cause it boosts a lot more than my expensive one) and then transfer those over to my “Classic EQ” and after i do that on every track GOLLY it sounds good! :)  
    ill, most of the time, solo each track and do this first before anything and then i turn up everything and mix it with Comp and Reverb and then USUALLY thats all it takes to make it sound epic. 
    but you cant just have crappy sounding tacks! 
    they have to be well played! performance is EVERYTHING! 

  • Ethan Marrs

    I’ve been experimenting with doing this for some time and I’m slowly getting better but I still run into a lot of problems getting distorted metal guitars to play well with snare drums for some reason, maybe because I need to find the right area of mid range for the guitars and the right area of that same mid range for the snare. Would this be how you’d normally go about it?