You’re sitting in front of a mix, and you know you need to use some EQ on the guitars to get rid of some of the muddy-ness. You grab your favorite EQ plug-in and get ready to wield your magic.

You use a high-Q boost to find that offending frequency. Now what? Cut it by 15 dB? Sounds like a plan!

Hold on. Easy there, tiger.

This past Saturday night I was hanging out with all of my brand new VIP Members at our very first live VIP Session. During the session I showed them how I would mix a live recording from a concert I played in a few months ago.

The entire mix is centered around a pair of acoustic guitars. Because it was a live recording, we had to place the mics really close to the guitars to avoid feedback. We ended up getting a decent sound, but there was a fair amount of low end in the recordings (due to the proximity effect).

Without EQ these guitars would have made the mix sound too muddy and indistinct. The screenshot above shows you how I ended up EQ-ing both guitars.

Do you see any monster 15 dB cuts in there? Nope. Just a high-pass filter at around 130 Hz and a small low-mid cut (one was only -1.7 dB, the other was -1.9 dB).

When you think about EQ and decibels, you tend to think that you’re not going to hear such subtle boosts or cuts. Wrong. As I bypassed the EQ a few time for the VIP members, they could instantly hear a difference. Suddenly the guitars sounded full and vibrant, rather than have that “woof” of the low-mid buildup.

A little EQ was all it took.

I’ve been doing a couple of mastering projects recently, which always helps me appreciate the use of subtle EQ moves. Sometimes a half dB is all you need to solve a problem. Sometimes just 1 dB of compression is all the track/song needs.

Do yourself a favor next time you’re mixing, if you’re tempted (like I am) to do big, dramatic EQ curves, stop yourself. Dial it back to something small, and let your ears tell you if it needs more. More often than not, you’ll find that just a few small, well-placed EQ adjustments can go a LONG way towards getting a great-sounding mix.

Comment Question

Do you over-EQ sometimes? Tell us about it below.

Also, if you’re interested in becoming a VIP, you can join today and access the full recording of Saturday night’s VIP session. And you’ll have access to all future sessions, too. Click here to find out more.