Since I’m both a singer and and audio guy, I’ve spent a lot of time mixing my own voice. Whether it’s voiceover stuff for my two different podcasts and videos or simply me singing lead vocals on a tune, I’ve logged hundreds of hours listening to and mixing my own voice.

At this point, when I’m mixing one of my own songs, I can usually EQ the lead vocal in less than 60 seconds.

Over the years I’ve tried everything under the sun on vocals, and I’ve landed on a few settings that work particularly well on my voice.

I want to share some of those with you today.

Keep in mind, these settings work well on MY voice. They won’t work on every voice you mix, but if you’re working on a project with a male lead singer, this will give you a good starting point.

1. High-Pass Filter

This is a given on almost every vocal track I’ve ever mixed. Sometimes you capture some extra low-end rumble in the vocal mic, which can quickly muddy up your mix.

Set a high-pass filter at around 100 Hz to start. You can go lower or much higher. Let your ears guide you.

2. Low-Mid Cut

I find myself almost always doing some sort of wide cut in the low-mids on my voice. The specific frequency varies from song to song, but it’s usually somewhere between 150 Hz and 500 Hz.

This cut brings clarity back to the vocal, and gets rid of some of the “resonance” or “ringing” sound that tends to happen on a male vocal recording.

I’m usually not cutting more than 3-5 dB here, and I normally use a fairly low Q (making it a nice, wide cut).

3. High-Mid Cut

This is something I didn’t do for years, and when I finally discovered it, it took my vocals to a new level.

My voice, when recorded, tends to sound a bit nasally. That “nasal” sound lives around 3 kHz or so. By adding another wide cut here, I can tame the nasal sound, giving my voice much more warmth without sacrificing clarity.

The upper mids can be really difficult to navigate (on any track, not just vocals), so be patient. A soft cut at around 2-4 kHz can work wonders on a nasally, harsh vocal.

4. High Shelf Boost

I won’t use this every time, but if the vocal needs a little bit more “air” on the top, I’ll use a high shelf to slightly boost everything above 8-11kHz or so.

I find myself doing this more when the vocal was recorded using a dynamic mic, since dynamics typically don’t have a lot of high end.

The key here is moderation. It’s easy to overdo this, leaving you with a harsh, piercing vocal sound. Aim for 2-3 dB max to start.

Okay, now that I’ve given you a starting point, you need to spend a lot of time simply practicing mixing male vocals.

What’s that? You don’t have any tracks to practice on? 🙂

I’ve got a whole slew of multi-tracks from my last two albums you can practice on. Check it out here:

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner

24 Responses to “The Trick to EQ-ing Male Vocals”

  1. Christ Life

    Joe this was a God send. I literally came across this article yesterday and am so glad I did. I have been mixing for a few years now. Read hundreds of blogs, tried all the tips, watched all the videos. Sold my krk rokit 6s to buy yamahas hs5s for the clarity they bring. Still had trouble with vocals standing out and having that presence and sheen. Using your tips here, plus a couple more I picked up, I’ve FINALLY found the sound I’ve been trying to achieve for SOOO long! This is my current and final chain for my lead vocals:
    1.Vocal Rider by Waves (for consistency in volume)
    2. DE Gate by Avid/stock (to cut down unwanted noise)
    3. 1 Band EQ by Avid/Stock (steep high pass filter at 120 as i have a bassy voice)
    4. 1 Band EQ by Avid/Stock (-2db wide cut from 150 to 500Hz to remove mud)
    5. DE DeEsser by Avid/Stock (attenuating/compressing at 2k -5db to remove unwanted essh sounds I don’t like)
    6. DE DeEsser by Avid/ Stock (attenuating/ compressing at 6k -5db to remove siblilance)
    7. LA-2A Compressor by UAD (to achieve an overall consistency in peaks/power)
    8. Neve 1073 EQ by UAD (preset:”Present Male Vocal” to add grit and presence)
    9. 1 Band EQ by Avid/Stock (preset:”add air” to uhh…add air lol or sheen)
    Anyways, thank you for writing this it definitely has added some confidence to what I’m doing now! God bless

  2. Steven

    Hey Joe, I just started editing and mixing my own recordings about 2 months ago and really appreciate the insight I’ve picked up from you here, and from both you and Graham on your podcast.

    I’ve read a lot of tips and guides on EQ’ing lately, and I understand they’re to be taken as starting points to develop your own ear from there.. but what I’ve found with my recordings is that it sounds too hot or sizzly unless I use a low pass filter at 15k or a bit higher. Also, I record with a pretty nice condenser mic with a foam backing, and working on 2 male vocals.

    A lot of things I’ve read recommend the opposite – putting in a high shelf boost, or just leaving it as is, but I haven’t read anything about using a low pass filter for vocals. Since it all comes down to what sounds good, I don’t want to not do it just because it’s not common, but I also don’t want to lose something I might not be hearing. Is there anything I should watch out for or I might be in danger of losing by applying a low pass filter on vocals? Or is there a different approach I should take to lose this sizzle (not sure if that’s the best word, but the best I can think of).. maybe a different recording approach or something? Thanks!

  3. Mark Rogers

    The fact that this whole article is based on the writer’s experience with HIS own voice, pretty much negates its usefulness.

    • Stefanski

      Mark – if you’re looking for a guide that tells you what EQ moves to make that will work for your voice, your taking the wrong approach. You’re simply not going to find that, and that’s not what Joe is doing here.

      As somebody who has only recently started learning how to EQ and mix recording, hearing what works for others, like Joe has done here, is a huge help. Of course it’s not meant to be taken as a guide of “do this, then do that”, he’s simply showing some key frequencies and EQ moves that work for him. I can try it on my own vocals to see how it changes the sound, for better or for worse. And that’s how I learn and move forward – by experimenting, and he’s simply giving some good points to start with.

      It’s a great, simple article that can be very useful if you go in with the right mindset.

    • Luke Goff

      Mark, while your point is valid, its till a good rule of thumb to work on your own vocals, then find other tracks to see how they compare.

    • MMM

      I tend to agree with comments below that the author’s personal experience as it relates to the frequencies and EQ parameters is certainly helpful. I am not looking for a magic bullet as I am old enough to know there is no such thing. However knowing which areas and approaches will help resolving a particular issue is a BIG help. I thank Joe for his clear guidance.

  4. Neil Fein

    Thanks for posting this, it helped a lot. I’m an okay singer but not a great one, although singing lessons helped me a lot in recent years I’m still far from objective about my voice. I can mix other people’s vocals but not my own, having a starting place like this helps a lot.

  5. hikmat

    Hi Joe, please how i can balance between eq of the mixer and the equlaizer, we have mixer mackie cfx16 and 31 bands equal in our church and we don’t have any instrument music only our voices. But always we have problem about feedback and sound box and how I can fix the large condenser mics about gain and the level…. thanks.

    • Mark Rogers

      Since Joe doesn’t seem to give a %@# about those commenting here, I will give my own limited two cents. Switch over to dynamic mics. Problem solved.

      • Luke Goff

        yes, the type of mic makes all the difference, especially for larger rooms. Placement of the speakers can make a huge difference too. Also your monitors can make feedback an issue. You never want to use condenser mics for vocals. They are strictly for instruments and at 2-5 inches from the speaker for that instrument.

        • Joe Gilder

          And there are millions of hit records where the vocal was recorded with condenser mics. To say to never use a condenser on vocals is too short-sighted. Sometimes dynamics are absolutely the best choice. Sometimes condensers sound better. Be willing to challenge your preconceived notions and even give them up for the sake of a better recording, better music.

      • Luke Goff

        Mark, you could be a bit nicer. Joe is good at what he does, and our comments can help with things he may not be the best at. Still, understanding and thoughtful comments serve better.

    • Joe Gilder

      The 31-band is really only meant to be used to tune the PA system to the room. Sorry, I don’t have much more to add, since I’m a studio guy not a live sound guy.

  6. Kim:Farms and Fields

    Hi Joe, do you have a similar post to this one for female vocals? I tried doing a search but couldn’t find one. Thanks! 🙂

    • Mark Rogers

      I hope you’re not still waiting on a reply from Joe. I doubt it’s coming.

      • Joe Gilder

        Sorry I missed your comment, Mark. As you can imagine, when you release over 1,000 pieces of content, sometimes comments get lost. I really try to reply to them all.

    • Joe Gilder

      I don’t have a specific post for female vocals. But I’ve found the approach is fairly similar, only all the frequencies are moved up a bit higher.

      • Luke Goff

        Joe is right about that. The same things apply, but the frequencies are higher, and of course a few other issues apply. (I cannot remember atm how much higher)


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